A hug is like a strangle you haven't finished yet. (shaggydogstail) wrote in idol_reflection,
A hug is like a strangle you haven't finished yet.

Ianto Jones (Torchwood)

Title: Coffee, Misery, and the Benefits of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Author: shaggydogstail
Character: Ianto Jones
Fandom: Torchwood
Spoilers: All of season one

And this is Ianto Jones. Ianto cleans up after us and gets us everywhere on time. And he looks good in a suit.

The way Jack introduces Ianto to Gwen in the very first episode of Torchwood more or less sums up all we see of him in the earlier part of the series. Ianto makes coffee, tidies up, organises and, yes, he really does look good in a suit. He's calm, rather reserved and has a nice stock of dry one-liners ('local estate agents call it "Sploe"'). Ianto's interaction with the rest of the team is limited, with Gwen, the viewer's POV character for much of the series, barely noticing him most of the time. He's oddly deferential towards Jack, being the only member of the team to refer to his boss as 'sir' (to the kinky delight of large portions of fandom) and tolerates Jack's flirtation with good humour.

Ianto's kind of cute, with his dapper suits, odd moments of quiet snark, and habit of using his napkin as a bib. Yet none of this is terribly interesting nor enough to account for why Ianto has grown to occupy such a beloved position in fandom. But then, there's so much more to Ianto than meets the eye.

The Torchwood Institute

Rewind a year or two to the fall of Torchwood One, when over 700 members of Torchwood staff were killed by Cybermen coming through the breach between universes that they'd opened, when Ianto was one of the handful of survivers, pulling the woman he loved out of the wreckage.

Actually, scrap that. Rewind over a century, to the founding of the Torchwood Institute by Queen Victoria in 1879. The organisation was set up to 'defend the Empire against alien threats' yet it's clear from the events of Army of Ghosts that this mission has changed over the years. For a start, modern-day Britain doesn't actually have an Empire. No matter, the good people of Torchwood are busily preparing the new one, as Yvonne cheefully tells Jackie that Torchwood is all about the new British Empire - in space.

(At it's height, the British Empire stretched so far around the globe that patriots would declare "the sun never sets on the Empire". That's because God doesn't trust Englishmen in the dark.)

Torchwood One is scary. Powerful, secretive, and arrogant, they don't appear to answer to anyone unless it suits them, having apparently limitless funding. It's ruthless, self-important and unashamedly imperialist. And this is were our quiet, unassuming Ianto works (though we have no idea if he was a humble tea-boy of the l33t Torchwood Special Agent fandom would dearly love him to be). At Ianto's age, it's entirely possible that he spent his entire adult life at Torchwood. It's where he met the love of his life, Lisa Hallet, a fellow employee. Given the secretive nature of Torchwood and Ianto's apparent lack of any sort of a life outside of work, it's probably where all his friends were as well.

Until Ianto's life fell apart for the first time.

Torchwood One's meddling with the breach allowed the Cybermen to enter from a parallel universe and nearly all of their staff died. Killed by the Cybermen or converted themselves and then sucked into the void between worlds before the breach was sealed by the Doctor. A handful of survivors who had only been partially converted when the breach was opened died from their injuries shortly after. Only one survived - Lisa.

Ianto's relationship with Lisa

Lisa is Ianto's Big Secret. In the fourth episode, Cyberwoman, we discover that the entire time Ianto's been working at Torchwood Three - brewing coffee, tidying up, dishing up Chinese take-aways and pizza - he's also been hiding a partially-converted Cyberman in the basement of the Hub. That's the Hub which is the headquarters of self-styled 'alien-hunters, arming the human race against the future'. The Hub where Jack lives. Yeah, really.

Ianto rescued Lisa from the wreckage of Canary Wharf, kept her alive, rebuilt a Cyber Conversion Unit into a life-support system for her, smuggled her from London to Cardiff, and kept her there until he could bring the world's foremost authority on cybernetics to cure her. All the while posing, successfully, as an unassuming tea-boy/nice bit of eye-candy for the boss. He didn't let Lisa die, didn't hand her over to the Torchwood authorities whose fault it was this had happened in the first place, didn't abandon her, and didn't give up hope that she could be cured. Because he loved her. In another story, Ianto would be a hero: loyal, devoted and true.

But this is Torchwood, a world in which love never saved anyone, doesn't offer salvation or completion, and where romance is dangerous, ugly, and doomed. Ianto isn't a hero because his efforts, his love, his devotion, are all in vain. He can't save Lisa. In fact, his efforts to save Lisa nearly result in the creation of a new Cyber army, which would have pretty much been the end of the world. (Pretty much everyone at Torchwood nearly brings about the end of the world at least once. They probably have a rota for it or something.)

Ianto's love for Lisa is so absolute, so all-consuming that it blinds him to the reality of the situation. Cyberwoman takes many of the classic tropes of romantic fiction to their extremes, turning Ianto and Lisa's relationship into a perversion of the classic love story. Ianto loves Lisa so much he'll do anything to save her but, because she can't be saved, he nearly destroys himself in the process. Instead of saving her life he contributes to her destruction of the lives of two other people.

