Finally the Latin comes in handy [Spooks 9.1-.3 spoilers!]

[Same disclaimers as before. My caps unless otherwise noted.] This got long, as I wanted to document all my reactions before I started reading what others thought.

Yeah, that’s my big insight for the day. Though “pactum serva” means something more like “keep the vow” or “stick to the agreement” as opposed to “keep the faith,” which is kind of a sloppy rendering. That awful grad reading knowledge class and years of stumbling through neo-Latin texts have finally paid off. 🙂 NOT.


And yes, I was again within a hair’s breadth of crying at the end of this episode. And not just because of the final scene. Because of Dr. Kirby’s belief that he could control his knowledge; because of Meg’s murder; because of Ruth and Harry’s interactions. Because of the really satisfying narrative shape of this segment. And because Lucas/John still somehow thinks he can recapture the past in the wake of all of these developments — indeed that anyone can kiss to recall the past in such a sordid world.

Series 9: It’s like the writers got their groove back.

The script:

Pactum serva, and variations on it, and questions about the keeping and breaking of promises, are the theme for 9.3. I loved this aspect of the episode. Seriously, they just keep getting better, and there was plenty of plot and plenty of character development in this piece, something for everyone except possibly fans of the newbies, and yet we saw a tremendously revealing scene from Beth — I almost grew to like her. The sequence of lies uttered by the various characters was an intriguing counterpoint to the theme of keeping promises; can we lie in order to keep our promises?

9.3 gets a positive review although I felt that the episode began very weakly, with a random computer picture of a satellite:

Wasn’t this a weird way to start out the episode? Just a random insertion of a CGI picture of earth from orbit? I was wondering if the spooks were undertaking some interplanetary espionage!

I suppose I should be grateful that they didn’t repeat the cut-rate Rashomon effect from last week. However, I do not like made up Central Asian or former Soviet republics as plot devices, not in a show that prides itself on guessing what the next big global flareup is going to be. This was just cheap and lazy. I know the scriptwriters probably think it would be too much work to actually learn something about the complexity of the situation in regions that are engaged in trying to separate themselves from the Russian federation, but this sort of portrayal on TV contributes to stereotypes that it’s just some of “those” people engaged in trying to free themselves from their “evil” Russian overlords. The questions involved are much more complex than just the efforts of some stringy-haired terrorists to separate from some post-imperialist villains, and they are actually interesting for geopolitical reasons that would be relevant to the show. And frankly there’s no reason, at least from what we know at this point, that this story would have had to concern terrorist separatists in Central Asia specifically. It’s just that it’s easier for us as Westerners to pity them; the show makes a cheap appeal to the remnants of our Cold War fears of Russia.

It doesn’t help in this regard that the first loyalty conflict, the first problem in keeping promises, is the sniping between Harry and the new Home Secretary. Because we sympathize with Harry we’re likely to see this as a true failure of the new British coalition government to keep faith with the past. (Quite deft that they were able to use the treason of the old Home Secretary to accommodate the historical results of the May 2010 general elections, though.) And that is a past, as Harry describes it, in which the UK and Russia were enemies — something we Westerners are already likely to believe. In the end, however, I found the complexity of this plotline, particularly as the loyalty issues began to affect Harry’s working relationship and ongoing romantic questions with Ruth, to be satisfying.

“Harry, we have to work together.” “We are working together, Ruth. This is what it looks like.”

What is the definition of loyalty? Ruth’s attempt to protect Harry by going around his back? Harry’s faithfulness to old commitments, which is juxtaposed with Viktor’s faithfulness to his old commitments — itself involving a breaking of an agreement over the operation? Then the world will never change.

“That was NOT part of the deal,” Lucas shouts as he witnesses the murder of the AFF terrorists at the hands of Viktor Barenshik and the FSB. The symbolic transgression here is weighty, as Lucas and Viktor have just drunk a toast to further cooperations. (Ongoing plot problem: what exactly is Lucas’s relationship to the FSB? Has his double agency just been dropped?)

Keeping one’s loyalties to the past plays right into the hands of the Russians; Harry’s decision to let Azis Aibek go just brings the problems in Azakstan to London. What’s left, when the keeping of promises is no longer practicable? And why is that Azis, the terrorist, keeps his promises so consistently in this episode — his loyalty to his country, his agreement to help out MI-5 — even as he tortures Dr. Kirby and Meg? I wondered if the cut from Aziz limping around London in search of Dr. Kirby to the flash of Lucas dashing into Thames House to then call Maya involved an implication about remaining faithful to past promises.

Promises kept vs promises broken piles itself up until the viewer’s head is spinning. Dr. Kirby’s pact with Dr. Omosheva, across the lines of loyalty set up between the USSR and the UK during the Cold War. The curiously sweet Meg Kirby, MSc, PhD, is the best promise keeper — pactum serva — and she dies for it. (It seriously killed me that she was saved by the spooks and then died at Viktor’s hands.)

Meg Kirby (Amanda Hale) as she refuses to tell Azis Aibek (Jonathan Aris) the location of the Paroxocybin in Spooks 9.3. This torture and Meg’s subsequent death at the hands of Viktor are pretty much the worst possible death that Servetus can imagine. This, like Lucas’s suicide scene in 8.4, were extremely difficult for me to watch at all.

Because when you force someone to make a vow with you, to you, you subject them to all of your own vulnerabilities, and yourself to theirs; their ability to keep the vow depends not only you but on them. Dr. Kirby thinks he is invulnerable, but he, like all humans, is susceptible to the passage of time and the winding round of the historical clock. Our enemies become our friends, and our bodies pass away. Passing on a promise only subjects your interlocutor to the same process against which you tried to insulate yourself. Meg dies for the promise she made her father. He seems to affirm this even in his own pain over what he can only guess is happening to her.

Dr. Kirby (Donald Sumpter) hangs up his cell phone (rings off his mobile) in response to Aibek’s demands to learn the location of the Paroxocybin after his daughter has assured him that she will keep her vow, in Spooks 9.3. Is it a luxury or a curse to serve a G-d of such obdurate principle?

