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some Ianto thoughts (the best kind)

I've been thinking a lot about Fragments (2.12), in particular Ianto's scenes.

Someone else (can't remember who, sorry) once described Ianto as a "roleplayer", saying that he was happiest when he had someone he was supposed to be. I'm taking a slightly different tack here, in that I think Ianto is used to playing a role, is very good at playing a role, but that it's not necessarily his default state.

1. Sexy and mysterious. This persona is obvious from the Bond reference to the tight jeans and dark jacket. He tells Jack he knows what a Weevil is, but doesn't offer any more information. When he reaches out for Jack's face, and later when he says he loves the coat, he's definitely trying to use sexuality to interest Jack. Interestingly enough, in this scene he's confident enough to take a little jab at Jack, replying "you think so?" when Jack says he'd had the Weevil under control by himself.

2. Young and emotionally open (only seemingly, of course). His attempt to impress Jack with the coffee, the college-kid necklace, and his insistence that there must be a place for him at Torchwood Three all give the impression of someone who is young and trying to please. His palpable desperation, his mention of Lisa being dead, and his attempt at appealing to Jack's sense of sympathy make him seem emotionally open. It's interesting that he continues with the flirting and touching; it makes me wonder what he'd heard about Jack that he thought someone more innocent would appeal to the older man. Again, he mentions the coat, saying "I really do like that coat!". The "really" in that sentence is another indication that he's going for the impression of honesty.

Again, he takes a little jab at Jack. When Jack says he didn't want the equipment from Torchwood London to get into the wrong hands, Ianto says, "and you're the right hands, are you?" These small remarks are really interesting to me, because they don't seem to fit with what Ianto would think Jack would want in an employee. It seems that these lines are the only indication of the snarky Ianto we all know and love peeking through the personas he has built for himself.

3. And.. this one's harder to define. In part, I think, because the scene was played for laughs, not for character insight. And also, I believe, because this scene was to show Ianto's "true" character, which is certainly much more complex than either of the stereotypes mentioned above. So, to help, a series of observations:
  • When he first stops Jack's car, he looks pretty resigned to the fact that he's not going to be getting a job. I'm thinking that he probably actually gave up after the last time, and found Jack because he knew something would have to be done about the pterodactyl and he couldn't catch her/care for her all by himself. Thinking about this now, I'm actually wondering if this gave Ianto a way to judge how Jack might react to Lisa. I don't think he planned it that way, but once he saw that Jack was going to capture, not kill, Myfanwy he might have decided it was worth it to try begging for a job again. It would explain why he went from seeming willing to stop his attempts (in front of the car) to his diatribe about being a butler.
  • He stops actively trying to flirt with and touch Jack. This could be seen two ways: either he's trying a different tack since his previous attempts to use his sexuality to get hired have failed, or it's another way of showing that he's stopped actively trying to get the job. Both are valid arguments, but I'm going with the latter.
  • He's critical of Torchwood Three's supplies and Jack's methods. This time, his criticisms seem more prevalent (not just throwaway lines) and vocal. Again, another indication that Ianto's given up on getting into Torchwood Three, since he doesn't seem to feel the need to censor himself in front of a potential employer.
  • He's wearing the suit. I have theories about this, but they're more suited to fic than canon.One doesn't dress up for a pterodactyl hunt. One does, however, dress up for a funeral. I'll leave it at that. In any case, it's far more reserved than either of his previous outfits were. The fact that Jack likes the suit (and, by inference, a more reserved person in general) might have influenced Ianto to adopt the butler persona in the first season.
So, this Ianto seems to be a sort of amalgamation of the first two. Confident enough to criticize Jack, but desperate enough to offer to be a butler.

The most interesting part of this whole discussion, though, is if you compare the Ianto described above to the Ianto we're given through the rest of Torchwood, particularly in season 1. It's been commented on a lot that Ianto seems to have taken the idea of being a butler to heart, and I have to agree. He starts calling Jack "sir", he continues to wear the suit, and he has that Alfred-esque way of standing quietly and attentively. He jokes around with Jack a little, but he acts quite differently than he did in Fragments. Once again, he's adopted a persona, and this time it sticks.

But over time, and as his relationship with Jack progresses, we've seen more of the Ianto that was first revealed in Fragments. He's become more confident, more involved, more willing to take action, more humourous, more relaxed, though he's lost most of the awkwardness that was evident in his little "mmm, chocolate" speech to Myfanwy. In any case, I'm curious as to where the writers will go with his character from here.

If you have any thoughts, feel free to comment! I'm pretty new around here, so I don't have much yet, but fic and a vid will be up soon! I hope.

