By David Chute | Thompson on Hollywood August 20, 2011 at 5:59AM
Animatronic aliens hit Torchwood: Miracle Day, reports critic David Chute:
After episode seven, no one will be able to argue any longer that Miracle Day “isn’t Torchwood” -- not without revealing themselves to be terminally full of shit. There’s even a small and memorably nasty animatronic alien on display, which is supposedly an iron clad indication or orthodoxy – although, thankfully MD seems to be stopping far short of pinning the underlying global health care conspiracy on aliens. Resorting to that creaky SF equivalent of a deus ex machina would be an act of desperation unworthy of a creator and showrunner as cool as Russell T Davies.
“Immortal Sins” is the most tightly plotted T:MD episode so far, and the most romantic. Its centerpiece is a beautifully staged time travel flashback to New York’s mobbed-up Little Italy circa 1927 – it’s Once Upon a Time in America with gay sex and Arthur C. Clarke references. It’s also a horrorshow: Captain Jack’s pre-Miracle unkillability becomes a bloody carnival act, with Catholic stigmata undertones, as he is chained up to be slaughtered and resurrected repeatedly in an Eastside tenement basement. (“Story of my life,” he says, “in a slightly different context.)
In this scene the words “the blessing” are associated with the image of a jarful of Jacks’ blood. Not an accident, presumably.
The present-day action of this episode is driven by Gwen, abducting Jack at gunpoint on the orders of the miscreants (as yet unidentified) who have imprisoned her family. But the heart of it is the flashback, which is a self-contained classic Torchwood adventure for Jack Harkness, Time Agent, saving mankind from an unthinkable alternate future in which the Nazis win WW2. (The perpetrators “create chaos and then feed on it,” he explains.)
Despite the world-saving storyline, the most important thing you can say about the flashback is that it’s a love story. We are never told exactly where Jack was coming from, where he was in subjective spacetime before he used his portable Vortex Manipulator to hop to Ellis Island in the 1920s to meet Angelo Colasanto (Daniele Favilli), a recent immigrant on the fringes of the Black Hand. (Colasanto could hop a ferry to Atlantic City and walk into the middle of Boardwalk Empire and feel right at home.) This may well have happened hundreds of years ago form Jack’s point of view – which would help to account for his stunned response to the present-day reunion promised in the episode’s final line.
That a cross-time romance could turn out to be the key to entire mystery is echt Torchwood. The harrowing events of the last couple of weeks on T:MD faded so far into the background while I was watching this episode that, in spite of its intensity, “Immortal Sins” felt like an interlude, a vacation in the sepia-tinted, lamp-lit past. It’s a nice touch that Rex’s video of Vera’s death, replayed endlessly on YouTube, has transformed her into a martyr, an icon whose sacrifice brings to a temporary halt the incinerations in the overflow camps. It’s also cool that The Doctor has finally been mentioned -- and while The Face of Boe has not been mentioned, yet, Jack does explain to Angelo that “time itself changed me into a fixed point,” so we’re not ready to abandon our rash predictions quite yet.