In the end, it seems that only a cascade of lies will allow people to keep their vows. Viktor lies about Meg’s death and Lucas’s intuitive grasp that he’s lying sets off a chain of deceptions that move us more and more quickly to the end of the episode. It’s interesting that this sequence is cut through with Ruth’s attempts to reassure Harry about his decision to let Aibek go, which she characterizes as potentially a failure of judgment but not one of decency; “sometimes you have to do what’s necessary,” a morally ambiguous statement if I’ve ever heard one. Keep the promise, or break it?

Viktor lies about Meg’s death; Harry lies to Dr. Kirby about Meg’s persistence in keeping her promise; Lucas offers Aibek a way to pursue his goals, apparently without telling him about the likelihood of negative consequences; the spooks lie to Victor about the location and transfer of the Paroxocybin. Indeed, one senses that all promises are null and void as Viktor reiterates Lucas’s line from the beginning of the episode in response to the request that he come to witness the destruction of the “real” Paroxocybin: “That was not the deal, Lucas” — the line of Lucas’s that marked the first transgressed agreement.

It’s hard to know what to think about Lucas at the end of the episode. On the one hand, it’s hard to credit that he could seriously be surprised that Viktor would assassinate Aibek. His shock is only very slight in that part of the scene. What comes to outweigh what one suspects would have been a previous moral reservation about all of this is the end of the scene: as Beth, in a moment that makes me really like her character, prepares to murder Viktor in retribution for the murder of Meg Kirby, Viktor says, “Lucas, tell the new recruit how the world works.” Lucas’s expression here can only be described as a pained sneer:

“I already have,” he replies, covering Viktor as Beth despatches him.

In the end, it’s Viktor who ends up clinging pointlessly to faith in what he understands as the social contract of the world of spies, even as Lucas now refuses to keep it, ending the encounter with a performance worthy of a BAFTA on a faked videotape from Viktor’s shoulder holster camera. The Paroxocybin is notionally put into the hands of the AFF, and Viktor receives a posthumous military decoration for something he wasn’t actually doing. Harry plays a charade that the Russian ambassador is forced to accept — thus putting the international players back into the position of the commitments with which they started the show. Stalemate.

Finally we turn back to the vows, the promises, the faiths of the spooks in their private arrangements, wondering how any of these people can be trusted to keep them. Harry revokes his earlier lie to Kirby about Meg’s betrayal, replacing it with the ostensibly true information that the Paroxocybin is now safe in the hands of the state, and justifying it with claims that Kirby is honorable. I wonder whether Kirby’s honor will be impacted by the loss of his contract partner, his promise keeper. It seems like an ideal plot point to move on from: when the honorable are betrayed, they are tempted to act without honor. Harry says things that suggest that a major motivator in his decision to tell Kirby where the Paroxocybin really is was his desire to prove to Ruth “who he really is.” Then there’s Lucas’s encounter with Vaughn, who lets drop the word “Albany” as some information he wants; Lucas refuses to give it, makes implications about agreements in the past that have ruined lives, and taunts Vaughn to break Lucas’s faith with Harry Pearce.

There’s a hardness, a readiness for cruelty that I recognize here myself, that comes from the belief that no matter how desperate one’s one situation, that of the interlocutor is worse. It’s frightening, and again a facet of Lucas that is now emerging more clearly.

And then, of course, there’s the tantalizing idea that promises made years before and lying dormant all that time can be reawakened to full flower. That people can remember, and be completed. That a kiss will wake Sleeping Beauty and free her from her slumbers. It’s just not entirely clear what this oh so moving kiss — the touch of the lips of a man who can be moved after so long to determined action by the mere glance of a photograph, and the possessor of a faith so strong in love that he is able to insist on getting what he wants — will suggest to us about the capacity of humans to keep their promises. He tells Maya that he will never disappear again. Ever. That’s an awfully big promise for a spook, and he’s already been unable to keep it once.

Mr. Armitage’s performance:

I didn’t think he could top the last scene of 9.2, but I was absolutely wrong about that. Mr. Armitage, if you keep on giving performances like this one I’ll follow you to Captain America and beyond.

First, I was really pleased with the brief teaser of the phone call — I assume this is primarily there to remind us to be patient for info about Lucas / “John” and Maya. I also have to admit that I was watching the status bar on my Quicktime and worrying, as the minutes rolled past, that not enough time would be left to treat this issue and that we’d have to wait a whole ‘nother week to find out what happened between them. Thankfully not.

The timing of eye motions was something I noticed a lot this week. This must be something unconscious rather than planned. As Lucas calls Maya, the only point in the long walk up in the hallways where he blinks is when he’s saying her name. Intimacy of saying “it’s me” introduces the pattern of the facial expressions in this short scene between confidence / determination and sadness / despair / longing.

“It’s me.” Determination.

Response to Maya’s command that John should “just leave [her] alone.” Sadness / weariness.

Back on track; note the slight clenching on the left side of the mouth (Armitage character emotion usually comes from the left of Armitage’s face) and in the moving picture we can see him clencing on the right as well — as with the blinking in 9.2., here the muscle movement is not so much an indication of an emotion but an indication of an emotion John is fighting with. Insistence: “I want to see you again.”

But then a key move in the Armitage facial repertoire — the very slight back off once a strong assertion has been put forth. Here we see tension in the muscle across John’s chin, slight movement of the lips almost toward lip biting / licking (nervousness language for Armitage). Prelude for his next statement, which is the insistent: “I want to tell you everything. Tonight.”

Camera switch to Maya, who says she doesn’t want to see him. Reply: “I don’t believe you. I’m texting you my address.” Then camera cuts back to John, so we just catch his own response to having put himself forward with the announcement of the text message.

Once he says he’s texting her, we see just a hint of the nervous swallow, and then we’re back to this look of determination with the economically held jaw, the forehead muscles tensing. Note that he holds his eyes open all the way through these shots. But the the big reveal:

The blink finally comes with a whole facial microexpression. Hard to see this in the video, but it looks like a combination of exhaustion, sadness, and concentration. Perhaps hoping that saying it will make it so.

