This post is missing the video clips b/c of copyright infringement on youtube. I respect the BBC’s right to prevent copyright violations. I am concerned with how their policing of short clips however may prevent new fans from seeing bits and wanting to watch the whole thing. For this post, it was greatly enhanced by having the clips of Ianto’s snark about torture because it underscored the point both I and someone on the writing staff on Torchwood were clearly trying to make. Like quotes, short clips can entice a reader/viewer, build momentum, and underscore important aspects of a show that might be acclaimed for other things. So if you are looking for those great clips, I’m sorry but WoC PhD does it best to not violate copyright once alerted. Please find the post with clips that are less poignant but approved.
Original Post (new clips)
My inner dork feels compelled to tell you how terribly in love I find myself falling with Ianto Jones. (Uh, no, not that kind of crush thank you; one of my yay! someone hilarious to watch on tv kind of crushes which I have been missing lately.) Initially Ianto was like a quirky Q from 007, and in some ways clearly, dare I say queerly, a nod to that character. Yet his only two major story arcs last season were when he stood up to, the increasingly overbearing, Owen in Captain Jack Harkness (who will be killed this season by the way) and when his heart broke in Cyberwoman. I have already written quite a bit about both of those episodes, so I don’t think it is worthwhile to revisit them again. I will simply say that both reveal the complexity and loyalty of the Ianto character. The later trait often came across as a detriment last season, his love for Lisa nearly got everyone killed, and his love for Jack upheld the rules about the rifts but nearly got Jack and Toshiko trapped in the past. At the same time, his loyalty and steadfastness, were key elements of his character used repeatedly in minor scenes throughout the season to establish him as a needed and important part of the Torchwood team.
With the second episode of the second season of Torchwood about to air, we have been given a whole other side of Ianto to enjoy. Starting with his snarky comment in Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, “Some fetishes should be kept to yourself,” Sleeper (episode 2) gives us a sarcastic Ianto unafraid to speak his mind. Some of the very best scenes in the episode take place during the interrogation of Beth, when Ianto openly criticizes Jack’s decision to use a potentially lethal devise on someone they are not sure is human. While the others throw questioning looks, Ianto openly, and humorously, questions Jack’s tactics. During the interrogation itself, Ianto and Gwen also reveal that he has been telling tales and Jack has not come out so rosy in them.
These scenes are far more integral than they might seem. On the surface they serve to distract us from the very real inhumane torture being used to extract information about an alien terrorist cell that no one is sure exists. However, barely beneath that surface is the way in which Ianto’s character reminds us what is at stake when we put our needs above human decency. He questions any technique that might lead to the abuse and/or heinous death of someone who is innocent. Since the British are the original drafters of the Emergency Powers-Prevention of Terrorism Acts that led to such infamous cases as the Maguire 7, these criticisms cannot be ignored.
The exchange about sex during the interrogation also serves to question what it means when someone puts forth their own agenda without question or concern for others. Again the characters play on cute insider information about bedtime habits to both alleviate the scenes to come and to make us think about what leads to thinking that allows for torture without the proper evidence. Nor do I think these questions should be overlooked just because Jack turns out to be right.
In many ways throughout the first season Jack has had to make tough decisions when no one else on the team will. Often these decisions lead to a bullet or the transfer of a child into the arms of vengeful creatures. Yet each time he makes these decisions, I think we are invited to ask what are the alternatives and to explore the complexities. There is no value judgment here but rather praise for a show that helps us think through the burden of leadership, the import of caution and humanity, and the complexity of humanity (sexually, socially, and politically).
One of the producers once described Gwen as the humanity and conscience of the show. She clearly continues this thread in the second installment of the season. However, I would argue that Ianto is the funnier, snarkier, version of the same thing. As we saw in the last season, he has an immense capacity to love, and he also has no qualms about calling it like he sees it. Perhaps this is why Jack tells both Gwen and Ianto they are the reason he returned to Cardiff.
For those invested in Jack and Ianto developing a stronger relationship, you will be excited to hear that both actors have stated the relationship will grow and become more fleshed out as the season continues. In my previous post one comment maker took a decidedly mean tone with me for pointing out how much of a player Jack had been in season one and asking that Ianto be given real love this season. His comment was based on an interview about Season Two and subsequently did not respond to my comments which were about season one. As some fans may know, Ianto was meant to be killed in the first season but was so well liked he staid on, hence why he was the backroom tea boy rather than a full love interest in season one as I said.
So let me say this for all you fans and lurkers directly from Cardiff, I love that Jack and Ianto have a thing goin’ on not only because it is adorable to watch them flirt but because of its socio-political import for the genre, something I have written about before. For me it seems equally important to continue to establish Ianto as a character in his own right as much as a love interest. As I’ve said, his character development was not nearly as strong as the other characters in season one and I am glad to see that changing. The fact that the writers, direct
ors, and actors are developing Ianto’s character, as a whole person, should be applauded as much as those anticipated snogging scenes we all love. What makes love or attraction fascinating on screen is the complexity after all, otherwise we could just watch gay porn and leave sci fi to Captain Kirk and the green ladies.
What makes Torchwood cutting edge in this arena is not only that it has a queer storyline, or multiple ones for that matter, but that those storylines are well thought out, integral parts of the series and the characters that inhabit it. This is one of the things that held me to the show when it was a little too campy and a little too bad CGI reliant than I personally like. More importantly, it is the reason I feel confident in writing about it as social critique amidst posts on the U.S. presidential campaign, issues of globalization, racism, and homophobia. Ultimately, we have to be able to talk about the triumphs and the lapses of anything we analyze or its really not critical thinking that we are doing. This is not a fansite it is an academic one. And though this show is clearly for fans, of which I am one, it is also an important milestone in queer media and subsequently, queer media studies.
(Next week/this week depending on where you are – Torchwood will once again return to theme of being unstuck in time and Jack, in his own way, will say that he loves Ianto. As I’ve said before, the episodes that deal with time are often some of the best.)
more snarky clips 😀