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Aug. 10th, 2009

Okay. I give up. I don't get it. I've rewatched the first two and a half episodes now, and I still don't understand where all that clingy!abused!Ianto and asshole!Jack and tragic!unrequited!love is coming from. I didn't see any of that the first time - in fact I had a lot less issues in this respect with CoE than I had with S2 -, but after everything I've read since I thought (was afraid, to be more precise) it'd be pretty much unavoidable. I'm still not seeing it.

And what's really ironic is that I always thought I was unhealthily obsessive about power imbalances in (fictional) relationships. (Real life relationships too, at that.) My favourite long-time OTP are Delenn and Sheridan from B5 and you don't get more carefully power-balanced and partnershipy in every way than these two. I do have the tendency to get interested in relationships that are a bit fucked up, the kind that survive a lot and still remain intact (Buffy and Spike, Angel and Wesley) but I always believed that unequal relationships were the ultimate no-no for me. Like the later X-Files seasons and the resolution of the Mulder/Scully arc in the finale, when Scully doesn't even get asked any longer what she wants to do, just dragged along on Mulder's quest for the Truth that is Out There, which still makes me angry after all this time, and I'm saying this as someone who was quite fond of the pairing for a while. Buffy/Angel? Yikes. Not romantic.

Or Brian and Michael in QaF:US - I could barely even watch them, because I found Michael's puppy dog adoration and jealousy and how it fucks up his relationships so completely embarrassing, not to mention the way Brian uses him, knowing this (and, to once again qualify, I mostly really do like Brian otherwise). To me that wasn't even friendship, much less love. (Which is why I was a bit surprised when I was finally watching the British version and found myself cheering for Stuart and Vince...)

So I've really been wondering if I do have issues that I wasn't aware of on top of all the issues that I am aware of, or... actually I don't know what the alternative would be.


What I'm seeing is two people working out the terms of a very complicated relationship.

Take Day Three, the 'We better make the most of it' scene.

Jack clearly isn't happy to discuss his dying and coming back again, most likely because very probably every single discussion he's ever had about that with people he loved has been painful and doomed from the start, and even addressing the subject is a reminder of every person he lost over it, one way or the other. So when Ianto wants to discuss this now, after Jack's most recent and most dramatic death that took the Hub and the remainder of Torchwood with it, I think Jack more or less excepts Ianto to be finally unable to deal with it. He can't change it, he can't (and won't) lie about it, there's no point in sugar-coating the truth, so it may sound a bit brusque, but I think that's also because he's essentially preparing himself for Ianto to break off whatever relationship they've had so far. Especially when Ianto brings up the point about aging that bothered Alice so much she wanted Jack out of her life, just like her mother. Most recently a bare couple of days before. And Alice's other point, that Jack was dangerous to the people around him... well, the explosion already proved that, just in case Ianto (or Jack) needed another reminder.

And then it's a bit like the end of They Keep Killing Suzie all over again, with Ianto actually surprising Jack, pretty much declaring this a relationship - 'We better make the most of it then'. Because the thing is, Jack couldn't ask then, not after the whole Lisa disaster, and I don't think he believes he really has the right to offer a relationship that is fraught with so many issues and bound to be both painful and dangerous to the person he loved, so once again it has to be Ianto.

But looking at Jack's smile, I think it's pretty clear he's mostly happy about it. It's a bit bittersweet, not the usual brilliant movie star smile, because he can't ignore the knowledge that at one point this is going to hurt like hell, certainly him, more likely both of them, but it's genuine.



And considering all the 'love' vs. 'just sex' debates during S2, it's maybe worth pointing out that it's made very clear that Jack's reaction has nothing to do with kinky stopwatch sex this time ('the world is ending').

And at this point at the very latest? It's no longer unrequited.

