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This week we've got another Classic Plot, albeit one that's not often seen, Monsters Emerging From the Cinema Film. 

It has appeared more often in comic books than in filmed media, probably because of budget considerations.  The last time I saw it was Leave it to Chance, but Marvel and DC have turned in their versions in the past.  My husband and I thought this story felt like an episode of Friday the 13th:  the Series without the blood, which frankly F13TS overused.

We start off with Ianto dragging Gwen and Owen to the Grand Re-opening of a vintage theatre.  He's got a huge grin on his face.  So do I, for a similar reason.  There was a vintage theatre in Birmingham, Alabama, when I was a child where they took the school children on field trips and showed them old musicals.  It was gorgeous!  It had wood paneling, polished brass fittings, huge velvet-covered seats, and a balcony.  I loved going there.  It was a completely different experience from going to one of those cramped bare-bones theatres so common today.  They're so tiny and minimalistic it's like, "Why bother?  Might as well wait for the DVD."  But this place was a palace of comfort and repose.  If I'd been in Ianto's shoes I would have been wearing the same expression.

For some reason, the new owners decide to skip the customary classic cartoon to lull the audience into a mellow mood and jump straight into old footage of Cardiff.  Bad business decision folks, and that's even before the footage turns out to be contaminated with haunted carnival footage of undead carnies trying to escape.  Two of them manage to bust out, unnoticed by anyone except for Ianto, who insists against the protests of Gwen and Owen that Torchwood investigate.  Jack, who's been getting his own carnie vibe, sides with Ianto.

The escapees turn out to be the Ringmaster and his Beautiful Girl Assistant/Mermaid, off to steal the breath of passersby and store it in a silver flask for their own purpose.  While the Ringmaster does the dirty work, it's soon apparent the actual magic comes from the Mermaid.  Her seashell motif adorns the flask, she summons the spirit of the ocean to sustain her, and I'd bet she's the reason this haunted carnival only appeared "from out of the rain."

Ianto has spotted Jack among the carnies still left on the film.  Jack blows off his presence there in front of the Team, but later when they are alone he tells Ianto he was investigating the Night Travellers, the undead carnies who were responsible for a string of deaths and disappearances back in the 1920s.  That string starts back up that very night, and Torchwood has to stop the deaths, restore the wounded, and prevent the carnies from bringing over their friends.  How all this is accomplished is not a high point for plotting.

Once again this episode suffers from what is becoming a real problem in Series 2, a lack of emotional connection for the audience.  This lack is bizarre, considering that Julie Gardener wants poignancy to be the main characteristic of Doctor Who.  Isn't Torchwood allowed to be poignant as well?  Ianto was my emotional connection to this story, and while Gareth did a wonderful job he simply didn't have enough of the focus to carry the story by himself.  As in Hammond's Series 1 story Small Worlds it felt like I was supposed to make some sort of emotional connection with the bad guys, but the story gave them no sympathetic qualities to draw me in.

But on to the positives.  Visually, the story was absolutely beautiful.  The Director of Photography deserves a commendation for his/her work.  Gareth David-Lloyd was given his biggest chunk of the story so far this series, and carried it easily.  Gareth is a superb actor, especially considering his youth.  He reminds me of a young Katherine Hepburn.  Hepburn was never pretty, her looks could best be described as "pleasant".  Yet she projected so much intelligence, charm, presence, charisma, and strength that when she was on the stage you couldn't look anywhere else, and that made her beautiful.  Gareth brings much the same quality to his work.

For Jack/Ianto shippers, this episode was a real treat.  Now that Ianto is officially "out of the closet", Gwen feels able to mildly tease Jack and Ianto about their relationship, which beats it being The Thing We're Not Supposed to Talk About.  This is probably a relief to Tosh, Owen, and Gwen.  Even better, this episode showed that Jack and Ianto have a close personal relationship, both when working and when sharing private thoughts and memories they don't reveal to the others.  Jack is very free with sharing his body, but he's completely out of practice with sharing his closest thoughts and feelings.  It's wonderful to see him feeling comfortable enough with Ianto that he can start to share those as well, although it will probably still take some time before he gets around to sharing anything as personal as his days with the Doctor.  He's still a deeply private individual who isn't used to sharing, but Ianto is doing an excellent job of letting Jack talk when he can and just listening.  That's a rare skill.

