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With 100% more Jack/Ianto after all the Jack/Gwen meta in the Adrift review. And thanks go to alex_beecroft for making me watch the relevant scenes 1382 times think it all through. *g*




The backstories -- With Toshiko and Owen it doesn't change all that much for me. I hadn't imagined something as brutal in Toshiko's past, but that certainly explains her relative cold-bloodedness in critical situations. Owen... I can't say I expected that, but it doesn't surprise me, either. Admittedly I never gave it much thought, but in hindsight it's logical that to become this cynical he must have felt too much, and suffered too deeply.


It's Jack, whose character and psychology suddenly make so much more sense after two seasons of enigmatically oscillating between a shiny surface and hints of all kinds of dark things lurking beneath. I commented after Adam about the different aspects that didn't really add up and that it felt like some crucial part was still missing, even after what we'd learned about his childhood, and Fragments slots that missing piece neatly into place with the century spent more or less unwillingly at Torchwood. It's at once a simpler and more complex explanation for the man he's become than I'd have ever thought of.

I'd always assumed, from the scene in the train in Small Worlds and Jack's general fondness for the WW2 era and military dress that he'd been military one way or the other for much of the time he spent on Earth. And while there was certainly a lingering sense of despair and displacement about him stemming from his immortality and being marooned on Earth, on the whole I assumed he'd have been still enjoying his life somewhat, having a lot of sex and all that. (Or at least that was all he ever did talk about, which in hindsight is hardly surprising.) Instead it turns out that he's been practically... if it weren't for the fact that they were paying him and that he hadn't exactly fought too hard to get away from them, one might say enslaved by Torchwood for most of the time, with very little control over his life at all. I never imagined that the last hundred years were essentially one huge black spot in his life he'd do his best to hide and make good for.

The first surprise in this episode was that Jack, who unless he's with the Doctor usually comes across as rather dominant in just about every respect is the victim from the beginning. I'm not happy about the evil Victorian lesbians (but OTOH I'm really too much in love with the show right now to complain much), but it's pretty obvious (and if I were complaining I'd say also rather sexist) that they used women here to even further emphasise the aspect of powerlessness. There's nothing explicitly sexual about the situation, because the two don't even react to his attempts at regaining control through innuendo, but the the images -- TW-Lady nr.1 on Jack's chest, the whole tied to the chair, shirt-ripping and water-throwing thing -- are inherently sexual, with Jack very much not in control. They torture him, they experimentally kill him, they threaten to keep him locked up ('Your liberty is at our digression'). He leaves morally disgusted after the first job, only to come back again and stay once he learns it'll be more than a hundred years until he'll meet the Doctor again.

Did they force him? In a way, yes. But it's not so easy or clear-cut: The threat of death is generally regarded as a justification for a lot of things, but Jack's moral dilemma is worse, because they could have killed him. Every day. They could have made each day of his life a living hell, they could have locked him up and let him rot somewhere, but they could not have taken his life. A heroic last stand was no longer an option for Jack, even if that was what he wanted.

Jack's initial reaction when TW-Lady nr.2 shot the blowfish-alien was outraged shock, but he came back without them having to apply much further pressure at all. Did he think he could run from them for a while, but not for more than a century - especially if he didn't want to move away from Cardiff, in case the girl with the cards was wrong? That at least he'd be in the best position to find the Doctor, if TW was already looking for him? (Which might be a bit subversive, but there'd also be a bitter irony in the fact that he was selling himself to TW to find the person who would most disapprove of doing so.) Or did his life mean so little to him that he simply did not care what he did while he was waiting? He can hardly have believed he'd be in a position to change things any time soon.

And what did he do, what did they make him do, during all his time there? It casts a rather chilling light on Jack's remark about having been 'pretty good at torture' and having had 'quite a reputation as the go-to guy' in Countrycide. How many times did he watch, or do, something that made him think he should have fought harder, run faster and further? And 1300something deaths? Was Jack actively trying at one point, hoping that it would finally stick, or did he just not care at all? Or did Torchwood routinely employ him for suicide missions?

How long before he stopped caring? More than a hundred years is lot of time, especially if you've not yet become used to measuring your life in centuries and millennia. A lot of time to uphold a mental resistance, when you're all alone and the person to whose standards you're trying to live up to is far away in just about every sense and you don't exactly have a long track record of being a hero. A lot of time to get used to things, to get jaded, even with the best intentions. Probably too long a time to fight each and every day, to see yourself as a prisoner; more so if there are no visible chains, but a pay-check instead. When do you start going native? When do you start liking the people you work with, at least a bit? At some point Jack must have started to identify at least partly with TW, however much he hated it.

