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Review: Torchwood S2 09 Something Borrowed

Now that was a Proper Superhero Wedding. How come Torchwood feels so much more like a well-done superhero comic book than Heroes? 

 (Probably because Torchwood doesn't take itself too seriously and keeps the angst to a manageable level.)

Bride in Peril - check.  Major Bad Guys Crash the Wedding - check.  Good Guys Counter-Crash the Wedding - check.  Secret Identities Revealed to Unsuspecting Family Member(s) - check.  "Stop the Wedding!" - check.  Family Member(s) Held Hostage - check.  Cataclysmic Brawl in the Aisle - close enough.  Least Powerful Guy Saves the Bride - check.

Bonus Points for Life-Threatening Pregnancy.  Double Bonus Points for Life-Threatening Alien Pregnancy.  Sitcom Bonus Points for Feuding Mothers-in-Law and Obnoxious Best Man.  Classical Bonus Points for Unwed Mother Going Into Labor in the Stables.

True Loves Conquers All - Check and Mate.

For the first time my husband and I have to award Torchwood Xenobiology points.  The Nostrovore's reproductive cycle was actually very realistic.  It beat their usual "Alien Hoodoo" by miles.

The only plot hole was the ballistics.  A shell that could blow her up like that should have done some damage to Rhys as well, but shock waves are so not a Whoniverse strong point.

But nit-picking aside, what did I think of the story? I thought it was the funniest, fluffiest, sweetest Torchwood episode ever.

On the morning of her wedding, Gwen finds that the nasty alien who bit her the night before has given her a surprise -- an instant, nearly full term pregnancy.  Her discovery has to be the funniest pregnancy reveal of all time. Kudos to Eve Myles for pulling it off.

Gwen consults with Jack and Owen.  She decides not to follow Torchwood procedure and report to the Hub for a few days of intense medical care.  No, she's going to get married first, untreated.  Jack, Owen, and later Rhys think this is a very bad idea, but Gwen throws screaming fits to get her way.  I would put that down to nerves and pregnancy hormones, but this is Gwen we're talking about. I love that Torchwood has an official procedure in place for unintended alien pregnancies. That is just so – them. 

One of the reasons weddings take place in special places on "sacred ground" (even secular weddings) is because they serve as a neutral territory on which diverse peoples can come together in reasonable peace.  Usually those peoples are only different families, but in this case it includes Torchwood and the "normal" world.  It takes sacred ground and ritual ceremonies to survive the shock from those two cultures colliding.

And that is the real reason Gwen is throwing hissy fits to have her wedding today instead of sensibly getting her medical condition seen to and staying safe from the fetus' deadly mother.  Gwen wants to live in both Torchwood's world and the "normal' world, and her wedding to Rhys represents her attempt to hang on to her "normal" life with both hands.  She simply can't let Torchwood take that bit of the "normal" world away from her, no matter how sensible it is or how many people the fetus' mother kills in the process.  Although she eventually vacillates from this hardline position, in the matter of some brides, many pregnant women, and everyone who's ever had a second thought about a bad idea.

In the meantime, Rhys provides an excellent example of the best that normalcy can offer, with his courage, steadfastness, and good sense.

Meanwhile Gwen's colleagues are having enough trouble dealing with their own personal lives.  Owen tries to disguise his discomfort with weddings (and probably other family events) with his work and his undead status, but eventually goes along to help save Gwen and gets caught up enough in the ceremony to ask Tosh for a dance.  Tosh is proud of Gwen for standing up for her life, but wonders if her tentative relationship with Owen will ever reach the same point  -- "til death does us part" sounds like a bad joke to her when one partner is already a walking corpse.  (Although not having a traditional Christian service eliminates that problem.)  Ianto is slowly coming out of the closet and inching his and Jack's relationship out into the public.  Meanwhile Gwen's wedding is pushing all sorts of buttons for Jack involving his immortality and 160 years worth of baggage.