It’s another of his typical facial expressions — almost pushing out whatever emotion it is that he’s feeling before he crinkles the forehead and opens his eyes to make another assertion: “Whatever happens…

[insert affirmative statement / conveyance of reliable information face] “…I am not going to disappear again. Ever.”

Then, intriguingly, his face seems to move to a self-evaluation of his own effect, as he listens for a response and doesn’t get one, then “rings off.” In three steps:

Eye position one.

Eye position two.

Eye position three, with very slight lowering of the eyebrows in concentration or determination again.

Second, and on a very different note, Mr. Armitage’s greater grace and comfort in action scenes continues to be evident. John Porter läßt grüßen. Thanks for sharing your acumen with our favorite super-spy, Sergeant Porter. Love these confident, dance-like moves and stances that we now see from time to time, as in the approach to Kirby’s office:

It’s worth looking in slomo how he sets up that door kick with his previous footwork: very elegant and economical. I also like the way that you can see Lucas breathing through his mouth in these frames in the hallway — not exertion, but tension / foreboding. Subtle but convincing. In general, I think we’re seeing a bit more physical energy on the grid, suggesting that Lucas has a more energetic leadership style as opposed to the cool as a cucumber demeanor that Ros cultivated (think of how calmly she coordinated the defusing of the bombs in 7.3, for instance).

Third, I’m also enjoying seeing this rather harder Lucas — a hardness that seems to speak from confidence rather than frustration (as in series 8) in his interactions with Viktor and Vaughn (discussed above). First of all, it’s something that we are inclined to believe must be true of him: how could all those years in prison not have made someone who was cold and calculating all along, as Elizaveta surmises in 7.2, even colder at the center of his being? The scene with Vaughn is very gesturally and expressionally economical — Lucas’s anger and perhaps developing rage at being pushed to give something he doesn’t want to is less nuanced than his conflictedness about Maya, perhaps — but it was interesting to me how the entrancing issue with eye focus that we discussed previously as something that draws us to his face in romantic scenes can also function here to draw the viewer in in fascination with his anger or resentment. There’s a way that the left side of his face indicates a volcano about to erupt even as the right side of it looks like an iron shield. And, of course, the harder Lucas makes the softer John stand out even more. We hope we’ll find out, soon, what happened to turn John into Lucas, not just in terms of plot, but also in terms of personality — and we remain hopeful that in the ways that matter, Lucas can turn back into John.

So now, to the part that will lead to obsessive replay of this episode till next week and beyond. It took me so long to write this that I am sure the fangrrrl barometers all over the web are already rising like crazy to indicate fair weather even without my participation. What a stunning scene, this last kiss. It’s also going to merit further analysis later in detail, but I just, just, just, loved this, not least because last week, just when you thought that Armitage couldn’t open up his gestural repertoire for Lucas any further than he already had, we see him opening up even more in a very convincing way that is nonetheless not inconsistent with whom we understand Lucas / John to be. As I discuss this particular issue, I’m going to indicate some of my favorite moments.

First, as kaprekar already noted elsewhere, there’s the stance. I think looking at this as our starting point is definitive for understanding the way that Armitage is developing the characterization of John out of the scaffolding for Lucas. Fascinating. John realizes he’s in the red here in terms of needing to have a good explanation for something that’s inherently inexplicable, and is going to have to pony up, but as the scene progresses we see that he’s still chipping away at pieces of Lucas in order to get at John.

Compare first to where we left John in the last scene of 9.2. Insofar as John is still fighting to come out, Armitage can’t yet quite completely shed Lucas’s gestural repertoire — esp the crossed arms — but his contrasting use of it points to struggle. We note this very painful moment which would be consistent with Lucas’s defensive posture:

But the real substance of the scene, in terms of stance, seems to go to show that John can only speak with courage when his arms are down and his center of gravity is fully exposed and thus vulnerable to Maya, to wit:

When he sees her coming When, after he tells her that he wanted to come home, he has to accept her statement that she can’t listen to him

When he exposes his pain to her

When he challenges her as to why came to see him.

In the scene in question in 9.3, the photographer is shooting through the panes of the patio door, and it’s notable that shooting through glass is a technique used repeatedly in Spooks 7 to hide Lucas’s emotion from us, for example at the death of Dean Mitchell in 7.6 or the injury of Ossetik (sp?) in 7.4. We see this from afar perhaps because it would be too much for us to see it up close at this point. But the posture in these scenes seems directly related to John’s posture at the end of 9.2, which is alternately open, self-shielding, or surrendering. Obviously, Armitage gets some help here from the editor, I think. I’m not attributing all of what’s below to him, but nonetheless he provides the most important pieces.

Lucas’s usual beginning posture in a scene like this (as with Elizaveta in 7.2) usually involves crossed arms and self-calming. Defensiveness that points to the desire to make excuses or hide his own faults by going on the offensive. Here, in contrast, for John, it’s the hands that are prominent — supplication and nervousness. Leaning to the left in disequilibrium, uncertainty, hope that he will be believed.

More posture equilibrium here but the hands are now clasped closer to the body. Self reassurance, but still hoping against hope. Why doesn’t she turn around and look at me?

She’s not going to look back. As Maya walks further into the room, John now gives in to disequilibrium, leaning his shoulders against the door frame, with hands still in the nervous, begging position.

In order for John to answer in this open stance that Armitage has been establishing for him, the arms have to come down. The cameraman helps us by switching to a shot that’s not mediated by the window. the arm motion signals that while he’s still holding himself back, he’s ready to try to take the rhetorical offensive. But the open stance can’t completely disarm Lucas; as John goes to answer her question about why he let her believe he was dead, we see some of Lucas’s defensiveness reemerging:

As he loops his hand into his jeans pocket, he’s still using the leaning posture (incidentally, which we saw last on the balcony of the American church in 8.5 in interaction with Sarah Caulfield) but he straightens up quickly:

“I went to prison for eight years, is that good enough?”

