Fedoralady on ‘Manhunter,’ ‘Hannibal’ and Armitage’s flawed heroes (who haven’t actually eaten anyone)

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Richard and I have “been together” for just under eight years now. I discovered him as that absolutely delicious baddie (who turned into a goodie but still had to die for his past sins) Sir Guy on BBC America.

Initially I found Sir Guy to be a smarmy bastard, albeit a good-looking one. I did not fall for him right away as many viewers did when watching RA as John Thornton three years earlier in “North and South.” It was more of a slow burn . . .

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I noticed something curious happening—the villainous master-of-arms actually had a heart, damaged and flawed though it might be, with glimmers of humanity in all its vulnerability peeking through that arrogant, brutish facade.

By the end of the first series, I was solidly Team Leather, and angry with Marian for leaving him at the altar. I grew increasingly tired of her machinations in the second series. Marian was a tease, and it was a dangerous game she played with this passionate man who went out of his way more than once to protect her from Vasey.

When she taunted him so cruelly in the desert, I decided she had lost her mind. Poor, devastated Sir Guy acted in desperation and disbelief to her words, and went on to clearly mourn her far more than her husband of five minutes ever seemed to do.

By the end of the third and final series, I cried like a baby. I mourned the death of Sir Guy more than I did  some of the actual flesh-and-blood relatives in my extended family. I was, and am, and shall ever remain a Sir Guy of Gisborne apologist.

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Richard Armitage doesn’t have to play “good” characters for me to relate to them, care about them, root for and mourn for them. I love his flawed heroes like John Porter, Lucas North (I don’t believe in Bateman) and Thorin. These characters are all complicated and damaged creatures with their own particular emotional baggage: professional disgrace and estrangement from family, prison, loss of home and fortune, each of them struggling in his own way to reclaim his former life and redeem himself (John Proctor I will discuss in a future post. He deserves one all his own).

Richard has himself said in the past his fans won’t like all the roles he chooses, and at the time I thought primarily of Thorin. Let’s face it, more than a few people, fans and non-fans alike, raised eyebrows over the idea of our tall, handsome heartthrob of a fellow as a 250-odd-year-old hirsute dwarf who could have played Disney’s “Grumpy” as far as his personality was sketched out in Tolkien’s original novel. This character certainly wasn’t the romantic period hero or the charming rom-com leading man some fans were hoping to see him play.

Today, Thorin is the favorite RA character of many newer fans, their gateway to discover other Armitage projects, and they can’t imagine anyone else performing in that role (neither can I). It turns out vertically-challenged hairy dudes can become major heartthrobs, too–at least when played by Richard Armitage.

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Richard managed to not only look majestic and handsome beneath the dwarf suit, wig and prosthetics, he also fleshed out that role and brought those subtle layers to Thorin. We felt our hearts constrict when the paranoia and gold lust overcame the warrior king, we cried when he saw him fall “one last time.” Another death, another redeemed character.

But how do I deal with Francis Dolarhyde, a cannibalistic serial killer? Here is a character who does not kill people as part of his employment as a medieval henchman in a difficult time when life was “nasty, short and brutish.” Nor is this character a member of the military or the secret service who sometimes must take a life to save many others.

He’s not a warrior prince fighting to take back the kingdom lost to a fierce dragon years before in order to reclaim a throne and restore his people to their rightful place.

Dolarhyde is a monster who kills innocent people and eats portions of them . . . and let me be perfectly honest. It makes me more than a little uneasy to think I might possibly fall for a monster, even one that’s a fictional character. I guess I wonder if I do get infatuated with Dolarhyde, just what might that say about me? Yes, I know the character had an awful childhood. So do a lot of other people who don’t turn out like this.

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I have read the book “Red Dragon” and while I didn’t see the film of the same name, I have viewed the 1986 Michael Mann film “Manhunter” starring William Petersen of CSI fame as the Will Graham character. It’s actually a very well-made film with solid performances, including that of Tom Noonan in the Dolarhyde role. I felt a certain pity for Dolarhyde in this film, but he also scared the daylights out of me.

thHB7J4B83It’s been a number of years since I last saw it, and I would like to see it again.  ( Images found on Bing. Noonan as Dolarhyde and Petersen as Graham).

