?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Aug. 20th, 2011

I've been kind of sitting on the fence (or maybe more precisely hopping on & off the fence) about MD so far, but there wasn't a single thing about this episode I didn't love. (Except possibly bits of the music, if I'm being very nit-picky. There were some odd choices there.)


TW 4.07 Immortal Sins

# Jack's story: Loved it, without reservations. I think I fell in love with Angelo when he described his tiny village on top of a cliff on the Amalfi coast, drawing it against the bars of the cell. Whether it was the actor who did a terrific job fleshing out the character, or the quality of the writing, or both, creating such a three-dimensional, complex and real character in less than fifty minutes is no small accomplishment. Loved all his contradictions, crossing himself because he thought Jack's wrist strap was magic, but immediately wanting to know how it worked once Jack explained it was only technology, scared of fireworks, but bravely facing brain-infecting aliens with Jack; coming to America for speed and change and new things, but still believing in the devil and harbouring a lot of Catholic guilt about being gay. Just, please, don't ruin all that lovely characterisation and turn him into a second Gray or some sort of complete religious nutjob in the finale.

Liked that he wasn't a Ianto clone, although from what I've heard Ianto was originally supposed to have a stronger religious streak, or classically pretty, and going back in time was a quite brilliant idea, because this way they could tell a love story of sorts without having it completely overshadowed by Ianto and his death. (Although on the other hand RTD is probably still going to get a lot of shit, because there was more intimacy in that one episode than in three seasons of Jack and Ianto...)


The episode really does raise the question of Jack's timeline, though, because while Jack's last confession may or may not have been 700 years ago, it doesn't look like he pulled the number entirely out of thin air. So either RTD is willing to completely overthrow the timeline he established in Utopia and claim the Crack ate it, the Silence messed it up or something like that, or the Jack we see in 1927 isn't the Jack who got stranded on Earth in 1869 and lived through the 20th century in a linear fashion, but Jack who travelled back in time from some kind of undetermined point in the future.

Most importantly, this Jack knows what happened to him and that he can't be fixed, which Jack didn't before Utopia: 'Something happened to me once, a long way away. Time itself changed me to a fixed point. And now I can't die. I suffer and I perish, but I always come back. I've lived through a lot of Earth's past and a lot of its future, and I keep on living this life forever.' Either they're sacrificing continuity for the sake of exposition here, or this is Jack from the future, who already knows all this.

'But this is the story of my life. It always ends the same way. You kill me. Men like you, you kill me': This also suggests a longer life span and sounds too resigned for someone who only lived some thirty-five years with the knowledge of his immortality. Is the Jack who reacts with a weary, 'Angelo, don't', to Angelo's, 'Then we forget the future. We make the moment now. We make a promise, and we go forward', Jack who already remembers Ianto, who'd at least got a vaguely affirmative, 'I suppose', in response, and what had happened to him?

'I've got this friend. He's called the Doctor. He explores the world with a companion. It looks nice': There are all kinds of emotions in Jack's voice here, but it's not the mixture of anger and yearning with which always came out when he talked about the Doctor in S1. He never called the Doctor a 'friend' like that either, using the present tense. Back in S1 and even S2 it used to be 'my doctor', with rather more deference.

Then there's Jack's emphasis on the fact that he 'came back' for Angelo, although he 'never does that'. The way he puts it, it sounds as if he'd been away for longer than the year Angelo actually was imprisoned, especially as in the greater scheme of things a year is nothing to Jack, so maybe he didn't just come back from L.A. or Cardiff, but actually travelled back in time again?

'You wanted to learn the secrets? This is the best secret of all': I don't think Jack ever, in the entire three seasons of Torchwood, referred to his immortality in such a positive way. And calling Torchwood 'a magical island' doesn't sound like him either, even given the situation. In the first episode of MD he basically called it a death trap that should remain dead and buried, and that was after at least having a bit of freedom for the last few years.

There are simply too many oddities and contradictions here that to me do seem intentional. I'm probably wrong about this, and I'm not pretending it makes any sense either, but to me Jack's reaction when he first saw Angelo's face suggested recognition, not just attraction. Is Jack's sudden disappearance in the end significant? Of course he might have just picked himself up and quietly faded into the darkness, but perhaps not. Or again the fact that Jack promptly turned up out of nowhere to wipe every trace of Torchwood from the computers at the beginning of the story?

[ETA: Apparently Jane Espenson confirmed it was pre-CoE, but an alternative timeline? Interesting. And confusing. Does this mean there's more than one Jack out there, or that we've switched universes, or what exactly?]


