That stance [Spooks 9 spoilers!]

Since I’m all about pleasing the reader (cough), I’ll suspend temporarily my own concerns that I am writing too much about Lucas North at the moment and follow up on a comment from yesterday’s post. I will warn you, however, that I don’t really have much analysis to offer — just some pictures for you to ponder. Once I got done collecting some evidence, I got lazy. (If not otherwise attributed, caps are mine.) This piece is actually a bit incoherent as it treats two entirely separate issues that are only apparently and not really connected, but I harvested all the photos and so I am darn well going to connect them. A more considerate blogger would save the two themes for two separate posts, but I’ve always been able to trust the stamina of “me + richard armitage” readers.

iz4blue writes: “Actually I initially fixated on those hindshots: that well-fitted jacket with buckle as focal point matched with well fitted jeans. There is another posture that keeps me pondering. When he is standing by the window in the hospital and Maya is about to leave. His arms are not naturally beside his body. I read hesitation and determination at the same time. I’ve seen him do it before and wondered whether the jacket was at fault. Don’t think that’s it though.”

Here’s the scene in question from Spooks 9.2. After the scene treated so intensively yesterday, Lucas/John has just followed Maya into the health care facility and is awaiting her in an examination room.

Lots of cool stuff here, including the entrancing “eyes appear to be not exactly focused on the same spot” feature that feefa raised and that we find so entrancing (here enhanced by the shadow in his right eye socket where the upper maxilla meets the orbit).

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) turns his head back towards Maya (Laila Rouass) after she’s slapped him in Spooks 9.2.

I didn’t feel like doing a microexpression analysis here today. What we’re interested in in his posture at the very end of the scene, to wit:

“Please!” Lucas (Richard Armitage) tosses in at the end of an invitation, directed at the fleeing Maya, to meet him that evening in Spooks 9.2.

So why is he standing that way? Not Lucas’s normal stance, although it does appear elsewhere in Spooks. Of this, more below.

***

First, to agree with iz4blue: I don’t really think it’s the wardrobe, either, although you can kind of see how the Belstaff jacket appears to be shaping his stance in this publicity shot:

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) in a publicity still for Spooks 9. Source: Richard Armitage Net. Note that the jacket is open but that Mr. Armitage seems to be holding his arms at an angle of subtle separation from his body.

Richard Armitage in another publicity still for Spooks 9. Source: Richard Armitage Net. Here the jacket is closed, but you can see how the waist suppression creates a strain for him across the front of the chest. The arms again appear to be held in a pose as opposed to dropping naturally from his shoulders, although they may just be tailored very closely.

Compare the previous season here: Lucas North (Richard Armitage) in a publicity still for Spooks 8. Source: Richard Armitage Net. The waist suppression of the jacket here is evident but not quite so strict as in the new jacket. It appears to give him plenty of room for his upper body musculature.

So I do think, in comparison to the previous jacket, that the Belstaff jacket we see debuting in series 9 affects his posture, because it is fit very, very closely. That’s the style of the brand, apparently, and part of what makes it the apparel of choice of wealthy stylish people everywhere. I tried to surf around a bit to find out how stylish it really is, and found mostly marketing rather than actual writing about it. I also found out what a jacket like this one costs and was kind of horrified. I paid that much for a Columbia winter jacket (knee-length waterproof detachable shell with fleece) eleven years ago and intend to wear that coat until I die or global warming prevents it from ever snowing again. If I’d been paying the bill I’d be screaming: “Lucas, you better get a lot of wear out of this jacket!” It’s probably better for stylish spies to be single — or at least not married to parsimonious spinsters like me.

Anyway, it obviously looks good on him but not especially comfortable, in my opinion. Now I’m going to show you a lot of pictures of how the jacket moves with him. My essential point is that it fits acceptably and makes him look good. We see strain here and there, but not enough to judge it a fashion misstep. Look for fit to the shoulders throughout, which seems to be the potential problem area here and the thing that could influence his posture and his arm position.

Lucas (Richard Armitage) searching the penthouse at the Maybury Hotel in Spooks 9.2. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery. Lots of strain on the shoulder seams here. Note that he’s got the zippers on the forearms open — one imagines this enhances the mobility of the jacket.

Earlier in the penthouse search (essentially I am moving backwards here toward the beginning of the scene, sorry about that), this shot with Beth (Sophia Myles). Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery. Note wrinkles in the back originating from the bottom of the armholes.

More penthouse searching with Beth. From here, the jacket looks perfectly fitted, not a wrinkle in the entire back. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery

Another penthouse search cap with Beth in the background. It looks like there’s a placket there at the bottom of the piece that goes over the shoulders but that’s an optical illusion. Too bad, I think Mr. Armitage could have used it. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery.