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I am currently watching the new season of “Hannibal” and find I have no desire to re-watch the two eps I have seen so far. I have read raves about this series from critics and some of its fans, but somehow, I am not “getting it,” not yet. I suppose it would help if I had seen the first two seasons, but I have no desire to do that, either.

Does it have great production values? Yes. Does it have a talented cast? Yes. Do I thus far find it excessively bloody, at times pretentious and on the boring side? Yes, yes and yes. Apparently the ratings are down, making me suspect many of RA’s legion of fans are opting out of watching it until RA appears in the last six eps, and some, not even then. Cannibalistic serial killer seems to be that deal-breaker role for some of us.

I certainly haven’t shied away from scary, spooky, even gory films and TV series in the past. I am not averse to dark, morbid humor. I loved “Dexter,” and its protagonist was a Miami crime scene blood specialist who, oh yeah, was also a serial killer, BUT he only killed other serial killers and similarly rotten individuals. He had a code taught to him by his adoptive father, a cop who recognized the tendencies within his son and taught him how to channel his “dark passenger.” Michael C. Hall did a marvelous job of making Dexter somehow likeable and relatable even as we glimpsed the monster within.

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(Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan. Bing IMages)

So I am truly curious to see what Mr. Armitage will bring to the table (other than body parts) in this role. We know from the stills already released that he is in fine physical form for the role and if nothing else, we can enjoy that, I suppose. But I have always found more to appreciate in his performances than merely those bodacious biceps and broad shoulders. Those attributes are the yummy icing on the cake of the chaRActers for me.

Thus far, “Hannibal” just isn’t doing it for me. I want to tell Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) to get away from that crazy nutcase, the same for Gillian Anderson (who plays Hannibal’s wife).

Mads Mikkelsen is a very prominent and respected actor in his native Denmark, and considered quite sexy by many, but honestly, he was creeping me out before I saw him in this role. Granted, I’ve only seen him as a Bond baddie, a BBC Sherlock Holmes baddie and as Igor Stravinski in a film about his affair with Coco Chanel that I found beautiful to look at but ultimately empty—style over substance. The sex scenes seemed clinical and cold. He doesn’t capture my imagination the same way RA does. Maybe if he did, I wouldn’t find “Hannibal” such a disappointment  . . .

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This role is not helping the gut “ick” reaction I have to Mr. Mikkelsen to subside. Then again, he is also playing a cannibalistic serial killer, so should I not be icked out? I just have very, very, very mixed feelings about all of this.  I don’t like what I call “torture porn” such as one sees in films like the “Saw” franchise and this show is feeling like that for me, albeit with an elegant and refined façade tacked over it.

Oh, Richard. I understand and applaud your desire to take on a variety of roles rather than falling into the rut of playing the same character again and again. To challenge yourself, to stretch yourself as an actor. To take us on new journeys of discovery with your characters.

And I am sure you will do a brilliant job of bringing Francis Dolarhyde to the small screen, just as you have in so many other roles.  I have complete faith in your acting abilities and good sense.

I just wish that you had stretched in a different direction this time around.

Then again, what do I know? This controversial character may become a new fan favorite–and bring you a whole new crop of fans. We shall see . . .

25 responses »

  1. For clarification — Dolarhyde is not a cannibal. He doesn’t eat his victims, at least not in the book and not in either of the films that have been made from it. That’s not to say that he doesn’t do *other* terrible things, but cannibalism is not one of them.

    I do think the episodes that have aired so far this season would be greatly enhanced and more tolerable with the context of the first two seasons to go with them. We’re coming off a huge emotional whammy from the end of season two, and without that information I don’t know if it’s possible to latch on at this particular point in the story where who these characters are and what their relationships are is so essential.

    The Dolarhyde episodes will likely be quite different, and I suspect they will be easier on new viewers.

