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First & fast, to get this out of the way -- I browsed around on friendsfriends a bit after watching Meat last week, and, okay, maybe I've got a skewed impression but I can't really be bothered now to read more reviews to get a maybe more balanced view, so if I'm being unfair here feel free to smack me upside the head correct me, but dear god, can Gwen do anything right in the eyes of fandom?

S1, between cheating on Rhys with Owen and retconning him after confessing and threatening to get in the way of the Jack/Ianto OTP the hatred & bashing was sad, but sadly not unexpected.

This, though -- I thought that this surely, finally!, was the episode where no one could object and find fault with her, but apparently not. Gwen behaves with integrity and consideration towards Rhys, willing to give up Torchwood and Jack for him...

And fandom will still bash her. I give up.

For me the episode was a good (and much needed, if Gwen is really going to marry Rhys) resolution to a problem that's been building since Gwen joined Torchwood. And I really loved seeing more of Rhys and his relationship with Gwen.

What I also found interesting was Gwen's 'So you do have a heart.', said in a way that suddenly shows a world of reservations Gwen has a bout Jack, regardless of whatever attraction or even love she might feel for him. ('You all think it's cold and lonely out there' echoes the same sentiment.) Which makes it clear Gwen isn't confused or unaware of her feelings; she's made (already during Jack's absence, and very much in this episode) a decision about them, and Jack is not what she wants from a relationship, even if he did/does relationships, which the jury is still out on.

As for Jack... I do wish they'd progress the Jack/Ianto relationship in a more linear way than one smallish step forward followed by a little back-shuffle or at least side-step, but strangely enough I'm not very bothered by this episode. Part of Jack's possessiveness is certainly rooted in attraction and whatever feelings he has for Gwen, part of it may be sheer narcissism, wanting to be the center of the team and most important person for anyone in it. But part of the reason - as a follow up from the last episode - probably is they're (as far as we know) all the family, all the real human connection he has in this world and age. He's even given up the chance of travelling with the Doctor for them. And am I the only one that has ever felt they'd lost a friend to a relationship?

It's also a question of divided loyalties. He may genuinely wish (or have wished, in S1; when there wasn't yet a threat of marriage, and Gwen was sleeping with Owen and always choosing TW over Rhys) for Gwen to have a life outside Torchwood, may recognise the importance of it, but I think on some fundamental level he resents when this leads to situations where Torchwood (and he) aren't automatically always her first priority any more.

And he really, really, really hates it when it interferes with work.

He's angry the first time Gwen almost rushed in to rescue Rhys, he's clearly apprehensive about Gwen and Rhys both being part of the mission because he knows love makes her vulnerable (he's had proof of that in EoD already). He stops her again when Rhys is captured and is clearly not happy with Gwen giving herself up when they threaten to shoot him.

Which actually leads to some interesting thoughts about Jack's relationship with Ianto (and the lack of Jack/Ianto moments in this episode).

TW isn't SG-1 the army and wouldn't have any strict rules about fraternization and sexual relationships within the chain of command (short chain that it is, in Cardiff), so it's not so much a question of legalities, but Jack... he's been military for a long time. His leadership style may be unorthodox, but he surely must have considered how his relationship/involvement with Ianto might, if not now, than at least at some point in the future, impact his work, that he might start worrying about the safety of one team member above the others, above the success of their mission, and that this was one thing he couldn't allow himself to do? Torchwood apparently never has been, and probably never will be a safe work-place, and Jack will still have to send him out there, even if it's a lover he's worrying about and not only one of the team.

Even in S1 (Countrycide) Jack has been adamant that his team members can take care of themselves and in this episode he insults Rhys for worrying and acting, in Jack's eyes, rashly, because he thought Gwen was in danger. I think it's a pretty clear message that Ianto, too, is expected to handle himself, and there won't and can't be any special treatment from Jack (and if he ever expected that, whatever relationship they had would be over very quickly). And I think that might be the reason why Ianto got such an action-heavy part in this episode; in a way, I think, he has to prove himself, that he's capable of doing that.

It's worth noting that Jack doesn't step out when there's a gun pointed at Gwen's head, either. It's Rhys who without even thinking takes the bullet for her.

As for Ianto... his grin in the beginning suggests that, what ever there is between Jack and him, he doesn't consider himself sad and single; it's a whole different kind of 'speak for yourself'. But afterwards in all the scenes between Gwen and Jack, or Gwen, Rhys and Jack he just kind of hovers in the background near Jack, looking increasingly thoughtful. I think, though, it's probably not even so much Gwen he's jealous of, or Jack's feelings for her, but the kind of strong, dependable relationship Gwen has with Rhys; the kind of love you're willing to make such sacrifices for.

Again, at the end, when Gwen tells Jack that he doesn't understand what she's feeling, that for her it isn't lonely, because she has Rhys who matters to her, there's Ianto standing again behind Jack, mostly looking at the ground; and it's not the self-satisfied wistful not-sad-and-single smile from the beginning. Probably unable to stop himself from wondering if he and Jack will every have anything like this, if he'll ever be this important to Jack, enough to give up something for that really matters; probably coming to the conclusion that all things - especially Jack - considered it's unlikely.

Another thing that's almost... a bit uncomfortable is the whole (almost?) secret relationship thing they seem to have going. However friendly Gwen and Ianto might have become during Jack's absence, she apparently does not really know, because if she did she'd have phrased that part about Jack not knowing what she feels differently, especially with Ianto standing right behind him.

And watching this -- I've no idea if it's intentionally or not, but if this weren't 21st century everone-is-bisexual Torchwood, that scene (and many of those involving Jack, Ianto, Gwen and Rhys in this episode) would read as a contrast between the straight couple being open and able to talk about their relationship, while society's norms dictate the gay couple must remain silent and hide their feelings.

For someone like Jack, who probably never in his life even entertained the idea of closet, he and Ianto certainly seem to be in a weirdly closeted relationship...

As for Jack's Save The Whales moment, which judging from the team's reaction came just as unexpected for them, I still think it's mostly motivated by guilt (and perhaps a tiny bit of unconscious showing off for Gwen, at least at first). Because it's not only the deaths they see, it's the deaths they cause, too. We saw Jack trying to justify his joining Torchwood to a pretty pissed-off Doctor, claiming he's changed it all for the better, but Jack must be aware that there are still quite a few things they're doing that the Doctor would disapprove of, because they're - in Jack's eyes - necessary. Jack, I think, would have very much approved of what Harriet Jones did -- if he wasn't involved to begin with.

This, I think, is Jack for once allowing himself a What Would The Doctor Do? moment.


solitary summer

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