The most interesting couple I ever saw in media – film, television, music, books, whatever – were a middle-aged couple who spent more time trying to one-up the other than they did having wild, passionate sex.
They were Jack Bristow and Irena DiRevco from Alias.
Seriously, they were awesome. At least, for season two they were. They spent all their screen time, as equals – intellectually, emotionally and sexually – trying to outwit one another. To give you a brief background, Irena was a Russian KBG operative who married Jack to give her an inside run to his knowledge on US Intelligence. When she thought she was about to be sprung, she hightailed it out of there. If nothing else, then kudos to her for her for being so brilliant in the act, and knowing when to call it quits.
So Jack deeply distrusts her, and Irena deeply distrusts Jack, because he’ll take any opportunity to screw her over. You wouldn’t want such people in your life, but, goddamn, they’re fun to watch.
I watched season two of Alias in anticipation of what each would do next. For Jack and Irena, it was a combination of dislike, respect, lust and distrust, and you never knew which emotion would win out. Would they kill each other, dob in each other to the enemy, or make mad, passionate love?
What make the relationship work was that it was an equal battle of wills. It was genuinely thrilling because each has as good a chance as the other of getting the better of them. It wasn’t a case of ‘suspend judgement and pretend the woman is brilliant at what she does, even though she makes obvious mistakes’. This was a case of Irena being as good as, and often better, at almost anything Jack could do.
And that made it engaging television.