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Jan. 28th, 2008

Rewatched it, in case my first emotional reaction had been an overreaction and I'd been taking things too seriously once again, but nope, still didn't like it.

I'll admit I bring a bit of personal baggage into this: I'd probably - hopefully - still have thought what happened was wrong if Beth had been a man, but my reaction might have been less visceral; I might have felt a bit less uncomfortable and probably wouldn't have physically flinched every time Jack shouted at a terrified woman.

Still, though. Still. They took away her liberty, her civil rights, abducted her into Torchwood - with a sack over her head, no less - threatened her husband, threatened to imprison her indefinitely, were planning to do medical tests on her ('If you're innocent you've got nothing to worry about.' 'Don't make this any harder on yourself.', and are there any circumstances when these sentences don't sound extremely creepy?), with or without her consent. And strap her to the chair for emphasis.

All this before there's any solid proof and barely any evidence that she's guilty, or even a suspicion that she's anything other than human. (If it was adrenaline fueled self-defence, like Jack and Gwen suggested, why is she not in a normal prison cell, with that lawyer, as is her right?)

Then they submit her to a extremely painful, potentially fatal procedure - and if it's not torture by intent, it amounts to pretty much the same thing - still not knowing what she is, alien or not, good or evil. She might have been Clark Kent, for all they knew. (*) Not all aliens are evil, right? Jack should know.

And that scene doesn't get any prettier with rewatching, either.

We've seen Jack ruthless before, cold and violent, but (IMO) never with so little provocation, so out of nowhere.

With Carys it was clear that the alien possessing her had already made her kill twice and was a threat that needed to be contained, and Mary had been proven to be guilty of a series of murders spanning centuries when Jack sends her to her death. In Cyberwoman Jack's initial anger was understandable, even if one hadn't see the cybermen DW episodes (which I hadn't when I first watched it), and that final show-down with Ianto, while shocking, got at least build-up; it was a very personal anger, not this kind of calculated cold cruelty. Countryicide was... I'm certainly not advocating torture in emergencies, but from that situation, his team threatened and the guy very probably guilty, it was at least more understandable.

(And let's not forget that the last person not only suspected, but known to be a killer, got into Torchwood not handcuffed and with a sack over his head but via the tourist entrance, bantering with Jack about interior decoration. How's that for double standards?)

I'm a bit reassured by the episode's writer's comment that 'Ianto was using dark humour in the chair scene to keep reminding/guilt-tripping Jack that this was a really, really bad idea and something they shouldn't be doing, not because he was making fun of the situation', but I have to say it didn't stand out immediately, and at first most of Ianto's snark came off as extremely ill-timed and quite callous, although I finally came to a similar conclusion in a rather roundabout way.

But while this is all very well, in my opinion in this situation, considering what they're about to do, it isn't enough. If you don't agree, if you think doing this to another being - human or not - is wrong, you don't participate. You don't help. You don't bring the chair. Full stop. It's not a police-state, they won't put you in the chair instead.

(Although admittedly the whole situation must have been more difficult for Ianto than any of the others, since there are quite a few similarities with what had happened with Lisa, to the point that I was wondering if it was entirely coincidental that they chose a black actress for Beth. I kept thinking that Ianto, who's been on the recieving side of Jack's anger more than anyone should emphathise with Beth. Is he afraid of making the same mistake again, of losing his position or Jack's regard if he speaks up more loudly? Does he think he has anything to prove, that his loyalty is still being tested?) (**)

And that goes for Gwen, too, who might be genuinely compassionate, but comes off as playing the good cop to Jack's bad. Being gentle to the woman strapped into the chair is beside the point when you've done nothing to defend her and her rights so far - and Gwen, as a former police officer must surely know better than anyone just how wrong it is what they're doing - when you're prepared to stand by and watch a lot of pain being inflicted on that person.

Does Owen, as a doctor feel comfortable doing this, even when the person in question isn't (not proven, though; still not proven) human? Tosh, who was concerned about Jack's treatment of the weevils last season?

The ironic thing is they could have stopped any time, because Jack? Wasn't doing anything, except giving orders and asking the questions. It wasn't his hands on the controls. That none of them does makes me actually a bit sick and not like any of them very much right now.

My main problem with this episode is, since Beth did turn out to be an alien threat after all, and since even Gwen, who so far has acted as the moral compass in such matters, more or less condones her treatment, whether the message we're supposed to be getting is that in such situations the end justifies the means, or that, if it's an evil (because they certainly didn't try to gloss over or prettify anything; the brutality from the moment Jack ripped the bag off her head seemed very deliberate and meant to shock just as much as it did), than at least a necessary one.