Of course, we don’t know when these scenes were shot or in what order, and one suspects that at the beginning of the filming Mr. Armitage was still occupied with losing John Porter’s larger, more obvious muscle mass in the back and shoulders. The later excursion for the jacket in 9.2 makes it look a bit looser. Observe:

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) bugs the Westhouses’ private quarters in Spooks 9.2. Still some strain across the latissimus dorsi here.

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) entering the Westhouses’ quarters during the bugging operation in Spooks 9.2. This is just exactly how that jacket is supposed to fit — very smooth over the shoulders. The forearms are also zipped shut, which suggest more comfort with the sleeves at this wearing.

BUT, the astute observer has been saying this whole time, LUCAS/JOHN IS NOT EVEN WEARING THE BELSTAFF JACKET IN THE EXAMINATION ROOM SCENE!!!! BORING! (Relevant line from The Pierces here at 2:05). Indeed, astute observer. Just took you down a whole long rabbit trail of back shots of Mr. Armitage for no reason in particular except visual pleasure.

***

So now to the actual issue: interpreting the emotion or state of mind behind the stance in that photo above. In case you’ve forgotten I’ll reinsert the photo here:

Iz4blue says “combination of hesitation and determination.” That seemed reasonable to me, but I wanted to know more, so I looked for other places where Lucas is standing that way. I ended up having to look through a lot more video than I had planned just because I didn’t know how to describe the stance and hence had a hard time knowing where to look. Lucas under pressure? Lucas when he’s clearly done something wrong? Lucas when encountering a woman? Though I am not sure I found them all, there aren’t many more instances of this stance; indeed, one thing I concluded while on this search was that the editor apparently prefers to show Mr. Armitage in closeup or in action scenes than in a particular full body stance. Don’t know what that means. But here are some possibilities for comparison.

First, we should keep in mind that if we’re concentrating on the arm position, the posture above  is not totally unrelated to what we might call Lucas’s bravado stance, as seen in the publicity photos for series 8:

Peter Firth as Harry Pearce, Hermione Norris as Ros Myers, and Richard Armitage as Lucas North in a publicity still for Spooks 8. Source: Richard Armitage Net. One suspects this is a cull, or else they’d have airbrushed the marks out of the photo. Can’t resist pointing out that Mr. Armitage is the closest to actually standing on his. Doesn’t he look stalwart?

The position of the lower body is really different in that still, but the holding of the arms away from the body is similar. Here are some more comparisons:

Lucas in Highgate Cemetery as he encounters Elizaveta for the first time and learns that she is to be his FSB handler in Spooks 7.2:

One kind of gets the feeling that the arms indicate notional motion — as if Lucas could be about to spring. There’s a similar positioning of the arms but a very much more nervous holding of the lower body, including that single, tiny, oh-so-pregnant step back into disequilibrium as Lucas processes the shock of seeing her again when he is not in control of the encounter.

Actual footage reveals Spooks 8 as intriguing in this regard. The main point at which we see the emergence of this stance or something close to it is in encounters with Oleg Darshavin:

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) outside Thames House as Oleg Darshavin (Emil Hostina) informs him that he’s kidnapped Sarah Caulfield in Spooks 8.4.

Lucas (Richard Armitage) on the walls of a concrete structure in the Thames estuary as he comes to rescue Sarah from Oleg in Spooks 8.4.

Both of these moments combine hesitation and determination, but also an element of shame. I found a few other instances in Spooks 8 that point at embarrassment or shame as an element of the pose.

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) returns to his flat after delivering Oleg Darshavin to the FSB to discover Sarah awaiting him at the end of Spooks 8.4. We see the scene from Sarah’s perspective in the chair — note also the mirroring of the pose on the wall to Lucas’s left (our right) via shadow and the mood it creates. Not a great comparison because Lucas is walking here.

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) confronts the would-be terrorists in Spooks 8.7. Again, not a great comparison because Lucas is walking, but caution and determination are definitely elements of his stance here. Hard to read shame here, though — the only moment when Lucas shows any shame in this entire episode (and there are plenty of opportunities when he really deserves it) is when Ashok spurns his thanks at the end, and even then it’s just a split second.

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) justifies his decision not to shoot at Sarah Caulfield to Ros Myers (Hermione Norris) in Spooks 8.8. He’s also walking here, but again it’s a potentially shameful moment, which is why I offer it to you. That and his shoulders are down in a similar position of quasi-surrender.

DISCUSS.

~ by Servetus on October 3, 2010.