ETA: Um, if there's anything weird about the layout, try to ignore it for now. It's a work in progress.


Mar. 28th, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC)
I think you bring up a lot of interesting points. From what I understand, Ianto was not meant to remain as a full cast member and I sometimes wonder if that indirectly led to the lack of character development we saw for him in Season 1. But I agree with your assessment that he took to heart the role of butler. I also think his character is a tad uneven: compare his character in Everything Changes, where he seems much more involved with the team viz, urging Gwen to enter the Hub and then the lunch where they're trying to determine Jack's sexuality. It always jarred me a bit that we get that and then in Cyberwoman, he is so clearly on the outside. And he remained there for the rest of the season, sort of skirting the edges, which is why I think a lot of people were jarred by his character in season 2. I think we're seeing a Ianto who is more comfortable with his place in TW 3 and among the team and even, to an extent, his relationship with Jack. I'm really curious to see what happens next season.
Mar. 28th, 2008 11:58 pm (UTC)
The impression I got from Everything Changes was that not only was he more involved with the team, but that he was also rather content about his position. I'm thinking about his smile at the "that's harassment" line, and his huge grin when he comes bearing lunch. Which is a huge contrast with his words in Cyberwoman, where all of a sudden he seems quite resentful about getting stuck with all the crap jobs.

Fragments was a wonderful retcon for Cyberwoman in many ways, but it did not explain that anger well at all. Ianto practically begged for the job, said he'd do anything, so it doesn't make any sense that he'd complain about it in Cyberwoman.

So I definitely agree with you that his character is not completely consistent. I feel, actually, that in some ways Fragments was a way to explain these sort of inconsistencies too. By presenting Ianto as a roleplayer, they can have him acting oddly and explain it away as him playing a particular role.
Mar. 29th, 2008 12:51 am (UTC)
*intrudes in discussion* I think that Ianto wasn't resentful so much about the job he was given. He said: "I clean your shit for you, no questions asked" I think he was trying to convey that they didn't consider him part of the team and that they new nothing about him and didn't care. It was a way of saying "You don't care, why should I".
Mar. 29th, 2008 12:54 am (UTC)
I think I need to study up on my canon. :) Thanks, that clears up a whole lot. So I guess Fragments really was the perfect retcon episode for Cyberwoman afterall!
Mar. 29th, 2008 01:06 am (UTC)
Really interesting discussion.

I'd agree that we do see a more relaxed, happier Ianto before the Cyberwoman episode - and although I still need to go back and rewatch I feel that maybe that's closer to real-Ianto - the dry humour and snarkiness that we see tantalising little hints of in the flashbacks like you say (I think that it's these little real bits of Ianto that attracts Jack more than anything else). That disappears after Cyberwoman, because I think that is Ianto's darkest hour - he was clearly struggling before that with the subterfuge, but he both honestly thought he could save Lisa and didn't really have to confront what his betrayal could mean for the team in concrete terms (I've always felt that it's a combination of the loss and the betrayal that really shakes him). So the re-emergence of the Ianto we get to know in series 2, is both him becoming more comfortable within the team and also him emerging from his mourning period so to speak.

In terms of his anger during Cyberwoman I'm less sure. I think maybe it may just be lashing out and partly trying to share the blame for what's happening. Also if he has a reason to blame Jack, then it lessens his betrayal in some way. I think it probably doesn't reflect how he feels on a day to day basis, accept in little niggly ways that everyone feels, but in the stress he brings those feelings out. I'm not really sure how to explain what I mean.

But yes some really interesting points in this post. :D
Mar. 29th, 2008 01:23 am (UTC)
The problem is that we really didn't see much of Ianto in the period after Fragments but before Cyberwoman. He was so much in the background that we don't have much characterization to work with. If you're right though, and the Ianto working for Jack before Cyberwoman was, in fact, the 'real' Ianto, then it means the roleplaying was mostly abandoned as soon as he'd been hired. And the mourning would explain the quieter Ianto that we associate with the butler persona. So perhaps Ianto never did any acting at all. *muses*

As astuta pointed out above, Ianto's anger during Cyberwoman was less about being given the crap jobs (as I'd misremembered) and more about being ignored and taken for granted. In which case, it would hit Jack even harder after the whole incident with Suzie. So I definitely think Ianto was trying to hit Jack where it hurts with that one.
Mar. 29th, 2008 01:29 am (UTC)
Actually I think there probably was a great deal of role-playing still going on, but that little bits of himself were showing as in Fragments. Mostly I'm thinking about his response to the "looks good in a suit" comment and his joking around the dinner table in Day One - off the top of my head. It's just the balance between acquired persona/real persona was maybe more balanced at first. But you're right it is diffiuclt to get a grip on him in the first few episodes.