The chronology question also throws an interesting light on Jack's relationships. Following the traditional timeline established in Utopia, it would even be possible to see a linear development from the Jack who sat in that church with Angelo watching the wedding (and had even got married himself at some point, going by the photograph in Something Borrowed), still more open, more willing to take a risk, to the more guarded and secretive man in S1 and S2, so intent on protecting himself from emotional hurt, to the broken man in Dead of Night, living with the ghosts of the newly dead and quietly falling apart, because if one compares Dead of Night with Immortal Sins the contrast in Jack's behaviour couldn't be more striking. He'd only just met Angelo, too, but if Jack really thought of that as 'just sex', it was 'just sex' with a lot of emotional complications almost from the beginning, like with Ianto in S1, and it was definitely implied that Jack would have wanted more, whereas Brad really was no more than that, and Jack ended up phoning Gwen when he needed someone to talk to in the middle of the night.

If, however, we assume there is no linear chronology, and Jack really has lived for hundreds, even thousands of years, then there is no linear development or journey either. Rather it's a never ending back-and-forth between despair and finding joy in life again, between the moments where Jack can believe that the moment counts and the future doesn't, and the moments when the future overshadows the moment too much, the times when he can be brave, and the times when facing the inevitable loss is too hard. Between the Jack who loves weddings because making a promise and going forward is brave and wonderful, the future be damned, and the Jack who leaves people behind because in the end, 'Right now it's real and it happens and it's true', isn't enough.


# So, looking at the miracle, there are two factors: Angelo, who apparently is still alive, unless the woman telling Jack that he's waiting for him was a ruse. If Angelo was born in 1904 it's just possible that he might have been alive in the mid-nineties when 'they' supposedly found the 'blessing' (presumably the key to immortality), but he'd be a very old man, unless something else happened we don't know about yet, because no one claimed to have found the secret of eternal youth.

And then there are the three men who were interested in buying Jack, or perhaps their descendants, because when they clasped hands (or more precisely wrists) to seal the deal, their hands formed the triangle that is also the symbol of the people behind the miracle. They seem to be more interested in the practical side of things, since they talked about Jack's 'potential' even then. When and how exactly they started to work together remains to be seen, as well as who of them is the driving force behind the 'miracle' and what he/they hope(s) to gain from it. Was Angelo lying about not knowing them? Or did they find him after Jack left?

The religious side of the miracle clearly seems to come from the — aptly named — Angelo Colasanto, however. The 'angels', the 'blessing', the 'revelation'.... it suddenly makes a lot more sense, and actually that's not something I'd ever have thought of in a million years. Did he attempt to fit his encounter with Jack into his private religious mythology and then wanted to make the entire world immortal? Or Jack mortal? Which of the two is it? What is the primary aim, what is the side effect? Of course a Catholic from some tiny village in Italy in the early 20th century would interpret Jack's resurrection in religious/miraculous terms. And if Jack is not the devil, then he must be an emissary from the other side, so to speak, an angel, or even the messiah come again. Angelo said, 'They said you were the devil, but other people said you were a blessing' — clearly he decided to go with blessing in the end.

The question is, what does Angelo want? After Exit Wounds, after the general expectation that whoever wanted Jack would want him dead, revenge was maybe the first thought that came to mind, but I think it's going to be more complicated than that. Maybe it's not revenge he wants, but atonement? Jack's last words were about men like Angelo 'killing' him. So Angelo is left behind, thinking he killed or betrayed who-/whatever he imagined Jack was, an angel, a messenger from God, a new messiah? What's more, a messanger from God who accepted his sexuality, who loved him instead of condemning him. RTD has used the Judas motif (with a twist) before in The Second Coming, and Angelo kissing Jack and then stabbing him could recall that. The way they suspended Jack in the butcher's shop in and of itself maybe wouldn't have been reminiscent of crucifixion, but Angelo cleaning Jack's body when he rescued him, specifically drawing attention to Jack's hands and bloody feet, does recall Christian imagery, even if there were no nails or stigmata involved, and the body had already come back to life again. I don't think any devout Catholic, anyone who'd been raised with Catholic imagery and looked at a crucifix every Sunday (if not more often) for twenty-three years of his life could see a tortured, bloody, partly naked male body come back to life again and not put the scene in some sort of religious context. What if Angelo, alone and full of guilt, saw himself as Judas, who'd been given a chance to make good his betrayal? Who's been left with a mission, maybe? He'd certainly think there was a reason he met Jack, that God wanted something from him, wanted him to do something.

(Or maybe he saw Jack's pain and wanted to help him, making him mortal? Less likely, though.)

