Feeling ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ : Thoughts on Sir Guy & Francis Dolarhyde

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The viewing options for early morning TV, even with 150 satellite channels, isn’t all that great. Infomercials reign. If you want to watch “Breaking Bald” or “Fish Oil Benefits Examined,” you’re good. If not . . .

So I sometimes find myself awake in the early morning hours watching reruns of “Charmed,” a cheesy production about three cute witch sisters from San Francisco whose names all start with “P.” “Charmed” features laughably bad special effects and copious amounts of scenery chewing by the Guest Supernatural Villain of the Week. The costumes and makeup at the local haunted house looks more professional.

Yet, who am I to question all this?  After all, the show stayed on for eight years, so it obviously had its devoted fans.

And I suppose “Robin Hood” was pretty cheese-tastic, too, but at least we had the glories of Sir Guy to make up for flimsy castle walls, anachronisms run rampant (Hang gliding? Casinos? Bustles? In the 12th century?) and groan-worthy scripts.  And he and the odious Vasey were such fun to watch together.

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With Richard as Sir Guy, we got the visual enjoyment of six feet, two inches of a trim, toned athletic physique (those long lean horseman’s thighs! Those PEACHES!) clad in sleek black leather–and later, his memorable medieval couture featuring the Sexy Pirate Shirt and the Marvel of Engineering Trousers with Ties and Laces in All the Right Places.  Add in seductive kohl-rimmed azure eyes, tempting stubble, raven black rock star tresses, a rumbling baritone and hey! presto . . . the World’s Most Smouldering Sidekick was born. Wait . . . who is the star of this show again?!  ‘Cause for this chick, it ain’t Arrow Boy.

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But the thing about Richard as Guy of Gisborne is that he was so much more than another pretty face in another lightweight, rather silly television show. So much more than the standard-issue cardboard cut-out of an evil henchman.

You watched not just because you visually enjoyed him and got a kick out of the general campiness of the show. You watched because he was that character, that damaged soul, proud and arrogant, naïve and gullible, a passionate man desperate for love and a home, a mercurial creature capable of both great violence and great tenderness. A beautiful disaster.  You hated some of his actions, yet–you couldn’t hate him. Richard made you care. And cry. And wonder what might have been for Sir Guy.

Which brings me to Francis Dolarhyde, a character with even darker and more terrifying corners in his soul than Sir Guy. Dolarhyde is cripplingly shy, emotionally stunted and deeply lonely. He feels impotent, unloved, a nonentity. He longs to make a real connection, to become something, someone different–stronger, more powerful, better than he is.  His self-improvement course of action, alas, will ultimately bring death, grief and misery.

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Dolarhyde, clearly uncomfortable with the thought of Reba touching him–touching the hated scar on his face?

Sir Guy sought to raise himself by accumulating wealth, power and status, hoping to restore respect for the name of Gisborne. He sought to cleanse his blackened soul by marrying a good, pure woman (who, of course, clocked him and then left him at the altar).

Sir Guy ends up burning down Marian’s house in retaliation, but that’s nothing compared to what Francis does. He murders two entire families and he doesn’t have a wicked boss who orders him to take the lives of perfectly innocent people, or else.

Francis is a serial killer, an odious monster. A dangerous man.

And yet.

As much as I despise the heinous actions of Francis Dolarhyde, I can no more hate him or look away from him than I could from Sir Guy.

FD’s intensity is heartbreaking as he watches so carefully Reba stroking the sleeping tiger, imagining that those caresses are being given to him. This is a middle-aged man who has experienced pitifully little in the way of physical affection.  It’s a staggering experience for both Reba and Francis.

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And after their lovemaking, there is his gentleness towards a sleeping Reba.

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It is an astonishing performance and I am glad I am able to see it. I am still not a “Hannibal” convert, but I am so, so impressed with Richard’s complex and nuanced interpretation of this role and of the amazing way he is fleshing out Francis Dolarhyde for us.

Call it sympathy for the devil–and kudos to the actor taking us on the journey.

All Hannibal stills and GIFs found on Pinterest; RH stills from Richard Armitage Net

About fedoralady

I'm an LA native--Lower Alabama, that is. My husband of more than 30 years and I live here on a portion of my family's former farm with two gorgeous calicos and a handsome GSD mix. My background is art education, and over the years I've been a teacher, department store photographer, sales associate and a journalist. My husband, his business partner and I have Pecan Ridge Productions, a video production company, for which I shoot & edit video and stills and manage marketing. I also still write part-time for the local paper. I love movies, music, art, photography and books, and my tastes in all of them are eclectic.