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
timberwolfoz
Aug. 11th, 2009 12:26 am (UTC)
Haven't been able to bring myself to rewatch CoE yet, but what I do remember is the all but palpable warmth and accord between them -- to the point that when there was the discussion about couples I was thinking 'is there any doubt'?

As for 'unrequited' on a rewatch through s1 and s2, I thought 'Adam' was the point that left it in no doubt that it was returned. But then I'm just about up to 'Something Borrowed' and I recall there was much controversy then.

edited to add: And that smile you've pictured is almost identical to the smile at the end of 'Adam', only more wistful. Awwww.

Edited at 2009-08-11 12:28 am (UTC)
solitary_summer
Aug. 11th, 2009 12:40 am (UTC)
but what I do remember is the all but palpable warmth and accord between them

I completely agree. Throughout S2 I always thought there was a certain cautious distance between them that never quite went away, and that was gone from the start in CoE.

to the point that when there was the discussion about couples I was thinking 'is there any doubt'?

For me that seemed to be the point - that while they're still trying to figure out what to call it, we (and clearly everyone else from Gwen to the friend of Ianto's sister who spotted them in the restaurant) already see them acting and functioning as a couple in pretty much every way that counts.
timberwolfoz
Aug. 11th, 2009 01:02 am (UTC)
If you're assuming the writers are being consistent with their characterisation (hah!) they've decided to see how the relationship will go, but because of their history (their own different life experiences as well as their mutual past) are still stepping around each other and feeling their way, and by CoE (possibly due to the events of Exit Wounds and the last few eps of Dr Who s4 giving them that final push) they've decided to abandon the last shred of restraint wrt a relationship. And maybe the 'couple' issue is coming out issues now that the relationship is outside the protective shell of Torchwood (with the exception of the dance in 'Something Borrowed' their displays of affection are off the job or when they're alone) and they're negotiating the issues of a very complicated relationship.

I can certainly understand the latter -- with my ex., we were feeling out what to call each other -- fiancee? girlfriend? what? -- complicated by the fact that for most of the relationship it was an LDR conducted mostly by chat and email, which made it hard to explain to outsiders. And certainly, given that I was coming out and coming out in my own city when we met, there was a level of wariness/discomfort when out in public. Maybe I could understand Ianto more because I'd relatively recently been in (what appeared anyway) to be the same situation.
solitary_summer
Aug. 11th, 2009 07:52 am (UTC)
As far as consistency is concerned, I think it helped that RTD was much more involved in CoE than in S2, or at least that's what I gathered from his book. He made the decision to kill Owen instead of Ianto (which I've said before IMO is the reason why there is practically no development of the Jack/Ianto arc in the second half of S2), but I didn't have the impression he was as involved with S2 TW as he was with S4 DW where he was rewriting scripts and everything.

And maybe the 'couple' issue is coming out issues now that the relationship is outside the protective shell of Torchwood (with the exception of the dance in 'Something Borrowed' their displays of affection are off the job or when they're alone)

That's what I thought. And while I can't really draw on personal experience, it felt natural to me that Ianto would feel a bit insecure coming out to his family (after all, aliens aside, TW has a contemporary setting, so this still isn't such a complete non-issue, even if it is within Torchwood itself), and to me that didn't make him weak, or the show suddenly homophobic.
timberwolfoz
Aug. 11th, 2009 12:24 pm (UTC)
that didn't make him weak, or the show suddenly homophobic.

That? No. The jury's still out on the show beating us over the head that Ianto is now 'queer' or the fact that it's the gay lover of The Hero who gets bumped off while the hetero couple are largely untouched, however.

Edited at 2009-08-11 12:25 pm (UTC)
solitary_summer
Aug. 11th, 2009 12:47 pm (UTC)
I don't know if you read my post here - I simply don't feel qualified to judge.