I hope the people who've been complaining that "Jack and Ianto have no more than sex going on between them" are satisfied.  Then again, that may be a forlorn hope.

Apparently, while all the other Torchwood writers were given descriptions of what the producers wanted them to write, Jammond was given a blank sheet of paper.  We should be grateful he decided to use that blank paper to write a Ianto-centric episode, otherwise we would not have had one this series.  That would have been a crime.  Thank you, Mr. Hammond.

On a related note, I got in two of the Torchwood audiobooks from Canada, Hidden and Everyone Says Hello.  I'm trying to wait until after Torchwood goes off the air before listening to them.  Preferably I'll wait until after DW S4 goes off the air and we're in the summer drought before SJA starts back up, but I don't know if I can hold off that long.

Comments

( 44 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
tencrush
Mar. 17th, 2008 10:31 am (UTC)
I was SO INSANELY RELIEVED that they had a conversation that wasn't about sex. I thought textually a lot of balls were dropped, nobody really went into any of the backstory both Jack and Ianto were kind of blatantly hurling at each other and the rest of the team, which I thought was a shame, but overall on the J/I front I thought it was pretty good.

I wanted to ask your thoughts on Ianto, do you reckon his family's dead? Like, all of them? I've been getting this inkling on that and they give us so little to go on when it comes to his personal life, but that's really a vibe I'm getting from him, I was wondering what other people thought.
love_jackianto
Mar. 17th, 2008 03:37 pm (UTC)
'I wanted to ask your thoughts on Ianto, do you reckon his family's dead? Like, all of them?' I do get the feeling that they could be. Although that could be because we still know so very little about Ianto. It seems like Torchwood is all that Ianto has. In Adam for example whilst the others had memories of their families Ianto's memories were of Lisa and Jack.
tencrush
Mar. 17th, 2008 04:32 pm (UTC)
That's kind of my reasoning, too. He's local, out of all the people who should have a bit of a home life/family, he seems to have the least, which I think is odd. And he was so nostalgic about this cinema thing, I figured if his dad was still alive, he'd have taken his dad for old time's sake, not his colleagues.
criccieth
Mar. 19th, 2008 02:06 pm (UTC)
Ianto
I agree. he's also the only one whose home we've never seen (unless I DID miss an episode in Season 1). We've seen Gwen's flat several times, Owen's penthouse-style place a couple of times and saw both Tosh's house in Season 1 and her new flat in Season 2. Hell, we've even seen Jack's crash-place underneath his office. But nothing at all for Ianto.

Interview with SFX just as Season 2 started, GDL says that Ianto has nothing other than Torchwood and Jack. Which kind of fits with his memories in "Adam" as you've said. He openly says that Torchwood gave his life meaning again. And the "you" and the look on his face as he looks at Jack makes it quite clear that Jack is the only other meaningful thing in his life.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 22nd, 2008 09:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Ianto
Fragments only supports that theory.
criccieth
Mar. 23rd, 2008 10:06 am (UTC)
Re: Ianto
and as an addendum to that, does he actually have a place or does he live within the hub?
crabby_lioness
Mar. 24th, 2008 03:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Ianto
Even GDL doesn't know that one yet.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 25th, 2008 06:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Ianto
Really? where did you get that? Interesting.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 25th, 2008 07:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Ianto
Someone at a con last summer asked him and posted the account on lj.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 22nd, 2008 10:00 pm (UTC)
I wanted to ask your thoughts on Ianto, do you reckon his family's dead? Like, all of them?

It looks quite likely, but it's even more likely the writers haven't decided yet.
(Deleted comment)
crabby_lioness
Mar. 22nd, 2008 09:58 pm (UTC)
Intimate without being flirty

Which is what you often have with a confident couple.
katiebugs18
Mar. 17th, 2008 01:29 pm (UTC)
My main reaction to this episode was boredom. And that's tragic because it's a Ianto-centric episode and we get so few of those. The background information is wonderful: we get snips of Ianto's family history, more proof that he likes old things, that he has a stronger link to history than the future (despite being part of Torchwood), and his moments with Jack are just lovely. The little smile he has when Jack is talking about his time with the carnies was so sweet and as you say, proves that they're building a real relationship.

