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Oct. 26th, 2009

Things I missed the first (& second) time, part 2.

Mary and Jack and the Philoctetes reference in Greeks Bearing Gifts: it wasn't obvious in S1/pre-DW S3 finale context, but in hindsight the analogy fits Jack even better than Mary, because Philoctetes wasn't a criminal, or political prisoner, or (as she claims) forgotten. But the odd thing is, the version Jack tells ('He got into an argument and was marooned on the island of Lemnos for about ten years.') is not the traditional/canonic one either; Philoctetes was left behind by the rest of the Greek army after he'd been bitten by a snake and the wound festered and they couldn't bear the stench and cries of pain.

'What are you?' — 'I don't know.' — 'And you would have put me in a cage.'


Of course a lot of things become clearer in hindsight, but even so a good part of Jack's story was being told, or at least foreshadowed in the silences to all the questions he doesn't answer, or story-lines that are, ostensibly, about something else.

'Doesn't it get lonely, at night?'

'All that deception because he couldn't bear to live without her. So, have you ever loved anyone that much?' He has to bear it. 'Can' has nothing to do with it.

There's a whole arc from Jack's weary, too-knowing silence at the end of Countycide, when Gwen needs to find out why they did it, to how Tosh's despair about not being able to live with the ugly side of humanity the pendant showed her ('I can't stand it any more, the weight of it. The depravity. The fear. It fills me up. [...] I can't forget the things I've seen, the things I've heard. It's like a curse, soemthing the gods sent to drive someone mad.') is intercut with Jack standing on the church tower waiting for a glimpse of the TARDIS, or her question at the end of the episode about how she can live with that knowledge, that he can't answer either, only brush away her tears, to Jack's 'I wouldn't wish that on her. I'd sooner kill her right now,' in The Keep Killing Suzie, and the full revelation of Jack's own despair in Out of Time. ('You can't take away our names. For God's sake, man, it's all we've got left,' is quite telling considering that Jack did just that, leave even his name behind.)

Combat is a warning about what happens when you give in to that despair and fail to find or even look for any kind of positive meaning in life, and Captain Jack Harkness is a reminder of the opposite—heroism, responsibility, duty, love. The first time I listened to the DVD commentary I was actually wondering where JB was going with all the talk about self-discovery, but he was right, it is that for Jack; his struggle with the concept of a heroism he wants but can't really have any more ('He can't bail out because his whole plane is on fire. But his men all made it back to safety.') leads straight to his self-sacrifice in End of Days ('What if everything has been leading to this moment? Maybe the reason I couldn't die before this was so I cuold make this sacrifice.'), and confronting his loneliness ('There is no one.') to the the kiss and decision to turn the thing with Ianto into something more serious even if it wasn't going to last, which I think was already essentially more or less made then, and not in the year that never was, even if Jack keeps struggling with this until Ianto tells him what the original Captain Harkness told him then - make the most of now.

In hindsight, even Eugene's wait for the alien to come and get the eye could be seen as reflecting Jack's own century-long wait for the Doctor to come back and pick him up again...


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 26th, 2009 12:30 am (UTC)
I think you're dead on with the idea of Jack as Philoctetes. I don't think it was unintentional, either, how the two 'aliens' tell the story. Mary twists it to fit her own experience, and Jack applies his worldview to it, which I'm thinking owes a lot to his Time Agency days and what bits he's caught here and there, cause he knows a lot but it comes more from experience, he's not really a scholar. It makes sense to me that he'd synthesise the story to what it really comes down to (even though it's a lot more than that), because he's a pragmatic kind of guy and also, he loves going for the punchline, he'll make anything funny if he can.

And of course now that you mention it, Tosh reminds me a lot of Faust in that episode.
Oct. 26th, 2009 02:50 pm (UTC)
I'm actually a bit embarrassed it took me so long to notice. I don't think it's unintentional either, because I assume the backstory about how Jack ended up on Earth must have been fixed at that point, even with half a year between EoD and Utopia. In hindsight I think it's really intentional foreshadowing, and we're meant to make the connection when Mary asks him what he is, and he doesn't know even that...

And of course there's the fact that Jack doesn't lock her into a cell, but just kills her; no questions, no regrets...
Oct. 26th, 2009 10:53 am (UTC)
Of course a lot of things become clearer in hindsight, but even so a good part of Jack's story was being told, or at least foreshadowed in the silences to all the questions he doesn't answer, or story-lines that are, ostensibly, about something else.
Yes, very much so. I really must to a proper re-watch of my own, because I love delving down below the surface, and when I first watched I wasn't really aware that there was anything there. (I really only watched TW and DW for entertainment until the end of S3 of DW.)

Thank you lots for your thoughts!
Oct. 26th, 2009 03:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you for commenting!

I actually only started to rewatch because I wanted to make sure I hadn't been drifting too far into fanfiction territory and to spare myself the embarrassment of posting several thousand words of meta only to have someone comment, 'But in episode X Jack/Ianto says/does XYZ!', but it's been an interesting experience so far...

BTW - a very belated Happy Birthday! :)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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