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May. 8th, 2008

Meh. I'm still not happy with this, but I doubt it's going to get any better or more inspired any time soon.

1.07 Greeks Bearing Gifts

# I was almost surprised that I liked this episode better than TKKS; I had vague memories of it being the other way round. But Toshiko is wonderful, she and Mary are lovely together if you discount the manipulative evil alien thing, I even liked Gwen and Owen, the scene with the man planning to kill his (ex-)family is fantastically done, and while it's certainly depressing, there's also a lot of truth in this episode.

But on the other hand, and especially looking at the rest of Toshiko's arc, ouch. It's painful to watch this with the knowledge that she would never be this happy, never have someone to love her like she deserved or kiss her because she's done something amazing and brave; only that crush on Owen, who hurt her enough without her having to read his thoughts. And having two women kiss isn't exactly progressive and ground-breaking if you kill off one of them at the end of the episode.

# Why did Jack feel Toshiko's thoughts? Is this a Jack thing? A TARDIS related thing? A 51st century/time agency thing? Obviously he isn't actually telepathic, but how far does this go? And even being dead/resurrected, wouldn't he'd still be thinking random stuff like every normal person? He doesn't have a glowy light inside his skull instead of a brain, right? Because it might be slightly relevant to the S2 finale and Jack being buried all this time -- how much did the energy of the TARDIS really change?

1.08 The Keep Killing Suzie

# The episode I actually liked less than I thought I would. I guess on the whole it's just too depressing, with Suzie only coming back to kill her father the cherry on top. And I'd really like a clearer explanation of TW's metaphysics sometime instead of all that vague 'something moving in the darkness'. Although it does make me kind of wonder if the 1800 years spent either dead or on the brink of death left any scars or traces on Jack that will become obvious next season.

The scenes between Suzie and Gwen are really well done, though ("Your faith never left primary school"), and Jack shooting Suzie over and over again is genuinely shocking.

# Jack trying to bring back the first victim with the glove? Not exactly one of JB's finest acting moments.

# (GBG & TKKS) In hindsight it should have been clear even before Fragments that Jack doesn't have all that much experience with being the boss, and maybe also that this is something that was more or less thrust upon him, not something that he'd chosen or that comes to him naturally. Considering what we learned in S2, Doctor-inspired heroic self-sacrificial tendencies aside, the last thing Jack probably wanted was the direct responsibility for anyone's well-being, especially in such a high risk environment. Jack's problem is that on the one hand he wants and needs the illusion (and it's never really more than that, because he doesn't let anyone get too close, and he doesn't allow himself to get close to any of them) of family his team gives him, but on the other hand he can never really break out of his isolation, and in a crisis it's he who has to make the decisions, especially the hard ones. Owen is no help when it comes to deciding what to do with Suzie ("What do you think?" - "You're the boss." "Who's gonna do it?" - "Like you said. I'm the boss."), Gwen blames him for having given Suzie the glove, and Suzie is blaming the whole mess on him for recruiting her. And Jack's, "No, I should be doing it, but ... " clearly indicates that he does feel responsible and that sometimes it's getting too much. No wonder he's depressed in the end and grateful that someone is willing to take at least part of that burden off his shoulders.

# I wish TW were a bit better with the long term relationship building, because most of the Jack/Ianto scenes that are apparently supposed to give Ianto a bit more visibility and screen time so that the stopwatch scene doesn't come completely of nowhere feel a bit forced; the naming of gadgets running gag, as well as Jack's enthusiasm about Ianto fixing the phone. (It's a mobile phone, Jack. You probably won't drop it if you don't take it with both hands and as much physical contact as possible.)

What made me laugh though, was is Jack's immediate, " What the hell ... Ianto? Ianto? What have you done now?" when the lights go out and the Hub goes into lockdown, and Ianto's blandly ironic, "Captain?", which is almost a bit like Wesley's "I'll get him. I've kidnapped him before."

Subtle, Torchwood. Very subtle.