But I was just bored by the story. I didn't really care which, again, annoys me because that's apparently the most Ianto-centric episode we're going to get this season. I guess we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed that we get more episodes like 'Adam' where they layer in information (ie. the diary...which I just love) instead of making it front and center. Which I almost prefer, keeps things interesting.

I totally agree about old theater and films. There's an old, one screen theater in Washington DC that only shows one movie a month and while it's a new release I absolutely love going and sitting in the old chairs up in the balcony. Another great review. Thanks.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 22nd, 2008 09:57 pm (UTC)
Be thankful for small blessings. At least no story this series plumbed the depths of tedium that was Random Shoes.
melody2tds
Mar. 17th, 2008 02:42 pm (UTC)
I commented to you on your last review about the whole Jack/Ianto dynamic in this one, so you know I agree with you on that.

For the ep, it's self... I think maybe I'm the kind of person this was written for. I'm a complete escapist. I have never minded sitting down to watch things that make very little sense, as long as I'm entertained somehow while doing it. It's not that I don't catch the plot-holes, or nonsensical events, it's that my mind will pass right over them, and let things like the atmosphere or performances take center stage, instead.
So, I actually loved this episode. The atmosphere, the directing, set design, and performances were lovely. They took center stage for me, and more than made up for the wonky plot.

Have you noticed that JB gives his best performances when he's working directly opposite GDL? I think that may be the real reason they went with the Jack/Ianto pairing on the show, instead of the Jack/Gwen. I don't think it's a gay/straight issue, or the onscreen chemistry, at all. The sexual chemistry is there with both, but if the lead actor performs better with one, that's the one you'd want to concentrate on.
I'm not even sure I want to know WHY working with Gareth reigns in his occasional scene chewing tendencies, as long as it works. AND I get to watch it as often as possible. lol
love_jackianto
Mar. 17th, 2008 04:23 pm (UTC)
'Have you noticed that JB gives his best performances when he's working directly opposite GDL?' I noticed that too. I think it might be because Gareth's performances are always so layered that John really has to bring his A-game.

'...as long as it works. AND I get to watch it as often as possible. lol'
You and me both :D
tencrush
Mar. 17th, 2008 04:36 pm (UTC)
Have you noticed that JB gives his best performances when he's working directly opposite GDL?
God, isn't that the truth? I never thought about the fact that that could be the reason I like Jack/Ianto, but you're right. Jack/Gwen annoys me on a certain level because of the confused and confusing way JB sometimes responds and reacts on screen to Eve.
kinkerbelle13
Mar. 21st, 2008 03:07 pm (UTC)
Wow, you hit the nail on the head. It's sort of... awkward at times, yeah? They have all these weird looks and glanecs and it's practically impossible to tell what they actually mean. The hint of romance is so poorly devloped and it always gives me really bad *squick* feelings. But with JB and GDL it's always crystal clear exactly what they're saying without saying anything.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 22nd, 2008 08:28 pm (UTC)
Crystal clear and with a power that feels like a punch in the gut.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 22nd, 2008 09:55 pm (UTC)
The sexual chemistry is there with both, but if the lead actor performs better with one, that's the one you'd want to concentrate on.

because if you don't, the audience is going to scratch their heads and change the channel.
joonscribble
Mar. 17th, 2008 04:16 pm (UTC)
Really enjoyed your review of this episode. I was a huge fan of this episode and was a bit dismayed by how much people seemed to hate on it. So it was nice to see a review that wasn't from a completely satisfied viewer, but one who didn't attack it. Your comparison of GDL's screen presence to Katherine Hepburn's is rather accurate and you articulated for me why I've always paid attention to GDL, even back in season 1 when he wasn't doing too much.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 22nd, 2008 09:40 pm (UTC)
Your comparison of GDL's screen presence to Katherine Hepburn's is rather accurate and you articulated for me why I've always paid attention to GDL, even back in season 1 when he wasn't doing too much.

Yes, even when surrounded by a dozen prettier women, as in Stage Door, you can't take your eyes off Hepburn. That is so like GDL in S1.
love_jackianto
Mar. 17th, 2008 04:18 pm (UTC)
I thought this episode's plot was ok, it just seemed to fall apart at the end. I can forgive a 'so-so' plot as long as the acting is there- which is something I never have to worry about with Gareth. He really is like a young Katherine Hepburn. I think one of the reasons I like Jack/Ianto so much is because John and Gareth always play off of each other so well.