Camera again retreats to the patio of the house, and we can see why as the stance becomes more defeated here, again. Head and shoulders position seems to indicate shame.

The questioning goes on, and there are some fantastic microexpressions — did he kill someone? No. Hurt someone? Was he innocent? No. A nicely percussive rhetoric from the scripted dialogue, and it allows for a really pained expression that speaks loads.

This is all the more effective for us because having seen Spooks 7 and 8, we know what John is remembering here of Lucas’s experiences while Maya does not — and he must also be asking himself yet again, albeit briefly, about whether abandoning his identity as John — which we now know was a move in response to some serious problem — was really worth the huge cost of being Lucas North. And yet Maya’s tone indicates that she doesn’t believe him.

Then Armitage ratchets John’s emotions up a significant notch, as Maya asks him why he decided to reappear now. At first it seemed to me like too much — we see Lucas’s “severe emotional distress” sign appear:

At first I’m shocked, as Armitage moves John directly from one of Lucas’s frequent poses (worldweariness in response to the frightening events of his life) into what for Lucas would be deep emotionality. BUT, and this is key, what we’d expect from Lucas here (and to some extent that is signaled by the forehead crinkles and the measured stroking of the face) would be some sort of rationalization or defensiveness–and it would be signaled by the quick removal of the hand from the face, as if in embarrassment that he’d been seen in such emotionality. The script takes John elsewhere — into the stunning admission that he’s willing to risk Lucas’s existence over something he remembered after seeing her in a photograph — and the performance goes right along with this, as Armitage makes John take three steps across the room as the pitch of his voice rises significantly from Lucas’s normal timbre, with his voice eventually breaking during this admission before he can reestablish a level of meta-control on his emotions:

The suddenly blinking eyes — so noticeably after the concentration with which John has been answering Maya’s questions — signal the unwillingness to cry, the unwillingness to make this an unhappy moment even as Armitage reaches a moment of vulnerability that we’ve seldom seen him attain on screen. Eventually he’s able to return to a coherent statement about himself, that the years he spent trying to forget all returned when he saw the photo, and that he knew he had to see her. There’s a little moment of joy as he recollects the falling away of all that forgetfulness, too. This then generates one of those unforgettable Armitage moments, one of the reasons we stay at our computers watching him so closely. I don’t know if you can see it, but as he responds to the question of whether his story is true, he stares at her, again with open eyelids all the way, his head rises just a touch, he breathes in, and his left eye opens just slightly wider, as if he’s saying “of course” and “how can you doubt me” and “this is one of the most important things I could ever say to you” all at the same time.

“Every word.”

I’m loving what I see here about the gestural and microexpressional relationship of John to Lucas, and to me, this expansion on the framework Armitage built for John in the last episode is almost better than the kiss.


I’ll save more for a dedicated post on this kiss, because I am SO tired, but some favorite moments:

The way he cranes his head in to look at her directly as he urges her to close her eyes.

The lean in, the point at which he realizes he is going to get this thing he’s been dreaming of — the surrender equally to desire and the fantasy of the past.

The one last look he takes at her, before initiating the kiss that is going to change everything.

The slowest possible beginning.

The second lean in — this is akin to how Guy kissed Marian for the first time in series 2 of Robin Hood — as if he hadn’t quite realized at first what was going on but one he did he leaned in to make it even more intense.

The engulfing quality of his passion for Maya, as if the kiss is secondary to his need to surround her with his body.

Man oh man oh man.

Clothing Armitage:

First, I really like the commando style in silhouette — wish we could have seen more. Love all those straps and snaps. There’s also something cool about that camera. Makes him look like a super-hero. Foreshadowing?

Second, the Belstaff jacket is still doing very well, if fitted a bit tightly across the shoulders in an action stance:
but there a funny moment when we see Lucas reinsert his gun in his jeans waistband and then pull the jacket down (on right side of photo below). Nervousness? Or too much rideup from a tight jacket?

Third, John’s shirt has a western yoke. Ride ’em cowboy! Also, one of the rare times we’ve seen him in a button-front shirt without a t-shirt underneath. Urizen is visible. An interesting way of bringing attention the question of fate in the dissolution and reestablishment of this relationship, and the matter of human control and decisionmaking vs divine prerogatives. (See, I have been skimming that Blake biography.) But mostly, I was intrigued by the casual shirt choice. And yes, I am sure that I am the only fangrrl who slomowed back and forth in this scene to find the best possible view of the western yoke as it’s exemplified in the rear view of the shoulder.

What can I say? We Texans-by-choice really like to see those western yoke shirts. Grin.


Though I’m sure it’s convenient for the cameraman, would a spy really have a residence where this much of the inside is visible, even from the garden? (Lucas seems to be living in a house now, at least. Yes, a very American prejudice. Though I myself live in an apartment.) People who live in glass houses?

Law-abiding Lucas and Beth show their badges to get into the tube. I really wanted Lucas to jump the barriers. When I’ve been in the tube and seen that there’s always an exciting uproar that’s fun to watch. In no way am I advocating illegal behavior, however. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.

Is this really a university? Seems awfully clean and kept up. We’re always hearing over here in what bad shape the London universities are in terms of crumbling facilities. I’d love an office as nice as Dr. Kirby’s.

3/8 over. I’m already dreading the end.

Attention, Spooks scriptwriters: pactum serva. Don’t mess this up.

~ by Servetus on October 5, 2010.

73 Responses to “Finally the Latin comes in handy [Spooks 9.1-.3 spoilers!]”

  1. Re the state of UK university buildings. I don’t know about London unis but De Montfort in Leicester where my son has just started studying seems all very clean, shiny and new (or recently converted and renovated).

    Query for you. Do you think RA has made Lucas’ voice deeper and huskier this series? A quick listen to Spooks 7 & 8 would suggest it.


