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Warning: Mild spoilers

Torchwood: Miracle Day‘s seventh episode, “Immortal Sins,” is exactly what I’ve been waiting for. It’s an episode that finally feels like TORCHWOOD, is completely narratively cohesive within the episode, and it puts the plot into overdrive.

I’ll also note: I have loved Murray Gold and Stu Kennedy’s work on the series score and the music in the opening sequence is truly sublime.

Here’s the thing: the episode is almost exclusively composed of flashback sequences and scenes between Eve Myles and John Barrowman. Which does highlight the fact that Mekhi Phifer and Alexa Havins’ characters are still ancillary at best. Rex and Esther are warm bodies being shifted around the series like puppets. There’s no investment in them, there’s no reason to. If they wind up dead, I suppose most of the audience isn’t going to care. Which may not be a bad thing. If they don’t, then the next series had better figure out what the these characters are for and who they are. Espenson seems to have the surest grasp of that, and while they’re only in this episode briefly, the scenes count.

I’ve been unsure about Espenson’s take on Torchwood, although she has deftly inserted references to the first three series of the show, and Doctor Who. “Immortal Sins,” is the first time we see aliens, the first time we hear the Doctor referenced by name, and the first time the new viewers truly gets to understand exactly why there’s all this fuss about Jack’s mortality, including a scene that is really not for the faint of heart, shot partially from Jack’s POV.

While the end of “The Middle Men” (4×06) set up Gwen’s betrayal of Jack, here we’ve got flashbacks to 1927 New York alternating with Gwen and Jack in a car as she drives him to what she expects will be his death. Her family’s been taken and Gwen and Jack confront some hard truths. These are actors who know each other, characters who know each other, and they make the most brutal dialogue sing.

Gwen: “. . . This is about my daughter. . . And I swear, for her sake: I will see you killed like a dog 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 gonna hang on to this with everything I’ve got. I love you Gwen Cooper, but I will rip the 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: “Yeah. Right at the end.”
Gwen: “Right at the end.”

These exchanges and the flashbacks showing Jack on assignment for Torchwood in 1927 New York, provide the proper context for Torchwood that we’ve only had in bits and pieces up until now.

From his meeting with young immigrant Angelo Colasanto (Daniele Favilli) on Ellis Island, through Jack’s inevitable departure, there are illuminating glimpses into why Jack is Jack. There is a glaring piece of discontinuity with Jack’s personal timeline, yet it’s less irritating than it should be due to the reason for it. Espenson has subtly acknowledged and resolved the lack of closure with the lost members of Torchwood, and I thank her for it. The audience needed to know that beloved characters weren’t disposable, and that comes through loud and clear. In his burgeoning relationship with Angelo and its conclusion, we see more of who Jack is than we have in a very long time.

What is most encouraging is that we finally get to understand the source of the, “Blessing,” even if we don’t quite know how it has turned into the, “Miracle,” or why Jack is now mortal.

There are still mysteries left to be solved, but this episode feels like we’re not going to be left hanging. It’s everything I’ve wanted from the entire series. Tight pacing, on point, well-acted and uncluttered. I think the next three episodes are going to be one hell of a ride.