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What If

Very much tl;dr, way too much time spent writing it, but here goes anyway. Rewatching TW S2 I (think I) finally figured out what went wrong with Jack/Ianto, and why.

Actually I had a bit of an epiphany after watching Meat, thinking about Gwen and Rhys and Jack and Ianto's respective relationships, especially that one scene with Jack, Gwen and Rhys: 'You love him. Makes you vulnerable,' and 'That's your decision.' - 'Yes, it is.' - 'You both have to live by it,' which Jack says without a visible hint of recognition that this might apply to him too, which I found a bit odd, now that I was watching the episodes without a week between them, when only in To the Last Man he'd said, albeit in a rather roundabout, Jack-esque fashion, that he did love (although maybe in a rather general Jack-esque way, but the word love was definitely mentioned) Ianto.

Because if he can tell Gwen that, he's thought about it. Probably learned from painful experience, because realistically, however much he may have disliked Torchwood as an institution, in over a hundred years there'll have been someone there before Ianto he's slept with, been friends with, possibly been at least a bit in love with, and lost, even if he hadn't personally sent them to their death. But at least during that episode, Jack sticks to what he's saying there. He won't compromise a mission and the rest of the team's safety, not for Ianto, not for Gwen. And while this does of course make sense for Jack as the leader of the team, it also is a bit harsh, especially as the Gwen/Rhys storyline in Meat is all about the willingness to take risks and make sacrifices for the person you love, rules and regulations be damned.

So I was thinking that they're really kind of hard on each other, for this to be the self-understood, unspoken thing that it apparently is (because there isn't a moment in that episode where Ianto is expecting Jack to come to his help), and how Jack could be so sure about being able to do this, when only three episodes later he'll completely lose it when Owen dies, and that sometimes the inside of Jack's head made no sense to me at all.

And that was when I remembered that originally it'd been Ianto who was supposed to die, and suddenly a lot of things started to fall into place and fit a lot better. With Ianto killed in Reset, the whole Jack/Ianto relationship that always seemed a bit haphazard (which, other than in S1 where relationships were indeed a bit experimental and erratic, the other S2 relationships are not: both Gwen and Rhys and Toshiko and Owen have consistently developed arcs from the first to the last episode with significant emotional moments and turning points) would have had a completely different dynamic.

There'd have been a relatively consistent build-up until Reset: The 'I came back for you' and date in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, snarky and less-in-the-background Ianto in Sleeper, the a bit oblique 'I love you' in To the Last Man, as well as already a bit of sinister foreshadowing (the dead Torchwood lady from 1918, and 'Nothing changes.'), and Meat, an episode about love and how it makes you vulnerable, sacrifice, and again, although no one dies just yet, the dangers of working in Torchwood. Adam, with Jack's complete faith in Ianto, and Ianto saying out loud for the first time what Jack means to him, and Jack's reaction. [*] Then Reset, with Jack and Martha, jokes about UNIT caps, happy Ianto, and them actually being sure enough about whatever they have that they're finally stating to talk to others about it, at least a bit, even if it's only about the sex part, which makes a change from the weirdly closeted situation in Meat where apparently neither Tosh nor Gwen are even aware there's something going on between them, certainly nothing serious enough to exempt Ianto from the sad & single (Ianto's cat-that-got-the-cream grin says that he very much disagrees)/cold & lonely status. Maybe even something else, like Owen and Tosh's decision to at least try the date thing, and then, BANG.

Which would have made Dead Man Walking one big, tragic Jack/Ianto episode smack in the middle of the season, with all the emotions we could have wanted, although perhaps not at the price of Ianto's death, and complained about not getting.

The a bit superficial playfulness of Reset would have served to accentuate the tragedy, and Dead Man Walking would have put Ianto's 'We dabble,' in a better context, because Jack's complete freak-out and refusal to accept his death would have proven that there was a lot more depth to it on Jack's part, and as for Ianto, it would have borne pointing out that he'd really miss all the innovative-bordering-on-the-avant-garde sex.

There'd have been a connection to Meat, the parallel to Gwen and Rhys so obviously missing in that episode which was much more about Jack and Gwen than Jack and Ianto; love making Jack just as vulnerable, and just as willing to compromise Torchwood and everyone's safety, hoping against all hopes for a miracle and unable to deal with the consequences of the decision he made. It'd also have mirrored Ianto's own desperate effort to save Lisa, and while it wouldn't have been something as catastrophic as opening the rift, we'd finally have seen Jack, too, do something just as irrational and emotion-driven, and it wouldn't have been for the Doctor, after all.

I always thought bringing back Owen was... not exactly an out of character reaction, not right after Adam and Jack's promise to save Owen, and with all the childhood trauma still fresh in his subconscious mind, even if he didn't remember, but definitely something of an overreaction, possibly caused by Adam having stirred up all those memories, and not exactly saying good things about Jack's mental stability. Now if it'd been Ianto it would have been more understandable. Still selfish, still a horrible thing to do to someone, maybe even more creepy, but also more understandable, with this thing between them (that Jack apparently was actually serious about, if you take into account that the date offer was deliberate and thought about, not a spur of the moment thing) cut short like that when it'd barely started. The perception would have been different, if only because there's a millennia old Western literary tradition of love trying to conquer death; it'd have made Jack look less crazy, or at least a better kind of crazy.

It'd have fit better within the rest of Jack's arc too, balancing the hardness we quite often see in him, in S2 maybe even more than in S1, an occasionally almost brutal pragmatic realism that after more than a century and a half doesn't allow illusions or comfortable lies any longer; become part of Jack's ongoing struggle to pick the battles he has a chance of winning and live with the things that cannot changed or fixed, something he wanted Gwen to accept on trust in Adrift to spare her the pain of finding out by experience. It's Owen who brings up 'Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,' there, but it was in fact Jack who'd learned (and that, I think, would also have come out better if it'd been Ianto, not the least because it'd have been harder for Jack, too, to return to business as usual) once again that some things really can't be fixed, or at least only at a price that might be too high, even if someone else is paying it.

In a way much of that is still here with Owen dying, but it doesn't have the same emotional resonance because Jack and Owen were never that close, and it's almost overshadowed by an element of disproportionate irrationality and overreaction that would have seemed even odder without the knowledge of Jack's history. Resurrecting Owen in my opinion wouldn't have worked at all without the whole childhood trauma backstory; resurrecting Ianto still would have.

It's not even very hard trying to watch Dead Man Walking with Ianto in mind instead of Owen, because at least parts of the original script seem to have been taken over almost unchanged. The pretext of bringing him back for the code of the alien morgue hardly makes sense for Owen, but would have fit Ianto ('No one knows more about this place than I do.'), especially as it was Ianto who disposed of the alien bodies (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, with specific mention of the morgue; presumably the alien morgue, considering it's blow-fish-guy they're talking about, and presumably Ianto wouldn't have had to go to Owen for a code first).

The scene in the bar and the follow-up in the police cell I guess might have been a bit less violent, a bit less angry with Ianto, and probably wouldn't have involved beer (or even a bar or an arrest), but I think we can safely say something like that exchange, culminating in 'You don't care about me - you brought me back for an alarm code!' - 'That is not why I bought you back,' had already been there in the first version; it's a pattern similar to Cyberwoman, Ianto, who's usually so extremely controlled, dealing with Jack leaving, Jack coming back, Jack's ex making an appearance, Jack's mysterious past as well as his dysfunctional ways of conducting an emotional relationship, no reproach and barely any questions except the most important ones, suddenly exploding when it all becomes too much, finally admitting to his own needs and insecurities. It'd make even more sense considering that Ianto doesn't remember anything of what happened between him and Jack in Adam and was visibly unhappy at the end of Meat at Gwen's 'No, you don't [understand], Jack! You all think it's cold and lonely out there, but it isn't for me', jealous (if it's that) not so much of Gwen, but of the kind of relationship she and Rhys have. 'You’ve got forever. I could have seconds,' addresses the fundamental inequality that would always have been a problem in their relationship and would have had to be brought up at some point in any case. And regardless of whether Jack said it aloud, the answer to the question of why he really brought Ianto back would have been obvious.

Or again, 'What happens when we turn out to be the monsters, when I do?': that is much too close to what happened in Adam [*] (as well as what Ianto accused Jack of in Cyberwoman) to be coincidence instead of a line specifically written for Ianto rather than Owen. With the added bitter irony that this time it was Jack who turned him into this.

If I had to guess, the original Dead Man Walking would have contained the death/resurrection storyline including some kind of dire consequences predicted by the prophetess girl's death card, although the second part of the episode with the hospital setting seems to have been re-written for Owen; the bit with the boy suffering from cancer especially draws too much upon Owen's role as a doctor. It would probably have ended with something like 'People died because you brought me back. We owe them, you and me.', establishing a different kind of relationship, binding them together in a different way, no matter how awkward their personal relationship might be at the moment. If it's true that Torchwood, and not just Jack gave Ianto's life meaning again after Canary Wharf and what happened to Lisa, he does take his duty of protecting people seriously, so he'd definitely have felt the obligation. Even the notion expressed there that it's a shared responsibility would make more sense - I always thought that Owen certainly didn't need to blame himself for a sequence of events where he was as much the victim of Jack's rashness as everyone else who died in that episode. Now Ianto... still wouldn't have wanted what Jack did, would never have asked for it, and wouldn't have been to blame, but since they were in a sort of relationship before, the sentiment that in a slightly twisted coupley way they were still in this together would be more understandable, and there'd always have been the matter of the dead pizza girl and Dr. Tanizaki, which was never brought up again after Cyberwoman, so Ianto wouldn't have had a lot of moral high ground here. Once again, symmetry.

What I think might originally not have been part of the episode is the 'king of the weevils' storyline, because that would probably still have been part of Owen's arc (and it still might have been Owen who'd have died in Exit Wounds), considering it had already been half-established in Combat. Possibly A Day in the Death, which seems to have been largely rewritten if not a completely new episode, because it's very much Owen, the self-destructiveness, the anger culminating in his despair at his failure to at least do his duty as a doctor, replaced a different Owen-centric episode (that would otherwise have been missing) establishing his connection with the weevils in another way. It'd make sense, Ianto being haunted by the glove he quipped about coming in pairs, Owen picking up his S1 storyline from Combat. Ianto struggling with the consequences of his undead state might have been a strong B plot, but I don't think it'd have been given an entire episode, not the least because Ianto being such a private person I'm not sure a whole introspective episode like that would have fit him. And the 'we fucked up and need to make that right' ending of Dead Man Walking in a way can be read as at least temporary closure to that storyline, it doesn't necessarily require a follow-up like A Day in the Death.

So, what about Jack and undead!Ianto post-Dead Man Walking?

At a guess, strained, at least for a while. Ianto's way of dealing would have been different, quieter, less self-destructive, but in a way I also think he might have struggled harder than Owen, lacking Owen's clinical detachment. It'd have been interesting, considering Ianto quoting from the bible in End of Days, if there would have been a more religious angle to it, and if yes, how Ianto would have dealt with it on a metaphysical level, something that doesn't seem to concern Owen at all. In a way Ianto would have understood why Jack did it, because he'd remember himself and Lisa, and because of that he would have forgiven, in a way. But apart from everything else that Owen also had to come to terms with, he'd still have to deal with what he'd lost, and how his relationship with Jack changed. Owen missed sex in general, Ianto would have been faced with the dilemma of constantly being around someone he was (or at least had been, and even being extremely pissed off at Jack probably wouldn't have completely changed that) in love with, with all those memories of really great sex, but not being able to do anything about it. Kind of really, really awkward. And if he still was in love with Jack despite everything there'd of course be the fear of losing him now, especially considering how fragile and tentative their relationship had been before.

I honestly can't imagine how it'd have worked, with a character as blatantly sexual as Jack to then take the sex completely out of the relationship, but this is why I'm writing endless rambling meta instead of even fanfiction, much less scripts for TW. It's quite possible that they would have worked on the emotional aspects like they did with Tosh and Owen, who became a lot closer after Owen's death. (And possibly fixed Ianto next season - if he survived the season finale, that is -, giving Jack the miracle he was hoping for?) [*]

As for the remaining episodes, most of them wouldn't even have to be very different. Something Borrowed would probably have had less Jack/Gwen subtext and would have been a darker, more melancholy episode, Adrift could have been more or less the same, minus the greenhouse sex, Fragments would have remained more or less unchanged, as would Exit Wounds, if Owen had always been the one to die there. (If it was Ianto, then Exit Wounds in its current state must be a complete rewrite, because if you just switch the names, that episode loses much of its emotional impact. It's impossible to speculate, but if I had to make a guess I think it'd have been Owen. The effect of the Toshiko/Owen death scene would be even greater, one death per character and season is quite enough, and interestingly enough that way Jack would have lost them all in some way over the season. Owen and Tosh irrevocably, Ianto, in some ways, even if he got him back, Gwen, at least a bit, to marriage and Rhys, and if Gwen's change of mind at the end of Adrift is genuine and they're seriously discussing children, things will probably change further.)

It's the - as it is - a bit random From Out of the Rain that I think might have been a much more significant episode, and rather more chilling. If that episode had been written with undead!Ianto in mind, it'd explain the a bit odd, rather subdued quality of their relationship, the distance at the beginning and the end, and why at the same time it's such a Jack/Ianto heavy episode, because that would indeed have been them trying to even the score, one life at a time. ('So we managed to save one.') From Out of the Rain might have fulfilled the same function for Ianto that A Day in the Death does for Owen; showing him that he still had a place in Torchwood, that he could still be important and useful and save others' lives. Maybe finally coming to peace with what had happened to him and what Jack had done. [*]

So this is what I think happened: rather late in the pre-production process, with scripts mostly written and the other stories and character arcs (Gwen and Rhys, Jack's past, Gray and Captain John) already firmly in place - for some reason (Trying not to piss off the fanbase? The awkwardness of Jack/undead!Ianto? Not wanting to close the door on that relationship yet, since after all it's part of what makes TW stand out? Trying to avoid the trap of killing the (for the purpose of this argument) gay character and if not ending, then effectively desexualising the relationship? Too much fondness for naked GDL?) TPTB decided to switch the death/resurrection storyline from Ianto to Owen, but there wasn't time enough to develop a new, meaningful Jack/Ianto arc, not with all the further rewriting that would have been necessary to work it into the rest of the season's episodes. So they they decided to simply put it on the back-burner, focus on the sexual element and just keep it going, but in a rather vague and undefined state with minimal development, in order to leave the option open for a more emotional development or dramatic turn of events in a potential third season. I really think it isn't more profound than that and am kind of mentally kicking myself for all the time spent analysing and trying to make (more) sense of it.

Everything up to Reset was mostly left unchanged [*], Dead Man Walking partly (and probably hastily, considering they left in the tell-tale bit about the code for the alien morgue) rewritten, A Day in the Death written to replace a different Owen-centric episode, Owen's arc maybe adjusted a bit to fit in the 'not being able to save enough lives/who'll save me theme' to give Jack more of a reason to bring him back (which, come to think of it, is kind of odd considering Owen's complaint about Jack having saved his life in Combat), and everything else left more or less intact, with a couple of scenes slipped in that unceremoniously promoted Ianto to some kind of vague, not quite official quasi-boyfriend status with a stronger role within the TW hierarchy, starting with A Day in the Death/Something Borrowed and Ianto's 'It's not like that. Me and Jack.' as a reply to Owen's 'And now you're always out on missions, you're shagging Jack and I'm stuck here making the coffee,' from which we're presumably supposed to draw the conclusion that it's something more than that, because that it's at least that we already know from a couple of episodes before. Maybe even added more Jack/Gwen subtext than would have originally been there to keep people a bit on the edge? But with the most important episode taken out of it, the central emotional moment missing and never replaced, it all falls a bit flat, and we mostly have to take Ianto's word for it being more than just about the kinky sex, because between the Jack/Gwen subtext and Jack going that far for Owen it never even became really clear how Jack feels about him.

No wonder I kept waiting and waiting for the defining Jack/Ianto episode that I felt had to come in S2, but never did.

To be perfectly honest, I'm a bit torn about this. I'm invested enough in the characters and the ship that I was happy when (against all my expectations, let me add) Ianto actually survived S2. However, having actually given the alternative some thought beyond oh noes, they wanted to kill Ianto *again*, and especially looking at it from a story-telling perspective... I've got to say I'd kind of have liked to see how it'd have played out. The current version got us alive!Ianto, greenhouse!sex and the brilliant A Day in the Death, the but the original version would most likely have made for a much more emotionally satisfying, complex and dramatic Jack/Ianto arc, a probably improved Dead Man Walking and From out of the Rain and I think would have made Jack's characterisation rather less jumpy and much more coherent.

Or at least writing this I suddenly found myself liking S2 Jack a lot better than before...

[*] ETA: echoingvista points out that From Out of the Rain and Adam were switched; I'd assume in order to... not even so much to give Jack a better justification for trying to resurrect Owen (he doesn't remember his promise), but to make the viewer understand it a little better.

And that is the (last?) missing piece that'd make the whole of S2 flow so much better. The slow From Out of the Rain would have fit better earlier in the season, it'd have fleshed out Ianto's character and background at least a bit before they'd killed him, and Adam - which already is one of my favourite S2 episodes as it is -, would have even more powerful as well as more inherently logical. Gwen's admission that she loved Jack would have made for a smoother transition between Something Borrowed and Adrift as far as Gwen's relationship with Rhys and Jack is concerned; Adrift would have served to emphasise that regardless of her love for him there are too many things dividing them, that she'd made the right decision. If Owen kept his lines, it'd have paved the way for his death in the finale; he would still die, no one saving him, but save a lot of lives (maybe finally enough?) through his death. As for Jack/Ianto... ouch, ouch, ouch. Messed up and emotional, and I'd never have thought of that. Pretty damn genius.

My inner Jack/Ianto shipper is protesting, but I have to say that they didn't do themselves (or anyone except the Jack/Ianto fans) any favours with all those last minute changes and hasty patching up. It messed up the whole Jack/Ianto arc, significantly weakened the Jack/Gwen/Rhys arc and brought about all those inconsistencies in the relationships that drove me crazy when I was watching S2 the first (and second) time, because it made it all seem so erratic sometimes.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 18th, 2008 06:27 am (UTC)
Hi, found this on torchwood_three. While I agree with a lot of what you said (once you started on about what if it really had been Ianto to die in Reset, because I completely disagree with you on the first few paragraphs), there's a certain fact that kind of makes your thoughts not jive as well. Originally, Adam and From Out of the Rain were switched. As you notice, there's absolutely no mention of Gwen and Rhys' marriage in From Out of the Rain, when it would've just happened, and in Adam a couple lines were changed (such as "I'm your fiance, I gave you the bloody ring you're wearing" was originally "I'm your husband.") And that then affects the rest of the series. And I believe the reason for switching them to the order they are now came with the decision to kill Owen in Reset, with the scene in Adam becoming much more powerful.

I mean, I do agree with you on the build up, and how it would've worked really well if it'd be Ianto. But I figured I'd point that out.
Oct. 18th, 2008 05:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks for pointing that out. I knew that Ianto got a few of Gwen's lines in FootR, but I wasn't aware that the episodes had been switched. It must have been in connection with the decision to kill Owen, because without the 'who'll save me?' and the story about Gray, Jack's resurrection attempt would have looked even more completely irrational after the Suzie disaster.

And that sequence makes a lot of sense. The slow FootR would have fit better at the beginning of the season, fleshing out Ianto's life and background at least a bit more, and Adam would have been even more powerful between SB and Adrift, fixing the hole in the Jack/Gwen/Rhys arc (because now that you mention it, the change from SB to the sudden fight in Adrift does seem to come a bit out of nowhere), and would have made for one hell of a Jack/Ianto scene. As for Owen - so unless his lines in Adam were changed, I guess it would still have been he who'd have died in Exit Wounds?
Oct. 19th, 2008 12:04 am (UTC)
Most likely. Also, I just realized, in Adam, Gwen and Rhys have just come back from Paris. Which was odd at the time, why would they take a holiday so close to their wedding? But that must have originally been their honeymoon, if it was supposed to have been just after Something Borrowed.

I kind of wish now that they had left the original order. But I'm more than okay with the decision to kill Owen in Reset instead of Ianto. I mean, you're right, it would forced a showcase of the emotional side of Jack and Ianto's relationship, but I don't like the idea of undead!Ianto. Especially if they had decided to "fix" him for S3. It would be cheap to pull him out of that sort of limbo state - like cheapening death.

... If you can't tell, I had issues with Dead Man Walking, haha. I like that death is a major theme in Torchwood, I was just really put off by the idea of treating death like a supernatural being that you can fight. Makes for an excellent metaphor, but literally like that? Oi. A Day In The Death, however, was a brilliant episode, in my opinion.
Oct. 19th, 2008 06:37 pm (UTC)
Completely agree. DMW did have some good and touching moments, Jack and Owen, Owen and the boy dying from cancer, but the CGI skeleton certainly wasn't one of them, and in comparison faintly ridiculous. That part didn't work for me at all. And yes, ADitD was absolutely brilliant. :)

And undead!Ianto would have been difficult to handle in the long run, which probably was at least part of the reason why they gave up the idea in the end. I just wish they'd thought of that a bit earlier...
Jan. 25th, 2009 08:18 am (UTC)
I agree with virtually everything that you've written. It's been obvious for a long while that the Jack/Ianto relationship wasn't as consistant in series 2 as the Jack/Gwen, Gwen/Rhys and Tosh/Owen relationships. It's also never made any sense to me that there wasn't a single moment between Jack and Ianto in Exit Wounds, although we got a kiss in End of Days, when their relationship was meant to be less developed.

It's going to be interesting to see how things are handled in Children of Earth. If their relationship is done well and made more clear to the audience, Russel will probably be forgiven for his slight screw up in series 2, although I totally appreciate that writing for a tv series is more stressful than it looks.

Good essay by the way. :)
Mar. 9th, 2009 08:59 am (UTC)
I find this fascinating! I've only just learned of these switches to the season and in a way wish I could at least read copies of the original episodes. Also, not being a massive shipper for JxI I may have been much more interested in seeing how they coped with Ianto being undead, rather than the mess that seemed to be their arc in the season we got.

Your comment about FOotR is also interesting. You're right that it'd be much better off earlier in the season as it feels awfully out of place where it is, and loses a lot of favor in my eyes because it is surrounded by such strong episodes.

Thing I'm most fascinated by perhaps is the potential Weevil King arc that sort of dissapeared. If that line in FOotR about Owen being 'different'* had been left in, and instead a reference to him being part weevil, all building up to a lovely episode replacing ADitD which explained everything about him being Weevil King. Also, in my fanon the reason for it was that he was bitten by the weevil and it passed on a part of weevil into him, giving the potential for Torchwood staff to have had a zombie, a werewolf and an immortal.

*(can't remember the exact line, but it's just after The Ghostmaker leaves the projection room)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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