    • Hi, Pam, and welcome. Glad to hear your university buildings are in better shape than ours 🙂

      This question of Mr. Armitage’s voice is intriguing. I felt in previous series that a lot of it is conditioned on who he’s talking to, that is, his voice was higher and softer when talking to women, for instance, than to men, and lower when it’s angry. Variations in his voice pitch when talking to Harry are also really interesting. I generally perceive it as lower in 9.1-3, even lower than he occasionally got for Guy.

      What do others thing?


      • Effect of smoking?


        • Does he smoke?


          • Uncertain. He’s been photographed on set smoking, e.g. on Cleopatra (1999) and North & South, but I haven’t seen any recent pictures that show him with a cigarette. Predominant theory is that he is either an occasional smoker or has quit. I confess I could care less, as I don’t think smoking is a moral failing.

            The thing is that he’s still able to get his voice up reasonably high: a high baritone at places in Clarissa, the huskiness in the key scene, and his normal pitch in the interviews we heard before Spooks 9 is higher than in his appearance as Lucas this season.


    • Yay for De Montforth and for Leicester!

      I was a student in London and I love the fact that Spooks uses the city actively in most of its storylines, in this episode Charing Cross Station and The Embankment. It must take considerbale skill filming in a crowded tube station. Ruth and Harry seem inordinately fond of strolling along The Embankment, but it’s nice to see Harry off the Grid as often as possible.

      Servetus, I loved the kiss and have watched it several times already! How did you manage to think calmly enough to analyse it? I come over all tingly while watching and would be no good at thinking coherently about micro-expressions! Is it the professorial training coming to the rescue? 🙂


      • Close range analysis is the love language of Servetus. If I love something, I’ll look at it in very great detail. Doesn’t mean I’m not tingly. I’m tingly, all right! 🙂

        Although there is a very real sense in which doctoral training in the humanities trains one to look dispassionately at all kinds of emotional things — distasteful, horrific ones as well as beautiful ones. I occasionally worry that grad school made it hard for me to just feel.


  2. Wow. Soo much, guess I’ll be a tad late for work! 🙂

    I’m going to respond in installments because this was one chock full episode.

    First, The relationship between Lucas and Beth seems to have taken a quantum leap here. He has explained a complicated plan to her (the double deception) and she has no qualms buying into it to kill Viktor. I wonder how much of the plan was Lucas’ and how much was Harry’s. I think a lot of it was Lucas’ because he does NOT like that Viktor skewed their deal and this was pay back for him as well as allowing Beth to get pay back for Meg. BTW, a woman sacrificed her life, withstood what they said she could not. Yay, for our gender.

    I think this is the first look at Lucas really calling the shots in an Op. He is a force to be reckoned with it appears.


    • That was not intended. Remember that Armitagemania should not take over your life. Though I confess that I also came to campus a tad later today than I should have. 🙂

      Beth does have previous ops experience, but he does seem to be taking her under his wing. It made me think I’d like Lucas to be my teacher (something I didn’t think in the previous two seasons — witness, e.g., his roughness with Tarik in 8.7 when Tarik expresses qualms about the death of one of the Hindu teenagers). I love how active and forceful Lucas is here as section chief.


      • @servetus

        “Remember that Armitagemania should not take over your life.”
        Silly rabbit, too late! 🙂
        But it is a happy kind of madness…..


  3. The scene with Maya….

    As hopeful as he was he was still fighting the “flight” instinct by remaining by the door for quite a bit. I also think that the glass, as impractical as it is for a spy to live in an environment that open is deliberately symbolic of exposition, openness, reflection. An actual “windows to the soul”. Interestingly, he texted her the address to his place. I wonder, has he had this for quite some time even during the “Sarah” chronicles? Is this place John’s and the other apartment was Lucas’? Or is it that he doesn’t want “ears” knowing that he has this place. The text could have been a matter of convenience for Maya but, since it is Spooks, that seems too simple.


    • Yes, I agree. He’s still fighting to be John and not Lucas in this scene. Nice point about the glass — though I am tempted to extend the metaphor and ask whether reflection doesn’t obscure as much as it reveals?

      Though I think that the show is doing it’s best to convince us that Lucas has about a zillion flats and hideaways, I’m skeptical that if Lucas were trying to bury John, he’d have kept a whole separate flat for him — and how would that have worked out during his imprisonment, since presumably Elizaveta didn’t know about John? On the other hand it would have provided a place to store all the accoutrements of John, esp. this very casual wardrobe.

      I also wondered about the text message. There was more weirdness around phones in this issue; seriously, wouldn’t Azis have known that Meg’s use of the cell phone to call her dad would put his pursuers on to his location?


  4. Lucas/John and the new house? I remember in the episode when Lucas meets Oleg Darshavin in his flat that Harry tells him he now has to move, and Lucas replying he never liked the flat in the first place. I also though about something Lucas said to Harry again, back in season 7, and forgive me if I remember this wrong, but Harry says something about Lucas being home again, and Lucas answers that if he’s not trusted then he’s not home, he’s just back in England. I thought the house – not because it’s a house, I live in an apartment too and always refer to it as my “house” -was a signal that now Lucas/John feels he’s finally “home”.
    The kiss – yes, I had to watch just that scene over again a few times last night. I have to watch it all again tonight since I stayed up way past my bedtime on a school night last night. I knew there would be a lot of spoilers this morning. RA is so good at kissing and making us feel the kiss – quite a talent. But I thought his explanation to Maya was fascinating but not entirely honest, not yet. She asked if he had killed someone and he said “no” – but as MI-5 agent Lucas North he must sometimes kill as part of his job. So when she asks is he innocent, he also says “no”. Is this his way of starting to explain how John is now and has been for 15 years Lucas North? Still so many questions, but the scriptwriters are keeping us in suspense. I must confess I find the Lucas/John story much more interesting sometimes than what’s going on in the main plot line.
    I’m a child of the Cold War in many ways, so I have to say I agree with Harry and not the Home Secretary!


    • My read on the questions was that they were specifically directed to the reasons for his being in prison — murder? grievous bodily harm? (if not, why would he be in prison, so is he claiming he’s innocent? No — he was in prison for spying and he was guilty of that). That may be too simplistic.

