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Mar. 4th, 2008

[I completely loved it the first time (and the second...), but it was an episode I was really reluctant to rewatch; I think I might print out what Owen says to Maggie in the end and stick it above my computer, as a reminder for the not-so-good times.]

Still... it's such a well written episode. Well acted. Well anything. The music score is still fantastic. And I guess it says a lot about how Torchwood defies categories and expectations that I'm still in a bit of a shock that they actually went there (And how! Never glossing over the details of Owen's state of existence; I could almost watch him stitching up his hand (ouch!) the second time, but breaking his fingers (OUCH!!)... still had to look away.) and, so to speak, stayed there. I really expected Owen either to be cured/reversed by the end of the episode, or blown up by the alien thing, and while I'm still a bit appalled and slightly squicked, I also really love the ending. And it occurs to me that the fucked-up circumstances not withstanding, this is probably the single most positive episode we've seen so far. Which is... a bit ironic, really.

rivier wrote a very insightful post about how Jack is forcing Owen to deal with being dead, which made me reconsider my first, perhaps too emotional reaction to Jack's behaviour, but rewatching, I'm still not entirely convinced, even if I'd like to be.

Jack's treatment is probably helping Owen to work through his grief and anger and finally to accept his situation, in the way best suited to Owen's character as well as the fastest way possible, but I'm not so sure that was actually planned in more than a vague 'let's hope that things will work out and meanwhile take care that Owen doesn't do permanent harm to himself' way.

I wonder if it's Jack who's put himself on Owen watch, or Gwen, who seems to have taken over TW leadership (Martha said it was she who'd asked her to stay for the moment, not Jack) when it doesn't immediately concern Owen. The only reason why I could imagine her not being furiously and eloquently pissed off at Jack, would be that she herself had a hand in almost destroying the world to bring Rhys back last season. I'm not so sure it'd have kept her entirely quiet, though. And I could definitely see her as the one forcing both Owen and Jack to work their way through this.

I guess my main problem is that I just can't see Jack suddenly dealing rationally and thoughtfully with things when resurrecting Owen had been such an utterly irrational, impossible act; impetuous, with no thought given to the consequences, except the determination to ignore them. And when things didn't turn out the way he wanted, except in a twisted 'be very careful what you wish for' way, I think he has almost as much problems dealing with the results as Owen himself. (And in a way Owen forces him to confront it by simply not going away, even if he's demoted to making coffee. The look Jack gives him when he doesn't disappear with the coffee tray, but pulls out a chair and sits down at the table right across him and joins the discussion, forcing Jack to acknowledge him, says a whole lot about Jack's profound uneasiness with the situation.)

What I'm getting from Jack at the beginning and throughout the first half of the episode is mostly a high level of discomfort. Affection for Owen, certainly, but mixed into it possibly a bit of revulsion about what Owen has become, and a whole lot of guilt: torn between feeling really horribly guilty -- because someone who loves/needs sex, the simple pleasure of it as well as, I think, the connection it offers, however fleetingly, as much as Jack does, would fully recognise the empty horror of Owen's sensory deprived unlife, and is probably thanking every deity he doesn't believe in that this isn't how Rose brought him back -- and not nearly guilty enough, because as long as Owen's still around in some form, as long as he's still walking and talking and complaining, this is better than losing a member of his elected family entirely.

On the whole I think it's a situation that he hates having to deal with, but at least he acknowledges his responsibility enough not to do what the Doctor did: the equivalent of hopping onto the TARDIS and running away. (And if Jack being fixed in time is the antithesis of what the Doctor stands for, then Owen's fragile life-in-death is the polar opposite of Jack's immortality.) Instead he retreats behind rules and regulations because formality makes it at least a bit easier and allows him to keep putting off making a decision himself, as well as - possibly - in a (belated) (over-)reaction to breaking all kinds of Torchwood regulations by bringing Owen back. (This being Torchwood, there probably are rules for that kind of thing.) Bringing Ianto in for... I'm trying to think of a phrase other than 'moral support', but considering the way Jack looks up, down, anywhere but at Owen, when Ianto asks for his gun, I think that is a pretty apt description of the situation. (In fact I could even see Ianto offering to be there, just like he took care of Suzie's body, which Jack even acknowledged was something he should have done himself.)

