Torchwood: Miracle Day, Ep. 7: “Immortal Sins”

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Torchwood: Miracle Day Review, Episode 7: “Immortal Sins”
Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton
Airs Fridays at 10pm (ET) on Starz

This week, on Torchwood: A bit of Jack’s past gets filled in, Gwen chooses family, and the Torchwood team finally gets something right.

Another filler episode. In “Immortal Sins,” Espenson drops all of the extraneous plot threads and distractions to focus on two of Jack’s most significant relationships, one new and one old, a decision that should streamline the narrative and allow Barroman and Myles to sink their teeth in and deliver one of the season’s best. Instead we’re treated to hamfisted Christ metaphors and a mysterious villain who seems to like wasting everyone’s time. Yet again an interesting prospect, in this case the kidnapping of Gwen’s family, is introduced only to be thrown away with very little to show for the time the audience has invested in it. Though it’s nice to see the new Torchwood teammates get something right, the ease with which they rescue Rhys, Anwen, and Mary renders the shadowy villain utterly ineffectual. The team has nothing but difficulties in all of their previous missions, but here they can organize a rescue op half a world away with no leads in only a few hours? It’s a blatant cheat, one that cheapens everything else we’ve seen the team suffer through this season.

There are two story threads, both dealing with Jack and betrayal. In flashback, we meet Angelo, a former lover of Jack’s, an Italian immigrant who struggles to find acceptance and understanding of both himself and Jack. This arc is disjointed, melodramatic, and lacking in focus. The main problem is the absolute contrivance of the entire plot. As with many plot points this season, there is no reason for Angelo and Jack to meet other than the fact that the plot necessitates it. The show hopes that by the time Jack’s reason for being in America in the ‘20s is revealed the audience either won’t remember or won’t care that it has nothing to do with Ellis Island and that the only reason he was there was so he’d run in to Angelo. Throw in a dash of cultural and religious debate and a laughable mobster and we’re half-way through the episode. Then it’s time for Angelo to get on the crazy train and act utterly out of character not once but twice, first setting up a horrific back room so people can torture the love of his life and then deciding, “My bad!” and, after some blatant and groan-worthy Christ symbolism, freeing Jack with the assumption that they’ll gallivant off into the sunset together, all sins, and torture, forgiven.

Back in the present day, Gwen tases and kidnaps Jack. They spend time reflecting on their relationship, their priorities, and the choices that brought them to their current situation. There are some interesting moments here. Jack’s desperation to live is palpable and is quite a change for a character whose immortality has almost always been a curse to him. Gwen’s analysis of her love of Torchwood is damning and will hopefully not be forgotten. Things between the two of them get downright nasty as the years of friendship, and will-they-won’t-they tension, are stripped bare as both are backed into their respective corners. Any of the positive developments from these scenes are lost, however, when it’s discovered that none of it was necessary. All Nana Visitor’s mysterious character needed to do was pick up the phone, call Jack, and say that Angelo wanted to talk to him. Instead we’re treated to convoluted, pointless filler. Jack and Gwen, now no longer at odds, share a quick hug and are immediately back to business. Why then did we spend our time on this plotline, this episode, or, really, this season? Why should the audience care?

Barrowman and Myles are off their game here and the entire ‘20s flashback felt like a strange cross between a soap opera and religious programming. The score for the episode is terrible, with the flashback scenes particularly bad, and the resolution is a cheap grab for punch-the-air thrills and gotchas. The Oswald Danes plotline takes another week off and, with only three episodes remaining, the fact that this storyline is insignificant enough to be dropped for two straight weeks makes it feel even more like an utter waste of time than it already does. Yes, it’s clear that one or two tidbits brought up in this episode will probably come back, but it’s nowhere near enough to warrant the hour-long run time. Jane Espenson is a fantastic writer. She has written for several of the best TV series of the past 20 years and has been a reliable and interesting talent. This makes episodes such as “Immortal Sins”, and her earlier entries to Torchwood: Miracle Day, “Dead of Night” and “The Categories of Life,” even more frustrating and disappointing. It’s hard to know just what has happened this season, who’s responsible for just how much it’s gone off the rails, but one thing’s for certain – the season can’t end quickly enough.

Kate Kulzick

  1. HOJ says

    I have to agree with Cjl. I don’t think you understood even a quarter of what you watched. Were you distracted or multi-tasking? This episode(#7) of all the Miracle Day episodes so far, seems the most explanatory, expository, and interesting.

    I was riveted from the first scene, and was alternately, moved, angered, and heartbroken for Captain Jack. That’s even with the interwoven stories across time from 1927-1928 to present day, with Jack and Angelo’s relationship development and demise, and Gwen’s kidnapping of Jack to trade for her family. Even without knowledge of series 1 & 2, or even series 3, this episode explained much about Jack and what he has been doing for Torchwood, the Doctor, and the people of Earth, for who knows how many centuries. I thought Eve Myles was spot on in her characterization of Gwen Cooper, and John Barrowman as Captain Jack was going toe to toe in emotional intensity with her.

