This week’s episode saw the series return to its roots, of a fashion. Whilst previous episodes in this, so far, average-at-best story have been very flashy, set-piece driven tosh, this instalment relied heavily on exposition. And it was actually quite good.
Kudos must go to Jane Espenson for her script, which allowed a great deal of characterisation for Jack and Gwen, as well as new arrival Angelo. Her background as script editor on shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Battlestar Gallactica is evident in the scripts that she has provided so far for Torchwood. Much like Buffy frequently managed to pull off convincingly, this latest episode used the convention of flashbacks to great effect.
My biggest gripe about this latest episode is not much of a gripe, all told. I was frustrated that, 6 episodes in, the plot made minimal movement towards the end-game. Whilst, for the last few episodes, we have been led to believe that everything up to now has been lies, and red herrings, it would therefore be natural to expect that the final few episodes would begin to work towards coming to a conclusion. Instead, it is a brave step that the series takes – a step back to 1927 and 1928, providing some character background that will fill some of the blanks eventually. Having said that, there seemed to be a whole hour of exposition to lead up to the discovery that Angelo is somehow involved. That’s an awfully long time to fill with little information of any use to the fans. But it was still quite entertaining.
There has been an awful lot of fuss made on fan sites and blogs regarding the gay sex content of this episode. Many claim that those complaining about it are homophobic, and that the gay sex is ‘what the show is about’. Here, I couldn’t disagree more. These fans claim the show has always been about sex, and that’s what makes Torchwood Torchwood. Again, this is wrong. The show was always about strong characterisation, alien technology, the rift running through Cardiff... hell, it’s always been about Cardiff! The sex was never gratuitous, whether it be with man, woman or vegetable. Yet here, the ‘sex talk’ scene went on for far too long, and the actual sex was needless. It didn’t contribute to the storyline. It didn’t add anything. It was simply sex for the sake of sex, taking advantage of the fact that it was on after the watershed. And no, I’m not homophobic – I’m homosexual. And still, I didn’t appreciate it. Fangirls everywhere probably damn-near exploded with glee at the sight of John Barrowman’s sagging rear end, but for me, it just made me cringe. It was nice that Jack at least faintly acknowledged his omnisexual status in this episode, by admiring the Amy Winehouse look-a-like smoking on the balcony opposite, and talking to Gwen about children he may have. But still, the show has moved away from its roots, not allowing Jack to screw anything and everything that moves.
Having said all that, the scenes in the flashbacks were well-handled and well-directed, and it was nice to see Jack at the forefront of the story again. Whilst it is a little too neat for my liking, once again having Jack responsible for what’s happening (as in the superior Children of Earth storyline), the performance of Angelo Colasanti was brilliant, and added a much-needed touch of humanity. His character was a welcoming well-rounded addition, as he coped with his faith and his carnal desires. The references made to the Doctor were pleasing for the fan in me, and it was quite a sweet twist that we saw Jack so vulnerable, and so desperately craving the companionship that the Doctor uses as a tool to survive. I’ve said before that I do not consider Jack to be the main character of Torchwood, preferring to see it as an interesting ensemble piece that simply rotates around his character. Up until now, by emasculating him and reserving him to the background, a bit-player in the story, the show lost a great deal of its original appeal. By bringing him back to the fore, as much as I hate to admit it, it has returned the heart of Torchwood to its rightful place. Other references to the Doctor Who universe were the discussions about the Trickster’s Brigade, which again made me smile.
Angelo Colasanti, played with flair by Daniele Favilli, was a fascinating addition to the Torchwood universe. His name literally translates as Angel Saint-Pourer, which again could add to the meaning of the Miracle in some way. The flashbacks were particularly interesting in that, rather than focussing on the story but not giving us any red herrings, it allowed the series to move on – ironically, given that at least 45 minutes of the episode were all filler. Whilst I am still waiting for some answers, which I had expected of a show with only three instalments left, it was pleasant that we weren’t force fed more false ends, focussing instead on exposition and character progression.