If S1 Jack was too distant from his team, S2 Jack is too clingy.  It's a logical pendulum-swing reaction  considering what Jack went through on the Valiant, but it will be nice to see him get past this issue.  It must be said that his team is handling his clinginess very well.  No one has thrown a major bitch-fit about it, even though both Gwen and Owen have cause.  Not to say that both Gwen and Owen haven't yelled at him when his clinginess has caused them problems, but they've kept the yelling within reasonable levels.  And Ianto shows no sign of considering Jack's clinginess to Gwen or Owen as a threat to his own relationship with Jack.  I agree with him.  As I've said before, I don't think Jack is jealous of Rhys for having Gwen.  I think Jack is jealous of Gwen for having Rhys and the "normal" life he represents, a life that immortality denied Jack long before he joined Torchwood.  This is corroborated at the end of the episode, when he comes home to gaze pensively at a century-old picture of his own wedding.

There are many wonders that Torchwood can show a person, but there's one thing it can't give anyone, and that's normalcy.  Gwen values normalcy and is willing to fight for it.  She's not the only one.  Jack values normalcy as well, even though he can never have it; and he has shown over and over again that he is willing to fight for Gwen's right to have it, even against his own better judgment.  That's why he allows her to go through with the wedding instead of putting his foot down, even though it means a public gun battle with an alien and retconning the reception.

That is also why Jack offers the couple the only gift he and Torchwood can give them, the Illusion of Normalcy, in the form of drugged champagne so that they will only remember happiness about their wedding day. It isn’t real normalcy, since that is totally outside of Jack’s power to give. It’s only the illusion, and they wisely choose the truth instead.

But what about Jack and Ianto?  There was some significant Jack and Ianto in this episode, with them stepping out in public for the first time.  The way it was done reinforced an impression I've had since the latter part of S1, that Ianto was entering a relationship with Jack not as a single person coming together with another single person, but as a stepmother joining a dysfunctional family.  That's a very different dynamic, and it seems more in tune with what we're seeing on the screen.  I'm putting that analysis in a separate post which should be up in a day or so.

Coming soon:  Part 2 - Torchwood as a Dysfunctional Stepfamily: Jack and Ianto's Relationship Through S2 09 

Already here:  Part 3 - My Take on Jack and Ianto's Realtionship as of S2 09

Comments

( 74 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
crabby_lioness
Mar. 7th, 2008 07:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading. :)
candesgirl
Mar. 7th, 2008 05:32 pm (UTC)
Well said. I can't wait to see Part 2!

This is truly the first episode where I have liked Gwen as a character all the way through. She has had bits and pieces that have endeared her to me, but in this episode I adored her. And I have never loved Rhys more!

Jack is definitely clingy, and I think like you said, rightfully so. I think the team does well with it. He reminds me of a petulant child at times, but it is one of the many reasons I identify with his character. I like all his imperfections.

I think I might in the minority, but I really enjoyed the Janto moments in this episode. I have seen a lot of bashing on LJ and the like over it. I don't think I have seen any other episode get so scrutinized by the fangirls, myself included. But like I said, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought it was funny, touching, sad and amusing all in one.



crabby_lioness
Mar. 7th, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC)
There seems to be a vocal minority who dislike this episode.

Love your icon!
fajrdrako
Mar. 7th, 2008 06:00 pm (UTC)
Enjoyed your comments very much, and agree with most of them. Look forward to the "Ianto as stepmother" analysis.

I particularly agree with the "superheroes done right" assessment. They do it with such verve, and such a sense of fun.

Jack, Owen, and later Rhys think this is a very bad idea, but Gwen throws screaming fits to get her way. I would put that down to nerves and pregnancy hormones, but this is Gwen we're talking about.

This is Gwen with both wedding nerves and pregnancy hormones together - or maybe Gwen with wedding hormones and pregnancy nerves. In any case, it's a force of unstoppable might. Jack once stopped an advancing Dalek army. But Gwen in full stubbornness? I don't think so!


crabby_lioness
Mar. 7th, 2008 07:55 pm (UTC)
I like my superheroes with a whole lot of fun and a side order of angst, not the other way around.
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1flying_wonder
Mar. 7th, 2008 06:12 pm (UTC)
Great review! Thanks for seeing this ep for what it was intended and nothing more.

