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Mar. 22nd, 2008

What?

::sigh::

Since I've already written it, I might just as well post it while Fragments is downloading, and hope it won't be rendered totally redundant.


After Something Borrowed I optimistically argued that there was probably going to be a Ianto episode, and if there was, that it could hardly not address the relationship with Jack. Riiight. Trust Torchwood to prove me wrong almost immediately.

More or less.

Because despite the utter lack of anything overtly relationship-like, I think there are certain points they're trying to make about Jack/Ianto in this episode by putting that much emphasis on their work relationship:

- Not Gwen rebound, which it rather would have looked like if they'd moved immediately to a more relationship heavy episode. [ETA: Written before I saw Adrift, but even more true in hindsight; the relationship elements in Adrift would have looked really wrong immediately after SB.]

- Not just the pretty boy-toy, but someone who can handle himself in critical situations and whom Jack appreciates for what he brings into the team besides looks and coffee making skills. Whose opinion he trusts, not just his choice of wedding dresses. And at least on a professional level there's 'us': 'Tell us about them.' (Jack) 'Tell us about the man, Christina.' (Ianto)

- Not, and I know that saying it like this is sexist, but for brevity's sake, the 'girl' in the relationship, the damsel in distress who needs to be rescued by our dashing hero. (Jack does, in fact, rush to the rescue in the beginning, so fast that Toshiko doesn't even notice he's gone, except there's no one, certainly no boyfriend in need of saving.)

- It's in the visual language, too, in the same quiet, understated fashion.



A sense of togetherness, even with a bit of distance at the same time; not touching, but their silhouettes overlapping and almost blending with Ianto's dark suit and Jack's coat.




Pretty! Relaxed, comfortable. Ianto more than Jack even, judging from the body-language. I think this picture captures their relationship at this point pretty well; Jack more closed off, table in front of him, looking down, private smile at the memories of a past before Ianto was even born, Ianto turned towards Jack, watching him with a small, fond, half-amused, half-indulgent smile, body language a lot less self-protective and fenced off, with his hands only loosely linked in front of him, waiting for Jack to open up, to come around eventually.




Identical posture and body-language, once again an air of togetherness, despite the lack of any overt gesture. Also, feet touching.



All of which is, on rewatching, perfectly obvious.

And - rationally - I can appreciate that Jack/Ianto probably isn't the easiest relationship to write, especially if you're actually going to build a relationship on-screen. Unrequited, or not acted upon love is easier, cf. nine seasons X-files. There was barely anything to work with after S1, except the bare facts fact that they'd been sleeping together for a while (and even that was questioned by part of fandom), and that by the end of the season Ianto probably already cared more for Jack than was wise. Added to that, an awkward relationship dynamic, not only with Jack being the boss, and Ianto, in S1, at the bottom of the TW hierarchy (although also the one not to give an inch even with a gun pointed at his head), but the immortal boss. [*] Love? Problematic. And even if, look at what happened with Estelle. Love didn't change anything, or guarantee a happy ending.

And all things considered they haven't done to bad a job with the material they've been given. They kept (obviously) the sexual element, and the fact that Ianto does care for Jack, probably more than Jack cares, but in every other respect started to shift the power balance towards greater equality and slowly established the non-sexual components of the relationship: the date offer, the scene in TtLM, Jack's certainty about Ianto and tenderness in Adam, FootR stressing the professional side of their relationship. Making Ianto an equal member of the team, someone whom Jack trusts - which I guess was important to establish considering how he started out by breaking Jack's trust, big time. Making Ianto become increasingly sure of himself and comfortable about his relationship with Jack. And then slowly brought it out of the closet, step by step, telling Martha, then with the dance at Gwen's wedding.

And something else... I may be mistaken, but as far as I remember in S1, especially in the beginning, it was always Gwen with whom Jack shared most of his emotional, vulnerable moments; it was she who learned about his immortality first. Episodes 1, 3 and 4, close with Jack/Gwen scenes (and 2 has Jack/Gwen before a brief Gwen/Rhys scene at the end); In 5 it's Gwen who finds out about Jack and Estelle. In ep. 6 Gwen starts sleeping with Owen, and the focus starts shifting a bit: ep. 8 ends with Ianto and a uncharacteristically sad and vulnerable Jack in the morgue, and in ep. 12 it's Toshiko who discovers another bit about Jack's past.

In S2 the most Jack talks about his past is with Adam, but also twice (TtLM and FootR, where Ianto learns quite a bit more than the rest of the team [**]), with Ianto. When Ianto asks, he usually gets some sort of answer; 'He's a reminder of my past. I want him gone.' in response to Ianto's question why they're helping John is maybe more honest, and certainly more personal than the reason he gave Gwen. The Jack/Gwen moments this season deal either with Gwen's relationship with Rhys, or the unspoken attraction between Jack and Gwen.


