Sunday , September 27 2020
Jack is back. In a brilliant episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day, Captain Jack's past catches up with him.

TV Review: Torchwood: Miracle Day – “Immortal Sins”

Last week I suggested that perhaps Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), himself, is “The Blessing” referred to by PhiCorp CEO Stuart Owens (Ernie Hudson) in Torchwood: Miracle Day’s “The Middle Men.” I guess I was pretty close there, eh? This week’s episode “Immortal Secrets” is the strongest episode in weeks; I was glued to my seat the entire time and was actually surprised to see it end, as it seemed that only moments had passed since the opening scene.Courtesy Starz

At the end of last week’s “The Middle Men,” Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) was stunned to learn through those nifty Torchwood contact lenses that Rhys (Kai Owen), her mother and baby Anwen had all been taken hostage back in Wales. All the kidnappers want in exchange is Captain Jack Harkness.

Never underestimate the determination of Gwen Cooper when her family is in danger. Using the stun gun on Jack, she takes him captive and drives out to the desert to turn him over. As they drive, Gwen, almost as if she’s convincing herself why it is okay to deliver Jack into the hands of the kidnappers, enumerates Jack’s many sins, while confessing her own—and why Torchwood (and Jack by extension) are toxic to anyone who draws near.

First blaming Jack (who has always beaten himself up about the losses surrounding him), and then herself for loving the hunt too much; for thriving on Torchwood, for the work making her feel superior and alive, Gwen tells Jack that although she loves him, she would gladly turn him over to whatever fate the kidnappers have in mind for him than lose Anwen and the rest of her family.

But Jack, newly mortal Jack, wants to savor life as a “real” human. He has never felt so alive because he can finally die. He’s not willing to give that up easily, he says. And, as he tells Gwen, although he also loves her, he will fight her to the death to keep on living.

Fortunately, back at the makeshift Torchwood Hub, Esther (Alexa Havins), who’s a lot smarter than Rex (Mekhi Phifer) gives her credit for, realizes that Jack (and probably Gwen) are in danger. They track Gwen’s car, alert Andy (Tom Price) back in Cardiff, who then rescues Rhys, Anwen and Mrs. Cooper. Although the team have the kidnappers eventually at gunpoint, Jack is told that he’ll want to come with them anyway. And this is where the episode’s main plot and a second, parallel plot taking place in 1927 intersect.

Running parallel to this present-day plot, we are transported in flashback to 1927 and Ellis Island where we meet Angelo (Daniele Favilli), an Italian immigrant who’s stolen Jack’s forged visa. Jack, on a Torchwood mission to destroy an alien parasite that might change the course of world history, befriends (and then beds) the small-town Italian man. But in between these revelations, Jack and Angelo have some pretty steamy sex, as ominsexual Jack is strongly drawn to the young Italian.

But Angelo gets an up-close demonstration of Jack’s immortality, which slightly freaks out the young man. Is Jack a blessing or a curse; an angel, or the devil himself? Tuning him over to some of the neighborhood folk, who believe he is the devil incarnate, they amuse themselves trying to kill him. They slash him and knife him, and each time he dies, he comes back weaker and weaker. The torture and blood loss—and the physical cost of reviving are almost too much for Jack, who is finally left alone, weak and blood-covered head to toe.

In the process, the people have taken vials of his blood, and ultimately try to sell him to a trio of crime bosses, who can certainly find use for the immortal man. Jack escapes his captors, but they now have his blood. And I suspect that the blood is connected to the “miracle” of Miracle Day.

“What did you give them so long ago,” asks the assassin in an early episode? Jack replies that he doesn’t know, but he’s likely been pondering that question for weeks, and now he’s finally figured it out.  It’s his blood. The blood collected during Jack’s torture so many years earlier. And now Angelo, still living, wants to meet up with Jack again—and he’s at the center of the Miracle Day miracle. Stay tuned for next week!

There is much to love about “Immortal Sins.” Captain Jack has not featured so prominently in a Miracle Day episode since “Rendition.” And it’s great to have him back front and center where he belongs.

We learn a lot about the man Captain Jack in earlier days. He was a lot more callow—and a lot less circumspect than he was when we first met him in the first series of Torchwood. He lets Angelo into his life far more easily than I imagine he would let anyone into his life (and secrets) decades later. And that callowness cost him then—and apparently the price is still being exacted more than 80 years later.

