By Heather S. Vina
Written by: Jane Espenson
Recap: Note: I’m going to do things a bit differently this week in the recap part of my review. The episode jumps from flashbacks to Jack’s past, to the present with Gwen and Jack. I’m going to break up the story into two parts: The first part will be the past story with Jack. The second part will be the present story with Jack, Gwen and Miracle Day.
Recap, Jack’s Past: Ellis Island, New York, 1927. It’s the immigration desk at Ellis Island and Jack, who is entering the country on a visa from England, captures an Italian immigrant named ‘Angelo Colasanto’ (Daniele Favilli) who was trying to pretend he was Jack to steal his visa. Almost immediately, there’s an attraction between the two men. After seeing him in the prison and talking for a few minutes, Jack ends up getting Angelo out of jail by faking a visa for him, so that he can escape deportation.
Jack takes Angelo under his wing and the two quickly become lovers, though it’s clear that Angelo, who is from a small village, is disturbed by the idea of being homosexual and what this would mean if it were revealed to the world. Angelo helps Jack in his bootlegging activities on behalf of the Catholic Church. Seems Prohibition makes an exception for sacramental wine, so the Church has decided to sell its excess for a profit and Jack is going to bootleg it for them.
Jack’s illegal activities are noticed by mobster Salvatore Maranzano (Cris D’Annunzio), who wants to kill the men for infringing on his territory, but Jack manages to convince him to spare them and let them work for him by moving a dangerous crate. Concerned about the danger of his mission, and the fact that Salvatore will come after them once Jack does what he’s planning, Jack tries to get Angelo to run, but Angelo refuses and demands to be a part of Jack’s mission.
Jack and Angelo break into a warehouse, where they find the crate. Jack tells Angelo about working for Torchwood and breaks open the crate, showing him what he truly came to New York for. Inside the crate, there’s a parasite, which lays larvae inside people’s brains, causing them to go slowly insane. Jack explains to Angelo that Salvatore’s boss had been hired by the Trickster Brigade (a frequent villain in both Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures, another spin off of Doctor Who) to move the crate. They plan on using the parasite to infect pre-Governor/President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, so that, when he becomes President, he will be insane and making crazy decisions, causing America to destabilize and pull out of World War II, thus allowing Nazi Germany to win. The Tricksters enjoy causing chaos and feeding off the results, but Jack stops them this time by killing the parasite.
“We just saved the world, Angelo,” he says, “and no one will ever know.”
An alarm is set off and Angelo and Jack run, but while Angelo is escaping over a fence, Jack is shot in the head and “dies” before a horrified Angelo. Angelo is caught and sentenced to Sing Sing.
Angelo is released a year later, where he is greeted by a very-alive Jack, much to Angelo’s shock and horror. Jack takes him back to their former room and tries to explain to him that he just “survived” the shooting, but Angelo freaks out and stabs Jack, thinking he is the Devil. Jack wakes up to find Angelo is no longer alone and Angelo stabs him again. Eventually, Jack ends up in the butcher’s basement, where the entire neighborhood convenes and witnesses his resurrection. Time after time, they stab him and slice him up in their horror and frenzy, and time after time, Jack is brought back only to be massacred again. Angelo watches it all. Eventually, his fear of Jack turns to shame over what is happening to him, but by then, it’s too late.
During one of the times Jack wakes up, he’s in a bucket where they are collecting his blood. Another time, he sees three men standing alone in the room, discussing him and going in on the “buy” together. Seems Jack is being “sold” for $10,000. There’s a tall, white man with dark hair (Costerdane, played by Paul Hayes), a heavy-set, older, balding man (Ablemarch, played by Everton Lawrence), and a tall, thin, dark-skinned man (Frines, played by Shawn Parsons). They make a pact to buy Jack together and join arms. Jack passes out again.
Jack is finally left alone and Angelo helps him escape. He follows Jack onto a roof where Jack is happily reunited with his jacket, but when Angelo tells him that he wants to go with him, Jack refuses. Angelo tries to explain that he was afraid, and that they called Jack the “Blessing”, but Jack talks over him and tells him that he is a fixed point in time. He can die, but he always comes back. He doesn’t plan on staying with Angelo. Jack tells him that he’s going to grow old and die, and Jack doesn’t want to stick around and see it. Despite Angelo’s tears that he will never find someone else like Jack again and he will never let him go, Jack leaves him behind, telling Angelo, “This is the story of my life. It always ends the same way: You kill me. Men like you, you kill me.” With that, Jack jumps off the building. By the time a crying Angelo makes it to the bottom, Jack is already gone.
