Torchwood: Miracle Day (8/10)

Torchwood: Miracle Day (1&2/10)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (3/10)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (4/10)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (5/10)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (6/10)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (7/10)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (9/10)

They said you were the Devil, but other people said you were a Blessing.
– Angelo

The quote flew right over my head in the last episode.  Watching it again, I understand the significance.  It must refer to what Stewart Owens told Jack in episode 6, when he talked about “the Blessing” being found in Italy in the mid-1990s.  And so it is.

This Torchwood episode was generally low key, with a lot happening.  Last week, the woman behind the kidnapping of Rhys, Mary, and Annwen, offered Jack the chance to meet Angelo Colesanto, “the one man who knows how the Miracle began.”  It was an offer he couldn’t refuse.  So this week saw them driving to Las Vegas and Angelo’s mansion – he’s obviously done well out of the information Jack let drop about the future.

The woman is none other than Olivia Colesanto, Angelo’s granddaughter.  And she’s not Illuminati (my useful label for the people behind Phicorp), as I thought.  Olivia is carrying out her grandfather’s request bring Jack to him.

Angelo is a very old man, unconscious, and on a life support system.  He could be anywhere from 100 to 110, kept alive this long by a strict health and medical regimen, all in the hope of meeting Jack again.  And now kept alive by the Miracle.  Bit of a disappointment that Angelo wasn’t even conscious.  I expected more sparks to fly at the reunion.

Olivia tells of how it began in 1928 with men from 3 families – the ones Jack saw inspecting him before the purchase – Ablemarch, Costerdane, and Frines.  Unable to use Jack’s blood because Angelo freed him, they hope to find the key to immortality through other avenues of research – in the 1990s it’s stem cells.  Angelo is kept away from the project, not respected because of his relationship with Jack.  But they’re all searching for the same thing.  Then, in 1998, word reaches Olivia that the “Blessing” has been found, obviously Jack’s blood taken by the Italian woman.  Esther’s search for the family names reveals the astonishing fact that nobody has those names, and there are no public records of them.  So put a line through Illuminati and write in Families.

As Esther waits outside in the car, in phone contact with Rex, Friedkin and his CIA division capture her and everybody in the house.  They’re all arrested under the Miracle Security Act – “this is the same as treason now, folks” – and Friedkin takes Rex off separately for some private revenge.  But he doesn’t know that Rex is wearing the handy dandy Torchwood contact lenses, which are playing the scene on Angelo’s monitor.

Rex: How much did the Families pay you?
Friedkin: It wasn’t about the money.  You can’t escape them.  The Families don’t just pay me, they own me.  They are everywhere.  They are always.  They are no-one.
Rex: And they are listening.

Friedkin’s boss, Alan Shapiro, has followed him, and is listening to the confession in the other room.  He arrests Olivia and Friedkin, but as they’re about to be driven off, Friedkin blows himself up, and everyone else in the car.  So now Rex and Esther are vindicated.  The CIA and Torchwood form an uneasy alliance, which is not helped when Shapiro really pisses Gwen off.

Shapiro: You’re that English girl, Cooper, have I got that right?
Gwen: No. I’m not English, and I’m not a girl.

Jack finally gets some time alone with Angelo when everyone rushes outside for Friedkin’s detonation.  He talks about Ianto and promises to take care of Angelo.  “See you later, old man.”  Then he kisses Angelo on the lips.  At which point, Angelo dies.  Really.  Jack thinks the monitor is faulty, but it’s true.  He’s dead, Jack.  The kiss must have something to do with it, considering what his blood can do, and nobody else in the world is dying.

Shapiro wants to know why, and orders Torchwood to stay in the house until he does know.  I like this Shapiro.  A curmudgeon’s curmudgeon.

This lull in the action allows other bits of the plot to catch up.  Jack and Gwen talk about the implications of Angelo’s death.  “Are we in trouble?”  “Yes.”

Rex and Esther are happy to be back in the CIA family and talk to their friends in the office.  Charlotte offers to help Esther’s sister in the psych ward.  They get news that Danes is in Dallas, playing the Cowboys Stadium.  “He’s preaching hellfire and salvation, which makes Oswald Danes the most popular man in the world right now.”  This is against the background of a plunging stock market and the threat of economic collapse.  Rex tells them to get a spy close to Danes and Jilly.

Esther calls her sister.  She knows Esther called Child Protective Services.  But it doesn’t matter because she wants to volunteer for Category 1, and put Esther’s nieces on the list as well.

Gwen talks to Rhys.  Her mum’s pissed off about being kidnapped, but wants Gwen to “go get ’em.”  Her dad is “not good.”

And then it starts again.  Esther notices that the floor beneath Angelo’s bed looks different from the rest of the room.  Shapiro has the floor taken up, revealing a strange grid underneath the bed.  Jack doesn’t want to tell him what it is, supported by Gwen, so Shapiro has her deported.  All Jack will say is that it’s a morphic field transmitter.