Bride in Peril - check. Major Bad Guys Crash the Wedding - check. Good Guys Counter-Crash the Wedding - check. Secret Identities Revealed to Unsuspecting Family Member(s) - check. "Stop the Wedding!" - check. Family Member(s) Held Hostage - check. Cataclysmic Brawl in the Aisle - close enough. Least Powerful Guy Saves the Bride - check. Bonus Points for Life-Threatening Pregnancy. Double Bonus Points for Life-Threatening Alien Pregnancy. Sitcom Bonus Points for Feuding Mothers-in-Law and Obnoxious Best Man. Classical Bonus Points for Unwed Mother Going Into Labor in the Stables.

True Loves Conquers All - Check and Mate.


You win at life! Looking forward to the next part.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 7th, 2008 07:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
peg22
Mar. 7th, 2008 06:37 pm (UTC)
very much love this and agree, especially with the Jack and Gwen. I have always thought that Gwen held something normal and human for Jack.
And am really happy they have brought Rhys into the fold.
Great analysis and waiting for the next!
crabby_lioness
Mar. 7th, 2008 07:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
uncledark
Mar. 7th, 2008 06:39 pm (UTC)
How come Torchwood feels so much more like a well-done superhero comic book than Heroes?

'Cause Tim Kring (creator/producer of Heroes) doesn't like comics. In an interview once, he said that he just doesn't get them, and was never interested in them until he saw how much money was made by well the mainstream recieved the X-Men movie.

Torchwood, on the other hand, is obviously produced by big ol' geeks. Or at least by folks who understand them.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 7th, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC)
That explains a lot. I'm reminded of Scott McCloud's talk about polishing the shine on the apple while not providing it any structure on the inside.

Jack Harkness is named after Marvel's biggest witch. These folks aren't afraid to where their fanboy badges on their sleeves, and it shows in the love they bring their work.
love_jackianto
Mar. 7th, 2008 07:16 pm (UTC)
Crabby Lioness

Great review. I really liked this episode, for all the things you mentioned. I loved the Jack/Ianto dancing scene, if the rest of the team didn't know about them I think they do now; plus I loved that smile on Jack's face. I wish I could have seen Ianto's face, though. I can't figure out why most people (in the fandom) are so angry; I've heard everything from 'Jack's just using Ianto, until he can get Gwen' to 'Ianto needs to grow a spine and dump Jack'. I really didn't see that at all. If anything Jack feels more like a father to Gwen in this episode, and if Ianto felt threatened by Jack/Gwen I think he would do more than just stand-back (Ianto does have one heck of a left hook).

In the dancing scene I noticed that Jack/Ianto and Gwen/Rhys were together, whilst Owen/Tosh were standing near to each other in the background. If that doesn't speak volumes about their respective relationships, I don't know what does. How I love the staging in this show.

When Jack was looking at all those pictures in the box, I noticed that they were all of Jack; that could mean that they were pictures he gave to lovers and he may have taken them back when the lover died. Either that, or he just likes to keep pictures of himself (this is Jack we're talking about).
crabby_lioness
Mar. 7th, 2008 07:58 pm (UTC)
It's not "most people", it's a shrill minority. And I completely agree with you about the staging.
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tencrush
Mar. 7th, 2008 09:44 pm (UTC)
Coming soon: Part 2 - Torchwood as a Dysfunctional Stepfamily: Jack and Ianto's Relationship Through S2 09

