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Torchwood 2.09 Something Borrowed...

... some brief(-ish) comments about the episode ...

One thing has to be said, they're pretty equal opportunity about messing with shippers' minds and expectations. Not only the Jack/Ianto fans with Jack and Gwen and the dance, which, okay, ouch, but also the Jack/Gwen shippers (who I at least assume do also exist, if maybe in less slash-friendly environments than livejournal): a near kiss, only to have it turn out to be shapeshifting monster!Jack, and then the scene towards the end where Jack rescues her and they hug! and smile at each other! and she's already wearing a wedding dress! and then passes her to Rhys. The dance is something of a slap in the face, but if you're shipping Jack/Gwen, that episode must have been a bit, if not quite, what Deathly Hallows was to the Harmonians.

I was definitely among those who got their expectations up and weren't happy at all when Jack walked up to Gwen, but I do think there was a point to the scene; Jack moving, if not very enthusiastically, literally from Gwen to Ianto, as well Ianto taking the initiative, stepping forward and making a very deliberate, public move, establishing his claim on Jack, instead of meekly sitting there, waiting for Jack to ignore him or not. (And I still have residue teenage trauma from that kind of thing because the posh-but-stupid Tanzschule I went to had a surplus of girls, so often we had to cut in if we wanted to dance at all, which was awful to begin with and got steadily worse the more steady couples formed over the year, so my heart really goes out to Ianto there.) And regardless of how little relationship development we've seen on screen, regardless of what Jack may or may not feel for Ianto (which is certainly less than clear), Ianto has come a long way since EoD when Jack returned from the dead and Ianto wasn't sure enough of his position to dare offer more than a handshake. I think maybe once he had the reassurance that Jack had come back to stay, and was staying because he wanted to, Ianto started to draft a very complex and slightly evil plan how win Jack. Kidding. Somewhat.

[Although... while the Jack & Gwen regret & yearning glances didn't bother me too much, what I felt was a bit ominous was the music choice at the end of the wedding: Paul Weller's You Do Something To Me (I'm hanging on the wire for a love I'll never find [...] You do something to me somewhere deep inside/I'm hoping to get close to a peace I cannot find [...] I'm dancing through the fire, just to catch a flame/to feel real again ) for the dance segueing into Tainted Love. Hm. Hm.]

And you know... I'm even cool about Jack. All right, he's handsome, enigmatic, saves the world and all that. But it's me you come home to at the end of it all.

I don't know, but maybe Ianto is content with that, too, at least for the moment; that it's he who is in Jack's bed at the end of the day. It might not be more than Gwen has, but it's at least more tangible.

(What I've also read, but don't believe is that the writers are trying to make Jack 'straighter'; Before the wedding picture came out I'd have said that, if anything, they've been moving him more towards the gay end of the spectrum since around mid-S1. S2 there was John and Ianto, mention of Isherwood and Proust and nameless boyfriends, but never a female partner except for the photo.)

As for the rest, loved Rhys, loved Rhys shouting at Jack, loved Gwen and Rhys, loved Gwen, Gwen looked gorgeous throughout the episode, and really liked pissed-off Toshiko; I don't think it was OOC either. She has to mourn the man she loves, or at least the relationship they might have had, while he's still walking around, and it's very understandable that her patience finally snapped with Rhys's friend and his stupid chat-up lines. And it was nice to see her be realistic enough to acknowledge that there won't be any romantic relationship between her and Owen now, that death has effectively already parted them, because to be perfectly honest I was afraid the writers would make her remain fixated on him for a while yet.

... and a long ramble about Jack and relationships.

I think we were all seduced by ep. 1: Movie, dinner, date, normality! Relationship! True Love forever! I know I was, because it was not something i expected Jack to say. And I'm undecided whether to add 'ever' to that sentence.

What we all forgot a bit is that Jack is not exactly normal (and this is not talking about 51st century kinky sex) -- not even exactly human any more.