And excellent point about Suzie.
Mar. 29th, 2008 01:50 am (UTC)
Replying to self = bad form.

But I realised I'd left something out. I was going to go on to say that my instinctive reading of this - is that butler!Ianto is mostly a constructed character, but whereas we see hints of his humourous/fun side before Cyberwoman - that disappears later because of the mourning element - so more a subconscious rather than conscious choice on his part. Also after a while I suspect this character became second nature to him.

But I could very well be wrong.
Mar. 29th, 2008 02:00 am (UTC)
You could be wrong, I could be wrong, we all could be wrong. Doesn't stop us. :)

I got the impression that as he was going into mourning he became more controlling of his own emotions. We know from the rat!belly scene that he's exceptionally good at hiding sadness behind his duties. So the butler persona became a shield.

And perhaps the roleplaying became not just second nature, but almost.. fun? It would explain the UNIT cap thing if Ianto enjoys a little roleplaying in his sex life as well as his normal life. It would also explain why he keeps up and even increases some of his "butler" duties, like putting on Jack's coat for him and getting Jack's gun out.

Do you mind if I friend you? I'm rather new at the actual posting thing, but I've been a lurker for a while and love your fics.
Mar. 29th, 2008 03:14 am (UTC)
You could be wrong, I could be wrong, we all could be wrong. Doesn't stop us. :)

:D The poking and prodding is so much fun.

I love the idea of the persona becoming a shield - love it. It gives him an opportunity to rebuild himself as well - sort of part of the survival process.

Friend away :D The more Torchwood people on my friends list the better and thanks so much about the fic *blushes*
Mar. 29th, 2008 12:10 pm (UTC)
Have you read the books and the stuff off the website at all? It shows such a different side to Ianto that we don't necessarily get to see on screen. Have a look at iantos_desktop, which has everything archived from the series 1 website, and the series 2 website. Also, I'd really recommend getting the Torchwood books. The website stuff especially shows the background stuff we didn't see about Ianto's mourning, and the progression of Ianto and Jack's relationship.

(I'm just commenting all over the place now! This discussion is so interesting!)

Edited at 2008-03-29 04:16 pm (UTC)
Mar. 29th, 2008 04:40 pm (UTC)
I absolutely love the website stuff (especially the BBC America blog - so funny!) but I'm never sure whether or not to include them as canon in discussions. For example, I know the website says Jack put Ianto on suspension for a month, but the way he showed up at the office while Gwen and Jack were having a conversation about him gave me the strong impression that only a day or two had gone by (though I'd have to rewatch to see the exact circumstances).
(no subject) - ceindreadh - Mar. 30th, 2008 06:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 29th, 2008 12:07 pm (UTC)
I agree with this comment. Ianto came to Torchwood, wanting to be part of the team (outwardly) and looking after Lisa (inwardly). I think his anger that showed in Cyberwoman was that he hadn't really been thought of as part of the team. And it had a *lot* to do with the fact that he realised that he had been busted, and could potentially lose everything in his life; he already knew he was going to lose Lisa, and then rapidly his job, which seemingly seems to be the only thing that Ianto has in his life.

And with regards to him trying to get at Jack, this shows Fragments to be even more interesting. The fact that Ianto *did* have to use his sexuality, to an extent, shows that the way he acted in Cyberwoman, and the comments he made, just reminded Jack that he hadn't necessarily wanted the job at Torchwood because he thought Jack was a bit of alright (as I suspect Jack had thought), and Ianto actually had ulterior motives for wanting it, which must have bruised Jack's pride considerably, as well as betraying his trust etc.
Mar. 29th, 2008 02:03 am (UTC)
the whole "ianto was supposed to die in cyberwoman" line is so old it needs to be buried.

the entire s1 of torchwood was shot at once. ianto was in the entire series. maybe in some early drafting of the s1 arc, they had planned on offing ianto; but by the time they finalized the arc, he was firmly in place as a character to develop.

and i think we can all agree that whomever decided to maintain the character made the right decision, even to the point of continuing with the ianto-as-enigma situation.
Mar. 29th, 2008 02:08 am (UTC)
and i think we can all agree that whomever decided to maintain the character made the right decision, even to the point of continuing with the ianto-as-enigma situation.

Oh I definitely agree. After all, it gives us so much more to speculate about. :)