After Meat I wrote that working in TW must be a bit of a schizophrenic situation for Jack who's seen what wonderful things are out there and who knows perfectly well that not every alien is evil, but I never guessed how deep that went. Having to deal with this situation for such a long time explains so much about him - his detached hardness when it's necessary, the shifts from callousness and near-cruelty to the sudden over-identification with the helpless carved-up alien whale in Meat and the imprisoned and experimented upon aliens in Reset. Especially in the latter instance his moral outrage ('slavery, exploitation, a war-crime' ) seemed a little over the top at the time considering how TW itself treats its captive aliens, but if one takes into account that Jack to some extent identifies with TW's aims of protecting Earth from alien threats, but for the longest time had also been used to seeing himself as a victim of TW this makes a lot of sense. (And it makes one wonder, in retrospect, whether TW did at any time try to find out the secret of Jack's immortality, and, if yes, how far they went.)

It might even explain his WW2 style - for once the war might have afforded him an period of getting away from under TW's watchful eye, for another thing it was maybe the most clear-cut good vs. evil situation that this century offered. Black and white, no iffy ethical decisions, no divided loyalties, not harmless aliens murdered because they happened to end up on Earth. I could imagine him holding on to the memory and his military persona as a talisman against the day-to-day moral ugliness of what they were doing at TW.

And it throws a different light on his relationship history, too, maybe even the episode with Estelle. I think it was right to assume that the marriage took place before his second death; the wedding picture is last in the pile, behind the one that goes into Jack's first TW file. We've seen how hard it is for every one to have a relationship outside Torchwood; more so if you not only have to hide your alien-hunting job that you aren't even allowed quit, but your immortality.

So there's Jack, passive, waiting, coerced into a situation he mostly hates, with no plan at all, expecting the Doctor to come back and fix his life, until he gets the bloody gift of TW Cardiff handed to him and can try to rework it according to his wishes into something he can offer as a justification when he meets the Doctor again, trying to erase the deep sense of shame the last century had left. In The Sound Of Drums he claims that 'the old regime was destroyed at Canary Wharf; I rebuilt it, I changed it': true, but that makes it one year of new and improved Torchwood and whatever he may or may not have had the power to do in Cardiff since the turn of the millennium, against more than a century serving that same 'old regime'. He was lucky the Doctor didn't turn up a bit earlier after all, or he'd have had very little to show for himself. 'Here and now, that's what's important; the work we do, the person I am now, that's what I'm proud of.' - that's not only erasing his time agent history and Captain John, because this is old history, and a brief episode compared to a hundred years in TW, which he clearly isn't proud of either, or he'd not have been so very secretive about it.



The other thing that this episode threw an entirely different light on for me was the relationship between Jack and Ianto. It's already interesting to compare their beginning to Toshiko and Owen's recruitment; The way Jack charms and seduces the helpless Toshiko, not that he even needed to, because what other option did she have left, facing a lifetime in a bare cell? And Owen, wrecked by grief and doubting his sanity, and Jack treating him with more gentleness than he's treated anyone on the team, like a broken child. No wonder he freaked so badly when he couldn't save Owen.

Ianto wasn't chosen, Ianto chose. The first meeting is so perfectly planned (and it needed to be, because he had only one chance to bring himself to Jack's attention) that I wouldn't put it past him to have captured, sedated and brought the weevil, too; and Ianto is entirely in control from the moment he steps out of the shadows to rescue Jack to the ' By the way, love the coat,' parting shot. 'I've got it under control.' -- 'You think so?' is not talking only about the weevil, even on a textual level, not with the pause and look before 'Looked pretty vicious', and more true than Jack will know until the lights go out and all hell breaks loose months later. He played every card he could, the rescue, blatant flirting, mysterious hints, dropping enough information for Jack to look for him. And Jack is hooked from the start. We've heard Jack do the 'And who are you?', thing often enough on DW, but never in that voice full of sex and warmth and genuine interest. This is more than just saying hello already.