I do see how it could look this way. OTOH... I think there's simply no way RTD wasn't aware how this could be seen. But since he clearly still wanted this specific story about Jack's sins from the past catching up with him, I think he also did his best to make it matter as much as possible, as tragic as possible, as heroic as possible, and as emotional as possible. I could of course be wrong. I honestly don't know.
solitary_summer
Aug. 11th, 2009 12:47 am (UTC)
Also, thanks. :) I really thought I was crazy or delusional or something. It's really strange how one and the same thing can be seen so differently.
timberwolfoz
Aug. 11th, 2009 01:08 am (UTC)
You're welcome. I suppose it's because we each bring our preassumptions and wishes and background to each viewing, but I've read reviews on shows and though 'were we even watching the same programme?'

I wonder sometimes if I interpret TW differently because I came to it relatively late (March last year) and saw up to episode 9 of s2, I think it was, in a solid block over a fortnight's worth of nightly viewings. It's frustrating, having missed out on a lot of meta. Especially now that rivier is so heartbroken and angry by CoE that she's locked her entries, meaning I didn't get to save some of her meta (I did get the one on KKBB, though, thank God.)

Which reminds me, I was going through your commentary on past episodes just then and you mentioned that there was a kiss cut from 'Adam'. Can you tell me about that?
solitary_summer
Aug. 11th, 2009 07:11 am (UTC)
Which reminds me, I was going through your commentary on past episodes just then and you mentioned that there was a kiss cut from 'Adam'. Can you tell me about that?

That was apparently a mistake - JB mentioned something in his autobiography about a scene in one of the early episodes where Ianto 'has a meltdown in the Hub one night, for reasons far to complicated to go into here, but if you've seen it, you'll know. I have to admit it's one of my favourite episodes to date. Anyway, while Jack comforts Ianto, he shifts from innocent consolation to a full-on passionate embrace and kiss'. (And no one yelled 'cut', so they kept on kissing for a couple of minutes or so...) I always thought that must have been Adam, but I think (don't ask me to quote a source, though) at some point later JB clarified it was actually the scene in TtLM.

(edited for stupid typo - sorry for the spam)

Edited at 2009-08-11 09:43 am (UTC)
timberwolfoz
Aug. 11th, 2009 12:26 pm (UTC)
That makes sense from the description, not that I'd call it a meltdown. And no worries on the spam, I've just double messaged you by forgetting to put a TW icon on the first reply!
elisi
Aug. 25th, 2009 07:52 am (UTC)
Hello again! I am *so* glad I found you! :)

I do have the tendency to get interested in relationships that are a bit fucked up, the kind that survive a lot and still remain intact (Buffy and Spike, Angel and Wesley)
Same here! (Spike/Buffy ruled my life for *years*, and still does, I suppose.)

Love your thoughts on the Day 3 scene - this is definitely how I see them too. Actually pretty much all of Jack/Ianto could have been written for me specifically... of course I'd have liked more on screen, but OTOH I like it when something just unfolds in the background, all 'show don't tell'. (antelope_writes has some fabulous posts about body language that I can hunt down for you if you're interested.) Also the fact that Jack answers when Ianto asks questions speaks volumes, since that is pretty much the ultimate show of trust on Jack's part.

Anyway, I love the 'trying to work out their relationship' part of CoE - it all worked beautifully, I thought.
solitary_summer
Aug. 25th, 2009 08:21 pm (UTC)
Also the fact that Jack answers when Ianto asks questions speaks volumes, since that is pretty much the ultimate show of trust on Jack's part.

That's exactly how I saw it. I thought that was noticeable even in S2, when Ianto already got a lot more serious answers than Gwen, despite all the Jack/Gwen subtext and deep looks, but in CoE it really stood out.

elisi
Aug. 25th, 2009 08:50 pm (UTC)
I thought that was noticeable even in S2, when Ianto already got a lot more serious answers than Gwen
You should really, really read antelope_writes! Especially her analysis of KKBB and A Day In The Death. (Long though. And if you have the time, follow the links to her talk about common body language in TW.)
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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