      I like your reading of John’s “home,” but am saddened by how sparse the furnishings. Or maybe this is a new home for John that Lucas has just put together? I wasn’t sure what relationship it bore to the room we saw last week where Lucas opened the suitcase.

      I think that what you refer to with Lucas’s not being honest to Maya (how can he be?) is going to be really significant in terms of plot. Just a guess, of course, but that’s what got me emotionally about this whole episode — that the attempt to build truth in the final scene, to return to a forgotten truth or to reestablish it — happens in the wake of all these lies. Lucas lies for his living. He can make up names for himself at the drop of a hat. It’s hard to see how John will be able to circumvent that without destroying Lucas.

      I also made sure to watch and document my first impressions so I could read anywhere else on the internet today — it’sreally dangerous if one doesn’t. This is actually a point in my mania I don’t care for. I never used to be tied to the primetime TV schedule,b ut now I feel that way. I don’t think I’ve ever cared as much about a show as I do about this one.


      • TV Schedule for Spooks even more complicated for me since I’m also in the US – LOL-or I should say more complicated for those of us outside the UK.
        Yes, I did understand the questions were addressed to L/J to find out why he was in prison, but he sort of skipped about seven years of his life after she saw him last. So she doesn’t know he is a spy, or rather, that maybe he was recruited as a spy before when they were together? Yet she seems to be demanding total “honesty” from him order to get back together? How does he explain the tattoos for example? She may have assumed he was in prison in the UK, not in Russia? I have to say Maya’s performance to me so far is a little “one note”, ANGER, while Lucas/John is giving us all kinds of emotions during the episode, not just when the two of them are together. Yes, interesting to see how it develops in the coming episodes. To me the room where he opened the suitcase seemed almost to be a hotel room, so little of him in the room. But could be a room in a house you just moved to. Then again, how do you decorate the place – as Lucas or as John?
        I think this was asked before, is Blake part of the Lucas identity only, or part of the man, whoever he is?
        Does Spooks (or RA) take over your life? I’m typing this while I’m eating lunch in my office at work – LOL.


        • yeah, the six hour time difference really messes this up. They should broadcast it simultaneously all over the world.!

          Agree that he didn’t offer her a full explanation — assuming other information we have about him from 7 and 8 is true (e.g., his marriage to Elizaveta).

          I will also be interested to see Maya’s ongoing responses to him. I think that she is also being hemmed in by script problems. If someone had hurt me as badly as John hurt Maya, there’s no way I’d be allowing myself to be kissed on the third meeting. No way. And she’s no pushover, this woman. I hope that the writers don’t ruin the Maya character the way they did Sarah Caulfield.

          Your really intriguing question still remains open — the tattoos are on the body of the person who is both Lucas and John? And what does that mean???


          • Glad you mentioned his marriage to Elizaveta. Are we supposed to forget we saw that in season 7? If he’s not really Lucas, if there is no “Lucas North” then he, John, was never really married before. I remember the scene in the cemetery when Elizaveta accuses him of having lied to her, and he says he never lied!!!!!!!! Too many unanswered questions, even for Spooks!


            • Presumably the timeline works out. 15 years of absence is enough time to fit in whatever happened in Africa, a (brief) marriage to Elizaveta, and 8 years in prison, plus the two years since he got back from Russia. But interesting that he didn’t give as his reason for disappearing that he was married to someone else whom he didn’t want to hurt. That would have hurt his cause, I think.

              What you say gets to the definition of lying. Is it lying if you just don’t say something? The US court system apparently thinks so, and so does wikipedia (see 1.14, lying by omission):


      • My impression about Lucas / John referring to the prison sentence was that it was not related to the Russian imprisonment as a spy for 8 years.
        I thought he referred to a 1 year imprisonment directly at the beginning of the separation 15 years ago.
        – Which in my opinion would make it quite a lot of imprisonment. But Lucas quite openly tells us, he has seen enough cells. –
        I only saw the video in not too high quality online and it is in a foreign language for me. But I was quite surprised to read, that you connect his mentions to the 8 years in Russia.
        Hope we will find out the background to his remarks soon.

        Thank you for your once again excellent article. I could not go to work, while not completely finished with it. Your analysis always is absolutely brilliant and a joy to read!


        • Wow, I must have missed that. Where/when was there a reference to a one year prison sentence at the beginning of the 15 year separation?


          • @Ann Marie
            I interpreted the situation at the end of 9.3 between Lucas / John and Maya that way.
            He says in the situation when he still is standing at the door: “I went to prison for a year. Is that good enough?”
            So I just assumed that cannot be a reference to Russia, as that imprisonment was years later, longer and cannot have had an impact on their separation. I have watched this sequence repeatedly now and I am quite sure he speaks of a single year in prison here.


            • I listened to it again, and although I am not a speaker of his dialect of English, I am pretty sure he said, “All right. I spent eight years in prison. Is that good enough?” If had been saying “a year” his “a” vowel in the article would be short. Her dialogue after that also points in that direction, in that she’d hardly ask him if he murdered someone if he’d only reported a one year prison term. (I found myself thinking, this must be the UK. 8 years would be a very short sentence for homicide in most of the U.S., I think. 🙂 )

              I agree that that explanation doesn’t say why he was absent for fifteen years, and this gets to the question raised about how honest he is being with here. There are another 7 years to account for.


              • Lucas / John really keeps us in deep suspense about his motives and his past. This last sequence of 9.3 was a tease and makes it hard for me to have to wait for one week now.
                I absolutely agree with you, that ‘John’ is not entirely open with Maya.
                I have the impression, he wants to go back those 15 years, reconnect with Maya and erase Lucas entirely. I am not even sure he wants to tell her about Lucas. He had opportunities which he did not take so far.


        • OK, I have only seen this ep once but I also thought he was talking about Russia, though it makes sense if he is talking about another time, right after John ‘died’ not about the 8 years in Russia leaving in blank those 7 years prior.

          OML 🙂


        • You are way too kind. 🙂 I am glad you enjoyed it.