And this, for me, is especially problematic in a time when such things have happened and keep happening in real life, when torture has suddenly become semi-acceptable again. From what I've read I wasn't the only person whose first association was Guantanamo and all the name stands for.

Mixed messages.

Beth is prepared to give her life to preserve her humanity. What does this say about the people who strapped her into that chair and made her scream in pain and go into convulsions?

And does the fact that Jack shoots her knowing full well what she's doing and what she wants them to do, at least keeping his promise, makes things better or worse?

One thing one can say, though, is that the Doctor wouldn't have been happy. Or felt very honoured, either.

On a lighter and more random note... 'Nobody knows more than I do.' Now I'm really convinced that Ianto knows all about the Doctor and where Jack went... :)

Beth's gender-neutral 'Have you ever hurt them? (Or at least I think it's 'them', not 'him'.)

The contrast between when Gwen first entered the hub in the first episode, how almost magical it was in her eyes, and how.... still strange, but also frightening, almost sinister it is to Beth when she's brought there. Interesting.

I'll actually be interested to hear what they cut for the kiddy-friendly version; or rather how much of the episode will be left. *snerk*

(*) My mind did a quick fandom cross-over and was suddenly a lot more understanding of Clark's reflexive and constant lying. (And someone should definitely write the crossover where team Torchwood abducts and imprisons Clark and Lex breaks him out, brilliantly out-maneuvering Jack, because if anyone is going to investigate Clark's secrets it's him...)

(**) Makes one wonder, too, about Jack's relationship with Ianto, what Jack wants, and more importantly, what Ianto wants. Admittedly it's probably a reflection of the fact that while JB has so far managed to convey the character's charm and charisma extremely well despite the darker sides, this was the first episode where not for a moment I found Jack even remotely likable or attractive, when even as someone who so far has been cheering for Jack/Ianto, I suddenly very much wanted Ianto to run, fast, because whatever Jack has to offer, there are parts of him that it'll be extremely problematic to deal with, and his lack of a track-record in commitment and relationships is probably going to be the least of the problems. Last episode with the unexpected date offer was deceptively conventional; this one served as a reminder that Jack isn't remotely safe.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 28th, 2008 11:51 pm (UTC)
I liked it more when I thought of it as Beth's story - how she goes from the frightened victim to the noble person who sacrifices herself to keep everyone safe. In this episode, although she was the threat, she was also the hero, whereas the Torchwood team - though they were the defenders - were also the monsters.

That's saying it a lot better than my attempt to express this. I just wish the writers had been a bit clearer about their position and intentions...

He's not going into it with any illusions.

I hope so... The problem is that we so rarely see what's actually going on in Ianto's mind; I've written a horribly long post once because I simply couldn't figure out how he went from 'I hate you and I'm going to watch you die' to having sex with Jack in the space of four episodes. He's become too calm too fast; I keep waiting for something to explode, for all that trauma to resurface, and while he certainly has a lot of inner strength, or he wouldn't still be working in Torchwood, somehow I wonder if Jack is a healthy relationship choice for him. I can't really explain it any better than that - it's more of a vague feeling at the moment that at least things aren't going to go as smooth as the last episode seemed to suggest ...

Not that (m)any of the (relation)ships I've been fanishly interested in have been exactly healthy. ;)

(On a side note - would you mind helping me out here? I ended up writing 'non-white actress', because I had no idea what the politically correct non-offensive expression in a British context would be; I've seen 'of colour' a lot, but I think that was mainly American, and 'actress of colour' sounds a bit odd to me...)
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 29th, 2008 07:33 pm (UTC)
First of all, I hope you'll get better soon!

And thanks for answering my question, that's the kind of thing that's really hard to get right when you're not a native speaker or live in the country.

My problem is, I think, that I saw TW first and DW afterwards, so my image of TW is this group of people who, okay, mess up quite a lot and aren't particularly nice to each other, but not the kind of morally grey that TW was on DW, enough to make the Doctor genuinely angry at hearing Jack had joined them.

he was calm all the time he had Lisa down in the basement, wasn't he?

I never knew if that was intentional or simply Ianto/Gareth not knowing yet that he was supposed to have a girlfriend in the basement, but in the second episode when they're eating and Gwen suddenly says 'What are we doing having Chinese while a girl fights for her life?' - there's nothing on Ianto's face, except maybe faint embarrassment.

So it wouldn't exactly surprise me if his long term plan was to get revenge on Jack for killing Lisa. Who knows?

I don't know if you ever heard that, but Gareth once said at a convention that Ianto was 'bisexual for his own pupose', something to that effect. To the best of my knowledge this has never been brought up again, and Ianto genuinely seems to care for Jack, but, no -- I wouldn't be all that surprised either.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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