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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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 . . .
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 . . .