‘They said you were the devil, but other people said you were a blessing.’ Jane Espenson’s third script this series is the first to focus on Jack’s immortality, taking the plot back to 1927 and his encounter with an illegal Italian immigrant, Angelo Colasanto. It’s a smart move, as by the end of the episode it’s not hard to guess the root cause of the Blessing – leaving the final third of the season free to tie together the various strands threaded through earlier episodes. It also gives this a hint of previous Torchwood-in-history episodes, like Captain Jack Harkness, which is generally a good thing.
The 1927 sequences give John Barrowman his best material this series to date. Having sat out the investigation of the overflow camps and having to take extra care thanks to his newfound mortality, he’s been unusually side-lined. That changes with a sweet romance story that, inevitably, turns sour when Angelo can’t cope with Jack’s life of battling aliens and coming back from the dead. There’s a real brutality in the climax of this story, which has a hint of The Passion of the Christ in its identification of Jack’s graphic torture and death with eternal life for all mankind.
There’s also some explicit links to Doctor Who, with mention of the Trickster’s Brigade (who are trying to change history by sending FDR mad) and Jack’s wistful memory of the Doctor travelling the world with his companions. He even looks like he’s cosplaying the tenth Doctor when he meets Angelo outside Sing Sing.
The present-day scenes are briefer, but still pack some punch as Gwen and Jack tell each other some home truths. Initially, I felt this was a bit out of character for both of them – but then, we’ve never seen Torchwood Jack mortal or Gwen’s daughter in danger before, so it doesn’t exactly stretch credibility. It all leads to a neat ending which ties together events in two time zones and two continents, with roles for the whole Torchwood family as Esther and Rex rescue Jack and Gwen from Major Kira Nerys, while PC Andy saves Gwen’s family (and shoots their kidnapper in the head). I appreciate this new, glossy American Torchwood taking the time to pay off the development of the British characters.
Captain Jack will return in End of the Road
Next Time: Let’s Kill Hitler