And even when he still was - growing up in a war-zone; a brother lost, for which he'd still be blaming himself if he hadn't made himself forget because the memory was too painful; a father violently killed, a best friend tortured to death before his eyes at still a young age, more guilt about that. It's probably not too much to assume that Jack's always had problems with relationships, when as far as we know his longest-lasting one was with Captain John, and that probably only because they were stuck in a time-loop for those five years.

Then he met the Doctor, who did bring the caring and responsible side in Jack to the surface again, and with whom he promptly fell in love a bit, but, oops, found himself marooned on late 19th century Earth, and, as he was to find out, oops again, immortal. I'm not historically versed enough to date the wedding photo from the style of dress, but it's the oldest in the pack and it seems likely that it would date from before Jack discovered what exactly he'd been turned into, because I can't really see him marrying someone with that knowledge. All the later pictures show him alone; more than a hundred years, and no one to keep a picture of.

Estelle, whom he loved and still loves more than sixty years later, but whom he left ('it just happened that way' seems a bit too unlikely convenient), to all appearances after a relatively brief time, before the fact that he doesn't age would make have made leaving (or telling her) necessary. Then watched over her from a distance until he could reasonably make a reappearance as his own son.

We once made a vow. That we'd be with each other till we died.

I don't age. I regenerate. But humans decay. You wither and you die. Imagine watching that happen to someone who you--.

I think that's something that Jack has already learned, too; the pain of it. What happened to Jack's wife, their marriage? Did she die? Did Jack die for the first time only to wake up again, horrified, deciding to remain officially dead and let her live her life?

I think Jack's immortality - which, judging from his behaviour in S1 was clearly not something he was happy with - has isolated him even further and has led to him regarding himself as a bit of an outsider to life, an observer from the distance, someone apart. The Doctor leaves his companions beind -- unless like Martha they have the good sense to leave him -- Jack does the same, withdrawing into a series of sexual relationships that provide him with some sort of superficial connection and contact and once in a while falling in love with someone he doesn't allow himself to have (Gwen), except maybe for a brief time (Estelle) or where there is no real chance for a relationship to begin with (the Doctor, the real Captain Jack Harkness, even Gwen, sort of).

How long can you live with someone before you have to either horrify them by telling them that you're immortal, or you have to disappear to keep them from finding out? Five years? Ten years is probably already stretching it. And all that time, living with the burden that it will have to end, that you'll have to end it, however much you might love that person? That even if it weren't for that, all you could do is watch them age and die and be alone again and go through this all over again with someone else? It's probably not surprising that someone who already had issues with intimacy as well as with losing loved ones would find this hard to bear and try to avoid relationships altogether, picking instead situations that call for a more generalised sort of love, like the love of an officer for those under his command, Jack for his team. One wonders, in more than 150 years, how many real, mutual, reciprocal relationships has Jack really had?

So there's Gwen, whom he is clearly attracted to, whom he loves, but from the beginning keeps pushing back to her life outside Torchwood, to Rhys, never making a decisive move. And I think it's worth asking why. Gwen knew about his immortality almost from the start, so that wouldn't have been a problem. The one thing I'm not believing is Jack the shirking violet who's too shy to tell Gwen about his feelings for her, when he must have been blind not to know he could have had her, especially in the early days when she was still riding the high of an awesome new job and her life expanding in ways she never dreamt of and then had to come to terms with what that new world taught her. It could have easily been him instead of Owen.

The likeliest explanation that I can think of, intimacy and relationship issues aside, is that it's done out of consideration for Gwen, who came into Torchwood the normal one, the happy one, the only one who was not alone, who had a functioning relationship and a relatively normal emotional life. And that's exactly what Jack valued and loved about her and was attracted to, and I think he recognised from the start that he could never really offer her what she really wanted and needed from a partner - stability, happiness, maybe children, the equivalent of the proverbial picket fence, and that it would be unfair to seduce her away from that, when he couldn't really offer her anything to replace it. (And let's also remember that during S1 Jack was more or less sitting on a packed suitcase, ready to leave at any time, and probably not intending to come back.) '... And best of all, he really loves you. ' seems to be an admission that Jack cannot... he can love her, in his way. But he cannot give her all that should come with love.

