Torchwood: Out of the Rain
I’ve noticed that people are increasingly dissatisfied with the progress of the Jack/Ianto relationship on Torchwood. ‘Hold on’, they’re saying, ‘we were promised a slowly building relationship between these two, whereas in fact we’ve had the Owen + Tosh show, and last week we got Jack mooning after Gwen. Then we get an episode where Jack and Ianto spend most of the onscreen time together, and what do we get? Nothing.’
And that’s true really. For characters who are sleeping together, these two appear to have no other connection at all. Jack does not comfort Ianto when Ianto is visibly upset, nor does he pick him up when he’s been attacked by the ghostmaker. Ianto does not ask Jack for support, and when at the end he is shaken and frightened he walks abruptly away, as if afraid that Jack is going to say something.
So what is going on with this relationship? Is it a case of veiled homophobia – in that we are happily shown bedroom scenes with Gwen and Rhys, Owen and any woman he can get his hands on, Tosh and Tommy, but are fobbed off with faint kisses in the case of the m/m relationship?
Or is it something else? I have to admit that after last week’s episode – when Jack chased after Gwen at her wedding and danced like a block of stone when forced to acknowledge Ianto – I was deeply disappointed at what looked like a real set back for this relationship that I cared about. But strangely, though everyone else is still feeling that dismay this week, I am oddly reassured by Out of the Rain.
Here we have an opportunity to see how Jack and Ianto interact when they’re together and on their own. And what we see, underneath the professionalism – the fact that they work together flawlessly as a team – is a side of Jack that doesn’t come out anywhere else.
This is a quieter Jack – a Jack less focussed on being the legend of Jack Harkness. Less of the big smiles and the innuendo and the big centre of attention hero personality. More calm, more honesty, more… relaxation, in a way, as though a mask has been dropped.
At the same time there is this noticeable lack of physical contact. Now, in the normal course of things, Jack touches everyone; he’s a very tactile person. But he doesn’t touch Ianto. This reminded me of the ‘asking out on a date’ scene in the first episode. Jack tries to ask Ianto out; Ianto makes sure there’s a desk between them before he even considers it.
So in Out of the Rain I don’t get the impression that Ianto is hankering for physical contact and being rebuffed – I get the impression that he’s relaxed, content, working well and even coming out of his shell a little. And this makes me think that the lack of physical contact is in there because that’s what Ianto wants.
There is, to my mind, an almost tender quality to the silences in this episode; a sense of a relationship which is existing without drama, without needing to be affirmed or shouted about. Again to my mind the fact that Jack does not pick Ianto up, does not appear concerned for his safety is a positive thing – Jack trusts Ianto to be OK, and with good reason, because we’ve seen that Ianto can handle himself. He doesn’t need chivalry.
I suppose what I’m saying is that it could be a disappointing sell out, or it could be that quiet, undemonstrative but content calm is the key-note of the Jack/Ianto relationship. In which case I think that’s rather interesting – unexpected, but very believable, given that they are both men who need to heal from too much pain in their pasts.
I intend to wait and see what the writers do next with the pairing before completely ruling out the ‘sell out’ option, but for now I’m oddly reassured.