At the same time, on a purely emotional level, and before rewatching and analysing and being rational, it is a bit frustrating, because there's still the love/sex divide, with a lot more obvious emotional attachment to Gwen. [ETA: this remains mostly true after Adrift.]

Now, on the one hand, I still mostly trust them to deal with this [ETA: and judging from the lj-cut pleased reactions about ep. 11 on my friendslist maybe wasn't wrong about that], and if I still dared to make predictions, I'd say it's not going to end on the viscerally sexual note of Adrift ether; Ianto's emotional involvement was brought up too often to simply let it drop and never address it one way or another. On the other hand, with the history of how gay relationships have been treated (or mostly not treated, when if comes to SF shows) on television, one tends to want, if nothing else, a bit of reassurance that it isn't going to vanish into thin air all of a sudden, abandonned in favour of the heterosexual true love, because that's what one has been taught to expect to happen. It's a bit like the Martha controversy in DW; there's history and all kinds of resulting baggage; one can argue that it probably wasn't meant to be racist, that it was even meant to point out racism, but Martha the maid still leaves something of a bad taste.

And regardless... Ianto is holding back tears by the time they're managing to save the little boy (while Jack is mostly just pleased that they've managed to save at least one person, which is revealing a lot about his personality and how he looks at the world and life after all this time [ETA: this is becoming even clearer in Adrift - Jack has learned to pick his battles, and to recognise hopeless situations.]), and in the end is still clearly shaken, the thought of the Night Travellers still being out there and the possibility of having to deal with such a situation again more than he can face face at the moment; abruptly handing Jack the flask, and leaving. A touch, a hug, something, might have been in order, there, and it just looked a bit odd that there wasn't.



Things I noticed that sound like they might be relevant again, but probably won't be.

* Jack standing in front of the screen, the film playing over him; initially he stepped into the place of the missing MC.

Why is Jack so sensitive to the Night Travellers' presece? He heard the sound the first time the kid played the film and the MC appears, when Toshiko didn't, and again at the end, when the can of film drops and opens.

And who sent Jack to investigate? He said it so emphatically as if he wanted to be asked, but when Ianto does, he brushes off the question with a dismissive 'long story'. (And what's also revealing is Ianto's asking 'By who?' in a tone that already assumes that there's at best a 50% chance that he'll get an answer, but he'll ask anyway. Like this is a game they've been playing for a while now.)


* The scene with Christina.

'Is that a bad thing?' - 'Yes (camera on Jack); it means you don't belong (camera on Christina, then cut to Ianto); it means you're from nowhere (back to Christina, then Jack, then Ianto).

Ianto, who merely rolled his eyes and smirked at Jack being 'billed as the man who couldn't die', clearly isn't happy to hear this, because it once again touches his fear of Jack leaving, being here only in transition. (Whereas Jack's immortality might be problematic, but at least guarantees that he won't lose Jack that way.)


[*] And all the S1 and post S1 fanfiction that painted Jack as the seducer and Ianto the helpless, submissive seducee, effectively reducing him to a coffee making sex object, is ample testimony that this issue needed to be addressed.


[**]

Jack: I knew those two. [Ianto looking at Jack, but for once there's no anecdote about kinky threesomes forthcoming] They argued day and night.

Owen: That is you. [Tosh replays] Right, now I've seen everything.

Ianto: Told you so.

Gwen: You did stand-up.

Jack: [mock-offended] I never did stand-up.

Gwen: Ok then, a song-and-dance.

Jack: [joking] I was sensational.

Toshiko: I don't believe this Jack. What were you doing there?

[And at this point there might or might not have been an answer, except for] Owen: He's part of this freak-show.

Jack: Yeah. Some things never change.

And then the conversations moves on to the Night Travellers and the question what Jack was doing there isn't brought up again.

Then--

Ianto [walks in, draws out a chair, sits down beside Jack]: So. Two people who should have been dead for years. What kind of creatures are they?

Jack: [Starts talking. Seriously. About what he was doing there, and in sentences of more than three to five words.]



I don't know why I always end up writing about the shippy aspects, when this is... all right, definitely an added bonus, if also at times a source of frustration, but not the sole, or main reason why I watch Torchwood.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
solitary_summer
Mar. 22nd, 2008 11:56 pm (UTC)
You may be right; I realise I'm probably projecting my own feelings on Ianto, because I just can't separate the fact that the saved the one boy from the fact that the rest of his family died, just like that, as well as all the others whose souls/breaths had been captured. It's a happy moment to an extent, but also an acknowledgment of all the times where it isn't possibly to help.

And I know I'd have wanted a hug - but that's certainly not objective text/character analysis. :)
(Deleted comment)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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