I look forward to reading it, your stuff usually gives me plenty to think about and I'm a bit lost on the Jack/Ianto thing lately. I think it's taken a weird direction into gratuitous kink and jokiness in the past few episodes that I'm having trouble understanding the point and significance of. But then I've kind of just disliked the past few episodes, generally, so maybe that's all it is.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 7th, 2008 09:52 pm (UTC)
Does anyone talk seriously about their current sex life in public? Aside from stand-up commedians? If you flat out asked me about my current sex life in a public place, I'd give you a "jokey" reply as well. If I bothered to answer you at all. Jack and Ianto's replies to the sorts of questions they've received over the past two episodes seem quite normal to me.
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katiebugs18
Mar. 7th, 2008 10:28 pm (UTC)
Jack coming home after the wedding to look at the picture of his wedding was such a wonderful add on at the end because for the most part, his behavior towards Gwen and her wedding was absolutely fine. But there were moments when his behavior seemed...uneven. Compare his behavior after Ryhs saves Gwen and Jack "sweeps her up" where he's playful and relieved and touchy feely but not really romantically so, compare that to his dance with Gwen where it clearly borders on the romantic. That moment seemed very uneven to me but put in context with the final scene with the picture of his wedding makes complete sense: he's not feeling romantic towards Gwen per say, it's more that he's remembering his wedding and what weddings mean and specifically what his wedding meant to him. He's remembering his feelings and what he tried to have probably knowing at the time that he couldn't have it.

The dance with Ianto was sweet. I'm curious if Ianto's father really was an expert tailor. It would explain his love of beautiful suits.

And it's probably needless to say but I'm really looking forward to Part 2. :-)
crabby_lioness
Mar. 8th, 2008 12:53 am (UTC)
Jack has 160 years with of baggage in his head, and he's only now starting to work through it.
phylogenetics
Mar. 7th, 2008 11:09 pm (UTC)
Your comments are probably one of the most well thought out ones I've read so far for this episode. The overlying theme of clingy!Jack is continued here as he relucantly deals with letting Gwen have a life outside of Torchwood.

I don't think Jack is jealous of Rhys for having Gwen. I think Jack is jealous of Gwen for having Rhys and the "normal" life he represents, a life that immortality denied Jack long before he joined Torchwood. This is corroborated at the end of the episode, when he comes home to gaze pensively at a century-old picture of his own wedding.

It baffles me that so many people seem to discount this last scene, which you have pointed out puts the entire previous dancing scene between Jack/Gwen into a different perspective. I see much of fandom crying about the Jack/Gwen dance saying that the entire thing shows Jack pining and his disregard for Ianto, whereas I believe that Jack was lost in memories of his own wedding as he danced with Gwen. And yes, that means he was not focused on Ianto when the two were dancing but feeling nostalgic for a long dead wife does not negate his feelings for his current beau (Ianto).



However, with that said, I do still think the entire season has suffered from some schizophrenic writing in regards to Jack and Gwen. It's as if some writers want to portray a tragic, star-crossed Jack/Gwen relationship while others want to show a brooding Jack that pines for Gwen's normalcy. Of one thing the writers have been consistent on is Gwen's 'thing' for Jack, which has been shown from KKBB all the way to this week's episode. I think this ruins her character since it makes her appear unfaithful when she is suppose to be the one with the high moral ground (or am I reading too much into her representation as the 'heart' of Torchwood?).

But anyways, I think, given the Eve saying that she won't cheat on Rhys this season, and the fact we have an Jack/Ianto episode coming up, I remain hopeful that the writer will clarify where the relationships are going so we won't have to argue Jack/Gwen vs. Janto until season three!

crabby_lioness
Mar. 8th, 2008 12:58 am (UTC)
I think Jack and Gwen have reached the point where they enjoy being romantic in a platonic way.
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yubsie
Mar. 8th, 2008 12:23 am (UTC)
I think Gwen wanted to go ahead with the wedding come hell or high water just so she could be done with PLANNING the bloody wedding. :p
crabby_lioness
Mar. 8th, 2008 12:33 am (UTC)
There is that.
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eandh99
Mar. 8th, 2008 12:57 am (UTC)
This puts words to some, if not all, of what I've been thinking since 08 and 09, and I'm looking forward to your "dysfunctional family" post because I think I can see where you're getting that idea. I'm still trying to put together all my thoughts on "why I can't like Gwen even though the writers really want me to, but why I think Jack can't let go of her".
crabby_lioness
Mar. 8th, 2008 02:37 am (UTC)
The family thing has been building since at least Countrycide, I've just got to finally work it out.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 8th, 2008 01:14 am (UTC)
If S1 Jack was too distant from his team, S2 Jack is too clingy. It's a logical pendulum-swing reaction considering what Jack went through on the Valiant, but it will be nice to see him get past this issue. It must be said that his team is handling his clinginess very well....And Ianto shows no sign of considering Jack's clinginess to Gwen or Owen as a threat to his own relationship with Jack.

