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“Torchwood: Miracle Day” Review “Immortal Sins” (SPOILERS AGAIN)

And like a beacon in the night, signaling wayward ships, Jane Espenson writes an episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day that staves off my complete dismissal of the show. Everything that was lacking about last week’s episode was present in this one, entitled “Immortal Sins.” Was it a great episode? No, but it was a very good one, and one that should have happened a lot sooner. It gave us an episode that was about characters and, almost a novelty in Miracle Day, those characters were Jack and Gwen. For the first time this series, we get actual information about Jack and his past and immortality, something that has been almost routinely ignored up to this point. Thankfully, this episode leaves the Categories/Phicorp/Bureaucracy stuff behind and focuses entirely on the science fiction of Jack Harkness. After the nothing-happened-at-all of last week, “Immortal Sins” was a welcome departure.


Much of the episode takes place in 1927 with Jack arriving at Ellis Island under orders from the British (aka Torchwood).  He quickly encounters an Italian immigrant without papers named Angelo Colasanto, who tries to pass himself off as Jack Harkness to get into the country. Jack himself quickly proves who he is and Angelo is put in a holding cell until he can go back to Europe. But, wouldn’t ya know it, Jack and Angelo have a little chemistry and Jack uses the vortex manipulator to forge papers so that Angelo can get into Manhattan. They go to Little Italy together and proceed to have some facing-each-other gay sex.  What makes Angelo an interesting character is that he’s gay but, being Italian, is also a devout Catholic and feels guilty about the things he does with Jack.  The episode does include some very overt references to God loving him despite this, etc., which is, of course, a jab at the church.  Miracle Day can never be accused of being too subtle with its views, but in that instance I think the point had already been made and bluntly stating it was unnecessary.

In the present, Gwen has returned to L.A. with her I-5s telling her to bring Jack to “them” or “they’ll” kill Rhys, Anwen, and her mom. She tricks Jack, ties him up, and puts him in the back of the car. At first I was put off by this development. Surely, Gwen would have tried to come up with some plan with Jack or something, but their exchange in the car is very telling. Jack tries to make Gwen think that he can track Anwen with his arm strap and Gwen almost believes him for a moment before realizing he’s lying. They then have a lengthy conversation about what Torchwood meant to Gwen and how she loved it and would put her family to one side for it. She also says that, despite everything they’ve been through together, Gwen will gladly kill Jack herself if it means getting her family back. Conversely, Jack wants to live, knowing he isn’t immortal anymore, and will “tear the skin off” Gwen’s face to stay alive. Well, we know where we all stand, at least. This scene was fantastic and allowed these two characters who’ve been around from the beginning a chance to hash things out and, you know, BE characters.  It had become the Rex Matheson Show lately, and he’s just not somebody I care about.

Back in the 20s, Jack and Angelo are working as liquor smugglers for the church and run afoul of a local crime boss. Jack convinces the mobster that he should let them work for him because they’re off the grid. I don’t know if they’d have a saying like that in 1927, but okay. The mobster tells them to move a case from one warehouse to another, but not to look inside or they’re dead. Jack begins packing Angelo’s things and tells him he has to go. They argue about Jack’s inability to commit (essentially that’s what they’re talking about) and Jack eventually brings up a friend of his called the Doctor who travels with a companion and how nice that would be. So Jack and Angelo go to the warehouse and Jack opens the crate to find a parasitic alien creature frozen (more or less) in ice. He explains that the creature is part of the Trickster’s Brigade and would try to change history so that the Nazis would win WWII.  So not only do we get a direct reference to the Doctor (the Ninth to be specific), we also get a reference to a villain in The Sarah Jane Adventures and a creature like that which affected Donna Noble in the DW Series 4 episode “Turn Left.” We’ve gone from having zero reference to the greater DW Universe to having three in one episode. Holy cow!

