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Torchwood: Out of the Rain

March 14, 2008

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.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Helen Graham permalink
    March 15, 2008 10:28 am

    Very well observed indeed. There’s always a lot of distracting ‘noise’ on screen – and no doubt this derives at least in part from differing production agendas, even perhaps from a clumsy attempt to appeal to all sexual demographics. But as more sophisticated observers of TW than I am have already pointed out, if you trace the history of Ianto’s placement on screen* (back as far as series 1), the ‘noise’ disappears. In any case, there’s no mistaking the J/I ‘tone’ in ‘Out of the Rain’ – and that’s there irrespective of where ‘team TW’ take the story from now on.

    *Maybe you’ve already read this stuff? In case not, you might be interested to follow it up – which I’m sure you can via Crabby Lioness’ livejournal (don’t have the link to hand, but she writes a lot on the Torch_wood site and even if you just google her…..)

  2. March 15, 2008 12:04 pm

    Oh, thanks for the tip about crabby_lioness! No, I hadn’t seen her post before – I’ve been mostly reading posts by rivier who took a much more pessimistic view. I was trying to work out why I personally didn’t feel the pessimism. But I can see that crabby_lioness has covered it all!

    I do get the impression that this is a relationship which is structuring itself around what Ianto is comfortable with. And yes, if you look at the progression from series 1 it’s gone from Ianto wants to kill Jack, to Ianto propositioning Jack, to Ianto staking a claim on Jack on the dancefloor, to this episode in which they both work well together, chat about their lives and look comfortable and relaxed together.

    But they’ve always been a really low-key relationship, haven’t they – it’s only in moments of crisis that you get demonstrations of affection. But as Gwen’s comment this episode points out, I don’t think you’re supposed to forget that they are now an acknowledged item – however ‘unromantic’ in its expression.

    Thanks for the comment btw! 🙂

  3. May 14, 2008 1:15 am

    I think people should also keep in mind the comments John Barrowman made in an interview about Jack. Jack is a Dr. Who character and as such can not be placed in situations that they think are too adult. So Jack will probably never have a bed scene with Ianto. The writers have to keep this in mind at all time.

  4. May 14, 2008 8:37 am

    Oh, I hadn’t heard of that, Shanti! Good point! But I think it’s less the absence of bed scenes and more the absence of much indication that Jack cares about Ianto which is the problem. I think it’s there, and that neither of them are particularly demonstrative when it comes to things that really matter to them. But I think that it’s all a bit too low-key for many people.

  5. Gemma permalink
    September 24, 2008 5:51 am

    Shanti your comment doesn’t make sense.

    Jack may very well be a ‘Doctor Who’ character, but he is on Torchwood now.

    An adult show.

    We have already seen him and Ianto engage in what was quite obviously a sexual act in ‘Adam’.

    Doctor Who and Torchwood are completely different.

    Don’t forget this.

  6. September 24, 2008 8:39 am

    I agree with you, Gemma, that Torchwood is an adult show, and that we have seen Jack and Ianto in a sexual situation. I have heard quite a few people worry that we rarely see them in an intimate situation, though. You know? They do sex and they do work, but if the date ever happened we didn’t get to see that.

    My own opinion is that when they’re together they probably do talk about work, but I understand that a lot of people would like more of a gesture of emotional commitment from Jack to Ianto. I think that’s kind of unlikely, given who Jack is, but that Ianto seems happy enough with how things are going, so why should I complain?

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