He needs to get himself and the alpha plate, the critical part of the device, away from the CIA and any government.  This piece of alien technology used to be in the Torchwood Hub in Cardiff, so Angelo must have retrieved it from the ruins.  It’s null field stealth technology, which would be too much of a temptation for any government to have.  “This timeline would be terminal.”  That’s why Torchwood was secret.  They steal the alpha plate, but Jack gets shot in the getaway.  Esther drives him away while Rex stays embedded within the CIA.

Back to Danes and Jilly Kitzinger in Dallas, who I have missed horribly.  From now on we shift back and forth between the 2 locations, but I’ll focus first on Las Vegas, then Dallas.

Jilly is back on cracking form, talking about Danes sharing a stage with the Bisected Bride.  “You know, car accident sheared off everything below the bikini line.  Got married a week later, propped up in a box.  Basically, she’s made up of positive thinking and colostomy bags.”  Jilly gets some brilliant lines.

But Danes isn’t interested, turns the music up loud so he can’t hear her, and demands a woman.  The CIA spy, turns up in the form of Shawna, an irritatingly positive and cheerful intern, who attaches herself to Jilly.  There’s a foreshadowing of Danes’ eventual fate, when Jilly reveals that she won’t have to put up with him.  “Not for much longer.”

Jilly orders up a woman for Danes.  It doesn’t end well.  She is freaked out by Danes wanting “a date,” meaning a meal, a show, that sort of thing.  She’s prepared for almost anything except this.  “If you want to pretend that you’re normal, no way.”  And before leaving, she reveals something she’s learned from another client – a senator – that under an Emergency Mandate a new classification is going through Congress.  Category Zero.  Jilly explains – it’s the ovens for those who should die for moral reasons.  “What you had was a wonderful delay, and now it’s time for that adventure to come to an end.”  Danes beats her up and goes on the run.

The creepy Families suit, who previously told her she was doing so well, now offers her a promotion.  This after shooting Shawna dead in front of Jilly, because he knows she’s a CIA spy.

Families Guy: Way above Phicorp.  We’re Families business.  Interested?
Jilly: Yes.
Families Guy: (On phone to Charlotte) She’s with us now.

Yes.  Charlotte, Esther’s best friend and CIA colleague, works for the Families.

Another cliffhanger.  Jack is on the run with Esther, and dying from a mortal wound, while Gwen is on a flight back to Wales.  Torchwood is scattered and broken.

One puzzle solved.  The creepy Illuminati (now Families) triangle comes from the curious way the 3 original Families  businessmen sealed the deal in the cellar.  Each one clasped another man’s wrist, forming a triangle.

For the rest, I’m content to wait until next week.

Torchwood: Miracle Day (7/10)

Torchwood: Miracle Day (1&2/10)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (3/10)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (4/10)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (5/10)
Torchwood: Miracle Day (6/10)

Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned
Nor hell a fury like a lover scorned.
William Congreve (slightly emended for the 21st century)

Congreve’s quote is the raw subtext for this audacious and harrowing episode, in which the rages and and furies of love are revealed as the basis for both the Miracle and the treachery of Gwen and Angelo.  Add Captain Jack Harkness as a bisexual Christ/Devil figure, with Gwen and Angelo as Judas, and you’ve got a potent dramatic compound.  I avoid reading about Torchwood until after I’ve written the review on Fridays, for fear of spoilers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this episode really offended some Christians.  Not to mention Italian-Americans.

The episode has a simple and powerful dramatic structure.  Gwen returns to the Venice Beach apartment, intent on kidnapping Jack in return for the Illuminati releasing her mum, Rhys, and the baby, Annwen.  Which she does, but not before alerting Esther to her strange mood.  “Bad day, Gwen?” she says to herself as Gwen lures Jack out of the apartment.

Esther tries to talk to Rex about Vera’s death, but he’s defensive, drinking to numb the pain.  A video of her burning to death has gone viral, with over 5 million hits, and the overflow camps are “paused” but ready for when the political climate changes.  As we learn from Gwen’s car radio, Oswald Danes is pushing for the return of the Category policies: “A global emergency calls for emergency measures.”

Most of the episode alternates between the car journey to a rendezvous in Mesa, California, with the Illuminati, and flashbacks to Jack’s encounter with a young Italian immigrant, Angelo Colesanto, at Ellis Island in 1927.

Gwen is furious with Jack for putting her family in danger, and with herself for being seduced by the life at Torchwood:  “I knew Torchwood was toxic,” but “I loved it, I bloody loved it.”  Jack is determined to live.  Between the two of them, they get down to the bare, painful bones of honesty.

Gwen: I swear for her sake (Annwen’s) I will see you killed like a dog right in front of me if it means her back in my arms.  Understood?
Jack: Understood.  And let me tell you.  Now that I’m mortal I’m going to hang on to this with everything I’ve got.  I love you, Gwen Cooper, but I will rip your skin from your skull before I let you take this away from me.  Understood?
Gwen: Understood.  I feel like I know you now better than I’ve ever done before.
Jack: Now.  Right at the end.
Gwen: Right at the end.