We know, of course, that none of the Torchwood Cardiff team had known about his immortality…problem when we first meat the team in Series 1. Although Jack does take Gwen into his confidence early on, no matter what the others may have suspected, it is not until the final chapter of the first series that Ianto, Tosh and Owen realize that Jack cannot stay dead. You have to wonder if Jack’s experience with Angelo and the horrific torture to which that led may have shaded his experience. It certainly fits.

It’s also interesting to note the relative passivity with which he accepts Gwen’s decision to turn him over to the kidnappers. Although he is tied securely hand and foot, I imagine that had he wanted to do so, he could have found a way to overpower Gwen. But he doesn’t consider it—not seriously. He’s quite willing to exchange himself for Gwen’s family.

When they stop to stretch their legs, there is no rancor, and as Jack talks wistfully of firebirds, there is a calm between him and Gwen. He understands, and although he certainly wants to live, he does nothing to stop her. Part of that, I think goes back to Jack’s belief that he is responsible for so much suffering—from his brother’s disappearance when he was just a boy on Boeshane to Ianto’s death in Children of Earth. I recall in the Series 2 episode “Exit Wounds” that Jack accepts what might have been the lifelong torture (burial alive) at the hands of his vengeful brother as if (according to Captain John Hart) as if he deserves it. But I digress.

I loved the way the two disparate storylines of “Immortal Sins” finally dovetail. I knew they had to somehow relate, but it wasn’t until the bloodletting that I began to figure out the connection. Who were those three criminal types from back in 1927 who decided to purchase (and likely enslave) Captain Jack?

Although Angelo saves Jack from a lifetime of torture and enslavement at the hands of (what I assume to be) organized crime, what is the cost so many years later? And with only three episodes remaining, I guess we’re about to find out!

The series’ main plotline takes a backseat this week, however, we do learn a few things through the deft placement of media reports and Internet videos, although it’s barely mentioned in “Immortal Sins.” We learn that the “module” project has been “paused” in the aftermath of Rex’s video being loosed in the wilds of the Internet; it now has had millions of hits and people are outraged. But, asks Rex, for how long?

People are outraged that Dr. Vera Juarez loses her life, yet people are concerned about the growing population. Are the modules so wrong, they wonder, in dealing with the current crisis? It’s an ageless question, chilling, yet expected. How long will it be before the populace demands the modules be brought back online as Oswald Danes recommends in a television snippet.

Man’s inhumanity to man; when people feel threatened, they sacrifice the perceived weak. Until, that is, they themselves become the victim; who then will stand up for them?

Random thoughts:

  • This is the second episode in a row without much, if anything from Oswald Danes storyline. I certainly don’t miss it (although Bill Pullman is excellent in a twitchy, creepy sort of way), and I assume he’ll be back in the picture as the series reaches its climactic hours. But it was a pleasure to see Jack back as the focus of the story. He is Torchwood, after all.
  • That was one freaking hot scene as Jack describes to Angelo what he would do with the beautiful woman on a neighboring balcony. Even as he uses it to seduce Angelo, it reminds us (and particularly viewers unfamiliar with the other series), as does Gwen’s question about how many children Jack has, that Jack isn’t exclusively gay. “I like a lot of things,” he explains to Angelo. Of course Jack is “omnisexual,” and has been married (who knows how many times), and has (who knows how many) offspring.

Over the course of the several Torchwood incarnations, we’ve seen Jack longingly gaze at an early 20th Century wedding portrait, hold his long-ago beloved Estelle in his arms as she dies an old woman; we’ve met his daughter and (one of ) his grandchildren, Stephen, whom he sacrifices to save the lives of millions in Children of Earth. But Jack has had his share of male lovers and infatuations, from Captain John Hart (James Marsters) to Ianto Jones to the “real” Jack Harkness (“Jack Harkness,” Series 1), and who knows how many in between.

  • I also loved the idea that the 1927 storyline is an actual Torchwood case. Jack is sent to New York to eradicate a dangerous alien parasite, and it is there he encounters Angelo. Perhaps contacting Angelo is even part of his Torchwood plan. It’s interesting to see Jack operate within Torchwood, but much earlier in his timeline.

About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."

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