33 Responses to “That stance [Spooks 9 spoilers!]”

  1. I have noticed that Lucas quite often walks with his arms in this position with hands slightly held away from the body but along the side and have wondered if the jacket constricts his upper arms or if it is Lucas’ hero’s walk. But this particular stance does sometimes seem to express a degree of shame or discomfort, too. The first instance of it which I’ve interpreted as a sense of shame was in the washroom in Spooks 7 ep 1 when he’s explained his tattoos to Harry, has put his shirt back on after asking how Elizaveta is. When Harry leaves the room, his hands slowly fall to his side and remain in this position. For me it’s a very poignant moment in Lucas’ return when both he and Harry confront the physical eveidence of his Russian imprisonment, and in extension, what it might mean for his life and career back in England.

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    • Nice point about the walk. He often seems to be walking with clenched fists, for example. One reason I didn’t go further with this theme analytically is that I realized it was hard to separate the stance from the walk. There is something about this way of holding his arms that seems patently uncomfortable.

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  2. I did notice that stance on, I think, my second watch of the episode. It seemed unusual to me but I didn’t think too deeply about it!

    One thing I have noticed about these first two episodes (and bear in mind that until this series of Spooks I have never indulged in frequent re-watching of the series, nor do I have full copies of series 7 and 8 to review) but in both episodes I noticed Lucas kind of ‘at a loss’ almost panicking which I have never noted before. The first was the engine room conversation in episode 1 with Dmitri when he let Dmitri decide what had to be done, and the second was when finding Beth apparently dead in the lift – it’s just a thought but I always thought Lucas managed to maintain a very cool exterior in previous series when confronted with the unexpected in the course if his work. I may be wrong, as I say, I haven’t re-watched series 7 and 8 much. Think perhaps that he is really missing Ros.

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    • He doesn’t have Ros to rely on and to make the final decision any more. He is used to do his own thing but has to grow into the team leader role.

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    • Great reading — I hadn’t noticed the first and I will have to look back again at that. Agree he seemed atypically emotional w/r/t Beth and maybe part of it is realizing now he’s the responsible one. His position in the chain of command is clearer.

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  3. The position of RA’s arms in the analysed scene irritated me as well. It keeps me wondering if I fail to read all intended aspects of Lucas emotions in this scene.
    But it reminds me very much of a panther in the moment before he jumps his prey. The emotions under tight control, the arms slightly held back to not alert the prey. But he in this position is nontheless powerful enough to jump at any moment.
    Perhaps I draw this conclusion because I also compared the stance with the one Lucas has in the lift of the hotel, when he follows the man in 9.2 sent to retrieve the pills.

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    • … Oh, I forgot to mention in my previous comment, that I do not think Lucas wants to attack Maya Lahan (as it might seem from what I wrote). On the contrary, I think he intentionally holds back to not hurt her unintentionally.

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      • He’s often got so much going on that it’s hard to read him. If I have one general criticism of Mr. Armitage’s acting it’s that there is sometimes so much going on in it that it can be distracting.

        Your comment points at the combination of energy and restraint necessary for Lucas to be ready in all of these fight or flight situations. Probably a lot of adrenaline running through his veins when he reencounters Maya.

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    • With you comment, CDoart, I remembered also RA stance in SB when As’ad held a guns against him after JP killed his uncle, it was described by Angie -I think- also as ‘panther about to jump’. Maybe it is a defensive stance, ‘to be ready’ for whatever happens.
      In the case of his scene with Maya, he asks her to stay so could his stance mean, ‘ready for’ whatever her response is?

      I do believe Ros’ death plays a part in his body behaviour, RA as an actor has said he misses (something along the lines of)’the calm HN brought to the set’ and has said also, Lucas feels the pressure of filling in Ros’ place, as Jane said he knows he has to be the leader.

      OML 🙂

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  4. “Missing Ros” seems accurate. They had worked together with a sort of “Twin-ness”; this must a period of disorientation and adjustment for Lucas.

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  5. Hi there, it’s my first time writing on this blog so let me begin by saying thank you Servetus. I really enjoy my daily reads of your blog. On the issue of his arms and posture, if I may, I would suggest an altogether less intriguing reason for his stance. I remember a while back RA mentioned that he had injured his shoulder and arm (I believe while doing some horseback riding stunt or training for RH). And you’ll notice that the first couple of episodes of S.7 of Spooks he doesn’t move his right arm when walking. It’s particularly noticeable when he is walking in the park and about to meet Elizaveta (S.7.2). He also mentioned he had to have some physiotherapy for his neck and shoulder in an earlier interview. Since I have similar issues I find that I notice it when he seems to be holding himself in such a way that demonstrates some mobility issues. All that to say, he may be holding his arms a bit far away from his body because of trying to hold a straighter posture, combined with the additional John Porter muscles and the snug Lucas clothing. … Just a thought.

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    • Welcome, Cleo, and thanks for the kind words. This information is welcome — I must have missed that interview. Acting is really a hazardous profession!