# The stopwatch scene. The DVD commentary is of course completely unhelpful as usual, because it's all about the surprise effect and wrong-footing the viewers and JB and GDL doing it without directions, and generally speaking the commentaries make me suspect that maybe I was wrong to assume that someone must do at least a bit more thinking about the whole Jack/Ianto thing than they generally let on. And I'm still not entirely comfortable writing in that in-between space between canon and fanon, because I'm used to analysing a scene/episode/show, not to characters developing lives of their own in my head.

What I don't think I ever really noticed about this scene is how clearly Ianto's proposal is a reaction to Jack's dejected "One day we're going to run out of space," which I think is the most genuinely depressed and vulnerable we've seen so far, although the theme gets explored further in Out of Time. Ianto looks at him, takes in Jack's downcast pose, looks down again, considers for a fraction of a second and then offers sex as matter-of-factly and as easily as if he'd offered to get Jack a drink. [*]

Now if it weren't for the gun pointing and Ianto's "You don't care about me!" accusation only four episodes ago, or the fact that there's been no real indication so far that these two were involved sexually and/or romantically one could say that this is a very relationshipy thing to do. As it is, although presumably Ianto wouldn't do if it wasn't something he wanted too, it's almost a bit scary how well he reads Jack and how he reacts, first taking Suzie's corpse off his hands and then offering pretty much the only comfort and distraction that Jack would be willing and able to accept. (Somehow I can't see "Do you want to talk about it?" working too well.) And it makes me believe him when he tells Owen that Jack needs him, because if he's done that kind of thing, quietly making himself part of Jack's life and reacting to Jack's emotional needs without Jack having to ask for anything, for any amount of time (and that Jack lets himself show as much vulnerability suggests that there's some history), he's probably right, at least to a certain extent.

Because it's not as if anyone else is doing it, or, at a guess, has been for some time. Mostly of course that's due to Jack keeping people at arm's length, even, or especially, those already close to him; the most personal we've seen him get tends to be with complete outsiders he's never met before and will never see again (John in OoT, the original captian Jack Harkness; Adam, maybe because he didn't feel for him what he felt for the rest of this team).

Gwen has her own life and problems, her boyfriend; she's curious, she's fascinated, but when Jack keeps pushing her away, she has no reason to become too personally invested. And she generally tends to react more to what Jack says than to what's beneath the words. When he tells her he'd rather kill Suzie than make her suffer through eternal (un)life (which is a bit ironic considering that Suzie arranged all this because she wanted to live so badly), Gwen either doesn't see or can't react to the bleak desperation of that statement, and turns it into the (perfectly reasonable of course, that's the kind of thing I'd like to know about my boss, too) question of whether or not Jack would really be able to kill Suzie. And there's also always the element of Jack trying to protect her innocence and shield her from the uglier aspects of life. Already in the third episode it is he who is cheering her up and helping her to deal with her grief and pain. Gwen is someone to whom he turns for inspiration, not when he's feeling less than his best. Jack never asks for support or comfort, and since Gwen doesn't even realise he might want it, she doesn't know how to offer it, even when he grieves for Estelle's death.

Jack's relationship with Owen is too paternal for Owen to be any kind of support; in fact Owen depends on Jack more than Ianto does. It's he who completely frekas out when Jack disappears in CJH (and if Owen had just lost Diane to the rift, Ianto has lost a girlfriend under worse circumstances), and again when Jack can't provide him with an easy or ready solution in EoD. I wonder if there isn't an element of jealousy behind Owen's jabs at Ianto's relationship with Jack; not necessarily in a sexual sense, since Owen really seems to be mostly straight, although I wouldn't entirely exclude it either, because Owen is clearly interested in Jack's sexuality in Day One. It comes out more clearly in ADitD - Ianto apparently never saw Owen as competition, but Owen clearly did, one way or the other.

Toshiko is the most self-contained, and the one most like Ianto in that she is willing to tell Jack what he needs to hear ("He would have been proud of you"), but she doesn't have a close personal relationship with him.