The scenes in the car between Jack and Gwen were first rate, albeit a little alarming –Whilst Gwen’s announcement that she would stand by and watch someone kill Jack to get her family back were fair considering the circumstances, Jack’s confession to Gwen that he would ‘rip the skin from your scalp’ was a little extreme, but again, considering the circumstances, it is understandable – this is a man that has come to terms with eternal life, whether he likes it or not, and to have a murder forced upon him when he is so under-prepared for the idea of death would surely be quite a terrifying proposition. Also, a little side note here – where the hell’s Gwen’s father, after they went to all that trouble to rescue him over the last two weeks? It was refreshing, as I’ve said, not to rely too heavily on Rex and Esther this week. Their characters haven’t, up until now, added a great deal to the proceedings, rather just adding more distractions from the main motivation of the plot.
The religious iconography throughout the episode was a tad strange – at times, it seemed that the producers were trying to make Jack into the new Jesus; the whipping and beating from his ‘followers’, the bathing of the feet, as well as the obvious Jack/Jesus trademark of rising from the dead. I just hope and pray that the Miracle doesn’t turn out to be related to the blood that the fanatics began to collect into vials and jars as it poured from his wounds. The scenes of torture were reminiscent of Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic epic The Passion of the Christ, and were horrifically graphic.
The ‘twist’ at the end was a little predictable, having focussed so much on Angelo throughout, but I am still expecting the trio of businessmen to play a more substantial part too – possibly ‘bankrolling’ Angelo’s scheme? Their handshake, crossing wrists to create a triangle, was a clear link to the rotating triangle used in communications with the ‘bad guys’ from earlier in the series. As such, it would be a slight red herring if they weren’t involved somehow. A slight issue I have is that Angelo appeared late in the day – again reinforcing that Torchwood have been leading us down the garden path with every other detail up until now.
Another nice inclusion for the geek in me was the appearance of Nana Visitor, Kira from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. An excellent actress, she was slightly underused this week, but I’m sure we’ll see more of her next week. My issue with Visitor as the voice of Angelo is that, after the newest members of Torchwood save the day, she informs Jack that he’ll come with her anyway – if that’s true (and it almost certainly is) then why bother going through the hassle of kidnapping Jack anyway? Why not simply call him and ask him to come, or send the message to Gwen to pass on to him? Also next week is the return of the ever brilliant Wayne Knight, of Third Rock from the Sun, as the shady CIA boss, and the appearance of the incredible John De Lancie, Q from Star Treks The Next Generation,DS9, and Voyager. The three together next week will be fascinating to watch, and show that the show is finally beginning to return to its Sci-Fi roots. Speaking of Sci-Fi, this week’s episode finally saw the appearance of an alien – hurrah! Admittedly, the creature played no part in the overall story, but still it was a first for this Sci-Fi show, 7 episodes in. Again, the geek in me did a little dance of joy when the creature appeared – it was the spitting image of the Goa’uld symbiote from Stargate: SG1.
Another slight loophole in the story this week was the costume choices – specifically, the fact that Jack was wearing ‘that coat’ again. Last week, I discussed the fact that the coat was now his ultimate pulling tool, relying on that to get his end away. This week, despite it being an impossibility with regards to timeframes and continuity, he was wearing the World War II army surplus jacket, and once more managed to grab a man whilst wearing it. If I remember correctly, he acquired the surplus jacket when he lived through the Second World War, which in 1927 he won’t have done yet. Still, that’s picking holes in an otherwise very strong episode.
For the second week in a row, we had no sidelined story involving Oswald Danes and Jilly Kitzinger, which I did miss somewhat – whilst they are not clearly adding anything to the plot, they do provide nice distractions, as both characters are excellent. Judging from the ‘next time’ trailer at the end, both characters will be returning to the fore next week, with even more gut-churning scenes, one of which involves our paedophile ‘hero’ requesting a young girl, and smacking a prostitute – presumably because she’s too old for his tastes.
So, next week we should find out more about The Blessing, The Miracle, Angelo, Oswald Danes...? I hope so. I really, really do.