Finally, someone who sees it that way aside from me! :) I don't honestly think that it's Jack in love with Gwen, any more than he was in love with Rose. I think both women believed in him and didn't put up with his crap, and he cherishes that. And yeah, he's being clingy. I have to assume that the Master killed his team in that year that never was.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 8th, 2008 03:11 am (UTC)
Jack needs all the true friendships he can get, including romantic friendships.
songspinner9
Mar. 8th, 2008 01:15 am (UTC)
If S1 Jack was too distant from his team, S2 Jack is too clingy. It's a logical pendulum-swing reaction considering what Jack went through on the Valiant, but it will be nice to see him get past this issue. It must be said that his team is handling his clinginess very well....And Ianto shows no sign of considering Jack's clinginess to Gwen or Owen as a threat to his own relationship with Jack.

Finally, someone who sees it that way aside from me! :) I don't honestly think that it's Jack in love with Gwen, any more than he was in love with Rose. I think both women believed in him and didn't put up with his crap, and he cherishes that. And yeah, he's being clingy. I have to assume that the Master killed his team in that year that never was.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 8th, 2008 03:14 am (UTC)
The Master took millions of lives, several of them Jack's. I don't think the Team survived.
used_songs
Mar. 8th, 2008 01:18 am (UTC)
I liked this analysis (and loved the episode)- it rings true to me.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 8th, 2008 02:29 am (UTC)
Thank you. Love your icon!
(Deleted comment)
crabby_lioness
Mar. 8th, 2008 03:35 am (UTC)
In all but two instances over two years, Ianto has been shown as being totally in control of this relationship. He initiates their encounters, he sets the boundaries, he plays and teases Jack but Jack doesn't play and tease Ianto. He puts Jack down in public. He's the one Jack turns to and asks if Jack deserves to be put down in public. That doesn't sound like a whipped puppy to me. That sounds more like the top dog.
(Deleted comment)
crabby_lioness
Mar. 8th, 2008 04:37 am (UTC)
I doubt Jack cares who knows who he's "dabbling" with, but he knows that Ianto cares, and is willing to let Ianto set the pace.

One of the things I love about their relationship is that Jack does allow Ianto to be in charge. It shows great tact and consideration on his part.
(Deleted comment)
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crabby_lioness
Mar. 8th, 2008 04:56 am (UTC)
I don't think it's inconsistancy so much as an indication that Jack's feelings for Gwen are, to use her word, "complicated". She means many things to him, but from the first he's made it clear that as long as Rhys was around those feelings were going to stay platonic. Nothing's changed on that front.
geekrock
Mar. 8th, 2008 01:22 pm (UTC)
Firstly, thank you once again for a wonderful review. With all the hype and sh** that gets dealt Torchwood's way every single week, it's always lovely to read an honest, funny, intelligent and FAN-FRIENDLY review. Everyone in this fandom needs somewhere to go to pull them back out of the internet crazies.

In the meantime, Rhys provides an excellent example of the best that normalcy can offer, with his courage, steadfastness, and good sense.

And that's why I don't get it when people talk about how much they hate Rhys. He's just... normal. He's normality. Which Torchwood so, desperately, needs a little bit of every so often. He may not be as flamboyantly handsome as Jack, as brainy as Owen or Tosh or as exciting as any of their jobs but damn it he's loyal, loving and exactly what Gwen (and the rest of them) wants and needs.

Jack has 160 years with of baggage in his head, and he's only now starting to work through it.

That's probably the most accurate line I've ever read about Jack and his angst / problems.

I think Jack and Gwen have reached the point where they enjoy being romantic in a platonic way.

