Torchwood: Fragments

As tonight is the finale of season 2, I thought I’d better attempt to write something about Fragments before tonight’s episode swept all that away. But despite enjoying Fragments best of all the episodes this season, I don’t seem to have coherent thoughts about it. In fact I have – appropriately enough – just fragments of reaction.

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1. Jack

Not particularly pleased to see either John or Grey back. The whole ‘lost brother’ storyline for Jack seems one crisis too many. I mean, being an intergalactic time travelling con-man, who saw his best friend killed at age 16, was totally amoral until redeemed by true love in the form of the Doctor, was subsequently made immortal and then abandoned by the Doctor, spent a couple of hundred years of serial suicide only in order to be rejected by the Doctor again… was this not *enough*? Isn’t an absent (possibly evil) brother and psychotic ex a little tiny bit of overkill? Seriously, do we need to know any more about Jack’s tragic past, when there are aliens to hunt and the world to save on a regular basis?

This is my resistance to heroes coming through, probably. The piling on of ways in which Jack is special only risk making me dislike him for an attention grabbing tosser.

Of course, being an attention grabbing tosser is part of Jack’s charm, but I would hope that the writers themselves were aware of where they were in danger of going over the top. However, I seem to be the only one I know who doesn’t find Jack’s tragic past fascinating, so perhaps it’s just me.

2.Owen

On the subject of tragic pasts; it really says something about how obnoxious Owen used to be that it’s taken being dumped by a potential true love, being killed, being brought back as a zombie and then being given a tragic past in which he was a much nicer person to make him even remotely likable. It’s almost become touching, the fact that even after all of that, he’s still a git 🙂

3. Toshiko

I’m afraid I was too busy being horrified at UNIT to notice whether this told us anything new about Tosh. We already knew she was a technical genius and a simultaneously strong but fragile person. I suppose it puts a new slant on her relationship with Jack, though sadly (yet again) casting him as the big damn hero. That ‘silhouetted in the light of the door’ shot was so unsubtle it made me want to throw things. Yes, I get the message, thanks!

But really, UNIT as some kind of Guantanamo bay? Tosh with marks on her face that indicate she’s been beaten up?! ‘Your rights as a citizen have been revoked’? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything so chilling. Have I missed something, because this is not the Britain I live in – or if it is, I want to know so that I can make it stop! It adds an ugly note to the fact that Martha is working for these people, and it makes Jack’s ‘I am your saviour’ entrance deeply distasteful, because it’s quite clear that he works with these people too.

4. Ianto
But now onto the squee. What can I say about Ianto’s backstory that hasn’t already been said by the hoards of other people who were totally delighted by it? It’s certainly tipped me over from watching Torchwood with mild liking and interest to being completely invested in the Jack/Ianto relationship, because Ianto is so cool!

I’m not one of those people who thinks that Ianto was born in a suit – I look on his appearance in Countrycide as being his normal mode of dressing, so seeing him in jeans didn’t immediately make me go ‘oh, Ianto’s trying to seduce Jack’. If anything, I thought this was normal, pre-Torchwood, casual Ianto, who had thought that getting himself into a position in which he could rescue Jack from life threatening peril would be enough to earn him a job. Then when it wasn’t, he tried appealing to Jack’s sympathy – ‘I’m emotionally damaged and I’ll work for nothing.’ When those two approaches didn’t work, however, he finally resorted to appealing to Jack’s baser nature by making himself pretty – putting on a nice suit – and moving the low key attraction that had been there from the start right out in the open. (Seriously, who puts on a suit to go pterodactyl hunting if they don’t have an ulterior motive?)

Ianto is very desperate to get into Torchwood for Lisa’s sake, and I think that he would not have refused to sleep with the boss if that’s what it took. But I don’t tend to read this as that sort of an offer. A woman who makes herself pretty in order to get a man to do something is not necessarily offering sex, not even if she flirts as well – she’s just improving the man’s mood; improving the odds. So I see it as Ianto making himself pretty merely in order to make Jack feel more receptive to him. The real message is ‘look how useful I am at catching pterodactyls (also I look good in a suit), not ‘give me a job and you can have me.’

Why do I think this? I think partly because the director says the segment was intended as a romantic comedy – and to me it comes across as too amusing and lighthearted for something that says ‘and Jack recruited Ianto as his personal whore.’

Also, I think it’s pretty obvious that Ianto is taken by surprise by the sexual spark between him and Jack. He’ll do flirting, he’ll do wearing nice clothes for the boss, but put in a perfect position to offer more he doesn’t do so. He walks away, clearly distressed. At his moment of triumph he’s clearly thinking ‘oh shit, what have I got myself into?’ as well as ‘God, I quite like him and now I have to betray him’, as well as ‘God, I want him and how can I stop myself from betraying Lisa?’

But Ianto’s distress also points out his strength – he’s in absolute mental anguish, but he’s still planning, still making sensible on the spot decisions, still calmly going through what has to be done, and persisting until he gets what he wants. This man is no poor, unfortunate woobie whose love Jack is using and abusing. If there was a character in this series who could put up with Jack and his issues, it would be Ianto.

And I think that’s why this segment made everyone squee so much; it showed the Jack/Ianto relationship was in place from day one. There is no way that these two are mere indifferent fuckbuddies. It makes the emotional meltdown of both characters in Cyberwoman suddenly make total sense; they each felt betrayed by the other and that hurt because they each cared about the other.

It even makes sense of why Ianto spends Countrycide in civvies. If he wore a suit to go dinosaur hunting, it wasn’t practicality that made him dress casually on the field trip. It was a mute dig against Jack.

So it turns out that this was a relationship that began on the first day they met, survived Ianto using T3 (and by extension, Jack) to try and save his girlfriend, survived the real Captain Jack, and Jack running off to the Doctor without saying goodbye, and is now stronger than it ever was. After bringing Owen back and unleashing Death on the world, Jack can hardly claim any moral superiority in the matter of ‘foolish things I did to save someone I loved’. And now it only remains to be seen whether the relationship can stand up to Jack’s psychotic ex-boyfriend.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Ianto isn’t doomed. It would be very like me to have fallen in love with an awesome character just in time for the show to kill him off. (I managed it with Qui-Gon Jinn, Marcus from Babylon 5, One-Eye in Elfquest, both Norrington and Gillette in PotC and numerous others whose names escape me for now. I have a long track record of this!)

It would also be very like the show to get rid of Jack’s boyfriend in a horribly tragic way in order to give Jack something new to angst over.

But I’ll cling to the thought that when has Torchwood ever done anything expected? And hope that Jack/Ianto carries on strong into the next season. It is at least 76% of why I’m watching the show at all 🙂

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