And I think that Gwen does realise that. She wishes Jack were all she wanted, but she knows he isn't. In the end I think she did make a decision and not just settle for the second best. Not that she wouldn't have been tempted, right to the end, I think, if Jack had made a direct offer; but I also think that she would have thought it through, even then and would have considered carefully if it would be worth giving up someone who loves her, and whom she loves, even if it's in a different way.

We've seen the same thing with the original Jack Harkness, where Jack kept pushing him towards the girlfriend he clearly wasn't very attracted to. Granted, the circumstances were different; knowing the man would die the next day made things awkward to begin with and barging in and unsettling his life at the last moment not really appropriate, and if Jack has lived through the later 19th and the whole 20th century even he could hardly have failed to noticed that those 'quaint little categories' were only all too important, often life-or-death important, for the greatest part of that period, so it makes sense that he'd wait for him to make the first, (and second, asking him to dance) move, but it still seems a bit of a pattern.

So, what about Ianto, then?

For me the main problem is that we're getting sides of Jack that are widely disparate, and hard to fit together sometimes. It's been like this since he's been introduced in DW S1, and for me the discrepancies have actually increased in TW S2. I've certainly had some rather conflicted feelings about Jack this season, there were episodes where I utterly loved him, and at least one where I didn't like him at all, but for the moment I'll just chose to be willfully blind and assume that the writers are not writing Jack as a total asshole. (*) The Jack we saw in Adam, the Jack who went over the edge like this about Owen being killed is not a man who doesn't care. Even if he doesn't love Ianto in the romantic sense, he does care for him deeply as a member of his team and I think it's not too much a stretch to assume that he doesn't want to hurt him, and isn't oblivious to his power to do so. The kiss in Adam was simply very tender, without being sexual at all. And it wasn't a calculated gesture, because Ianto wouldn't remember. (Conversely it's perhaps worth noting that he didn't return Gwen's confession with one of his own, even if she wasn't going to remember either.) In conclusion, Jack just fucking someone whom he doesn't care about at all, indifferent to that person's feelings, would make him more of an jerk than I'm willing to believe at the moment.

Jack probably started sleeping with Ianto only because anything like a relationship was very much not an issue. I don't think it was meaningless, I've argued before, and I'll stick to that until I'm proven wrong by canon, that if they started to (or continued to, which I still wouldn't exclude entirely) sleeping together after Lisa's death, that must imply even on Jack's part at least some level of emotional involvement and consideration beyond 'looks good in a suit' (or out of it). They were both lonely, had both lost people, Jack probably was convinced that after Lisa the last thing Ianto would want was anything like a romantic relationship, someone to replace her. Companionship, touching someone who wasn't part metal, a body that wasn't female and wouldn't invite comparison. Be made to forget for a while. Companionship for Jack, too, connection, and even if it's only on a physical level, with someone whom he doesn't have to put up a mask for and hide the despair that at least occasionally haunts him, because Ianto's already seen the darker parts of him.

Jack leaves, Jack comes back, Jack asks Ianto for a date, which threw me probably more than it did Ianto. Because there's Jack, irreversibly immortal, and, as we've just (show-canon just, not real-time just) learned is going to end up as a head in a jar billions of years in the future when whoever he loved in the 19th, or 20th or 21st century will be a faded memory at best if they're very, very lucky, although Jack doesn't know that part yet. (There's a moment at the beginning of Utopia though, when they're looking down into the dead city and the Doctor is talking about the end of the universe, the stars burned out, etc., that I think he did picture himself right there at the end of space and time, and beyond, alone, and would probably have appreciated knowing that this wasn't going to be his fate, after all.) It seemed a bit... incongruous, even while I was ridiculously pleased.

In hindsight, the date offer was maybe a bit more of an impromptu decision than it might have appeared at first, and more driven by emotions; not necessarily romantic ones, but a reaction to having spent a year of being tortured and repeatedly dying, almost seeing the world destroyed without being able to do anything about it, making a decision not to go with the Doctor after all, but to return to his team instead, wanting to get his life together and then meeting his ex and being confronted with the not so pretty image of the man he used to be, wanting something radically different from that, tired of being alone, Gwen getting married, and Ianto being so anxious about him leaving again. And I could see him, part of him, having second thoughts about that.