          • Not at all. You kept me sane today. Tomorrow I have to go to a hectic and major fair I have never been before and will have a day full of meetings. Your article and wonderful analysis kept my mind off that. Thank you.


      • Who knows, perhaps he was arrested after whatever happened with Vaughn. But of course that is not related to the Russian prison time. When he said he was not innocent I got a distinct feeling that he was referring to whatever made him disappear, not the reason why he was caught in Russia. He did admit he was guilty of something. And the simple confession of that somehow is an extenuating circumstance.


        • I agree that it’s unclear how what he said in that scene relates to what we know about his back story. I also think that of course dramatic and narrative convention prevents us from getting a clear answer to our questions. If he sat down and gave us his CV for the “missing years,” it would answer all our questions and they wouldn’t have to treat it for five more episodes. 🙂 So our attempts to interpret intentionally vague statements are all part of the fun, I suppose.

          At the same time, I think it’s interesting how the agreement to which he stipulates at the beginning of the scene (that lying to her will cause her to leave him forever) appears from what we know to have broken almost immediately. As an occurrence in a chain of broken promises in which the “hero” of the scene dies for keeping a broken promise. Really dramatically sophisticated.


  5. I noticed how Maya behaves as Marian did in the kissing scenes. Most of the time she did not lift her face for the kiss but instead made Lucas/John (I hate writing that btw) make all of the forward motion and inclination.


    • Yes, nicely put.

      I’ve been writing “John” when he’s clearly John and “Lucas” when he’s clearly Lucas but it’s not so easy to distinguish anymore …


  6. I am downloading it right now, so I can’t say more yet than a)I always admire Richard’s high kicks. He’s wonderfully flexible. b) He’s looking better and better all the time, especially in the “John” scenes, where he is gentler and more vulnerable, and c)he’s got the most beautiful skin I have ever seen in a man. Shallow. I know, but I think it’s true.


    • He gets amazing extension on that kick — I capped a few times until I got the place where it’s widest. His thighs are open at at least 140 degrees. Impressive that a man can do that.


  7. That scene was the best three mins of television I have experienced in a LOONNGG time. But I have to say, I loved the line from Harry to Ruth,”Sometimes you have to give a man a chance to show you who he truly is.” I think there is going to be more to Ruth & Harry.

    It is a great day to be an RA fan gurrl, for sure. I gotta re- watch that scene again.


    • totally agree. I was grinning all day Tuesday, and then my friend and I discussed that scene for 40 minutes at dinner.


      • I found myself thinking about it on and off again the whole day with a silly smile on my face… It helped me get through a day jammed packed full of intense meetings. And when I first saw it last night I was not only tingly…I couldn’t help screaming with glee and vicarious excitement/nervousness/lust/love for the Maya character (who of us did not imagine ourselves on the receiving end of ‘close our eyes…’ Wow!) Oh, and agree about your comments above re: her currently limited repertoire of emotions. But what I think she’s been trying to do is to keep him at bay with anger given how hurt she must have been when he disappeared 15 years ago. She obviously is not over the feelings — that kind of anger shows that those old feelings were never resolved on her side either; her arms crossed for most of the last scene demonstrates her need to protect herself but who could resist that man. I think her character’s development will really hinge on what will follow next….we’ve heard about the upcoming table scene but what happens after…will she manage to get John to admit what he’s done as either John (post Maya) and then Lucas? I was also thinking about the scene when he gave her his address by text. He looks around a bit worried…My first impression was that he was on the grid at the time and he knew he was breaking protocol to give her his real address (perhaps he was also afraid someone had overheard him say it too). If you remember, at the beginning of Spooks, Tom Quinn had to invent a whole other story for himself as Matthew when he got involved with Ellie so it is probably ingrained into the spooks that they must keep any personal info about their homes, etc. secret … if not just to protect their own secret identity/lives as to ensure the safety of those close to them. But here again we see John trying to be honest and vulnerable with Maya. And as for the issue of the limited amount of info he tells her (thus far) I can imagine he is struggling with being honest but not doing it too quickly, afraid that he’ll frighten her away. He is desperately trying to get her back in his life…

        And as for your post Servetus, wonderful as usual! I tried to read it all during my lunch but had to stop when one of my staff came in (luckily I heard them before they appeared so I could turn it off!) . So now that I am home, I’m going to sit back re-watch the episode and re-read your post with a nice glass of wine. And thanks to all the contributors…you all add so many layers of interpretation and it’s nice to see my passion for RA/JT/LN-John is shared!….Now only 6 more days before I get to download the next episode!

        Oh, and Happy Canadian Thanksgiving everyone! (It’s this weekend…guess what I’ll be doing…an RA marathon of course!)


        • Thanks for these long reflections — I agree that what’s key is what happens next. In parallel to S8 we’re at a disadvantage because we know SO much more about Lucas / John than we do about Maya. So we have no context in which to understand her behavior or her attitudes. We can judge his behavior much more easily. And of course we’re inclined to be sympathetic to him.

          I agree, the commentators on this blog offer an amazing mix of intellect and perception and kindness. Y’all are an amazing group.


  8. Nice review – thanks for the name check – I knew you would spot the stance I meant!!! Also, in those pictures of the kitchen, is that a table???? 😉 Mmmn. And he lives at number 42 – the answer to life, the universe and everything!

    And yes, ahem, the kiss. I liked it, and I have watched it a few times *grin* not sure what else to say about that! One of his best I think!

    Can’t wait for next week now!!!


  9. Latin got this non-math, left brained person to uni and a dgree. Just wish I could remember more of it.

    The Kiss. From N&S, through RH and VofD, I feel somewhat manipulated, by the screen-lover. Too good an actor, as servetues has demonstrated through caps, and analysis. I melt, but wish him to focus on the talent, not just fulfilling the stuff of dreams.

    Have a crush on your President, to the south of here. Similar ecto-body type. But the President’s clothes seem to fit better. Is Mr. A bigger around the chest? Is that what makes fitting more difficult?