So they kill the creature and, as they’re escaping, the police find them. Angelo is able to hop the fence, but Jack gets shot several times, including once in the head, and dies. Angelo is taken to prison thinking that Jack is dead, not knowing that he’ll gasp back to life moments later.  After a year in prison, Angelo is released and finds Jack waiting for him. Angelo is understandably distraught and confused but Jack tries to calm him. They go back to the apartment in Little Italy where Angelo stabs Jack, claiming that he is Il Diavolo (which is Italian for “El Diablo”). Each time Jack comes back to life, Angelo tells more and more people until eventually Jack is hanging by chains in a basement and people are savagely attacking, stabbing, and killing him to spill his, apparently, life-sustaining miracle blood. Eventually, three men making some triangular pact (WINK FUCKING WINK) agree to buy Jack and keep him locked up. Angelo, quite remorseful, sneaks in and frees Jack and thinks they can finally go off together, but Jack knows he has to go alone, like always, because people he loves eventually kill him. Cynical, but with good reason.

In Mesa, CA, at dawn, Gwen and Jack wait for the mysterious people who’ve put these two friends against each other. They talk about firebirds or whatever and then the shady black van drives up. Nana Visitor and two stuntmen get out of the van and tell Jack to get in. But a little red light shows up on one of the stuntmen, then a gunshot hits the ground. Turns out Rex and Esther are better at their job than I thought, as the two of them seem to have very quickly pieced together what was going on and have gone to help. Rex has one of my favorite lines when he says that they could have just asked for help and he’s tired of Torchwood and their secrets. They contacted PS Andy in Wales who’s gone in with a SWAT-esque team and freed Rhys, Anwen, and Mrs. Cooper.  Nana Visitor doesn’t think the deal has changed at all, because she can take Jack to the person who orchestrated Miracle Day: Angelo Colasanto! Double-you Tee Fuck… is what they wanted us to say, but it was kind of diagrammed from the start. Sorry, Jane. Still a cool twist, though.

While I did really enjoy this episode, and am glad we’re FINALLY getting to the bottom of the Miracle Day conspiracy, it does raise a number of questions and concerns about the rest of the series. For instance, how are they going to tie in the Oswald Danes/Phicorp storyline to the Angelo-the-scorned-lover storyline? If this has all stemmed from this one incident in the 1920s, why did we spend so much time with people that don’t matter? Yes, it’s interesting to see what the world’s governments might do with such an unprecedented global disaster, but a lot of the focus on it now seems totally trivial and unimportant. It really seems like Vera Juarez’s whole character/death served no purpose to the actual plot besides just raising hypotheticals. I definitely wasn’t bored by “Immortal Sins,” but now the real trick will be if they can tie up all of the threads they’ve got in the next three episodes. I’m hoping so, and I also hope that episodes 2, 5, and 6 will just be known as “The three filler episodes” and not “What the rest of the series is like.”

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25 comments

  • “Angelo stabs Jack, claiming that he is Il Diavolo (which is Italian for “El Diablo”)”
    Wouldn’t it be simpler just to say “Italian for “The Devil”, being that the article is in English, not Spanish?

  • I’m appreciative of the fact that it looks like this wasn’t some alien scheme, instead the enemy is us. While Torchwood primarily deals with aliens, it’s nice to step away from that for the moment, especially since there was no build-up to it in this particular season.

    As for this episode, I was a little disappointed. The big reveal at the end was that Angelo was still alive and the source of Miracle Day. This was done after a whole episode featuring flashbacks and a whole lot of Angelo, a character from whom we did not previously hear. From a writing standpoint, this was just bad. If they could have found a way to weave in the Angelo flashbacks prior to this or subtly introduced the character before this episode and THEN do flashbacks, it would have seemed a lot more organic. The way it was presented was just poor.

    But I’m still enjoying the show. I’m glad that we’re actually going somewhere now. And I’m glad we got to focus on the British cast instead of Rex and weak-willed girl.

  • This series is a trainwreck. It’s lightyears away from Children Of Earth (which was magnificent) and this episode was the worst one to date. It really looks like they were making it up as they went along without even bothering to check if everything made sense later. Because it really doesn’t.