    • He does—gnaw them a bit, shall we say. After all, he isn’t called the Tooth Fairy because he leaves money under their pillow–and I guess that’s enough for me to think of him as a cannibal, but technically you are correct, pknail. I am just not sure I can deal with watching all the first two years of eps; I may have to settle with finding online recaps of the episodes to read. And see if I can find a copy of “Manhunter.” Frankly, I hope that the Dolarhyde episodes are different and easier on this viewer, at least. Thanks for stopping in and commenting!

  2. Hi Angie, I so agree with you. Having only sat and watched the first episode but not ever having seen the other series, I was left totally cold and if Richard wasn’t coming along hopefully sooner rather than later, I would have turned it off half way through, can’t see what there is to ‘rave’ about.
    It was too pretentious with long, overdone pauses for effect, although the scenery was sumptious. I think this’ll all change when we get on to the ‘Red Dragon’ story – it’ll become more interesting for a start.
    Richard says he can only take whats offered, and he’s straight about the fact that he hasn’t been offered the ‘big’ screen rolls. Benedict Cumberbatch seems to get them!! But have you seen the trailer for ‘Urban and the shed crew’? It is absolutely delightful and he looks so relaxed and natural – watch too the way he dances (sways?) so close behind Anna Friel as the drugtaking mum, he’s practically glued to her and looks divine. Can’t wait for the film to be released. Something ‘totally different’ to look forward to, and he looks fantastic in the film Pilgrimage too as the French knight… totally alpha male -sighs. Thank goodness he gives us plenty of variety to choose from!
    Best wishes, great to see you back to talking RA Characters !

    • Hey, FF, glad to be back. You know, I shared the link to the UATSC trailer on my FB page, went on and did some other things, and by the time I thought about it and tried to watch it, it had been taken done. :/ I really loved Haire’s book so I am looking forward to seeing “Urban” at some point (I hope!!). While “Pilgrimage” may be ultra-violet as has been described, at least we have Armitage in armour, riding a horse and wielding a sword, two things he does quite well. And he doesn’t bite anybody as far as I know!

      • That’s no good! If you haven’t seen the trailer, I giffed all the trailer scenes with RA and posted on my blog. And here is a link from lilianschild on the RAC forum that works for me, though a lot of people on the forum had trouble getting it to work:

        [video src="http://www.mediafire.com/watch/ar1srlwawh6bpg3/Urban_&_The_Shed_Crew_Trailer_%281080p%29.mp4" /]

        From the trailer, it looks like a refreshing change!

        • Thanks, Jholland. I’ve been trying to do a lot of multitasking lately and sometimes it gets away from me. I really am looking forward to Urban–it seems the biggest departure in many ways to his recent roles, or roles in general.

  3. Great post, Angie!
    Hannibal has me in a conundrum, too. You put the difference between the previous “violent” chaRActers and the newest one really well – there is no reason for Dolarhyde to kill, except for his pleasure. That’s what makes it so hard to swallow.
    As for the role choices – hm, IDK, yes, they may appear to be heading in the same direction at the moment. But apart from having to choose from what is there on offer, I personally almost like the fact that he is staying away from the romantic lead. They seem to be a bit more predictable as characters, and I personally find it fascinating how he manages to portray the inner conflict of a “problematic” character and even go so far as to evoke sympathy in the viewers. Maybe he finds that more rewarding to achieve than the expected warm reception of a heroic character? As for me – I am a creature of habit, completely lazy when it comes to leaving my comfort zone. But I appreciate it that he forces me to look beyond my own horizon, exploring new genres along the way, possibly even having to change my opinion on issues and characters portrayed. He brought me to the fantasy genre, he’s made me evaluate my thoughts on horror (although I haven’t changed my general rejection of cannibalism). I don’t think Hannibal is going to be a favourite of mine, but I am willing to give it a go (as soon as Dolarhyde emerges), which is something I wouldn’t have done if it hadn’t been for his involvement.

    • Thank you! Two in less than three days! And lots of writing. Yes, undoubtedly it is more interesting for him to pursue these complex characters than to play the same “virtuous vanilla” hero type over and over again. Frankly, there are other, lesser actors out there who can take those on.