Thank you! Thank you for someone else seeing it! I get that there's chemistry, which is brilliant because it is needed for any good relationship to work, but that doesn't always mean that they instantly have to sleep together. By God, don't get me wrong, they both obviously want to for a purely physical reason, but both (I think) recognise exactly what would come of it. They're flirty and passionate and intimate, but there's a deep-seated trust and camaraderie between them that I think is far more important to them. Both of them *provide* something for the other that neither wants to let go of - Jack gets Gwen's normality, stability and (sometimes) irrational human passion, and Gwen gets the exhilaration, protection and confidence that Jack imparts.

I'm probably just babbling, but what I'm trying to say is that I'm with you on the whole Jack/Gwen thing.

And re: Jack/Ianto, I also think that people are underestimating Ianto's dominance in the relationship. I think Jack's relatively unreserved and flamboyant personality just overshadows Ianto's. Ianto is naturally a very introverted person, so it's only logical to instantly assume that he's as distant and submissive with his partners as he is with everyone else. I think Ianto's known Jack for a while, knows exactly what he's like and wouldn't be so stupid as to get himself into a relationship where he knew the other person would just walk all over him. Ianto, fundamentally, is a character who does a lot of watching and studying of other people. He recognises Jack's relationships with other people and trusts him enough not to be a, well, "man-whore" in the way he is while he's single.

The only thing I really worry about (and I can't believe that I'm actually *concerned*) is that Ianto will fall quite deeply into the relationship where Jack will only let himself ever sit on the surface, bringing much heartbreak for the teaboy in later episodes.

*And I'm terribly sorry that was so long. You bring it out in us all.
love_jackianto
Mar. 8th, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
'The only thing I really worry about (and I can't believe that I'm actually *concerned*) is that Ianto will fall quite deeply into the relationship where Jack will only let himself ever sit on the surface, bringing much heartbreak for the teaboy in later episodes.' I worry about that too, Ianto seems like the kind of person who, when he falls he falls hard(See:Cyberwomen-Lisa), whereas Jack probably does 'sit on the surface' because he knows that he will out-live Ianto.
invisible_lift
Mar. 8th, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC)
You talk a lot of sense.

I will hide over here with you. Yes.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 8th, 2008 08:33 pm (UTC)
Come on in. :)

*calls out to husband* Throw another potato in the crock pot, sweetheart!
veejean45
Mar. 10th, 2008 08:33 pm (UTC)
Another excellent review/insight into the Torchwood universe--these are almost as much fun as the actual episodes! I loved Ianto in this episode, he was the calm center in all the chaos; even the dance at the end I saw as him taking care of Jack and Gwen, cutting in before anything awkward could happen. As for Jack and Gwen's mutual crush, hopefully they'll now be able to put it behind them.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 11th, 2008 04:48 am (UTC)
Thank you for reading it.
hawkelf
Mar. 10th, 2008 10:26 pm (UTC)
Just wanted to say that I always love reading your reviews and analysis. It's always so very well put; it helps me see things I might have missed and put my own thoughts into words.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 11th, 2008 04:51 am (UTC)
Thank you. :)
mwrgana
Mar. 14th, 2008 06:16 pm (UTC)
So irritated by those who think Ianto suffers from a lack of backbone in this episode.
No man who happily goes out to buy a wedding dress could ever be accused of suffering from backbone!
And I thought Ianto's jokey excuse-me when Jack and Gwen were dancing in order to break with tradition and dance with the other guy instead of the girl was great - angsty? worried? insecure? Like hell! Another example of dry wit, I reckoned. Though I wouldn't put it past to him to step on Jack's foot just to keep him in line!

Edited at 2008-03-14 06:17 pm (UTC)
crabby_lioness
Mar. 15th, 2008 03:16 am (UTC)
Ianto has always shown supreme self-confidence.
vanitashaze
Jul. 9th, 2008 10:22 pm (UTC)
Classical Bonus Points for Unwed Mother Going Into Labor in the Stables.

Oh, I totally missed this!

...So does that mean that the baby Jesus was actually a nasty little man-eater, and God got Mary pregnant by biting her?
( 74 comments — Leave a comment )