Torchwood: Miracle Day Episode 7 Review
Clint Hassell reviews Immortal Sins, the seventh episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day.
To fully grasp how significant the events of “Immortal Sins” were to Jack’s character arc, we must remember where he is in his time stream. At this point, Jack has fled the Boeshane Peninsula as a Time Agent, and had two years of his memory stripped from him, causing him to become a morally-ambiguous con man. This stood in contrast to the Ninth Doctor, who he met during the Blitz in London, and who Jack followed as a companion before being killed by Daleks, resurrected to immortality by a time vortex-infused Rose, and seemingly abandoned in the future. Desperate to reconnect with the Doctor, an inspirational figure that helped Jack grow from his selfish, irresponsible persona into a hero, Jack uses a vortex manipulator to travel to 1869 and, basically, live through the 20th Century until he can again find the Doctor. While waiting, Jack joins the Torchwood Institute – ironically formed to protect Britain from alien threats like the Doctor – and is instrumental in reforming it in honor of his hero.
It is at this point – New York, 1927 – while on assignment for Torchwood, that Jack meets Angelo, a newly-arrived Italian immigrant. The two quickly establish a relationship that surpasses immediate intimacy when Jack invites Angelo to become his consort. “I’ve got this friend,” Jack says, mentioning the Doctor by name, “He explores the world with a companion. It looks nice.” It’s brilliant to see Jack cast as the Doctor, as he explains the alien parasite to Angelo – even getting in a sly joke about how one planet’s vermin is another’s delicacy. Jack steps into the role of mentor and it’s at this moment that Jack’s character arc is complete.
And just when Jack becomes the Doctor, he then surpasses his hero by coming back for the freshly-paroled Angelo – the very thing that Nine did not do for Jack, and a bittersweet coda to “The Parting of Ways.” Knowing what lies ahead for Jack in his time stream – further adventures with Torchwood Three and the Tenth Doctor – I am so thankful that Russell T Davies waited until Miracle Day, the potential end of the Torchwood franchise, to bring Jack’s character full-circle and reveal that Jack is longer in need of the Doctor’s inspiration, but now capable of being the force for good that Nine had always encouraged him to be.
As electric as the scenes with Jack and Angelo are, the scenes with Jack and Gwen are even more riveting – an impressive accomplishment considering that they take place inside a car, as Jack and Gwen drive through darkened streets. I’m so thankful that we’ve seen enough of the I-5s to be comfortable with how they work, enabling the writers to craft the cool scenes of Gwen and Jack in the car’s rearview mirror (though, dear readers, should you ever find yourself in such a situation, please pull to the side of the road and face Jack directly). Gwen immediately blames Jack – he must have done something in the past to cause this – which seems harsh, until you remember that Jack’s actions led to Children of Earth. Gwen also faults herself for her continued involvement with Torchwood, as each new secret made her feel more special, and each death made her more of a survivor. What’s worse is, she’s loved it, but now she’s saying, “No more.”
Further, Gwen drives another nail into the coffin of the already-destroyed Jack-Gwen-Rhys love triangle when she states that she would choose her daughter, Anwen, over Jack’s life. Jack responds, “And now that I’m mortal, I’m gonna hang on to this with all that I’ve got.” It’s believable that these two warriors, having formed such a bond by surviving at Torchwood, are fiercely loyal to each other and yet still willing to fight for their individual priorities. I love that they end the conversation almost smiling, the act of being completely honest “right at the end” having been cathartic.
Just as important to this episode’s narrative is the interplay between Angelo and Jack regarding sexuality. The seduction scene between the two men runs very true to the gay experience of trying to out yourself to someone who may or may not feel the same way you do. I’m so thankful that this episode was written by Jane Espenson, who has repeatedly demonstrated a talent for writing believable gay characters. (And, wow, did that scene get steamy hot, with Jack giving Angelo exactly what he wanted, but doing it all under pretense.) I appreciate that Angelo’s honest question, “Anyone looking at me, would they know?” – which every closeted gay man has asked – was paired with Jack’s confident, “I really don’t care what people know.”
I also appreciate, that, unlike with Brad in episode 3, the sex scenes are more tender and affectionate, which informs the later story, when Angelo is more bothered by the emotional aspect of loving a man, than the physical component. “We just did something special. Why do you make it cheap?” Angelo asks when Jack makes an ill-timed, post-coital joke. Is Russell T Davies using Angelo’s words to comment on gay culture? on Hollywood, which reduces sex to an end-of-Act-II plot device? on society in general for reducing sex to a commodity used to sell CDs?
Angelo’s conflict in reconciling his faith and his sexual orientation is very relatable. Angelo states that “[God] doesn’t hear me. . . . You know why” – a claim that struggling, gay Christians often make – yet Angelo stays awake at night, asking for forgiveness for his sexual transgressions. Jack claims that there is not room in Angelo’s religious view for a God that would accept two men as a couple, yet Angelo correctly identifies an all-loving, all-forgiving God as not “blasphemy,” but the basis of Christianity. “If God is love, maybe he loves me too,” hopes Angelo.