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      • I managed to find the interview: Here it is for your reading pleasure…
        http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/show-patrol/2008/04/armitage-loves.html

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        • Thanks so much! I had read that interview but had totally ignored that information. I some times find it hard to assimilate everything. Like in that interview he says his stint in Budapest with the circus was 3 weeks — as opposed to other things I have heard, 6 weeks and 6 months. I’m a historian so I am supposed to be able to keep control of detail but it’s hard!

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          • It drives me mad, too, and I don’t think it is all down to sloppy journalists, but when I think of my own biography I have to think very hard to remember certain events correctly like when did I do my exam and how long did I stay with my first job.

            As to the Budapest story, I haven’t figured out how long he stayed there but I’m pretty sure it was 1990 and not when he was seventeen. Making him under age when he “ran away” just sounds so much better in an article about someone who is basically very boring.

            In this interview (old interview from the press office) he specifically says it was 1990, shortly after the Berlin wall came down and everything in Budapest was changing.

            http://theuktvguide.blogspot.com/2008/01/richard-armitage-on-robin-hood.html

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            • I agree there are all kinds of opportunities to get it wrong. But thanks so much for this article — this one I hadn’t read, and I admit as a specialist on Germany I had wondered how he’d gotten a job working behind the Iron Curtain in 1988, though obviously the curtain wasn’t as opaque there as it was elsewhere. I’d assumed, I guess, that he’d worked with some English troop that was guesting there. He would have been 17 from August of 1988 to August of 1989, so he could have been there during the real excitement! But now that I read he was there in 1990, I am for sure going to be adding to my list of interview questions I will never get to ask.

              re 17: when is British school leaving? In American terms he has an odd birthday for the school year (late August — which in some states would delay his school start a whole year). Is there a chance he or other people just associate it with the average age at leaving school? No knowledge here, just asking cluelessly.

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              • As far as I know usually 18? But he didn’t went to an ordinary school though I think he did A levels in Music and English. Pattisons College is a school for students up to the age of sixteen, followed by a three year musical theatre course for older students, I have always assumed he did that (though I have no idea if that already was the case twenty years ago). The article about “Miss Pat” you recently mentioned says he attended from 1985-1989.

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  6. Thanks Servetus! Lucas on top of the bunker is certainly where I noticed it first. I might be of my mark but that armhold reminds me off a classic danspose where the arms are rounded and the palm turned up, he’s just holding his arms farther back. I’m wondering if it’s a matter of him focusing.

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  7. Very interesting post as always Servetus and very interesting comments. I’ll certainly pay more attention to his arm movements in all the Spooks episodes from now on. I can’t say I have noticed the arm movements, put I do notice the shifts of emotions and Lucas as a hero vs Lucas as a man who has experienced much in life and who is still a young man. I think the key to the arm movements may have something to do, to me at least, with a comment Richard made in an interview recently. I find the comment both fascinating and puzzling: “I’ve tried to make Lucas the kind of guy I’d like to be. I don’t want him to be less of a man than me!”
    So knowing how much he thinks about his characters I think his stance, especially with Oleg in that scene when he confronts him, is Lucas showing both aggression and bravado on the outside, while struggling to keep his emotions and doubts under control. Who said something about bravery not being the absence of fear…but taking action despite of it?

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  8. These were great comments, you guys. I should leave out my own analysis more often — get y’all to do the work. 🙂

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  9. With regard to Cleo’s insightful comments, acting can be a physically hazardous profession. One wonders just how such long-ago actors as Charles Laughton managed! Alan Ladd having to purportedly stand on a box to kiss his leading lady? Hmnn well, Tom Cruise… The envelope appears to have been so pushed with the cinematography and realism and paparazz demands today, that both male and female actors feel the necessity of “going the extra miles”.

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  10. Thanks for the post Servetus and for everyone’s contribution, all very insightful. Particularly happy with 2 interviews which have passed me by and which I have bookmarked. Now I’m curious about Mulimbinba’s professional opinion on the injury!!

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  11. There is another different but slightly strange stance in 9.3 – or perhaps you won’t think so? Anyway I thought it was!

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  12. “Panther” analogy. Love that. Freud probably has something to say about that female? fantasy. But I gave up on Herr Dr. F long ago, in terms of having much relevant to say about the feminine condition… I mean, snakes induce faint hysteria here, but as to projecting to far-fetched psycho-theory? Will pass…

    Very much enjoy servetus’ “rabbit holes”. Going down varied garden paths. Alice (White Rabbit) Redux. Vive/Hola/Bravo obtaining illegal files. We’ll force these povs to the real world, eventually. Including DVD and series availability in Real Time. Or die in the attempt.

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  13. […] as kaprekar already noted elsewhere, there’s the stance. I think looking at this as our starting point is definitive for […]

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