Because Ianto isn't someone unavailable, they're already sleeping together; the emotions might not be all there yet, but on the whole starting with a date is a first step towards scary relationship territory, the full package. Someone else to watch grow old and die, unless Torchwood kills him first.

I could imagine Jack trying very hard not to think too much about what it is he's having with Ianto.

I could imagine him on a semi-conscious level trying not to get too involved, keeping things on the level of sex mostly, and Ianto sort of slipping under his radar.

I could even, sort of, imagine Jack, regardless of what he himself may want want (which frankly I have no idea), keeping Ianto at arm's length very deliberately, waiting for him to figure out, like Gwen did, more or less, that Jack isn't someone you can want a (normal, human, romantic, picket fence, growing old together) relationship with and move on.

They might be getting there, but it'll be slow, and Ianto will have to do a lot of the work.

From a more 'outside' perspective, with still four episodes to go, no real Ianto episode yet and so much of Jack's arc still open, I still more believe than not that there's going to be some kind of major and decisive Jack/Ianto development this season, and that the slow, background build-up was intentional. They've played out the Gwen/Rhys/Jack triangle in KKBB, Meat and SB, dealt with/killed the Owen and Toshiko relationship in Reset/DMW and ADitD; I think it's not entirely unreasonable to expect that they're going to resolve the Jack/Ianto relationship one way or the other at least a bit during the next four episodes, and that they've intentionally kept it for the last; maybe for effect, maybe because it's the newest, most complicated and most fragile relationship for the three. I'd like to think that the end of SB with Jack moving, albeit a bit reluctantly, from Gwen to Ianto marks the closure of the Jack/Gwen romantic story-line/(sub)text.

Bottom line? I don't know if that isn't just a very wordy version of sticking my fingers in my ears and singing lalala. Maybe. Probably. Maybe I've just too much time on my hands. But I thought Jack/Ianto was dead at the end of S1 when Jack left with the TARDIS. This time I'm only going to bury it after the last episode, and the only thing I haven't decided yet is whether it'll be the last episode of S2, or the last episode of the show. :)

(*) Which I think they've been doing from the beginning by trying to avoid the impression that Jack is sexually exploiting someone emotionally vulnerable in a position that might make it hard for him to say 'no' - which may no longer be be that much of an issue in S2, but definitely was in S1, when it was only Jack between Ianto continuing to work for Torchwood and Ianto out there, without the memory of ever having had or lost a girlfriend, making coffee in the office of some insurance company. For all Jack constantly talks about sex, it's been Ianto with the stop-watch proposition, and Ianto who kissed Jack in TtLM, whereas Jack's kiss in EoD was more reassuring than strictly sexual. I would imagine the kiss from Adam was cut at least partly for that reason, too.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 9th, 2008 03:27 pm (UTC)
A discouragingly short comment

You're kidding, right? I was really kind of embarrassed when I saw how long that post turned out to be, and am frankly amazed and grateful that anyone read through it at all! :)

Was I the only one to notice that in Meat it was the threat to Ianto that brought Jack out of hiding?

Yes and no. They had already been spotted, so there was no point in continuing to hide.

And men not talking about their emotions might be a bit of a cliche sometimes and not be true in every single case, but with Jack and Ianto, who, unless they're in really extreme or extraordinary situations hide behind polished surfaces, Ianto's suits and formality, Jack's vintage uniform, charm and innuendo, it certainly seems to be.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 9th, 2008 08:55 pm (UTC)
Sorry - didn't mean to be nit-picky, it's just that I went over the episode pretty thoroughly looking for any possible Jack/Ianto moment for my review... *embarrassed grin*

Jack is so reticent and emotionally unforthcoming that he remains an enigma after nearly two series.