After all, what do you even say to someone whom you've brought back from the dead into such an existence for purely selfish reasons? 'I'm sorry' would be a start, but I don't think Jack has even managed that yet. At least not on screen.

Then about half way through the episode Jack starts to be a little more at ease; maybe because with Owen being part of a mission again things take on a semblance of normality and it's easier to slip back into the routine of how things were. Maybe because he, too, simply started to accept the situation, and because gloomy isn't a permanent, or even long-lasting state of mind for Jack. However bad things get, he tends to bounce back pretty fast. 'Fun', though, Jack? Fun?

Poor Ianto; but at least he's no longer only Jack's part-time shag in Owen's eyes, and does this mean there'll be another very public kiss in the next episode? And speaking of which, albeit in strike-through: Enquiring minds and curious fangirls want to know -- if it's not like that, then what, and I mean this in the least dirty way possible, is it like?

In my first reaction to the episode I was rather unreservedly gushing about TW's unprecedented emotional story-lines. Then, after I'd posted the etnry I started to think that maybe this was a bit of an exaggeration; I've watched B5, Buffy, Angel, and all those are pretty emotional shows -- Is TW really that different?

Honestly, I'm still not sure. Maybe it's just because it's the newest fangirlish (c)rush, because while B5 was certainly more plot-driven, JW did put a lot of emphasis on his characters' developments, even if those were a bit extreme occasionally. Then again, with 21 episodes so far TW has barely reached the length of one season of any of those shows yet.

What struck me, though, is that many TW episodes (and IMO the better/best ones) are built around the characters' emotional journeys. They're the primary focus instead of an afterthought like in so many SF shows, where characters have no real development to speak of and start each new episode almost with a clean slate, past traumas rarely making a reappearance. In TW it's nearly the other way round -- there certainly are more action-driven episodes like Countrycide or Sleeper, but most of the time the alien thingy of the episode is more of a catalyst than what the story is about. What the story is about are some pretty deep existentialist themes: death, the meaning of life, love, loss... And the show isn't afraid or ashamed to treat these subjects extensively as well as seriously.

Even Doctor Who is more plot driven, by comparison, IMO; there are plenty of emotional moments there, too, but the stories told are more... dominant, in a way. Torchwood tells emotions, not stories, most of the time. And Doctor Who has something of an epic quality, which TW lacks almost entirely: normal people who sometimes fuck up, but sometimes also do the right thing and keep struggling, all those purely human moments, regardless of the strange circumstances surrounding them.

And I think this is why (fan) reaction to TW diverges so widely. If the existentialist angle and the emotional level work for you, it's beautiful, it's heart-wrenching, it keeps you breathless and on the edge because it keeps surprising you by going where you never expected it to go. If you can't connect to that part -- then, yes,I could see how people might find fault with plot-holes and a certain lack of efficieny in team TW's performance as well as their tendency to create the problems they then have to solve, and probably other less than perfect stuff that I never even noticed. And, yes, then it's mostly about shippiness and pretty men kissing. Or, if you're less kind and slash inclined, Ianto's emo, Gwen over-emotional and/or a lying whore who isn't good enough for Rhys, Owen a nasty rapist and Jack a 51st century slut. (I don't think, but feel free to correct me, that anyone's managed to find fault with Toshiko yet, unless it's with the writers' treatment of her.)

A long while ago I did the favourite tv moments meme. And I remember having to search a bit, because I don't really watch for single moments like that, but on the whole it wasn't too difficult. (In retrospect, there are some fillers, and some I'd remove, and AtS is too predominant because I was watching at the time, but a good number are still favourites...) Now I was thinking about what TW moments I'd add, and as much as I love the show, I couldn't come up with any (when OTOH, there would be one or two Smallville moments even in S5, which certainly wasn't stellar television), because for me the emotional impact is in the whole episodes rather than single moments. It's never just a kiss, a touch, a single scene; it's about context and how they arrived there. I can't really put it into words, but It seems like a whole different way of story-telling...


solitary summer

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