Then there's the morning after Act Two with the coffee, and Jack was supposed to have checked Ianto's background and realised he might be useful as well as pretty, say something flirty and hire him. What Ianto couldn't have known was Jack's century long history with TW and his resentment against everyone from that instituaion that he hasn't recruited himself. Jack wasn't supposed to say 'no'. And things get a little out of control, but Ianto either thinks extremely fast or (more likely) he had a back-up plan and persona, the traumatised Canary Wharf survivor (closer to the truth, but still an act) to fall back upon; And there's Jack's smile and raised eye-brow at Ianto's a bit desperate 'I really like that coat'; because on instinct he did like Ianto, he just hated where he came from and what he stood for and was probably extremely distrustful of what he wanted, because by then he must have realised that the first meeting wasn't coincidental.

Then there's Act Three with the suit (and I'm not sure if the Ianto of the expensive suits is less of a persona, or simply a different one) and the pterodactyl; the initiative is still Ianto's and the flirting is back once he's given an opening. But even while Jack still adamantly refuses to hire him, and absolutely means it, they've already started to connect on some level. In a critical situation Jack does rely on him and trusts him to do his part and not mess things up; it's reason and a hundred years of memories objecting to Ianto-from-TW-London.

But then, the final decision wasn't made with the brain at all, or at least not its rational part. Not with them in full body contact, an inch away from a kiss, a kiss Jack expects to be coming the way he tilts his head a bit, just before Ianto says 'I should go', and lifts himself off Jack and walks away, leaving him there on the floor, panting and aroused and wondering if Ianto had become shy all of a sudden, or if that was part of his game. Which it probably wasn't, even if everything up to the moment Jack landed on top of him (and I'm still wondering if we're supposed to read anything into the image of Jack falling, and Ianto catching him) must have been at least partly an act. The laughter and the sexual spark between them were real, and I think Ianto was genuinely shocked by this, but he couldn't have done it better if he had planned it like that. With Ianto walking away from him, Jack didn't have time to (re)weigh the pros and cons and impulsively decided, perhaps partly in an effort to finally re-establish some control over the situation, to push aside his reservations and accept the challenge, because he was not going to let him disappear like that. And it's when Jack finally regains some measure of his usual authority and control that Ianto's self-control finally cracks for a moment.

Not that Jack wouldn't still be wary. (Or would probably somewhat regret his decision once he's back to doing his thinking with his brain, but could always console himself with the thought that Ianto wouldn't be able to do much harm as the receptionist. I could definitely see him pulling back a bit, putting a distance between them, waiting to find out why Ianto wanted to get into TW so badly.) But on a mixture of instinct, lust and adrenaline he's given this a chance.

And this subtly changes every Jack/Ianto moment so far. For one thing, Ianto is pushy throughout all three meetings, he can't even diplomatically agree with Jack's pterodactyl catching plan, touches Jack all the time, and even though Jack didn't know why he wanted to work for him so badly, he could hardly have failed to notice that there was a lot of planning and determination involved. Jack can never have seen the formal, coffee-serving, coat-handing, Yes, Sir, perfect butler act as anything but an act, maybe even a bit of a joke between them.

And I can't even imagine what kind of a mental and emotional strain it must have put on Ianto to balance a growing attraction to the man he was deceiving day after day with the love for the suffering girl-friend hidden away in the cellar. No wonder he broke down so completely in CW. And between Fragments and CW and everything that happened afterwards I'm really inclined to believe there was sex, and not just attraction before Lisa's death. Not that I think Jack would have expected Ianto to put out for having got the job, or would sexually harass someone unwilling, but Ianto had brought the flirting into it from the start and I don't know how he could have convincingly either just suddenly cut that off without it looking like he'd been blatantly sexually manipulating Jack, of keep it going for the better part of a year without ever going further than flirting. What must have complicated things further for him was that he wasn't only attracted to Jack, but apparently very soon became genuinely fascinated by him. The sequence of his memories in Adam implies that there was an overlap between his love for Lisa and whatever he felt for Jack, if coming to TW and Jack really gave his life meaning again. Maybe he initially justified it in to himself as distracting Jack from looking for things he wasn't supposed to see. One thing, however, is clear from CW, that whatever it was at first, by that time Ianto had developed some kind of feelings for Jack, or he wouldn't have felt that let down. I'm not sure if he'd imagined that he might even have told him, if Jack had only asked ('When did you last ask me anything about my life?'), but the expectation that Jack should have done so and the feeling of neglect when he didn't, rather imply that there was more than just a working relationship. It really looks as if Chris Chibnall had this backstory already in mind, and that John and Gareth were playing it accordingly; and apparently that was what Gareth meant when he said that Ianto was 'bisexual for his own purposes'.