    The intimate scenes with Daniele Favilli as Angelo Colasante were touching and moving. Hamfisted Christ metaphors? I think not. Consider that this was Little Italy, with most immigrants of that era leaning on their Catholic religion to get through their difficult lives. An analogy to Christ, considering Captain Jack cannot die, was appropriate. Excellent acting, in my opinion.

    I’m a long time Torchwood fan since the days of Doctor Who, and I do find this series to be a bit lumbering regarding the pace of the storyline.

    I liked episode 1 and episode 5, and have slogged through the rest until now. I’m not comparing it to TW:CoE as the story as Cjl quite accurately says, is not in the same genre. It is indeed an investigative mystery story, not a hostage suspense story. FYI, the local butcher lived with his wife in an apartment in the same building as Jack & Angelo’s room. The wife was the landlord, from what I could tell. Remember the first scene in Little Italy?

    The graphic, horrific, bloody, and interminable torture scene in the butcher’s workroom/basement made perfect sense to me as it explains even more of what Jack has gone through in his many centuries on Earth. As he says to Angelo – “This is what always happens. Men like you, you kill me.”

    There are often unintended consequences from others when one is different. In this case, not only is it Jack’s different view of sexuality for that time, but also by his immortality. If anything, his immortality is the bigger burden.

    I know this isn’t the iconic and wonderful Battlestar Galactica,which on a very few occasions had it’s slow moments. But Torchwood: Miracle Day isn’t finished yet. There are still three episodes to watch. I, for one, will see every one of them.

    1. Kate Kulzick says

      Hey HOJ- Thanks for commenting! I’ll most certainly be watching, and reviewing, the rest of the season. I hope you check back in and let us know what you think of the final 3 episodes!

      I did understand everything that happened in the episode (it wasn’t complicated, in my opinion); I had problems with the execution. I agree that the Christ parallel with Jack is a logical and valid one, but I felt the direction and staging/framing of these moments lacked subtlety. Plus there were several of them- after one or two, we get the point.

      Hopefully the final episodes will retroactively change my opinion on this one, and the earlier episodes in Miracle Day as well. That was my experience after Children of Earth- I hadn’t been able to get through seasons 1 or 2, though I’d liked season 2 better than 1, but after watching CoE, I gladly marathoned through the earlier seasons, as s3 had given me a strong connection to and affection for the characters. We’ll see how things play out with Angelo. As ever, I hope to like, or better yet love, the episodes to come!

      What do you guys think of Jack’s newly expressed will to live? I’ve always thought of him as one who didn’t necessarily see his immortality as a blessing, particularly after CoE. Is this a change for the character or a realization of how he’s always felt?

  2. Cjl says

    Carl, your comments are premature, you’re just assuming things about the next episode. Probably best to criticize based on actual content and not your predictions about the content. Also, the overall structure of this investigative mystery story seemed to go down well when AC Doyle did the same things, so I think they’re probably doing ok. ;)

  3. Carl says

    If you consider this an investigative mystery, then it is a terrible one. Torchwood hasn’t uncovered anything substantial about the mystery in seven weeks. Now it looks like they’re going to be spoonfed the answers by a guy who apparantly wants to talk to them and hasn’t wasted half the series by doing nothing to contact them.

    When the mystery could have been resolved with a phone call in the first episode, it’s not much of one.

    1. Kate Kulzick says

      Carl- This season feels much more interested in the broader implications of the Miracle than in most of the characters. I’m hoping this will change and we’ll get to see the team actually act soon, rather than react.

  4. Matt Marquissee says

    It wasn’t great but better than most shows. There are political statements that are jarring and far from subtle. And Jack is omnisexual but that is tossed away. He should flirt with men, women, and even brain worms. I agree with your review, but I still like TW. Fire Davies and keep Espenson, I say. She at least tries to compel.

  5. Bob says

    Minor quibble, but we DO know why Jack was in America in the 20s: he was there to kill the frozen worm & save FDR from going mad(!). Being 1927, he traveled by boat, arriving at Ellis Island.

    It’s a bit of a lame setup for the “coincidence” of his meet-cute with Angelo… but is there maybe a quasi-plausible revenge motive for Angelo, when Jack deliberately involved him in the dangerous bug-hunt for which Angelo went to jail (until “1928”)…?

    On the whole, I quite agree it was a filler episode!
    Did Starz insist on 10 episodes, even though they only had story for 5 or 6, or something…?

    It was essentially a null-game, like those increasingly empty hours of “24”, where Jack (Bauer) would spend the episode looking for some widgit – only to find it destroyed at the end, leaving him exactly where he started (but with another hour cranked out).

    Or like those tedious AMC shows where everybody looks worried and fusses a great deal (and the critics rave it’s “deep”)… but almost nothing ever really happens!
    [Cf. Rubicon, Walking Dead, The Killing…]

    Indeed, if Jack is curious to go meet Angelo (as the DS9 actress suggests in the end) – WHY did they bother to kidnap all Gwen’s people in the first place??