'Jack is very free with sharing his body, but he's completely out of practice with sharing his closest thoughts and feelings.'
That describes Jack so well. He seems very good with expressing himself physically, but not very good with letting people see behind the sexy-man-of-mystery mask. One of the things I like about Ianto is that he doesn't seem to push Jack to open up and because of that Jack does (See: To the last man).

'He's got a huge grin on his face. ' Me too. We have an old theatre in my town- it was a vaudeville house back in the 20's. I love sitting in the balcony, they just don't make theatres with that kind of character anymore.
tencrush
Mar. 17th, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC)
One of the things I like about Ianto is that he doesn't seem to push Jack to open up and because of that Jack does.
It's one of the things that annoys me about Gwen, she does that stereotypical manipulative woman thing sometimes, as in "No-one else will have me," where she kind of issues these below the belt challenges at him to talk to her. I love how he sidesteps those and never answers one way or the other.
love_jackianto
Mar. 17th, 2008 05:23 pm (UTC)
'...as in 'No-one else will have me,' where she kind of issues these below the belt challenges at him to talk to her.' Yes. Gwen doesn't seem to know when to back off. To me, Gwen sometimes comes off as insensitive (when Jack was holding Estelle's body (Small Worlds) and Gwen wanted him to answer her questions).

'I love how he sidesteps those and never answers one way or the other.' Oh yes, Jack is very good at sidestepping, must be because of all his years of being a con-man.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 22nd, 2008 09:37 pm (UTC)
I think one of the reasons I like Jack/Ianto so much is because John and Gareth always play off of each other so well.

They both play those early-20th Century types so well, it really helps them synch up, if that's a term.
beccaelizabeth
Mar. 17th, 2008 04:20 pm (UTC)
The escapees turn out to be the Ringmaster and his Beautiful Girl Assistant/Mermaid, off to steal the breath of passersby and store it in a silver flask for their own purpose. While the Ringmaster does the dirty work, it's soon apparent the actual magic comes from the Mermaid. Her seashell motif adorns the flask, she summons the spirit of the ocean to sustain her, and I'd bet she's the reason this haunted carnival only appeared "from out of the rain."
I hadn't seen it like that but it makes sense.
eumenidis
Mar. 17th, 2008 08:08 pm (UTC)
Ah, those splendid old cinema palaces--I'm sooo jealous of your childhood experience. When I was a kid, it was drive-in or utilitarian, my town was still in the process of going from a small rural town to a suburb--there were working farms within walking distance of downtown. There were some in Dallas, but by the early 80s they'd been either torn down or "refurbished" & stripped of their original character.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 22nd, 2008 09:17 pm (UTC)
That's sad, but they couldn't have them showing up the more modern theatres, could they? [/sarcasm]
eumenidis
Mar. 22nd, 2008 10:46 pm (UTC)
Oh, no, that wouldn't do at all. Pity, though, there was a splendid old Art Deco theater--painted mural in the lobby, "gilded" statues above the exit doors, velvet curtain--that ran as a discount theater till barbari--um, gentrifiers with dollar signs dancing in their heads got their hands on it. To give you an idea: the dominant colors in the lobby mural were sea-green & light peach; it was "restored" in a hot pink & deep turquoise. Sigh. Even when they try, the buck-chasers just don't get it.
veejean45
Mar. 17th, 2008 09:02 pm (UTC)
Great review--as always--and I have to say I liked this episode. I've always loved stories about haunted carnivals ever since I read Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes back when I was a teenager--there's something so sinister about these painted, costumed travellers. I really enjoyed watching Jack and Ianto, how at ease they are working together. Did anyone else notice in the scene with the old woman at the hospital, how she turned to Ianto and said he had been touched by the Night Travellers too?
mwrgana
Mar. 21st, 2008 12:04 pm (UTC)
Something Wicked This Way Comes
I'm so glad someone mentioned this - I was 13 when I fist read it and just the memory of that first reading still reverberates now, 40 years later, *reels with shock realising how many years have passed*
crabby_lioness
Mar. 22nd, 2008 09:34 pm (UTC)
Yes, I noticed. And it really says a lot without saying a word how comfortable Jack and Ianto are with each other. I hope the S3 writers take note.
(Deleted comment)
criccieth
Mar. 19th, 2008 02:12 pm (UTC)
Amen to that. I was SO looking forward to this one. I had no problems with the heavy "Sapphire and Steel" and "X-Files" over-tones (hell, two of the best creepy cult shows ever made!) but the plot-holes irritated the hell out of me and Jack's back-story aside there was too much "oh so THIS is what it all means". Nothing made any sense, even for a Torchwood episode! It was so much of a wasted chance because the central idea was wonderful, the relationship side of the Jack/Ianto "thing" was built up so carefully, there were so many hints of back-story ("sent by who?" "long story", not to mention the WAY GDL delivered that line about knowing the mental hospital. And potential future fodder in the old lady's comment to Ianto that they had 'touched' him). But the plot itself? Gah!