I think the circumstances under which Ianto joined Torchwood put him in a unique position where his relationship with Jack is concerned; In some ways he's very close to him because he needed (nothing optional about it) to get to know Jack very well, strengths and weaknesses both, in order to ensure his position and not to endanger Lisa and his plan, but he also needed to maintain a certain detachment to pull off his deception. Even if he was attracted to Jack, he could never let that blind him or make him incautious. All of which I think made him a lot more perceptive about Jack as a person, and regardless of the reason that made him gain that much knowledge in the first place, it gives him an advantage. Jack and Gwen can exchange long silent looks over 'I love you until the seas run dry/I've found the one I've waited for', but it's Ianto who can make Jack laugh after the whole disastrous day.

# Definitely the result of over-watching, but the way Ianto says, "They come in pairs", and briefly holds Jack's eyes before looking down again and suddenly being very busy writing Suzie's death certificate, and the way Jack suddenly looks faintly puzzled makes me actually wonder if that conversation is only about gloves.

[*] And the way Jack reacts makes most sense under the assumption that there are some fond memories there, but it's been a while, and he didn't actually expect it to happen again, or at least not anytime soon. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it. *g*


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 10th, 2008 02:07 am (UTC)
Thanks for posting about these episodes. I love reading what your comments are.

Re: Greeks Bearing Gifts: I've said it before, I'll say it again: Toshiko rules!! It's a shame that they never really knew what to do with her character. Her beginning in Fragments hinted at how great she was, but she was underutilized in almost every episode. And she seemed to take Ianto's place in Season 2. Meaning, she was in every episode, but just a little bit.

Re: TKKS - I wish Suzie had gotten to stay around a little longer. The stopwatch scene has been burned into my memory, and I'm thinking that maybe they just kinda of put this scene in there, not knowing the spark it would create in fandom. They just weren't thinking that far ahead. Plus, I think maybe by that time they were starting to notice the chemistry between Ianto and Jack (really GDL and John Barrowman) and thought well, he is bisexual, let's try this. Who knows?
May. 10th, 2008 05:59 pm (UTC)
I absolutely agree about Toshiko. And I kind of have the feeling that in S1 they were still trying out how people would react to the show's main character having a relationship with another man; if reactions hadn't been this favourable, they could always have killed Ianto and Rhys and gone for Gwen/Jack after all...
May. 11th, 2008 12:52 am (UTC)
Re: Jack/Ianto & audience reaction

I believe GDL stated in an interview the Higher Ups were, in fact, testing the waters to gauge audience reaction.
May. 11th, 2008 12:48 am (UTC)
First time poster here... Your commentary inspired me to re-watch TKKS. I hadn't watched it since its original airing. The one scene that stood out for me (this time), the one that bespoke Jack's unspoken hope for a renewed/repaired relationship with Ianto, was the scene in which he thanked Ianto for obtaining a signal for the cell phone. Jack appeared to be genuinely touched and heartened that Ianto helped *him.* As in Cyberwoman, his reaction was one of a more personal nature, than a professional one.

In relation to the stop watch, I can understand why Jack was oblivious to Ianto's offer. Throughout the episode, Ianto is very much in the background, very much aloof, seemingly unaffected by the chaos caused by the hub's shut-down. So, though it appeared to me that Jack had hopes of a renewed personal relationship with Ianto, Ianto himself wasn't giving off any signals until the stopwatch scene. .

May. 11th, 2008 09:00 pm (UTC)
The one scene that stood out for me (this time), the one that bespoke Jack's unspoken hope for a renewed/repaired relationship with Ianto, was the scene in which he thanked Ianto for obtaining a signal for the cell phone. Jack appeared to be genuinely touched and heartened that Ianto helped *him.*

Exactly. Even before S2 Jack's reaction there and in the stopwatch scene was always my main argument that this was more than just a casual, basically meaningless sexual thing -- Jack wants this, even after everything that happened.

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


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