    Clearly Angelo cannot be the entire answer; and the three gents with the sinister ~triangle~ handshake “look” to be another part of it! Perhaps Angelo will be “redeemed” by betraying to Jack what he knows of the ultimate-baddy Triangle crowd? [Bit of stretch to have one of the triuvirate buying Jack be a black man (in 1927?) – but America does seem to like that kind of revisionist history…]

    ANYWAY – I’m still hopeful!
    When they want to, Torchwood CAN really pack a lot into an hour, and they have three left… so maybe they’ll finally get TO it…? :)

    1. Kate Kulzick says

      Hey Bob- Great comparison with 24. That’s exactly what it feels like to me. As for the black guy in the Triumverate of Doom, or whatever they are, I totally agree. It screamed of PC bs, but maybe they’re time travelers or something. *shrug*

      DEDJ- I feel ya. Question- would you jump back on board if they get renewed? Or has Miracle Day killed your interest in Torchwood entirely?

  6. DEDJ says

    I have always loved Torchwood but I gave up watching after episode 6. Miracle Day has been a disaster. The only miracle is that people are still watching it.

  7. Cjl says

    Oh and Gwen scenes were good, but maybe nastiness of Gwen and Jack pushed too far given they hug and makeup quite easily at the end IMO.

  8. Cjl says

    “stopped comparing to CoE”, obviously, no stripping took place at any time.

    1. Kate Kulzick says

      I don’t know- Freudian slip? It’d definitely make for a story, lol.

  9. Cjl says

    I’ve enjoyed everything very much so far, but only when I started to see what this season is trying to do in terms of type of story and choice of structure, and get over the fact ofboth being different from children of earth. This is an investigative mystery story, CoE was a hostage/terrorist negotiation story, once I stripped comparing to CoE and started taking MD on its own terms I found myself glad it’s not a rehash of CoE and began to enjoy it very much as great genre TV. Hopefully I’ll like how it ends, but that’s not guaranteed! :)

    1. Kate Kulzick says

      Yeah- regardless of the problems I’ve been having with this season so far, I’m really hoping to like the ending.

  10. Cjl says

    First time I’ve used phone to comment on a blog, it’s hard! Crazy typos, wow, I’ll have to work on that :)

    1. Kate Kulzick says

      Well done! I’m useless with anything but a full keyboard, particularly on a phone.

      I see where you’re coming from, Cjl, I just have a different take on the scenes in question. I wouldn’t say either of our views are inaccurate- they’re simply different readings of the same material. It sounds like it worked for you; it didn’t for me. I always approach the shows I review with an open mind- any antagonism I develop towards an episode occurs while I’m watching it or shortly thereafter. If anything, I tend to approach shows I like, such as Torchwood, with an optimistic frame of mind. If, however, I failed to express that, I apologize.

      What have you thought of the season so far? How did you like the Gwen scenes?

  11. Cjl says

    angelo didn’t go to a priest because for the same reason he wouldn’t kneel and pray, he feels terribly guilty for being gay and that god would forsake him, etc, if that helps

  12. Cjl says

    I just expect criticism to come from an accurate reading of the story, which tends not to result from an antagonistic mode of viewing.angelo had come to believe he was literally the target off seduction by the devil himself, as was clearly put across.were simply weren’t shown how the butcher became the person who also found out and frankly who cares? You made up a couple possibilities just now, they’ll do, its not really important once its established angelo is scared

  13. Kate Kulzick says

    Hey Cjl- Thanks for the comments! I understand why Jack was in NYC. I just don’t think someone of his, shall we say, ingenuity, would need to go to Ellis Island to get into the US, particularly as he looks and sounds American. I don’t think he would even bother, especially if his whole reason for being there is to stay under the radar and infiltrate a criminal organization. The only reason that scene was there, in my opinion, was so they could have the gotcha moment at the beginning with the Ellis Island employee calling out Jack’s name. It would have made far more sense, and been more economical, to have them meet at the church. Jack has a legitimate reason to be there (the wine), as does Angelo (to pray).

    As for the butcher, Angelo’s the one who showed Jack to him, causing the whole situation. Perhaps he didn’t intend for it to reach the extremes it did, but why would he bring people over to watch Jack not-die in the first place? Particularly a butcher and not, say, a priest. It doesn’t make sense. If the butcher had been in the room next door, heard the scuffle, and burst in mid-revival or something, perhaps I could buy Angelo not being culpable, but that isn’t what happened.

    I take it you enjoyed the episode more than I did? If so, I’m glad! Though it may not come across, I do genuinely like Torchwood and I always hope to have as much fun with it as I have in the past.

  14. Cjl says

    Jack explained that he was in nyc to infiltrate the mobsters who were helping with the alien parasite plot, which we saw happen. He was at ellis island because he was entering the US from abroad.

  15. Cjl says

    I don’t think you even understood half of what you watched. For one thing angelo didn’t set up any backroom to torture jack, others in the neighborhood did that, headed by the local butcher

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