Recap, The Present: Under orders to bring Jack to the mysterious people who are holding her family hostage, Gwen – who still has the lenses in – makes it back to the Torchwood headquarters and tricks Jack into coming with her outside, where she knocks him out. Esther notices something strange with Gwen’s behavior and remarks on it, but Gwen takes off with Jack before they can do anything.
Jack wakes up with his hands and feet tied, and Gwen explains to him what is happening. Jack tries to talk to the people who are holding Gwen’s family, but they don’t respond. Jack then tries to probe Gwen for info, but she doesn’t remember anything strange, and she doesn’t have any weapons, anymore. They made her get rid of them. Jack tries to convince her to let him go, that he can use his bracelet to track Anwen down, but Gwen sees through his ruse and refuses. Gwen starts to blame Jack for this. She demands that he tell her what he did, saying that someone is doing this to get to him, but Jack doesn’t know. Gwen speaks with disdain and dislike about Jack, and his role in people’s lives, bringing misery and death to everyone around him. She seems to blame him for what has happened to her.
Eventually, Gwen admits her fault in what has happened to her loved ones, by admitting out loud that she has loved every second working with Torchwood. It made her feel important and alive. She feels immense guilt for that, now that her daughter has been kidnapped. But she tells Jack that she will see him skinned alive, if she has to, as long as she gets her daughter back. Jack tells her that now that he is mortal, he will do whatever he can to stay that way and stay alive, and he will turn on her just as easily as she has turned on him. The two reach a sad kind of understanding.
Jack and Gwen arrive in the middle of a field, where they wait for the people to come and pick up Jack. They have a little bonding moment where Jack tells her about finding a firebird on another planet. He admits to her that he doesn’t want to die.
An SUV arrives and a woman steps out (Nana Visitor, from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) who seems to know about Jack. Before they can go much further, Rex and Esther come and save the day. It seems Esther pursued her feeling that something was up and caught the last messages on Gwen’s contact lenses, which revealed that people were holding her family hostage and demanding Jack in return for them. Esther contacted Andy in Wales, and Andy and the police broke in and saved Gwen’s family from the men holding them hostage. Gwen is desperately relieved. She even hugs Rex.
The gang turn the tables on the mysterious woman and Jack demands answers about Miracle Day. The woman tells Jack that he will still come with her, because she can take him to the man who knows how the miracle all began: Angelo. Angelo is still alive.
Review: Why, oh, why did Torchwood finally have a Jackcentric episode when I’m finally getting tired of this season? Oy!
I really think that this storyline would have been better served with a shorter season, like Children of Earth. Perhaps a six-part season. Or they should have gone the route of a longer season arc with more standalone episodes, like they did in season 1 or season 2. Because this season has been a whole lot of nothing for the first half.
I enjoyed the build-up…in the beginning. But there’s been too much build-up and not enough reward. And having PhiCorp be built up as the Big Bad Guy, only to find out in episode 6 that they’re really not, was a letdown. I think having this huge and awful thing happening to the world, right out in the open, was a mistake. Because Torchwood has always worked better when the “horrible, world-ending, very bad thing” was under the radar and low-key, and when the team was saving the world from some threat that the world didn’t even know was there.
Having this happen, front and centre for all to see, and having everyone BUT the Torchwood team and two CIA agents recognize it and fight against it, was ridiculous. Because it makes humanity all look like a bunch of self-serving idiots who kind of deserve to be wiped out. Even when Children of the Earth did it, it was easier to take, because it went so quickly that you didn’t get bogged down with how mind-numbingly stupid humanity was looking. This season, not so much. The fact that only a handful of people are standing up and going, “Wait a minute; this isn’t right,” while no one else is asking questions and demanding answers, is just too much. This season had a lot of potential, but it hasn’t been written tightly enough and the new characters haven’t been fleshed out or written sympathetically enough. There’s been too much hot air floating around and not enough action, with the team or with the story. Which has been a problem of Russell T. Davies’ pacing before, but it’s never been quite so blatant (though the last run of Tennant as Doctor Who posed some of the same difficulties).