Might be interesting to see if there are any missing scenes on the DVD release.
(Deleted comment)
love_jackianto
Mar. 18th, 2008 06:12 am (UTC)
'I hope the people who've been complaining that 'Jack and Ianto have no more than sex going on between them' are satisfied. Then again, that may be a forlorn hope.' Really? I've heard people say there hasn't been enough. I guess it's hard to please everyone, I'm just glad Ianto isn't the minor character he was in Series 1 and that Jack and Ianto's relationship is getting screen time.
mwrgana
Mar. 21st, 2008 12:17 pm (UTC)
I saw this last week so the memory isn't as fresh in my aging memory as it could be, but I enjoyed it. I've always loved spooky and, while it wasn't perfect, there was enough of the other-worldly (as apart from alien-worldly) to keep me happy.

And, setting the old cinema in the Paget Rooms was icing on the cake. I've got a lot of history with that place and it was fun to see it featured.

GDL really is a star, isn't he, love him? His stage-presence is remarkable even when he's not doing anything (though, of course, each and every young Welsh actor automatically takes note of Burton's remarks on stillness) and, yes, he certainly pulls out the best in John when they share scenes. (Uhum, that could have phrased better, given John's proclivity for pulling bits of himself out, sorry!)
He said, in November at The Point, how pleased he was to be the lead's love interest and he has certainly risen to the challenge - ironic how "the lead" seems to need him to make the most of his own acting abilities!

Edited at 2008-03-21 12:19 pm (UTC)
crabby_lioness
Mar. 22nd, 2008 08:58 pm (UTC)
Gareth is amazing. I love how the more deeply people are involved with the acting profession, the more gaga they go over his performance.
kinkerbelle13
Mar. 21st, 2008 03:04 pm (UTC)
I've just stumbled (luckily) across this and I have to say, it's so well done! I really like the thoughts you put foreward because they really made me think about what I was looking at. I have a lot of my own Jack/Ianto ideas and they're pretty similar to yours but there are still a bunch of moments I had reading this where I went 'You know what.... yeah!' Which was awesome.

Ianto was my emotional connection to this story, and while Gareth did a wonderful job he simply didn't have enough of the focus to carry the story by himself.
GDL is so fabulous. He makes me happier than possibly anyone else on the show. And I think that's why I was so radically dissapointed by the end of the episode. When GDL tears up for that little boy, that got me in the gut! He was so beautiful in that moment and I felt every inch of what Ianto was feeling. But where the hell was that in the rest of the story??

And also, my own personal pet peeve, why don't we end mroe episodes with a silent Ianto moment? We get Gwen, Owen, Tosh, and Jack all with their prize little bits to send the viewers on their way. The pensieve silences, the walks through the rain, the rooftops, the cuddling. But the one who delivers the greatest impact... barely nothing. *le sigh* But that's just me.

Again, I love the commentary. It's really one of a kind.
crabby_lioness
Mar. 22nd, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC)
I think the writing staff is still becoming comfortable with Ianto. Chibnall said they literally didn't realize what a powerhouse actor Gareth was until they saw the finished episodes.
(Deleted comment)
crabby_lioness
Mar. 24th, 2008 02:56 pm (UTC)
I think the people who complain "we don't get enough of X in a single episode" need to keep in mind that it's an ensemble adventure show, not a two-person romance show. We can't really judge any romance until the season is finished.
(Deleted comment)
( 44 comments — Leave a comment )