It was also interesting to find out that a former lover of Jack is at least partly behind the miracle, because I did in fact wonder whether the Tinothos myth they mentioned in one of the earlier episodes would become relevant, since in S1 the classical references were never random. But I read it too literal and thought the hitch was that Jack never knew the secret of his immortality and therefore couldn't share it, even assuming he would want to turn someone else immortal, so I dismissed that idea again...

(Actually, to go off on a tangent for a moment, for a while I thought Torchwood, or an ex-Torchwood employee might be behind it all, because Torchwood never struck me as the kind of organisation that would sit on what might be the key to the secret of immortality for a century and never try to figure it out. Certainly not the hubristic Torchwood from Army of Ghosts/Doomsday that claimed to use alien technology for the good of the British Empire to come again, because controlling life and death would be the ultimate weapon. Of course they wouldn’t want Jack's permanent, uncontrollable, immortality, because even Torchwood might have been wise enough to realise what kind of a danger this might create, or what kind of power that might give to someone who wanted power, which Jack never did. But the ability to bring people back to life if necessary, reversible, temporal immortality, that would certainly have been something to pique Torchwood’s interest. So they might have made a deal with Jack, who even in Everything Changes had a clearly personal interest in the process of death and resurrection: They help Jack find out what happened to him, perhaps even fix it if they can, and in return they get the secret of life and death. Actually, I'm not entirely ready to rule out their involvement in these events. Jack mentioned the name, and Angelo remembered it. He clearly wasn't ready to let Jack go, and he doesn't seem to be any less stubborn than Gwen or Ianto, so he might at least have found them, even if he never saw Jack again.)


# Gwen's story. I'd have expected more doubt and hesitation from Gwen before deciding to hand Jack over, but I found her reaction entirely believable. Not, as Gwen agrees, nice, but understandable and in character. Jack's secrecy has always been an issue, and in S1 it lead to the entire team betraying him in EoD. Gwen's actions here are, among other things, the result of all the times she asked Jack a question about himself or his past and he brushed her off. I don't know if this is a remainder from Jack's conman days, but I don't think that in all this time he quite understood that he'll only get the trust he demands if he gives something of himself in return. People might fall in love with his air of mystery, be fascinated for a while, but they're not going to trust him for it. And of course there's always CoE. I remember writing at the time that the 'six months later' were necessary for a pregnant Gwen to bury again the knowledge that given the right/wrong circumstances, given the necessity, Jack would not stop at sacrificing her child either. At the time Jack was so broken that it was easy to tell him it wasn't his fault, but it's not actually surprising that now that she has a daughter of her own, who suddenly is in danger because of something related to Jack, she remembers Alice and Steven and simply doesn't trust him to come up with a solution that Anwen will survive. I really do love how MD picks up so many thready from CoE when it comes to characterisation...

And the conversation(s) between them in the car were brilliant. I never liked the awkwardly written unresolved sexual and romantic tension in S1 and S2, so I really appreciated this moment of honesty, brutal as it was in every respect. She's lashing out, but it's understandable that she'd blame him and only fair that she'd go on to blame herself, too, for loving Torchwood so much even though she knew it was toxic, for loving to feel special for knowing all those things, even for having survived when others died.

'Stop being so nice. We left nice behind a hundred miles back. I'm trying to be honest, okay. 'Cause I know exactly what you're thinking, Jack Harkness «She won't do this, not really, not my Gwen, no, Gwen, she can't hurt me, Gwen loves me, she'd never hand me in», while this is about my daughter, and I swear for her sake, I will see you killed like a dog right in front of me if it means her back in my arms, understood?' — '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 your skin from your skull before I let you take this away from me. Understood?' — 'Understood. I feel I know you now better than I've ever done before.' — 'Yeah. Right at the end' — 'Hm. Right at the end.' Fantastic. Brilliant scene. It doesn't bring out the best in them, but their relationship became suddenly very, very interesting again.

Or again the scene in the end, the two of them standing beside the car, Gwen asking Jack about the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen, and he tells her about the firebird. Gwen's momentary grief that she's going to kill all this, all these memories, becasue she does love Jack, but also her lingering anger, and her determination to go through with it. The moment when Jack finally, finally realises that there are moments when even such a long life is not enough, and that he doesn't want to die. The part of the story leading up to this moment was really well handled throughout, IMO, from Jack almost dying in the second episode, to Jack sudddenly finding himself the only person on Earth still able to commit suicide, but somehow, despite his apparent death wish, was still alive episode after episode, to this realisation. Of course he'll probably still have to make the immeasurable harder decision of whether he wants to go back to being immortal in the end, or die, while he still has the chance...