Ianto's demeanour in Cyberwoman is a complete turn-about from the calm detachment we were used to seeing from him, both in the tenderness he displays in the opening scenes with Lisa to the RAGING AND CRYING FITS OF HYSTERICS he has later on. Ianto is completely, utterly, and hopelessly convinced that Lisa can be cured in the face of almost overwhelming evidence (like, uh, the fact that she killed someone the moment his back was turned) for no other reason than the fact that he loves her.

The staff of Torchwood Three

Ianto's interaction with his colleagues is limited. Before Countrycide we never saw him out in the field, and during that episode he seems distant from the others. When Gwen seeks to secure her position as 'the sensitive one' by getting them all to play 'who did you last snog?', Ianto accuses her of having forgotten about Lisa - which she doesn't deny. Later he talks to Tosh about how he doesn't understand how the rest of Torchwood can be such adernaline-junkies.

It's clear that Ianto feels cut-off from his colleauges, not really part of the group. Not only is he left behind when they go out in the field, he's left out of games in the Hub and trips to the pub. It' entirely likely that this is largely Ianto's doing - he had a pretty enormous secret to hide, so it's not surprising that he would keep his distance.

Indeed, even after Lisa's death Ianto keeps himself to himself for the most part, seldom talking about himself or his own feelings except in times of great stress. Toshiko - who actually did make some effort to reach out to Ianto after Lisa died, by bringing him coffee - is surprised by the depth of his grief when she hears his thoughts whilst wearing a psychic necklace:

'Can't imagine the time when this isn't everything. Pain so constant, like my stomach's full of rats. Feels like this is all I am now. There isn't an inch of me that doesn't hurt.'

Ianto is utterly heartbroken, yet he keeps his pain well hidden, keeps a stiff upper lip and Gets On With It. After the events of Cyberwoman Jack appears to have decided to give Ianto a slightly more pro-active role in the team, and he goes out in the field several times. The majority of the time, though, Ianto still continues to tidy up, make coffee, and look after everyone. He does it all with a calm expression and, mad cannibal villagers notwithstanding, rarely getting so much as a crease in his suit.

There are, however, several signs that Ianto resents his role within Torchwood and the way the others treat him. In Cyberwoman he responds bitterly to Jack's accusation that he 'hid himself' by saying, 'when did you ever ask me anything about my life? I clean up your shit, no questions asked, and that's how you like it.' He's pretty cheesed off with Gwen's spectacular insensitivity in Countrycide and when Owen says he's 'just the teaboy' in Captain Jack Harkness, Ianto shoots him. (OK, so that's not the actual reason why Ianto shot Owen. But you can bet it meant he enjoyed it a bit more.)

There are two possible explainations for this. One is that Ianto simply feels the way most people who spend their lives cleaning up after other people without much thanks feel - used and unappreciated. He's got reason to feel that way - Owen is openly dismissive of him, Gwen barely notices him, Tosh makes a bit of an effort but, bless her, Tosh's geeky people skills aren't up to all that much. And Jack...I'll safe for later. ;D

The other, rather more exciting possibility, is that Ianto has taken a step down the career ladder by coming to Torchwood. There are a number of tantalising hints that there might be a bit more to Ianto's professional background - he's the only member of the team who knows the code for Jack's safe and the emergency protocols, he knows how to fire a gun though we never see him learn to shoot in the programme (not exactly a core skill for an archivist/teaboy), he frequently seems a bit too competent for his role and, of coure, the question of what he actually did at Torchwood One. The series offers no real answers on this one, and it's possible that Ianto has never done anything more exciting that alphabetise expense claims and he is awfully young to have had very many great adventures. But still, the possibilities are fun.


Yeah, you knew I'd get there in the end, right?

In fandom terms, Jack/Ianto is the runaway success of Torchwood shipping, being far and away the most popular ship. I'd estimate that at least sixty per cent of all Torchwood fanfiction is Jack/Ianto.

Torchwood arguably gives the best fanservice of any current television show, and the Jack/Ianto ship is a perfect example of how they do it. There's enough on-screen action to make the ship canon, but the whole thing is vague enough to give fen a whole range of possibilities as to how the relationship actually works. It's like a fanfic author's dream, because there are just so many gaps in their story for us to fill in.

Right from the opening episode Jack is seen flirting with Ianto, and this flirtation continues throughout the series. However, it isn't until Cyberwoman that we see any depth to their relationship. To say that they are both pretty furious with each other in that episode would be a bit of an understatement - ulimatums are issued, accusations made, and a punch thrown, and a significant part of the episode involves either Jack or Ianto holding a gun to the other's head.

