Torchwood: Immortal Sins
(1 episode, s04e07, 2011)
It’s time for a history lesson.
Ellis Island, New York, in the 1920s: A man posing as Jack Harkness attempts to scam his way through immigration. He’s stopped by the real deal, but Jack visits him in jail anyways. The thief’s name is Angelo Colasanto and he knows that Jack’s visa was forged. Jack tells Angelo that he is a government agent of sorts. After a chat, Jack forges a visa for Angelo and secures the man’s freedom.
In the modern day, Gwen receives her orders to bring Jack to the antagonists. She is told to keep the lenses in because they are watching. At the makeshift Hub, Esther and Rex talk about Vera’s life. Gwen comes in, calls for Jack, and tasers him at the car before hitting the road.
In 1927, Jack and Angelo find a room for rent. Since it’s just the two of them, Angelo tells the landlord that he’ll sleep on the floor. Once alone, Jack mentions the coming troubles – the Great Depression and World War I – in passing before starting into a relationship. They seem happy together even if Angelo doesn’t understand Jack’s futuristic references.
Modern day: Jack wakes up in the back seat of Gwen’s car. She tells him about her situation but refuses to set him free. Jack asks Gwen to look in the mirror so he can address the antagonists. When he’s finished, Gwen demands to know who Jack has angered this time. She also refuses to yield to his negotiations. The figure behind the contacts agrees: “He always lies.”
In 1927, Jack and Angelo sit in a church and watch a wedding. When a pastor walks by, Jack joins him in the confessional. The pastor is their contact and the men are running liquor during the American Prohibition. They are taken before a crime boss and agree to help him in exchange for their lives. Jack and Angelo are to deliver a box from one warehouse to another, but they are not to look at the contents. Jack tries to drive Angelo away in order to save him, but Angelo wants none of it. Jack is inspired by Angelo’s bravery, comparing it to the relationship between the Doctor and his companions.
During the mission, Jack discovers that the cargo is a parasitic alien. The plan is an attempt by the Trickster’s Brigade to destroy the future. Jack destroys the creature, but is shot dead as they attempt to escape. Angelo is arrested and taken away before Jack resurrects in the alley.
In the present, Gwen muses about her life with Torchwood and how much she loved it. She blames it for landing her in this predicament and warns Jack that she will follow through with the plan if it means getting her daughter back. Jack replies that he will fight until his last breath to keep his newfound mortality. Right at the end, Gwen understands Jack more than she ever has before.
In 1928, Angelo is released from Sing Sing Prison and is startled to find Jack waiting for him. Angelo is terrified at Jack’s immortality, killing Jack and taking him before a butcher. Time and time again, Jack is killed and resurrected by a vicious and fearful mob. At one point, Jack awakens before three men who enter a partnership over this novelty.
Gwen and Jack watch as a car approaches near Mesa, California in the hours before sunrise. They share a few words about the fear of death.
In 1928, Angelo apologizes to Jack as he frees the immortal man. Angelo has no idea who the three men were. He and Jack run from the butcher, climbing to the top of a building so Jack can retrieve his trademark gear. Jack explains his immortality to Angelo, revealing that they cannot be together anymore. Angelo protests so Jack jumps off the roof to his apparent death. When Angelo reaches street level, Jack has vanished.
The sun rises over Mesa and the car arrives. A woman emerges with an armed entourage, but they are interrupted by sniper fire. Rex and Esther found out about the Eye-5 hack and came to the rescue, allowing Jack and Gwen to take up arms and turn the tables. Rex and Esther send a signal to Andy Davidson in Wales, prompting a strike team to free Gwen’s family.
Regardless, Jack is convinced to join the mysterious woman. She can take Jack to the one man with the answers.
Angelo is still alive.
First and foremost, this episode was an infodump. The vast majority of the story was a flashback to introduce a previously unknown character. Unfortunately, the present-day narrative suffered and was only advanced by small steps. The story presented here could have been spread across the previous six episodes, relieving some of the slow and meandering spots and streamlining the overall plot.
That’s the inherent downside to the Timestamps Project approach. The story was touching and the interpersonal relationships were warm, which is exactly what I would expect from a talent like Jane Espenson. It was beautiful to see and would be fantastic as a standalone. But it is presented here as part of the overall Miracle Day narrative and takes its place among other expository episodes.
Aside from the Jack-Angelo relationship, there were some really great elements to keep this episode buoyed up. I loved the brutality of a frightened mob trying to excise the demons in Jack by killing him over and over again. The sniper scene was a great way to include Rex and Esther in a story where they did not prominently feature, and it helped to reinforce their working relationship and skills. I also loved the inclusion of an alien and the broader Doctor Who mythos, which (sadly) were firsts for this block of episodes.
The appearance of Nana Visitor, whom I loved in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, was a pleasant surprise. I look forward to seeing more of her in the remaining episodes.
All things considered, a beautiful story balances the unfortunate placement in the overall narrative, bringing this to an average episode overall.
Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”
UP NEXT – Torchwood: End of the Road
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.