The flashbacks to Jack’s past life begin in 1927, as he’s on a Torchwood mission to America.  Angelo, desperate to get in, steals his visa at Ellis Island.  Jack catches him, takes it back, and Angelo is put in jail to wait for the next ship to Europe.  But Jack is interested in Angelo, forges him a new visa with handy dandy Torchwood technology, and they rent a room together in Little Italy with only one bed.  He seduces Angelo, who falls in love with him.  Outside, it’s the 4th of July and fireworks are lighting up the sky.

But Jack’s on a mission.  They go to a Catholic church, where Angelo reveals his discomfort with their relationship, believing that God doesn’t hear him because he’s gay.  Jack goes to confession to meet the priest, who is his contact in New York.  The priest sets them up as bootleggers with sacramental wine, but they’re caught by real bootleggers.  This is all part of Jack’s plan, because he offers to work for the gang, knowing they need to steal a particular box for their shadowy sponsors.  A bit like Phicorp and the Illuminati.

At this point Jack tries to dump Angelo because this is Torchwood business, and because he knows immortality, love, and mortality don’t mix well.  Angelo wins him over, even though he feels guilty about their relationship.  Jack tells him about the Doctor traveling with his companions.  There’s a wistful quality about his, “It looks nice.”  By this time, Angelo knows that Jack has secrets and wants to learn them.  So they go on the heist together.

The box contains an alien brain parasite destined for Franklin D. Roosevelt, a slow burning fuse that will culminate in his not joining the war against Nazi Germany.  The people behind this, Jack tells Angelo, are called the Tracer’s Brigade.  “They’re not men at all.  They’re not even human.”  He destroys the parasite.  Mission accomplished, but the police spot their getaway and Jack is shot through the forehead, so that Angelo thinks he’s dead.  Angelo goes to Sing Sing for a year.

When he’s released in 1928, imagine the shock when Jack shows up to meet him: “This is so wrong.”  Jack has rented their old room and wants to continue the relationship.  At first it seems that Angelo does too, but as Jack pulls him onto the bed, Angelo knifes him, calling him “El Diabolo.”

His resurrection is witnessed by the landlady and her husband, a butcher, and this is where it gets thoroughly violent, bloody, and religious.  Jack ends up chained with his arms above his head in the butcher’s cellar, where it seems all of Little Italy take turns to stab, slash, beat, and shoot him.  Angelo is there in the crowd.  It’s brutal and painful to watch.  Jack has become a Christ figure, crucified, scourged, mocked as “El Diabolo,” but also a Miracle, with one woman holding up a bottle full of his blood.

Finally, 3 men come to buy him: “What’s the butcher want?”  “Ten thousand.  Not too much for something with so much potential.”  Notice the Illuminati triangle they make when clasping wrists to clinch their agreement.  Angelo rescues Jack, kicking up the religious allegory another notch by wiping the blood off his bare feet.

They escape.  Jack recovers his gun and the famous blue Air Force greatcoat from his stash on the roof of a building.  It’s “time to move on, but not with you.”  He can’t bear to see the people he loves die.  To escape from Angelo, he falls backwards off the building: “Men like you, you kill me.”  By the time Angelo gets to the bottom, there’s only a pool of blood on the ground.

At Mesa, Gwen and Jack spend what they think will be their last moments together, as the Illuminati SUV approaches.  “I don’t want to die,” he says.  The woman in charge and 2 men get out of the SUV.  It appears that all is lost.

Then the deux ex machina, which had to happen.  Esther, suspicious of Gwen’s behaviour, looks at the records of the handy dandy Torchwood contact lenses and discovers the messages between Gwen and the Illuminati.  Since Gwen is still wearing them, they know she’s heading for Mesa, and get there first.  In good time to shoot at the Illuminati and prevent them from taking Jack.  Meanwhile, in Wales, the police free Gwen’s family from the kidnappers, led by Sergeant Andy.

Happy ending for the episode?  Not quite.  The Illuminati woman is unfazed by this turn of events and she thinks Jack will still want to go with them.

Illuminati: Because I can take you to the one man who knows how the Miracle began.
Jack: Who’s that?
Illuminati: Angelo.  Angelo Colesanto.  He’s waiting for you, Jack.  He’s been waiting for such a very long time.

That’s another fine cliffhanger this episode has got me into.  I’m guessing the Miracle was created from Jack’s own blood, as collected by the Italian woman in the cellar, or even scooped up by Angelo from where Jack landed after falling off the building.  I’m also guessing that Jack won’t be able to resist meeting Angelo again, although he would be an old man.  Or would he?  Perhaps he’s managed to use the blood to resist aging.

This is a superb episode, combining raw emotional honesty with religious symbolism, to present Jack as an alternative Christ figure whose blood gives eternal life.  More than that, he has endured a world of pain and suffering in that cellar, and is now the only true human left on the planet.  Except that he doesn’t want to be mortal – he wants his immortality back – as opposed to Danes who hates what he is, yet can’t resist it and can’t die.

The fundies must loathe Miracle Day.  Couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch of people.