This review contains spoilers.
7. Immortal Sins
It’s one of the great ironies of Torchwood: Miracle Day that when it does the opposite of what most people are insisting it do, it delivers arguably its best episode to date.
Immortal Sins, penned by Jane Espenson, refused to react to the clamour for Miracle Day to push forward faster, and to speed up the development of the assorted story threads that it’s juggling. So we got no overflow camps, only a mild sliver of Oswald Danes, and far fewer people creeping around corridors.
Instead, it gave us something pretty invaluable: the best part of an hour in the company of Captain Jack, giving John Barrowman his first chance to properly step centre stage all series.
And what a joy that proved to be. Barrowman is an excellent actor, but most of his work this series has been in brief snippets here and there. It’d been clear that the overarching Miracle Day phenomenon had something to do with him, which has made it frustrating that we’ve spent what feels like so little time in his company.
Now? We might just have begun to get an answer as to where he fits in.
The episode picks up where the last left us, as Gwen Cooper gets her ultimatum via the magical contact lenses (a cracking narrative device still): deliver Jack to a mysterious, no doubt nasty person, or her family gets it. This, clearly, leaves a stricken Gwen with little choice, and she tries to smuggle Jack away from the rest of the Torchwood team without them noticing. Which they do, but we don’t find that out until later, come the ending when they try and ride to the rescue.
In the meantime, the episode strips everything else away but Jack, and two significant relationships in his life. The first with Gwen, which touches on themes and conversations that the two have occasionally had throughout the run of Miracle Day. But, more importantly, his flirtations with the mysterious Angelo.
I’ll do Gwen and Jack first, though. The pair’s few brief snippets of chat, most prominently in episode two, have been welcome. But here, it was a proper conversation, one based on the love the characters clearly share, but also the divisions between them. They’re a terrific double act, and I always feel that Torchwood is at, or near, its best when the two of them are working in tandem. That proved to be the case here. Someone should start giving these two awards.
But even they were trumped by the newcomer this week. The story of Angelo is told in a brilliantly realised flashback story, one that drags Jack to pretty much the edges of what he can take. The scene of him being basically denounced as a devil, and killed time and time again, was really difficult to watch, but deadly in its effectiveness. This is, until the miracle came along, the very worst thing that Jack can endure, and it’s all the more haunting that it’s being inflicted on him by someone he was so close to.
It’s Doctor Who taken to the extreme, arguably. Recent Who has established that the regeneration process for the Doctor feels like death, and here’s a character being forced to die again and again, with no feeling being spared.
Bonus points, too, for references to the Doctor in this week’s Torchwood, incidentally.
Back to Jack, though, and he shouldn’t just be the beneficiary of sympathy, though. He’s the one who’s left Angelo in the dark. Angelo, after all, had to lie in prison believing Jack was dead, only to find out that he wasn’t. Angelo’s lost love of Jack is clearly, given the ending, about to have a serious ramification, and the cliffhanger to Immortal Sins was just brilliant. I wanted episode eight to follow straight away.
On the downside, Angelo has come out of nowhere late in the day if he does prove to be the instigator in some form of the miracle. There’s been little in the way of pointer to him throughout the series thus far, after all.
It’ll be interesting to see what state he’s in, too. The flashback sequences kicked off in 1927, so Angelo should be comfortably over a hundred if we get to see him again. Unless there’s actually more to him, or he has some alien influence or DNA to his character? Perhaps he’s just some machine of sorts now? I’m just guessing, but there are lots of questions, and I’m keen to see where he fits into the greater plan.
What was particularly welcome here, though, was that Immortal Sins really felt like older school, more focused Torchwood, and it also was Miracle Day taking a big gamble. The gamble paid off. Appreciating there’s three hours left to go, this episode feels already like it’s deepened both Jack’s back story and the broader narrative. It did it by keeping Rex and the increasingly resourceful Esther in the shadows for a week, and it reduced Oswald Danes to a clever comment in the background.
But it also gave the first evidence that some things are heading towards a climax. And it proved, once more, that Jane Espenson should be allowed to write pretty much every television programme on the planet.Read our review of episode 6, The Middle Men, here.
Torchwood: Miracle Day airs on BBC1, Thursdays at 9:00pm.
Read more about Torchwood: Miracle Day here.