Much as with the arguments about abortion and conception-as-the-beginning-of-life in “Dead of Night,” I do wonder what statement these scenes make about Russell T Davies’ personal beliefs. I am curious also as to Jack’s religious background as he doesn’t take confessional seriously (though he seems familiar with it), yet he is willing to break up with Angelo over their theological differences.
(Side note: In hindsight, Jack going back for Angelo was pretty stupid. Angelo was very concerned that God was judging him, and the moment he allows himself to love a man, that man gets shot in the head. How is Angelo not going to spend the next year in prison thinking that Jack’s death was God’s punishment, and swearing that he’d forever be straight and a good Christian? How is he not going to see Jack’s resurrection as not a miracle, but as a demon tempting him? Note that Angelo washes Jack’s feet – a huge symbol in Christianity.)
Other things I loved about this episode:
I love the explanation provided as to why Jack and Angelo remain together after their initial meeting. Obviously, Jack thinks Angelo’s cute – and Angelo reciprocates, even if he is desperately trying to hide that – but Jack lets Angelo room with him because he knows that the Great Depression is but two years away, and that WWII is right after that. I am always impressed when characters with special abilities use those talents in a natural way. Having lived through history, Jack knows what is coming, and it should inform his decisions. Also, Jack has so often alluded to being from the past; it was nice to have him comment on living in the future.
The short scene with Esther and Rex was beautifully handled. Esther, who thinks with her heart, would want to say something of condolence regarding Vera’s death; Rex, with his gruff, macho exterior, would wish to ignore his feelings. Despite having been co-workers, they don’t know each other well enough for her to really be a comfort, which makes this scene deliciously layered. At first, there are hints of him letting her in, but, as she continues to press the issue, his patience draws shorter; conversely, as she sees him withdrawing, she tries ever harder to break through. It’s brilliant, really – one of my favorite scenes in Miracle Day so far.
My fanboy heart skipped a beat when the Trickster got a mention. Cybermen, Weevils, and Blowfish have appeared on Torchwood and Doctor Who, Slitheen, Sontarans, and Judoon have appeared on Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures, and Arcateenians have appeared in The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood. Is the Trickster the first to play a role in all three?
I want to see a firebird! I miss Russell T Davies having a weekly opportunity to create new aliens. I love that Jack’s seductive description is actualized by the headlights of a distant car, and I love that the firebird symbolizes Jack – a being born from the fires of the time vortex (which Rose described as “singing”) – who is at the end of his life and doesn’t want to die.
I love that when Esther checks the cache on the I-5s, you can see the messages that Jack typed to Gwen that she responded to when talking into the bathroom mirror. (However, they missed one – “radio link open” – and the time stamps are all wrong.)
Not only do Jack and Gwen come full circle, so does Andy, who shoots someone (and who looks sexy in all-black).
Things I did not love about this episode:
Angelo looks like a cross between Jack Harkness and Skeet Ulrich. Upon meeting him, my first thought was that Angelo was Jack’s son. I even mistook their initial sexual tension as them recognizing each other (which was cause for an uncomfortable moment a few scenes later).
So, the vortex manipulator can be use as both a counterfeiting device and a sonic screwdriver? Seriously, this is getting out of hand. I especially call bulls#!t on the latter as there have been instances when Jack needed this function and he has not used it. Perhaps some day we’ll discover that the vortex manipulator is alive and it’s soul can be shoved inside some guest star in an over-hyped episode? (Yes, yes, smell my bitterness.)
When Jack was being killed repeatedly, I was confused by how “Irish” the music became considering the story takes place in “Little Italy.” Also, they made a big deal about taking Jack’s blood. I’m gonna be peeved if that is the cause of the “miracle” as Jack’s immortality has no genetic basis.
Jack describing himself as a “fixed point in time” is a giant continuity error as he learned this information from the Tenth Doctor, whom he has not yet met.
I hope that, someday, my two best friends and I get to use our super-secret, totally awesome handshake that is shaped like a triangle. [/sarcasm]
Why is the chick from Star Trek: DS9 billed above Tom Price (Sergeant Andy)? And why is Daniele Favilli (Angelo) listed last?
Questions I have:
Oswald Danes wants the return of the Category system, which means that’s what PhiCorp wants. Why?
For what was Angelo arrested? Trespassing? He hadn’t stolen anything, and the way that Jack disposed of the alien parasite was supposedly untraceable. (And, besides, who would believe, “But, officer, I had an alien parasite right here in this box!” anyway?) To spend a year in prison, Angelo must have been framed for something more serious. Since he was in the U.S. on a visa, and not a citizen, why wasn’t he deported?
Seriously, where is Gwen’s father? We keep mentioning that they have her mom, Rhys, and Anwen. Geraint was last seen being rescued by Rhys; where is he now?
Am I wrong to point out that the best episode of Miracle Day thus far doesn’t feature Oswald or Jilly?