  • There was way too much man-sex. I’m glad they counter-act it with aliens. In the episode, I had to rewind the DVR to the part where Jack says The Doctor would travel the world with a companion. THE WORLD!!?? Maybe he says “the world” not to confuse Angelo, but The Doctor travels through time and space, the universe and many things larger than THE WORLD!! But I digress. It was also odd how Jack says he’s from a place far away and long ago. I had to explain to my girlfriend that Jack was from the 51st Century and from the Boeshane Peninsula, but again, I don’t think this information would have played well to Angelo, or the audience for this matter. I need to stop digressing. I admit this episode kept me more involved than some of the previous ones. Half way through, I figured out that Angelo was behind Miracle Day, in the most cliche way. It’s like the Vampires Conundrum, where a mortal falls in love with an immortal, just to find out they can’t be together forever because one of them will die. It’s funny how this has never happened to any of the Doctor’s Companions. I guess we’re just lucky there’s never been a gay Italian companion. Alright, I’m done.

  • I feel like they’re making this stuff up as they go along. That said, this was the best episode so far, so hopefully the ball is officially rolling now.

  • @Chris. I totally agree with you about when Jack says, “The Doctor travels the world with a companion”. I was like, “WTF. He travels through space and time across the universe!!” But, I was excited that they finally referenced DW…finally!

    I know everyone hates this season, but ultimately, we aren’t sure how this will play out and I for one am willing to see it all the way through before I judge it completely.

  • I’m mostly with you Kyle on what I’ve liked/disliked to far. This episode was definitely better than most thus far.

    The one thing that I disagree with in this and other reviews, is the dismissal of the “Big Twist” at the end as predictable and boring. I don’t think we were supposed to have been surprised at all by the fact that Angelo was tied to the miracle. JACK was supposed to be surprised, and he was (well, at least as much as Barrowman can express). After all, he wasn’t having the flashbacks and thinking about Angelo – we the audience were seeing them.

  • This was a the first esp that I’ve loved since the show started. This is where I think the show should be, but I’m not getting paid to write show, so what do I know. ;)
    Cried through most of the basement scene w/Jack, what a horrible way to have to repeatedly die. How about the fact that Angelo killed Jack and then had a mob stab and kill Jack over and over again, isn’t that enough of a reason to for Jack to say Fuck Off I want nothing to do with you anymore.

    Husband and I have a theory that started off where the three men that “bought” Jack were the ones that wanted him kidnapped. But once we found out it was Angelo we thought ok maybe all the blood that spilled in the basement made Angelo immortal, he must have been “wading” in it and he started this whole “Miracle Day” to find Jack so that they can die together. Jack said that he couldn’t be with anyone because he would never die, but his companion would. So….Just a theory though.

  • It sort of looked like Jack was just suddenly reminiscing about Angelo, out of the blue, too. Why do a whole show with flashbacks about someone we’ve never heard about, and act like we’re supposed to be surprised when we find out he’s in the show for a reason? What’s the point of having ten episodes if so little seems to carry over episode to episode, and they can’t even spread out some info about what looks to be really going on?

    I liked the translation of Il Diavolo to El Diablo, myself.

  • Great review, and I feel the same way. This episode was fantasic for all that it doesn’t move the story forward a whole lot. Yet it reveals so much, including who is behind the “miracle.” But by doing so, it has made the previous six episodes seem like filler. I do believe that we haven’t seen the last of Danes. But I have a feeling that when judged as n overall season, it’s going to be more filler than I would really like. I don’t know what the future holds for Torchwood, but I hope that they stick to a short season next time.
    http://igp-scifi.com/2011/08/torchwood-miracle-day-immortal-sins/

  • author

    JOKES. I’m always putting JOKES in my reviews because I like JOKES. The JOKE about El Diablo vs Il Diavolo is because, though the characters in Little Italy are Italian, they refer to Jack as “El Diablo” which is SPANISH and not ITALIAN so I put a JOKE in my review about that.

    Get the fuck over it. I love you.

  • Best episode yet. Glad to see the train FINALLY getting back on the tracks. Only wished they’d spent less time on character introduction and more on the speed of the plotline. 8/10 for the episode, 4/10 for the series so far. Hopefully, we’ll get a suitably unexpected couple of twists before the series ends as it has the potential to surprise and, as a die-hard TW fan, I’d hate to see it canned after just one poor series.