21 responses »

  1. Thank you – I absolutely agree with your thoughts! He is more than good as Dolarhyde! Isn’t it a miracle where he gets his fan to? Though I really hope he won’t ever again have to turn to shows like RH… Or movies like ITS…

    • Deep down I  feel as if he’s going to be able to do more and more work with really good actors, directors, scriptwriters . . . I believe as more people in the business see him in this role and in the other films (and may we soon see him in those, too!!) RA will have more and more doors opening to him. As far as ITS goes, trust me, in terms of an action/disaster thriller  could have been a LOT worse. I recently saw “Swarm” with Michael Caine from the 70s and it was–terrible. Horrible acting, awful dialogue, bad special effects–even MC said it was the worst movie he ever made. ITS gave RA  a chance to play an American, a dad and to  survive at the end of the film. 😉

      • Yiu’re right! I know the ourpose of ITS ;), but I always felt a bit pity because it was the 1st thing after TH where everyone who saw him must have been overwhelmed.
        Fair enough, he seems to be on the right way and I’m excited to accompany his steps!

        • Yes, I see your point, too.:D But I do think he’s headed in the right direction and he seems to be in a happy place–busy working on projects which capture his interest and provide him with a challenge. So I will keep following him wherever his journey takes him and know it’s worth my time and effort. 😀

    • Thanks, it popped into my head the other day when I was thinking about Francis. I also saw this quote by Dylan Thomas: “I hold a beast, an angel, and a madman in me.” And that made me think of poor Francis, fighting with the duality in his nature.

  2. I still dislike the show and all the characters except Reba and Will’s family, but I can’t deny that this is a masterful adaptation, except for the lighting. Maybe the murk is to blame for the dim reviewer who claimed that FD was ‘pressing’ on Reba’s chest in a way that was threatening.
    I really enjoyed your screencap of what’s really going on in that scene.

    • I can’t say I saw anything threatening in that scene, quite to the contrary, but I  agree the lighting makes it hard to tell what’s what at times. A pet peeve of mine in a lot of series and films nowadays. I know bright carnival colors would be inappropriate, but—-y ou can do “bleak” or “foreboding” without it being visually undecipherable, surely?  I found all the stills and GIFs (watching the gifs really helps capture the emotional atmosphere, I think) on Pinterest after watching the episode.

        • Yes, and Mads in any role kinda creeps me out no matter whether it’s bright or dark LOL Just something about him. I finally seem to be able to understand most of what he’s saying at least–I guess I have gotten adjusted to his accent?

  3. As you know Angie it was never Arrow Boy for me either. It was definitely Guy all the way, and while I will never be a Hannibal fan for a start it too dam dark for me. I’am watching it for Richard and what a master class it is, as all of his long term followers knew it would be. Roll on what ever is next for him and lets hope it’s a bit lighter.

    • Hey, AJ! Yes, Team Leather all the way. I have to admit I am ready for something less dark and deep and dangerous, as much as I know he is terrific at such roles and I trust his judgment. Still, a change of pace might be a good thing for him, yes? And it’s so true, as much as I didn’t particularly look forward to Hannibal, I DID know all along he would be great in this role as he has in so many others. He’s so dependable, that boy.

  4. a beautiful disaster.. what a wonderful way to put it… and ah the bad boys we’d all like to reform and hope for and it is so interesting that he did in the end play one who tipped towards good i guess and one who probably will be lost…
    I never expected to be taken on the journey with Dolarhyde quite the way he has managed to do it… his talent can conquered even my inhibitions and limitations 🙂

  5. Great post! You know how much I loved Sir Guy. (And I still do) As for FD, I’m both freaked-out and heartbroken for him. The scene after the lovemaking brought a tear to my eye (And that single tear from HIS eye – so sad!) But the next minute, I was revolted as I watched him eat the painting (Those teeth!) and THEN, I was fascinated as I watched him tussle with Will Graham. As always, RA has me on a rollercoaster of emotions, and it’s fantastic! 😁

    • Thanks, Charlotte, and I know just how much of a fellow Guy admirer you are.<3 Yes, an amazing, thrilling, terrifying, unforgettable rollercoaster ride. He just never fails to impress. You know, Guy had his moments where he scared me, too–the icy cold chill in his eyes at times, the white-hot anger that burst out at other times. Yet I remain fascinated—could not look away (didn't hurt that he was so attractive no matter what ;))

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