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You all knew this was coming, right? :)

The beginning? Perfect Torchwood Is Back. Excuse me - have you seen a blowfish driving a sportscar? *g* What I really, really love - about Doctor Who maybe even more than Torchwood, because it's more frequent there - is all the imagination that goes into their aliens.

First time viewing reaction - I guess that says something about either my age, our society's heteronormativity or more specifically the relative conservativism of sf tv shows, but I still was a bit stunned - in a good way, mind - by how absolutely casual they're dealing with the gay relationships. More so than S1, IMO, because the Jack/Ianto relationship was so subtext-y, the Captain Jack Harkness episode a bit of a statement, and Mary The Alien Lesbian Murderer doesn't earn them too many bonus points in my book, sorry. I don't really agree with how people described the episode as 'fanservice' in a not always entirely complimentary way, but I do have a feeling that the TW team did listen to all those fans who said, 'Yes! We're more than okay with that!'. I don't know if it'll have an impact on the American market, but watching JB & JM kiss & fight & banter & generally raise the room temperature several degrees, and an almost insecure Jack asking an adorably flustered Ianto on a date in the space of 45 minutes, I kept thinking that this is the show people are going to look back on as having made a difference.

And speaking of what television taught us to expect - I was very ready to agree with rivier that the Jack/Ianto whateveritwasinS1 wasn't going to go (much of) anywhere in S2; certainly not on movie-&-dinner dates. Partly because of the way Jack was characterised (I'll come to that in a minute), but mostly, I think, because in sf tv shows hot, hero-ish lead characters are not in gay relationships, period. Homosexuality, if shown at all, was for laboured metaphor episodes, token episodes and unhappy endings. Subtext, if you were lucky. Even with someone as bi-/omnisexual as Jack I fully expected them to come up with a female love-interest in S2.

So, thank you, Torchwood-creators for listening to the fangirls/-boys proving me wrong. :)

I hope.

I don't hate Gwen. I like Gwen. Eve Myles is hot. I'd have had no problem at all if they'd gone for Jack/Gwen right from the beginning. As it is now, I prefer Jack/Ianto, because, um. Because. And I think with the background of the Cyberwoman episode there's a bit more potential for an interesting development, and I wouldn't like to see the gay relationship brushed aside for the hetero one, but I thought Jack and Gwen had very tangible chemistry in the first few episodes of S1. Except then (or that's how I perceived it) that mostly disappeared, and I don't think that was entirely due to me donning the slash googles. Maybe Gwen nourished a bit of a crush on Jack, but it was Rhys she was willing to defy Jack for in End Of Days, and I just never saw that level of emotional involvement on Jack's side that he now seemed to betray in his almost shocked reaction to Gwen's announcement that she and Rhys were getting married. He saw how disdraught she was after Rhys' death; he left; what did he expect? That came a bit out of nowhere for me. Or maybe he just doesn't want his team-members, now that he's got them back, have major outside emotional involvements, because they're all he's got? What I dislike about the implication of the scene is that it makes, somehow, both Ianto and Rhys second choices, which is not something I want for either of them.

[ETA: My problem here is the sequence of events, because it kind of makes me wonder if Jack would have asked Ianto at all if, e.g., Gwen had told him that she and Rhys had split up. It'd have been less of a problem if it had come later in the episode.]

Ianto, who's so inscrutable and the least vocal complaining about Jack's leaving while both Gwen and Owen bitch repeatedly and loudly and even Tosh is more confrontational, but who can't stop himself from asking - quietly, apprehensively and bracing himself for the 'yes' he clearly expects - if Jack was going to go back to the Doctor when Jack's smile and tone of voice talking about him betray so much emotion. Ianto who was curious or maybe jealous enough to be the one to ask about the nature of Jack's partnership with Captain John, but who still was surprised and flustered at Jack asking him out on a date. I really hope he doesn't get his heart broken because Gwen becomes availabel mid-season and Jack decides he likes her better.

Still, what I found interesting is how they now seem to take the Jack/Ianto relationship in a deliberately emotional/romantic direction in marked contrast to Captain John's go-go-go-you-stay--that's-gorgeous attitude. Now we never actually saw Jack doing that kind of thing in S1, and personally I always had the impression (and his relationship with Estelle seemed to confirm that to some extent) that regardless of what he bragged about he was also at least a bit of a closet romantic, but between Jack's anecdotes, Tosh's 'he'll shag anything if it's gorgeous enough' and the whole 'omnisexual' image created & perpetuated in every interview JB and others gave, it was pretty much implied that this is what Jack used to do, too, although he'd probably go about it a bit less coldly and with better style and more consideration for his partners.