  • My favorite line of the whole episode was when they’re discussing Dr. Juarez at the beginning and Rex says “we didn’t even know anything about her” and esther replies with “the news says she was from san antonio” and Rex says “Well then Go Spurs” -i cracked up

  • okay, so, I’m huge fan of DW. A huge fan of torchwood (especially children of earth) but, uh, not so much with miracle day. It seems to me that they have taken four episodes worth of actual plot and stretched it out over ten episodes of filler. Does anyone not see the end coming where Jack and/or Gwen will have to pull the plug on the whole miracle day, which of course means letting Rex and/or Gwen’s dad die. Because of course RTD can’t have a series of torchwood end without Jack, or Gwen emotionally tortured in some way. oh and by the way, we get it, the show is on starz now, enough with the completely gratuitous sex scenes already. I’m getting tired of seeing Jacks butt. We get it. Jack gets laid a lot. that particular aspect of the show has officially been beaten to death. Granted, at least the scene between him and Alfonso sort of had something to do with the plot, But so does Gwen’s baby, but that doesn’t mean I’m all that interested in watching the specifics of how Gwen and Rhys produced said offspring. I just want answers. and not the end of Lost either. Cause I swear on my Blade Runner action figures, If there is so much as one unanswered question at the end of this thing I will personally go to Russel T. Davies house and throw my T.V. at him .

  • okay, so, I’m huge fan of DW. A huge fan of torchwood (especially children of earth) but, uh, not so much with miracle day. It seems to me that they have taken four episodes worth of actual plot and stretched it out over ten episodes of filler. Does anyone not see the end coming where Jack and/or Gwen will have to pull the plug on the whole miracle day, which of course means letting Rex and/or Gwen’s dad die. Because of course RTD can’t have a series of torchwood end without Jack, or Gwen emotionally tortured in some way. oh and by the way, we get it, the show is on starz now, enough with the completely gratuitous sex scenes already. I’m getting tired of seeing Jacks butt. We get it. Jack gets laid a lot. that particular aspect of the show has officially been beaten to death. Granted, at least the scene between him and Alfonso sort of had something to do with the plot, But so does Gwen’s baby, but that doesn’t mean I’m all that interested in watching the specifics of how Gwen and Rhys produced said offspring. I just want answers. And not the end of Lost type answers either. (yep, still bitter) Cause I swear on my Blade Runner action figures, If there is so much as one unanswered question at the end of this thing I will personally go to Russel T. Davies house and throw my T.V. at him .

  • eh.
    this episode was eh.
    Now that torchwood is “americanized”, i feel like every spare secound, they point to the fact that Jack’s gay. Even small remarks made by rhys in the last episode. When the series was not bought by Starz, Jack’s character didn’t really rely on his sexuality.
    I found this episode a bit boring, and wish they incorporated Angelo in the other episodes, so then it would seem less out of the blue now.

  • Wow.

    I thought this episode was great.

    I also think that a lot of people who keep complaining about “all the gay sex” have some underlying homophobia. For me it was a forgettable point once the episode ended, but for so many people (including some who have posted here) – it’s as if it WERE the entire episode. If it had been heterosexual sex, I think the commentary would be different. For example, in the episode where Rex and Vera have sex opposite Jack and his partner, no one ever seems to bring up why Rex and Vera felt the need to get it on. It just bugs me a little that people can’t see it at face value and move on.

  • @Chris, I agree! LOL after this episode, I was like, “Damn, Jack needs to take some lessons from the Doctor about how to leave your companions behind without them becoming embroiled in global anti-humantiy schemes.” Or maybe the Doctor is just more choosey? Tsk, tsk, CJ.

    I thought this was a pretty good episode, because there were DW references (despite the mistakes), Jack backstory (except weird timeline problems), and finally (!) an alien (even though it served a very minor point). At this point, I’m so disappointed in this series little can rescue it, but at least I’m hoping there’ll be some more love for the original cast and more doctor who allusions! (?) I’m really hoping this is the end of Torchwood, and we get to see CJ in Doctor Who-only capacity from now on.

    Give us a freakin’ happy (or even neutral) ending, please! I know that concept might escape RTD, but let’s not send the entire fandom into massive depression again, okay?

  • Well at least the introduction of Angelo is less Deus ex Machina than what Moffat pulled with A Good Man Goes to War [yeesh, whatta carpfest!] .
    Spence?:>}