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.