I really struggled with the romance between Jack and Angelo. I don’t have a problem with homosexual relationships or shipping two men together, so it wasn’t that. I just didn’t buy the characters together, or Jack developing this quick love for Angelo. It seemed forced. I think part of the problem I had was with the actor, Daniele Favilli. It’s not like he was a bad actor. I just didn’t feel he had any chemistry with Barrowman and I didn’t buy Angelo as this man that Jack would fall so quickly for. There was nothing there.
I wish that they had had Jack base some of his decision on leaving Angelo behind on the fact that Angelo had betrayed him. He let his fear and superstition rule him. As a result, Jack was left to the mercies of a crazy mob, and slaughtered over and over again. That was a pretty horrifying montage. For me, that was unforgivable. And frankly, having Jack leave Angelo, simply on the basis that he will eventually die and Jack won’t, is lame. I know they do it on Doctor Who, with the Doctor and his companions, and I know that Jack is in the same boat as the Doctor: He will live forever while watching the people he loves die. But still, with Jack, it felt melodramatic. Maybe because, on Doctor Who, I’ve actually watched the Doctor lose so many of his beloved companions that the fear feels more earned there. But watching Jack use that as an excuse to hold himself away from someone he cared for was too melodramatic for me.
And wow, Gwen. Gwen, Gwen, Gwen. Just when I start to warm up to you, you had to pull this!
Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely and positively support the idea that your child’s (or children’s) welfare comes first. So, her being willing to sacrifice anything to make sure that her daughter is okay was understandable to me. But the way she rolled over for the bad guys so easily, and the way she handled it with Jack, was the breaking point.
I cannot believe that Gwen – whom we have been told is the World’s Greatest Heroine EVAH over and over again by the show – capitulated so easily. When I saw the preview for this week’s episode, I really believed that Gwen would try something or have some kind of plan. She would have done something to try to save the day, even if she didn’t quite manage it. After all, she’s Gwen, Super Feisty Heroine Extraordinare. So, to have her do nothing, absolutely nothing, was pretty unheroic to me. And pretty surprising, too.
But the worst part for me was her attitude while doing it. I can’t believe that they were actually having her follow the “Sam Winchester’s Rules for Doing Bad Things” by having her turn it around and blame the “big bad meanie” in her life – Jack – who forced her to behave badly and betray him.
I mean, really, Gwen? This is Jack’s fault? Jack brings this on everyone around him? Then why the heck do you stay? Why do you long for him back in your life? Why do you rush off to join him when danger beckons? He tried to keep you out of the game in the very beginning, but you’re the one who forced yourself on the team. He never forced you to join or stay or keep coming back. So, blaming him for it in any way is the height of cowardice.
I was glad that they eventually had Gwen acknowledge that she was the one who loved working with Torchwood and she was the one who kept going back, but by then, she had passed the acceptable line to me. There should have been shame from her. Defiant shame, but shame nonetheless, for betraying her co-worker, team member and friend. This is someone she claims to love, yet there was little-to-no remorse in what she was doing and that really disturbed me. Once again, they turned Gwen into someone that I found distinctly unheroic and then still tried to present her as an heroic character who is in the right. It didn’t work, at all.
Yay for Esther, though! I really like that she picked up that something was weird and followed through on it. I was happily surprised that they had Esther and Rex save the day, as I thought that they were going to leave Gwen and Jack in the hands of the bad guys. And it was nice to have Rex’s screentime reduced, to have an episode go by where I didn’t want to see him knocked on his butt for his arrogant ways. And for once, I agreed with Rex, when, at the end, he told Gwen to next time, ask for help, because he’s tired of Torchwood acting so amateurish.
Speaking of screentime…another episode without Jilly and Oswald. Don’t get me wrong. I do tire of watching their antics, but as with PhiCorp as the villain, the show made such a big deal out of these characters and focused on them so much, that to just drop it all for two episodes annoyed me.
Again, this season has been too much hot air and not enough action.