Cyberwoman lends an intensity, a layer of tension to the Jack/Ianto relationship that wasn't there before. All of Ianto's anger, his frustrations come pouring out, and Jack bears the brunt of it. Ianto tries desperately to blame Jack for Lisa's fate, insisting that she could be cured if Jack would just listen, begging him for mercy, and accusing Jack of being a monster. Jack is unwavering in his position - Lisa isn't human anymore, and she's dangerous. She has to die.

Naturally, this is the last thing Ianto wants to hear. So, if Ianto won't listen to reason, Jack will have to force him to face it, which is does by sending Ianto back into the Hub armed with a gun and instructions to kill Lisa himself, on pain of death. It isn't clear what Ianto's intentions are when he goes into the Hub - possibly he still hopes to save Lisa - but when confronted with the horrific vision of the murdered pizza delivery girl with Lisa's brain. And Ianto finally realises that all the shouting, screaming, gun-waving and punching in the world won't alter the fact that Jack was right all along; the Lisa he knew and loved is long-gone, replaced by a Cyber-monster. When Ianto arrives at work the following morning there's no hint of anger in his demeanour - he looks up to Jack for approval and, when this is granted, gets on with clearing up the Hub.

It's not exactly a fairytale start to a relationship, but in this way Jack is a positive influence on Ianto, because he's helped him face up to the reality of Lisa's fate, something that he had to do before he could hope to move on. It's clear that Jack has actually taken on board a lot of what Ianto said that night as well, as Ianto is treated a little less like the teaboy and a little more like one of the team for the rest of the series (although this role doesn't disappear completely).

The exact nature of Jack and Ianto's relationship is very hard to pin down. Up until They Keep Killing Suzie, Jack was the one doing all the flirting, and it was unclear whether Ianto appreciated that or was just humouring him. Ianto's proposition at the end of that episode is a bit of a shocker - to Jack as well as the viewer. He's just so...blatant. I'm sure I'm not the only one who was left hanging off the edge of the sofa, jaw open and thinking did he really just say that?

They Keep Killing Suzie was the first clear indication that Ianto felt attracted to Jack, but it still didn't tell us much about what was going on between them. Indeed, save for the old little delicious tid-bit of subtext, that was pretty much the last we saw of them as being in any way involved until the double-bill season finale.

We find out a lot about Ianto in Captain Jack Harkness. We see, unsurprisingly that Ianto is still broken up about Lisa's death, and is very sensitive to Owen's jibes about her. More interestingly, we get some insight into the relationship between Ianto and Jack. Ianto is fiercely loyal to Jack during his ongoing arguments with Owen about whether or not they should open the rift, insisting that it wouldn't be what Jack would want. He also claims that Jack needs him, a claim which Owen is openly scornful of.

Arguably, Ianto's claim that Jack 'needs' him tells us more about Ianto himself than it does about the reality of his relationship with Jack. Ianto, it seems, needs to be needed. Lisa was literally dependent on him for everything, and his caretaker role within the Torchwood team is symptomatic of someone who wants to encourage others to depend on him. Ianto was devastated by Jack's 'death' and, again, retreated in on himself, crying alone in Jack's office where the others can't see him.

End of Days shed some new light on the relationship between Jack and Ianto, showing that there is a real emotional bond there and, in particular, that Ianto genuinely cares for Jack. However, the exact status of the relationship is still very much up in the air and there are a lot of questions remaining about what exactly went on between the two of them, and how Ianto will react to Jack's disappearance with the Doctor.

These questions are particularly important for Ianto, as he has been portrayed so far as a character who is primarily motivated by love. Almost all of Ianto's storylines have been tied to his romantic involvements, first with Lisa and then with Jack. Ianto appears to be a very loving person, willing to make all manner of sacrifices for people he cares for, and he rarely seems to prioritise his own needs, wants, or desires. The darker side of this is not only the inherent danger in loving not wisely, but too well so that he is blind to his partner's true nature (as with Lisa), but that he himself may become psychologically unstable. Ianto shows signs of an alarming degree of co-dependency and the rather brutal realisation that Jack doesn't need him after all may prove profoundly damaging to Ianto.

The future for Ianto

There's still an awful lot that's up in the air about Ianto and, despite the big revelations we've had about him this series, it feels like we hardly know him. He's secretive, closed-off and, frustratingly, criminally underused by the writers.

Character development has been a weakness throughout S1 and Ianto, along with Toshiko, has suffered badly from being underused, and inconsistantly used. The inconsistancy between Ianto's fierce loyalty to Jack in Captain Jack Harkness is at complete odds with the ease with which he betrays him in End of Days, and we can only hope that a second series gives us a clearer insight into his character, what motivates him and where he's coming from.

For now, the uncertainty is, in many ways, part of his charm. We're kept guesing about Ianto and that only serves to make him more interesting. Ianto's intriguing because he's smart, and funny, and he might be much more than he seems and he might be a bit mental. He's still underappreciated and has the potential to have a few more surprises up his sleeve. He's fun to torture because he really does suffer so beautifully.

Plus, he's got a stopwatch fetish, which is both filthy and adorable. How could we not love him?
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