# Also, Esther and Rex to the rescue! Loved that part, too.


Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
tigercheetah
Aug. 21st, 2011 07:20 am (UTC)
This was definately the best episode of the series so far, putting Jsck where he should have been several episodes ago - at the forefront of the story.

The lovestory between Jack and Angelo was well done, Jack and Gwen being brutally honest and 'not so nice' with one another brought another dimension to their relationship (although Jack wasn't as brutal as Gwen) and it was nice to finally get some backstory on the miracle itself. John Barrowman and Eve Myles were allowed to do what they do best and that's bounce off each other, like they always have.

Having said that, I hope what's happening to the world is a bit more complicated than just a jilted lover and a bunch of gangster types wanting Jack for their own purposes - although critics have said that it IS more complicated than that, so we'll have to wait and see. And yes, watching Jsck being more passionate and tender with Angelo than he ever was with Ianto before he died DID make me feel slightly uncomfortable, especially as neither RTD or JB have ever really understood why some Jack/Ianto fans were dissapointed with how their relationship developed over three series - it was missing the passion and tenderness that this episode contained, making it harder to feel Jack's love for Ianto.

I didn't like how long Jack's torture scene went on for either, I'm more sensitive to fictional violence as an adult that I ever was as a 12 year old watching films like Halloween.
solitary_summer
Aug. 21st, 2011 09:53 pm (UTC)
Having said that, I hope what's happening to the world is a bit more complicated than just a jilted lover and a bunch of gangster types wanting Jack for their own purposes

I do think it'll be more complicated, but Angelo is clearly important, since the entire religious angle of the miracle seems to hang on him. I guess it'll depend on what he actually hopes to achieve with it... I wouldn't mind him being a central figure, but I really hope they don't completely butcher the characterisation in the process.

especially as neither RTD or JB have ever really understood why some Jack/Ianto fans were dissapointed with how their relationship developed over three series

I'm taking everything RTD and JB say about TW with a grain of salt — they have to sell the show, they're not going to publicly criticise it. And we don't know what happened behind the scenes, especially back in S1 when the whole thing was completely new and experimental; everyone was afraid that moving TW to America would mean heterosexualising it, but perhaps Starz actually gave RTD more leeway when it came to gay content than the BBC had...

I think the problem was that S1 was more or less a test balloon if SF audiences would accept a show with a non-heterosexual lead in a gay relationship, S2 was hastily patched up after RTD decided to kill Owen instead of Ianto and had very little actual relationship development as a result, and CoE was simply too short. At this point the tone was set, both Jack and Ianto had been established as rather guarded characters, neither of whom talked a lot about their emotions or were prone to big declarations. Things might have been different if we'd have had a full-length third series, but the kind of tenderness we saw in Immortal Sins hadn't been there for the first two series either, and you simply can't pull off massive character development like that in the space of five days, not when the main focus is somewhere else. I think given the material he had RTD did the best he could to at least resolve their relationship before killing Ianto. Obviously Ianto's death didn't make me happy, but I always thought the way their relationship developed in CoE was very in character.

I didn't like how long Jack's torture scene went on for either, I'm more sensitive to fictional violence as an adult that I ever was as a 12 year old watching films like Halloween.

I also noticed that this bothers me more and more the older I grow. This said though, it's not quite as painfully long when you rewatch it, and after I got over the first shock, I really did like how the scene was filmed, both the visuals and how it conveyed the religious atmosphere and imagery...
topaz_eyes
Aug. 21st, 2011 05:00 pm (UTC)
Yep, this episode was worth the wait. *draws sparkly hearts around it* I wonder if this episode, or parts of it, should have been featured earlier in the series.

Re the music--the guitar cue played over the 1927 immigration lock-up scene was wildly reminiscent of "A Lot of Life Behind Us" from TEoT (the scene where Ten and Wilf talk on the Hesperus). TBH I thought it was the same piece. I thought it sounded out of place too (I was kinda expecting 1920s style jazz), but maybe it was intended?

The episode really does raise the question of Jack's timeline, though, because while Jack's last confession may or may not have been 700 years ago, it doesn't look like he pulled the number entirely out of thin air.

Could "700 years" have been simply a joke, or part of a code word to alert the priest/bootlegger? But Angelo could have been pre-CoE; Jack had been a Time Agent, so he might have worked out "immortality = fixed point in time" by himself, then the Doctor confirmed it for the audience in "Utopia". Also, being from the 51st century, it'd be true Jack's seen a lot of the future. (I can handwave quite a bit, isn't it obvious? *g*) It was a timeline where Jack worked for Torchwood though. Or so he says.