So when he asks Ianto out (and if I hadn't thought that Jack would do the conventional dating thing, judging from his reaction, neither had Ianto) there's a certain insecurity and almost experimental quality about it; like this wasn't something Jack usually did. (And he probably didn't. It's most likely been a very long time since he even risked a possible rejection.) What does, however, seemed to be implied, is that it was something he'd actually thought about, and considering he'd spent a long and painful year doing - in between being chained up, tortured and probably killed quite a few times - nothing but thinking, one can assume that it's more than a moment's fancy.

Deliberate, like his rejection of John's offer. If one looks beyond the whole squee!&fanservice aspect for a moment, this episode is very much about Jack's decisions about how he wants his life to be. This wasn't so much an issue as long as he was struggling with his immortality, not even knowing what had happened or what he'd become, and mostly wanting for the Doctor to pick him up and fix things, but once he accepts that, like it or not, this is the life he has to deal with, he does just that. And comes back with a lot of good resolutions only to be confronted with the shadow of - and from - his past. And I believe on some visceral level Jack was tempted by the cocktail of sex, violence and a total lack of responsibility offered to him. Even there, on the roof, I think part of him wanted this, considered the option instead of rejecting it out of hand, and the awareness of this gives his mockery an edge of defensiveness and panic. 'I can't', not 'I don't want to'. And it's only later in the autopsy room that he has a real answer to John's 'why?'. But between the Doctor and his time in Torchwood he's learned enough not to indulge this part, not to really want to indulge it, and confronted with the dark mirror image of what he would become (again?), he knows he can't be that person any more. And this is what the episode is about, the struggle and the decision Jack made between the first kiss which was a very mutual thing and where it's impossible to tell who's kissing whom, and the second, very different one, at the end.

What I also loved about this episode is how they manage to add, or rather reveal, another layer of Jack's character, albeit not a very nice one.

We've seen before that Jack can be violent and ruthless, but the first conversation with John shows a side that makes one wonder about the time and background they both come from, where murder is so casual that there's rehab for it (en par with drink, drugs and sex) and this is something you can and do joke about. Is this a 50somethingth century thing, or a time-agency thing? Meeting the Doctor and Rose as well as living on 19th-21st century Earth has certainly changed Jack, but of course it didn't erase his past. (And speaking of that, I'm beginning to seriously wonder about those two lost years.) I thought it was his immortality that set Jack apart in S1, but there's apparently a lot of residue darkness from before that, too.

And maybe the whole Torchwood team (exempting Gwen) is a bit blasé about death occasionally and Jacks tends to be forgiving of people trying to kill him, but John killed two people in close context with this episode (I'm not even trying to hazard a guess as to the body-count he's racked up in the past), failed to kill Jack himself not for lack of trying, almost killed Gwen and Owen, hurt Toshiko, and didn't give a shit about any of that, whether they lived or died, except possibly Jack, whom he does seem to care about; enough to offer joining his team when Jack wouldn't come with him. Jack knew from the get-go that John's presence spelled danger for his team, but he still chose to work with him, already knowing about one of the dead bodies he left in his wake. And let him go with no consequences for any of that, with something close to affection, almost gently, knowing what he'd done, and after he'd almost killed Gwen again. While he doesn't return the kiss, he doesn't step away either, and there's a complicated mix of emotions on his face afterwards. Auld lang syne? Or because he recognises too much of himself in John and doing anything else would make him, if not a hypocrite that at least profoundly uncomfortable? Because however much you want to draw a line and forget about your past, it's a part of you that you can't erase or ignore - and this is clearly what Jack is trying to do when he insists to Gwen that the past doesn't matter and it's only the person that he's become that counts - and you can only confront it, try to come to terms with it, and maybe find some measure of peace?

Overinterpreting, of course, is always a possibility, too. *g*

On a different note, what was a bit of a problem for me, although it took a second viewing to pinpoint, is that the episode was a bit too team-y for my taste. Not that it isn't lovely that they're finally all getting along, but last season there were so may rifts, so much hurt they inflicted on each other, knowingly and inadvertently, emotionally as well as physically, that to see them suddenly so close is a bit odd almost. Obviously they had to become closer in Jack's absence, and Gwen's type of leadership probably helped things along quite a bit, but never having actually seen the process it's a bit too big a jump for my taste, and maybe I'm just too cynical to believe that it all worked out so easily...

And another thing I can't figure out is how, since TW is supposed to keep an eye out for the Doctor and, hence, presumably knows about his existence, no one - at least not Gwen - has yet made the connection between him and Jack's oblique hints about 'the right doctor'. I kind of like to imagine that Ianto made it his business to figure it all out in Jack's absence, but there's really nothing to suggest that there's more comprehension about where Jack was (although he does understand that it was someone who meant a lot to Jack) behind Ianto's question than Owen's 'Did he fix you?' quip.

ETA: Also, TW? Names?! Enough with the Jack's and John's, and must they all be captains, too? Seriously. It makes for confusing reviews.


solitary summer

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