And after Fragments I'm not really bothered about Jack Gwen vs. Jack/Ianto any longer, because Jack/Ianto suddenly turned into a relationship in its own right with its own dynamic instead of 'just sex' opposed to a deeper, more romantic kind of love. Rather more complicated and messy than the love Jack feels for Gwen, but in a way also more real, and not just because there's actually sex involved. Gwen (a bit like the Doctor) is someone Jack wants to uphold a perfect image for, be the shiny hero that it increasingly turns out he hasn't been a lot of the time, and this is why he can't talk to her about himself at all when she asks him where he'd been and why he'd left in the first episode and which leads to all the unpleasantness and hiding in Adrift. It's not generally a bad thing, and something Plato would have approved of, but in the end you don't always want to live up to standards, you want someone you can be yourself with at least a bit, who's already seen your weaknesses and dark sides and will accept them, too. And admittedly that's nothing more than a guess, but I'm convinced Ianto knows a hell of a lot more about Jack than any of the others, because he likes to have a plan and be in control of the situation, and knowledge is power; and he lets Jack know that occasionally.

And it's not that Jack doesn't care, because he does. If Jack was willing to forgive this kind of betrayal, their relationship must have had some kind of solid emotional foundation, however and whenever that was built. And if he wants to go back to sleeping with Ianto afterwards the sex can't have been that mind-blowing for it to be just sex. It's tentative, they've both been hurt, they're both a bit broken, they're both very lonely people (which was probably a key element in their relationship in the first place) and for both of them there are people whom they love(d) in an entirely different way, and who came/come first (Lisa, who Ianto had been willing to deceive Jack for, and the Doctor, whom Jack will leave Ianto for; the one Ianto is actually worried about, which he never seems to be about Gwen) and it isn't meant to be true love, or forever, but it is something all right.

And actually meeting the Doctor again, and having to find out and that he couldn't fix him either, and maybe more importantly that if he hadn't been left behind a second time it wasn't for lack of trying, must have been something of a reality check for Jack after a century of imagining this meeting, and probably made him realise that enough was enough and it was time to regain some control over his life again and turn to someone he actually could have. And it's still a bit of a tentative thing, with insecurity on both sides but when it comes right down to it, he needn't have asked. He wanted this. And looking back, things were really fine until ep. 4, when they started the whole Jack/Gwen unrequited love arc that threw everyone for a loop.

But still. What Fragments did was better than hearts and flowers and declarations of never-ending love that would have sounded a bit out of character anyway: Aside from removing the lingering power imbalance in the relationship, it provided a history of attraction and mutual hurt and rebuilding and caring enough to still want all that. They're like a happier Wesley and Angel, in a way. Well, a bit. And with sex. And for me this pushes it from something I wanted to see happen on screen into I ship it!territory, because I'll take that kind of complicated, slightly messed up relationship over the conventional unrequited love thing any time.



And...

* I still can't believe we're going to have a season finale that is all about the sociopathic ex being prepared to tear Jack's world apart to get him back; I'd fully expected something action driven, a Sleeper - style alien invasion. So much for TPTB turning TW straight. ;) Although I do worry about Ianto a bit - he'll probably be the first target if Captain John finds out that this is who Jack replaced him with.


* If If Owen got decapitated, would his head go on living in a jar, Futurama-style? Or would he have to wear turtlenecks and scarves, like Lilah?


Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Apr. 2nd, 2008 06:19 pm (UTC)
Mind blowing analysis...
I'm not sure how I stumble on this, but wow, I loved everything about it. I completely agree with your Janto analysis and I would write something much more elaborate if I wasn't at work. Thank you.
solitary_summer
Apr. 2nd, 2008 06:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Mind blowing analysis...
Thank you, glad you liked it! :)
(Deleted comment)
solitary_summer
Apr. 3rd, 2008 10:23 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :)
justinej
Apr. 3rd, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC)
Very enjoyable! Thank you!
solitary_summer
Apr. 3rd, 2008 10:27 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked it! :)
faeryfroggy
Apr. 3rd, 2008 06:54 pm (UTC)
Came here from the newsletter
Thank you so much for this analysis. It touches on so many points that I completely agree with. So many people talk about Jack using Ianto, but they never stopped to think that maybe Ianto was using Jack.
solitary_summer
Apr. 3rd, 2008 10:22 pm (UTC)
Re: Came here from the newsletter
You're welcome - glad you enjoyed it! :)
besanamo
Apr. 3rd, 2008 11:20 pm (UTC)
Oh this was a really good read. Excellent post!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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