I really do hope that things become a bit clearer when we learn more about his past and the man that he was, because as it is it's starting to drive me a bit crazy. I've never written fanfiction except that one time for Andromeda, which was kind of a special case, but if I were any kind of writer... Jack might be a challenge.
Mar. 9th, 2008 03:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this! You've been writing really engrossing and thoughtful commentaries on TW for a while now, and I always seem to be reading them and running off somewhere.

I'd like to link to this one in particular from my blog, if I could? I think you make a good counter to my more extreme reaction recently. I still feel very, very apprehensive that we won't get at least a nod to the progress we'd like to see in the remaining eps (positive or negative progress, I don't really mind - just some kind of development!) But you do make an excellent case for the possibility that Jack is holding back on his emotional investment with Ianto, where he either felt no need to with the people he couldn't 'have' (Gwen, perhaps the Doctor), or what we know of the people he has been emotionally involved with (Estelle, Captain Jack) is that the relationships were finite either by circustance or through Jack's deliberate choice.

So I can see that yes, maybe Jack's proposal in KKBB - that they get more serious with each other - was a thing done in haste, or coloured by his experiences of the last year, his choce to walk away from unrequited love with the Doctor, meeting John again, and also seeing how hurt Ianto has been by his leaving. But that does make me wonder what the little conversation in TTLM was about, then? It really sounded so much like a declaration of love - I think the sudden and very passionate reaction on Ianto's part makes me think that's what he heard (and what he was hoping to hear), too. Why would Jack have said that, knowing that Ianto was so enthusiastic about the idea of them getting into a conventional relationship, if Jack himself was still the man conscious that this has been a painful path for him in the past, and one he has deliberately avoided for some time now? After all, what's happening with Tosh and Tommy at exactly the same time must be some kind of honking big reminder to him of the perils of doomed love?

I really like your idea that one of the maybe subconscious reasons that Ianto entered into any kind of sexual relationship with Jack was the whole bundle of ways in which he is emphatically no kind of reminder of Lisa - a male lover, someone who can never be taken away by death, someone who's the antithesis of Lisa's helpless and completely dependent state for the last several months of their time together. Back in that first season I don't get the sense that either Ianto or Jack had any suspicion that ths would be meaningful to either of them beyond the comfort / gratification / company benefits. Unfortunately for Ianto, it looks as if he escalated fairly quickly beyond sex and into a state of mind where he needed to believe that he was needed by Jack, in some way comparable to the way Jack had become necessary to Ianto. Nothing Ianto's done overtly this season - especially his declaration in Adam - suggests his intense feelings about Jack have been diluted.

I guess I still feel that, on balance, right now Ianto is heavily invested in Jack, Jack's investment in Ianto is more complicated maybe but definitely less deeply meaningful - and that the show knows it and that we are being shown this, fairly unambiguously. And to what end? Haven't a clue! Can't wait to find out, either, even if it breaks my heart a little, which I have a terrible fear that it may well do...
Mar. 9th, 2008 04:11 pm (UTC)
But that does make me wonder what the little conversation in TTLM was about, then?

I wish I knew. Because it did sound like a veiled declaration of love to me, too... Jack caught in a vulnerable moment? Reaction to Ianto's still lingering fear that Jack would leave if he could? Loved specifically, romantically? Loved in a more general sense? 'I do care for you, don't ask me to be more specific, but we're not just fucking'?

Unfortunately the way they've been writing him, Jack is impossible to really figure out at this point, and it's incredibly frustrating to try.

someone who can never be taken away by death, someone who's the antithesis of Lisa's helpless and completely dependent state for the last several months of their time together.

You're always saying things so much better than I am. *is jealous* :)

I guess I still feel that, on balance, right now Ianto is heavily invested in Jack, Jack's investment in Ianto is more complicated maybe but definitely less deeply meaningful

I can't disagree. There's an inherent imbalance in their relationship simply because of who they are, and I'm curious how they're going to resolve it, although so the show has at least dealt better with it than much of the fanfiction that I've stopped reading a while ago.

I wish it wouldn't make me think so much of a sentence from the beginning of Thomas Mann's Tonio Kröger: He who loves the most is the inferior and must suffer.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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