If, however, we assume there is no linear chronology, and Jack really has lived for hundreds, even thousands of years, then there is no linear development or journey either. Rather it's a never ending back-and-forth between despair and finding joy in life again

Isn't this the central issue around being immortal though? In "Out of Time" Jack says it's 'just bearable' because 'it has to be.' The hardest lesson of immortality would be how to cope with it.

It'd be really interesting if a former Torchwood employee was responsible. I wonder if the Trickster's Brigade might also play a role.

And oh, Gwen! That was one of the best scenes from the entire series, if not other TV shows.

Of course he'll probably still have to make the immeasurable harder decision of whether he wants to go back to being immortal in the end, or die, while he still has the chance...

I wonder if Jack might have to die to reverse the Miracle somehow. I don't know how that'd work, but it'd be an interesting twist.
solitary_summer
Aug. 21st, 2011 08:15 pm (UTC)
Re. music: That didn't even bother me too much, mostly I guess because I tend not to notice scores and rarely remember them, but the music they played when Angelo and Jack ran away after killing the alien brain parasites struck me as a bit odd.

Re. timelines: Jane Espenson tweeted that it's supposed to be pre-CoE Jack, but from an alternative timeline, whatever that means. I don't know if they just messed up and are trying to cover that up, or if RTD really has something like that in mind for a while now, because I think I do remember reading an interview where he mentioned Jack having lived for... I don't remember what the exact number was, but definitely a lot longer than 130+ years. And while I'm never sure if the radio plays are supposed to be 100% canon, in Submission Jack also mentioned having lived for thousands of years, and that was pre-CoE.

Come to think of it, what is odd is that in CoE you have Ianto tell the 456 they should go back 150 years to find out who they're dealing with, and then in the end there's Jack talking about how many lives he's lived, which definitely suggests a longer timespan...

RE. immortality: You're absolutely right, sooner or later it'd have come to this anyway. It's just that when I watched the episode the first time I thought this was stranded-on-Earth Jack still closer to the beginning of his journey, still less guarded, and then when he mentioned the 700 years it occurred to me that it's not like that at all... But of course after a while it makes no difference at all.

Re. Torchwood employee: Interesting, but probably not. I've found that I'm completely crap at predicting plot-twists... The Tricksters Brigade is definitely a possibility, though. Or a red herring. Who knows...

Re. Gwen: Completely agree, that was fantastic.

Re. Jack dying: JE bringing up alternative timelines made me wonder, but killing Jack only to replace him with a Jack from an alternative timeline doesn't sound like something RTD would do. I guess it'd also depend on how far they're going with the religious theme and the Christ analogy... Why I'm mostly convinced that this won't happen is that I've read an interview with JB where he talked about when they'd start filming for S5, presuming that S4 does well enough...
elisi
Aug. 28th, 2011 09:25 am (UTC)
Jack's secrecy has always been an issue, and in S1 it lead to the entire team betraying him in EoD. Gwen's actions here are, among other things, the result of all the times she asked Jack a question about himself or his past and he brushed her off. I don't know if this is a remainder from Jack's conman days, but I don't think that in all this time he quite understood that he'll only get the trust he demands if he gives something of himself in return. People might fall in love with his air of mystery, be fascinated for a while, but they're not going to trust him for it.
I think the thing about Gwen is that she stumbled upon a secret by accident. She was a confidante during S1 because no one else knew about his immortality, but I'm not sure he was ever comfortable with this. Plus, Gwen is generally quite confrontational, which makes Jack clam up. Ianto, otoh, didn't just have secrets of his own (which put them on a much more equal footing), he also knew how to get Jack to talk - that is, most of the time just wait. Don't ask direct questions, leave things open, choose an opportune moment. (Also see Jack as a non-Newtonian Liquid.)

Basically Jack is a control freak. People who learn to work with this get a lot further.

/random comment. Will probably be back.
solitary_summer
Aug. 29th, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC)
Basically Jack is a control freak. People who learn to work with this get a lot further.

But even Ianto's patience was wearing thin by CoE...

(Actually, that's part of what I liked about their relationship in CoE, that Ianto finally felt secure — or frustrated — enough to start to pushing Jack out of his comfort zone a bit.)
elisi
Aug. 29th, 2011 10:18 pm (UTC)
*nods*

And Jack trusted Ianto enough to actually answer. Plus, Ianto and Jack clearly shared a lot - such as Ianto's real family etc. And Ianto knew about Flatholm. The thing that oddly enough stands out for me is the first radio play - the one to do with the Hadron Collider, where Ianto asks why it's always Earth, and Jack tries to blow him off, and Ianto just says 'No. I want a real answer.' And he gets one.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

Profile

schnecke
solitary_summer
solitary summer

Latest Month

January 2016
S M T W T F S
     12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31      

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow