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I'm not even going to squint at my flist (or lj generally speaking) until I've watched S3, because I suspect I'm already a tiny bit spoiled anyway, but I'll just post my thoughts about the audio plays in the meantime. Since I'm usually a very visual person I wasn't sure at all how I'd do without the optic element, but scribbling happened anyway; I think it's something of a pavlovian reflex by now. Actual pen & paper scribbling even, in my computerless holiday state. Now posting that before actually watching S3 is clearly an exercise in masochism and superfluousness, but OTOH I'm kind of curious how my interpretations compare to actual canon. Plus, I have an unhealthy inability to throw away anything.

(And I'm almost willing to bet that I was & will be the only person to walk across the Möchsberg and the park in Hellbrunn with Jack and Gwen and Ianto saving the world in my ears, and a probably completely inane smile on my face. un_crayon_rouge was right, I so needed that IPod. *g*)

1. Asylum

Well, hallelujah. Thank you. Finally addressed at least to a certain extent some of the issues that needed addressing after the much too torture-happy S2. Wanted to hug PC Andy, several times. Really liked the story and would have loved to have a tv episode with it.

It only struck me just how wrong things have gone when Gwen gets the call that she's supposed to bring Frida to the Hub, and there was an alarm going off in my head. From a pure gut reaction, however nice Gwen was being about it, I didn't trust them, and Jack most especially, with that girl's well-being at all. Which is kind of problematic, if these are supposed to be the good guys. I have no idea if last season went intentionally in this direction, exploring the darker sides of TW, or if they looked at it and at least in retrospect realised that some of team TW's actions weren't looking so good especially in view of what happened over the last years during the Bushite 'war against terrorism', but the suggestion that TW itself might be the cause of violent anti-alien discrimination in the future certainly acknowleges that things are still far from right and that Jack isn't handling this as well as the thinks he is, or changed it as much as he wants to think he did.

After this episode I'm still not a hundred percent happy, but at least recognising something basic like that there are, oh, good and evil and all kinds of moral shades of grey aliens, and acting accordingly, is at least a start and makes me feel a bit easier. Given the admittedly very difficult situation they're working in that's at least something.

The ironic thing is that during S2, after Meat and Fragments I wrote that working in TW must take a certain amount of cognitive dissonance, since Jack knows perfectly well that not every alien is evil, so when Gwen has to tell him that... whoa. The century spent in TW is showing, and the thing is that Jack probably isn't even aware just how much he's gone native, how much he internalised the ideology of Torchwood even while he was fighting it.

On the one hand Jack is of course far from unaware of how problematic TW was, how could he be, given how he was not so much recruited, as tortured and blackmailed into joining. But how much of a difference is there really between old school TW and new and improved TW? Locking the weevils into a cell instead of outright shooting them? At least the way Jack spits 'That's what we do best, wipe out aliens,' at Adam with a lot of venom, but also a certain amount of self-disgust suggests he might be aware on some level that things are far from perfect even now. But most of the time Jack thinks he already has changed TW, when TW has changed him at least as much.

Looking at Jack in Fragments when he discovers what Alex had done - this isn't the reaction of a man who doesn't care and essentially thinks, right, good riddance, they had it coming, and also, why didn't I think of that. Jack's intense protectiveness towards his current/recently deceased team is at least partly due to the fact that he feels personally responsible for them since he recruited them, but even before that for more than a century TW was, as far as we know, love them or hate them, the only constant in his life, the closest thing to a family Jack had. Even if he hated the principle of it, how many friends, how many lovers, like Eleonor in Golden Age? How many people who were the 'one good thing about Torchwood' at their time, allowing him to maintain the complicated mental status of being able to think of himself as at once an insider and an outsider?

The Jack who almost died in 1942, who did die on Satellite 5, and is waiting for the Doctor wants to be a hero, and if he can't be that, because heroic last stands are no longer an option, at least one of the good guys, doing the right thing. (Which actually most people, even those who've done much, much worse things, believe they are. It's a bit of a commonplace, really.)

The Jack with the deep-seated childhood trauma stemming from an invasion by a completely in-human (in every sense) enemy, who is guilt-ridden about being responsible for the deaths of his brother and his best friend wants atonement, and very likely, if only on a subconscious level, revenge and one can easily believe that he is convinced, or at least convincing himself, that he's helping to protect Earth from a similar fate, and better safe than sorry.

And the Jack of the dubious time agency past, shaky morals and self-cleaning cons in the middle of an inferno isn't too picky about the methods.

'Making it up as I go along. That's what I do best.' (Jack in Dead Souls)

Rationalisation and compartmentalisation is what's keeping this together. Jack was honestly outraged when the Victorian Torchwood lady shot the blow-fish alien, but he came back anyway, and considering that this won't have been the last time that something like that happened, he had to develop some kind of mental coping mechanism, something that the human brain with its ability to get used to almost everything is frighteningly good at. That he isn't actually part of TW even when he's been working for them for decades - they forced him. That he's using them for his own purposes. That in the end he's still helping to protect Earth. Judging from episodes like Sleeper and Asylum Jack doesn't even see people any longer when he perceives someone as an alien threat. He almost completely blocks out any possible moral dilemma, because anything else would probably have made what he does impossible a long time ago. [*] And considering that that they're operating outside of any control, with absolute power over whoever falls into their hands and responsible to no one except their own conscience, all things considered, they could probably do even worse.

The fracture lines are showing in episodes like Meat and Reset, when Jack, the Jack who'd been tied to a chair and was being shot and electrocuted and threatened with permanent imprisonment, the Jack who is stranded on Earth and wants to go back to a home that doesn't exist any longer except in his memory, suddenly makes a 180 degree turn and completely identifies with the aliens when they're very obviously - and only then - the victims of someone else's exploitation.

The arguments Jack uses in the discussion with PC Andy, Gwen and Ianto aren't even logical any more in the end, grasping at straws, but he's not only defending his current (and obviously untenable) position, but also his choices over the last century. Because if it's that easy - giving asylum -, what excuse does he have for not trying that before? For very likely not even having thought about it before?

[*] How long did it take Gwen to accept Jack's treatment of aliens, after her initial outrage? Gwen's coping mechanism, apart from telling herself she's doing this to help people, is being nice about it, and ignoring the fact that being nice doesn't actually help when you're going to torture and kill people, and that kind of self-deception isn't in Jack's nature - if it ever was he's learned a long while ago the meaninglessness of it. Gwen didn't think at all for most of S1, just went along with it, swept along, and only started getting a bit more independent once Jack left, which showed in her decision not to retcon Rhys after Meat. But I still wonder how Asylum would have gone and ended without PC Andy again and again shaking her out of it and reminding her that Frida was actually a person.

Ianto... Ianto's so quiet it's hard to tell; preventing something like Canary Wharf from happening ever again is probably high on his list of priorities, but the fact that he came so quickly to the conclusion that someone in the future of Torchwood was sending Frida for their benefit makes it likely that he, maybe even more than Gwen, recognised how problematic some of the things they were doing were, and because he actually worked in TW central he would have been better equipped to judge just how much of a difference Jack was actually making. But Ianto, like Jack, is willing to forgive a lot for love.

2. Golden Age

Didn't do a lot for me, to be perfectly honest, the premise seemed a bit... extreme, maybe? Or maybe it's because I'm not British? And Ianto must be getting a bit tired by now of almost getting killed by Jack's psychotic exes...

'I just can't die, no matter how hard I try.' (Jack)

Was Jack actively trying at one point, hoping that it would finally stick, or did he just not care at all? (me, after Fragments and the 1300something deaths) Which I guess answers that question. And a pretty awful thing to say with that kind of offhandedness.

'I was only obeying orders.' And admittedly that phrase has very likely a less ominous ring to a British ear, but my brain can't stop itself from thinking, when else, where else, doing what else?

'Since when have you obeyed orders?' (Ianto)

Ianto is has probably made some educated guesses about Jack that are more right than wrong, but he's wrong here, because Jack clearly did then, even if it meant hurting someone he loved, and probably in a lot of other situations, because TW would hardly have tolerated someone who sabotaged them at every turn. They'd just have stuck him in the cell next to the weevil, or the contemporary equivalent thereof. The cell with the weevil, even. (Which, come to think of it, I wonder if they did, and how often, before he finally gave up.) Clearly the story about how exactly he came to join Torchwood is not one of Jack's favourite dinner time anecdotes.

3. The Dead Line

Good story, enjoyed it. Would have loved to see that one, too.

Really liked that Ianto has finally advanced to some kind of officially recognised boyfriend status, so that he gets to sit beside Jack while Gwen and Rhys go out to investigate, which is also where I could almost start to suspect that TPTB are actually reading my posts because that fixes my admittedly maybe not wholly rational S1 pet peeve with Gwen's death watch while Ianto secretly snuggles Jack's coat.

Ianto's speech was beautiful and quite heartbreaking (as was the music accompanying it, as well as the 'not just a blip in time' end), and didn't surprise me at all; this was pretty much what I expected from Ianto - no illusions about what he's doing and what he has and hasn't, and suffering from it. It shouldn't be so hard for him.

Because Ianto is a tad too fatalistic about the dying young thing (like his desperate 'Let me go, I want to be with them' in Dead Souls, when compared to Gwen's instinctive 'So not listening' rejection; and while Gwen may be cautious about children and aware of the danger she's in, she doesn't expect to die, and sure as hell didn't marry Rhys thinking, oh well, at least we won't have to worry about divorce, since I'll be dead in a couple of years anyway). Underneath Ianto's calm exterior there are all the wounds that never really had time to heal, Canary Wharf, Lisa, before they were brutally reopened by Toshiko and Owen's deaths. I find that a bit worrying (and Jack should, too), because there's being realistic and there's self-fulfilling prophecies.

It's the same in his relationship with Jack - he's rebuilt this his facade after Lisa's death, re-established the ironic, snarky persona, realistic and without illusions, self-sufficient, not admitting to need anything or daring to demand anything. He knows he got as far as he did by luck and determination, slipping under Jack's radar and playing by Jack's don't-ask,-don't-tell rules in a way Gwen can't and doesn't want to [**] and all the while afraid to trigger Jack's centuries' worth of relationship issues, afraid of being the next one left behind, losing Jack even earlier than he expects to lose him, by pushing too hard, asking too much, that he needs Jack to be in a coma - and even then the 'promise' of not bringing it up again - to finally tell him, if not in those exact words, how much he loves him, and how much he would - will - miss him, not if, but when Jack leaves him. Not asking for anything even then, just a chance to bring out his fears. And when the probability of an early death is a twisted sort of a bright side to that, since it will possibly spare him the pain of having Jack walk out on him, things are not good.

Personally I think this is the next break-down/explosion in the making, unless Jack finally starts looking beyond his own issues, now that he knows. (Although speaking of explosions, as far as Ianto's 'You don't care about me' accusation in Cyberwoman is concerned, if he can't talk about any of that to a non-comatose Jack now, Jack would probably have had to be telepathic to notice that something was wrong then. Jack isn't a saint, but that was all happening in Ianto's mind, stress, guilt, trauma, too much deception, too much responsibility for him to handle, attraction, wanting more and being unable to even ask for it, except maybe on the most superficial sexual level; not even being able to fully admit to himself that this was what he wanted...)

I think it would actually help if Jack quit the mysterious act and just for once told the truth, the whole truth, even if it isn't pretty and might take some of the heroic shine off him, instead of leaving Ianto in the dark with a patchwork of evidence and anecdotes and the odd bit of truth, guessing and assuming the worst, because judging from Ianto's 'You've already lived a thousand lifetimes,' while he may be right about some things, he still doesn't know all that much about Jack. He knows that Jack isn't happy with his immortality, and that he's lonely, but I don't think he's fully aware how Jack, after something like maybe two lifetimes - not a thousand, even if all that earlier hopping back and forth in time might suggest otherwise - is very much still struggling and getting used to it all; not as jaded as Ianto supposes, and still hurting too much and trying to protect himself from getting hurt, from the certainty that Ianto will die (five years or fifty) and he won't; again. And covering it up, much like Ianto himself.

Maybe S3 will fix/fixes/fixed that, but none of the audio plays really tells us anything about Jack's feelings. I sort of do wonder if he's actually trying to protect Ianto and himself from getting in too deep. Possibly maybe. He's definitely blaming himself for Tosh and Owen in Dead Souls, and I wonder if part of him isn't wondering if he has any right to do this, bringing people into this, yes, to help save Earth, but also to be his ersatz family, to alleviate his solitude, and then getting them killed. He knows he'll have to watch Ianto die, sooner or later, and almost certainly will hurt him before that, one way or the other. In Dead Souls after the immediate crisis is over Jack doesn't even ask about Ianto, it's Gwen who reassures him, unasked, which seems a bit cold, unless he's actually afraid to ask. Maybe he thinks it was a mistake that he allowed this to happen, that he didn't, couldn't, tell Ianto what he told Gwen, go home, eat lasagna, get a life, get a boyfriend, girlfriend, dog, picket fence, forget about Torchwood, you'll probably be happier; here's a pill. I think with Gwen in early S1 he's definitely playing a game of pushing the borders of his loneliness - first retconning her after talking to her, then at the shooting range, before pulling back and sending her home to her boyfriend. Ianto in a lot of ways took these decisions away from him, and I think Jack is still in two minds about how he feels about that and what to do about it.

Jack's options are straight-out loneliness, or, like Gwen recognises in Dead Souls, the loneliness of having friends and lovers die on him, but I think Jack can recognise that he needs and actually wants someone to anchor him in this life, the here and now, even if it's only for a time, even if it costs him, because the other options are worse. Chaos and stars and life and death, questions and answers, 'and sometimes I think I just need a... coffee.' A place to at least call home.

No idea how it'll turn out; I'm almost afraid to watch S3.

[**] Gwen's reaction to Jack's absence and return is much more confrontational, and the fact that he just won't tell her about his past is clearly a deal-breaker for her, while Ianto is barely asking the one thing he needs to know and can't not ask, whether Jack is actually planning on staying. He navigates the minefield that is having a personal conversation with Jack much more carefully, waiting for openings when Jack might actually be willing to talk, like in TtLM or FootR.

What I do believe is that Jack will be fighting as long and as hard as possible that no one whom he was close to will ever be just a blip in time to him. This is after all the man who cares enough to regularly check on someone whom he's dated three decades earlier, for a few weeks, to see if she's okay. Jack's when, what & with whom anecdotes might be occasionally annoying, but he's clearly holding on to these memories.

Which is how I think he eventually turned into the Face of Boe - he didn't want to forget anyone and needed a bigger brain for that. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it. :)


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 19th, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC)
He didn't want to forget anyone and needed a bigger brain for that. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.
I kind of like that reasoning.
Jul. 19th, 2009 03:44 pm (UTC)
It'd kind of fit Jack. And after so many millennia being pretty presumably isn't the most important thing any longer (unless you're Lady Cassandra, that is)...
Aug. 25th, 2009 08:47 am (UTC)
OMG the things you write! *adores* I... totally have NO time to comment properly, so instead I'll only focus on the very, very last point:

Which is how I think he eventually turned into the Face of Boe - he didn't want to forget anyone and needed a bigger brain for that. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it. :)
Because - there is fic! Brilliant, brilliant fic that you should read RIGHT NOW: Everyman. Starts at the very end of S3 (the burning pyre) and then... pure wonderfulness! :)

ETA: Re-read the fic in question, and realised that I mis-remembered. STILL - it is a wonderful, wonderful read!

Edited at 2009-08-25 01:35 pm (UTC)
Aug. 25th, 2009 07:39 pm (UTC)
*blush* Thank you, and thanks for the rec, that was really beautiful. It's good to read something to remind one that it won't end on that depressing note for Jack, even if everything looks so hopeless now...

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


solitary summer

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