5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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MIRACLE DAY: IMMORTAL SINS
Well, this is an intriguing one. It’s certainly different from all the others. And given the prevailing standard of the others, different is good, right?
Well, sort of. It’s definitely got things we like about it, which is an agreeable novelty. So what are they, then?
What’s nice is that this is the furthest episode yet from the generic conspiracy-car chase model. Not a lot happens (yes, we know that isn’t unusual in Miracle Day) and in fact the pace is positively leisurely. So leisurely that most of it happens in the past: again, something different. Different we like.
So we like the framework and the ballsy change of pace. The thing we love, though, is the butchery sequence. Leaving aside the heavy-handed Christ metaphors (wiping his feet? Really?), the savagery of the scene is both shocking and completely believable. Exploring the possible consequences of people finding out you’re immortal is a field left pretty much unmined by previous Torchwood episodes, so it’s well overdue. And it’s as dark as the inside of your pocket on a moonless night. Excellent.
What else? Well, Nana Visitor is always great value, and we love her calm matter-of-factness as she coolly explains about Angelo. We also like bits of the car scene between Gwen and Jack. This is obviously meant to be an emotional pivot, and it kind of works except for the fact that we’ve seen Gwen’s remorse about her glee at the (apparent) coolness of Torchwood more than once before. What we do like, though, is the way the two of them lay it on the table that they might love each other, but they’re not willing to die for each other. It’s the opposite of slushy, which will always get our approval, and it says a lot about the way Gwen’s priorities have shifted.
And it’s also nice to get a few more clues about what’s going on. Angelo’s return wasn’t exactly the shock of the century after the butchery lady holding up a vial of Jack‘s blood in extreme close-up and rattling on about a miracle, but overall, it’s good to pin down Jack’s connection with all this a bit better.
And the other good thing: low Esther/Rex quotient. Sorry, but try though we might Esther just annoys us. And while we know the dramatic arc for Rex is supposed to be arsehole redeemed and we’re meant to like him now, we just don’t. (We doubt his brush with the flames of the ovens magically cured his homophobia, for a start.)
We’ve saved the best till last: PC Andy. Say. No. More.
So that’s all good stuff. Amongst it, however, is stuff that’s not so good.
The worst bit is probably Angelo. Yawn, yawn, yawn. Can’t we ever do stuff about the 1920s that doesn’t involve Ellis Island and bootlegging? More importantly, we’re not buying the passion between these two at all. Whatever the reverse of chemistry is, they’ve got it.
And we were profoundly bored by all the angsting about Teh Gaysex. Our view on this subject is knock yourself out, in whatever gender combination you prefer. Why not? End of. Yes, we know it’s probably accurate then and now for Catholics, but nevertheless, endless soul-searching about whether it’s a sin when to the viewer it’s a non-issue is dullsville. (As one of us responded, “No. Can we get on now?”.)
What’s more, you can’t get away with horrifically clichéd dialogue just because your two lovers are men. “You came back for me”? “You don’t know whether to hit me or kiss me”? “Where will I find another man like you?”? Task, tsk, tsk. And it’s all a bit histrionic, too. Declaring your lovers always kill you then leaping off a tall building? Honestly, what a drama queen. What possible reason could he have to do it, anyway? Couldn’t be bothered to take the stairs? If you want big dramatic moments, you have to at least set them up so they make sense.
Also, it’s yet another same-sex hookup for Jack, with the briefest of lip service (ha!) being paid to the idea that he “likes all kinds of things”. It’s a good thing in a way: gay love scenes are hardly overrepresented on TV, so if Jack actually were just gay, fantastic. But if you set up a character as pansexual then show only one aspect of that, you’re doing something wrong.
So the Jack and Angelo relationship, the heart of this episode, left us cold. Given that this is clearly going to be coming up again, that’s a worry.
Incidentally, the stuff with the time watch thingy actually working shows that this is not in Jack’s linear timestream that we’ve seen before. We don’t follow Jane Espenson on Twitter, because we’re too lazy, but we believe she said there that this is set somewhere after Torchwood’s first season and before Children Of Earth. Meaning that this passionate affair Jack’s supposed to be having with Angelo is occurring at the same time he’s involved with Ianto. That’s going to put the cat among the pigeons for the legions of Ianto fanciers and no mistake. Oops.
It’s different, and that means we give them points for trying. When it comes to Torchwood, we’re thankful for small mercies.
SORRY SEEMS TO BE THE HARDEST WORD
Rex says “those politicians are all denying everything” – but they’re not, are they? We thought part of the point of the previous episode was that the government was unapologetic about the camps.
HE ALWAYS LIES
So is Jack’s time watch genetically linked, or not? If so, how did it read Rex’s potassium levels or whatever it was?