      If I were an actress, I’d also want the chance to play against type. Being painted into a corner regarding their roles was a problem for some of the movie stars of the past—when they tried to break out of the heroic mold, the films often flopped because their fans didn’t want to see them as anything but a bona fide hero with no dark side. Just saw Tyrone Power in the film noir “Nightmare Alley” for the first time. He was great in the role and very happy with the film even though it didn’t fare well at the box office.

      Richard Armitage has definitely helped expand my horizons in terms of what I watch and what I read and given me much food for thought along the way. I doubt I would have ever read Bernard Hare’s book, for example, which was a wonderful read, and I certainly would not have watched “Hannibal” (and probably won’t again once he’s finished his role).

      • I agree completely. However, it is unlikely that I will have access to “Hannibal” and I doubt I’ll miss it. What I really want to see are “Urban and the Shed Crew” and “Pilgrimage.”

  4. I’m in sync with you on your thoughts on the show. I am too feel a littled icked out that I may find (‘may’? , let’s face it, I am most likely to) find FD weirdly sexy; I don’t think it’s possible to not with RA in the role. And it makes me a little queasy to think that. But…..I try and think FD is the way he is not just because of a bad childhood, as you say, many have had that and not be serial killers; but he is also mentally ill (the childhood making it all the worse)….and from what I interpreted from the book, a little ‘off’ seems to run in the family.

    I also don’t find MM all that attractive in the role of H..but, I watched a few of his interviews on YouTube and he is very attractive and personable in RL — funny and smart. In one of them a little boy (who likes horror movies) interviewed him and he was very accommodating and sweet — it was a good interview.

    • I found Robert Lovelace as acted by RA on BBC Radio both dastardly and drop-dead sexy (so much so I had to write a fanfic in which he was seducer and not rapist) so there is every possibility I will be drawn to RA’s FD. And I am sure with the character’s sad background and mental issues, Richard will bring us a pitiable character we can wish things had been much different for . . . rather than just outright despising him.

      I’ve never seen Mads in any RL setting, but I can believe he’s a lot more likeable than some of the characters I’ve seen him play. Interesting how some of the best screen baddies are pussycats in real life.

  5. I have the impression – and that’s what “calms” me – many “of us” have ambivalent feelings towards the series. 😉 Though I wasn’t very impressed after watching the first episodes I am looking forward to “his” episodes, quite sure he will deliver the beast in all its versatile variations.
    To my surprise I quite liked the book and the Red Dragon movie, too, with Ralph Fiennes doing quite a good, satanic job. But I think, Richard’s Red Dragon will go much deeper, turn scarier than the latter.
    Thank you for your well pronounced post! There’ll be less gory films to come …

    • Thank you! Oh, I definitely think a lot of us are disquieted by this role. It would be hard not to be . . . actually, I rather liked the book (which is actually one of the most highly rated of Harris’s books on Amazon, so I noticed) and I really enjoyed the first film based on it, as I said—I have never seen Fienne’s version. I am certainly hoping RA’s presence will make it all a lot more watchable for those of us otherwise not so enamored by the show.

  6. I would really love to see him in a new filming of Jane Eyre. He would make an outstanding Rochester. Except – there is a problematic part. In the story, Rochester asks Jane if she finds him handsome. She answers, “No.” Now, when Timothy Dalton received that answer, I chortled. When Toby Stephens heard it, I giggled. When that was the response to Michael Fassbender, I started sobbing with laughter. If and when Jane says that she does not find Richard Armitaqe handsome, I fear that I may hurt myself. ROFLMAO would NOT be just a figure of speech.

    As far as “Hannibal” goes, I am in complete accord with what you have said. I am watching it, reluctantly, just to get up to speed on the story and characters. I fully expect Richard Armitage to break my heart in this. I’m afraid that it will be a case of sympathy for the devil – in this case a sad, damaged devil.

    • I think he’d make a great Rochester, too, although he is indeed entirely too attractive “as is” to play the role. Of course, all those you mentioned were also too handsome to play the character. I actually think of all the actors who have portrayed Rochester, George C. Scott might have come the closest to a physical resemblance to Charlotte’s description. Yes, I also suspect my poor heart will be torn to pieces by this.
      “I’m afraid it will be a case of ympathy for the devil–in this case a sad, damaged devil” Very well said.

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