    No worries, Madame O. You’re about en inches taller, and infinitely more DDG. No plans to commence stalking across the border…


    • @Fitz — you know I feel less manipulated by those kissing scenes than I do by the gratitous “peaches” shots. To me that is just so so so blatant. As fine as his peaches are, and mind you, they are super fine, I don’t need to see them again. Note to British TV writers, pls refrain from the gratitous peaches shots, Mr. Armitage has waaay more going for him then that.

      Lot’s of people have a crush on our President. He’s one handsome man. Isn’t he? 🙂


    • I’ll have something to say about this very shortly — having been inspired by pi’s recent post on the topic — but RAFrenzy raised a similar issue last night — that she agreed with a blogger who said she really didn’t need a romance for the purpose of exploring Lucas’s identity issues.

      I think that the chest to waist ratio on Mr. Armitage’s body is slightly unconventional, and that the position of his arms on his body (slightly round, tilted forward) is also a difficult tailoring problem that’s not addressed in off the rack clothing. But I assume President Obama has most of the clothes in which we ever see him made to order. The First Lady is a different story — she’s really rehabilitated mass fashion, and it’s one of the things I like about her (I follow a blog on her clothes in case anyone else is interested: ).


  10. The President’s tailor is Georges de Paris, he’s out of DC and has been the “presidents’ tailor since L. Johnson. Hartmarx out of Chicago is the other tailor he has worked with.


  11. @rob, thanks for that. I could be wrong, but I had thought the President’s clothes fit rather well.

    I share your dislike of certain camera thingies. The posterior is very fine, and rather real. Major dislike is the studio-posed, “hunk” shots. He’s much finer in more candid, and in many of the screen cap shots. So, I remain committed to the actor as actor. While melting, in the meantime. And hoping good choices come along, which are closer to his abilities and talents.

    The Pres. is a dear. And, while not being an American, we’re very closely connected. And I want his presidency to work well. It has fall-out for us, too. The elephant sneezes….


    • One thing I’ve concluded from my growing foray into British tv is that male rear nudity is much more common there than in US tv. It seems in general more common to see two totally nude people figleafing each other while simulating sex (we would call this p*rn in the US). In SB, I felt that was gratuitous — it might have fit the story, but US tv would have found a way to treat that issue differently. In Spooks 8.4, (the only time we’ve seen Lucas’s rear, right?) I think that the nudity is supposed to be telling us something about Lucas’s relationship to Oleg and the cost of making contact with him to Lucas. It may be titillating to some people, of course, but I think they are missing the point.

      One thing I will say about Mr. Armitage’s rear physiognomy is that since it’s not the classic male ideal, when he takes it off, he appears to me more, rather than less vulnerable.

      Although I have them, I am expressing no opinions on the Obama presidency, other than that I hope he can do his best for our country with divine aid as necessary. I’d rather not talk politics here … hope no hard feelings.


    • @fitzg

      Re:”And hoping good choices come along, which are closer to his abilities and talents.” Hear, hear!
      Don’t get me wrong, I’ll go see Capt. America too and will watch Strike Back 2 but I’m really hoping he’ll be doing a high-quality drama film next. Something to really show his range and depth of skill.


  12. You said: “Though I’m sure it’s convenient for the cameraman, would a spy really have a residence where this much of the inside is visible, even from the garden? (Lucas seems to be living in a house now, at least. Yes, a very American prejudice. Though I myself live in an apartment.) People who live in glass houses?”
    The house looks like it could be in my country, Holland. A very modern way of living, his house. Did you see the garden? Looked also typical Dutch, the size, the small pond in the corner in the grass. See, everywhere it´s the same :). As it is in London it must be reasonable expensive.

    Someone on twitter recognized his former uni as City University.

    I grow to like this episode. First view was so-so as the number of motion shots was far less than 9.2. Now analyzing it and like the writing.

    Best moment for me Lucas-Vaughn. Lucas was very mean to Vaughn. Thought RA was channeling the baddie (Gizzy?) and I loved every millisecond of it! If Vaughn doesn´t turn out to be a serious ugly bastard, then I fear I am developing a serious crush for Vaughn! 😉

    Lucas/John ´forgot´ to mention Elizabeta, but first he gets Maya to accepting him, check: 9.3. Ah well, he can mention it some day as in “before I forget, you also need to know..” He still carries a lot of secrets on his shoulders.


    • The house is a typically British type of house with French windows opening out to a garden. Lucas doesn’t have curtains and that’s why it seems very open. Lucas goes conceivably under another name in the neighbourhood and tells the neighbours that he works in the civil service which is considered so boring that no-one is likely to ask what exactly he does!


      • Aha, so the normal house in that setting would have curtains over those big windows? (we would in the US, too, or the room would get too hot on sunny days. I’m under the impression that the sun almost never shines in London. It’s certainly been scarce during my visits there 🙂 )


    • On the scene with Vaughn: YES. Armitage really moves Lucas onto the margin of his expressional repertoire for anger here. We see him threatening people in other settings — e.g., Ashok in 8.7, or the Muslim teenager in 9.1, but you don’t get that clear feeling of menace. In the scene with Vaughn, where he raises his eyebrows and says “huh?” after inviting Vaughn to tell Harry about their past, you see real threat. It was fascinating to watch.


      • Lucas calling the bluff is priceless, at the beginning I recognized a hint of Guy and then it evolves into a ‘new’ expression -loved the ‘knowing look’- that now belongs to Lucas.

        OML 🙂


  13. That boiler suit scene was all about vulnerability! Wasn’t it? Just wanted to throw a blanket over him!!!

    The Prez is a big basketball player and has the build of one — long and lean. I posted the tailors, thinking his (Armitage) stylist should check him out. That DC tailor has had a lot less to work with over the years, not naming names, and made them look good.

    Yeah, I don’t need a romance to explore identity issues, but it makes for super TV. Doesn’t it?

    Love the first lady’s style. She’s like an accessible Jackie O. Many of her fasions are from Maria Pinto a Chicago desginer.

    I am more than happy NOT to discuss politics on this site. 🙂


  14. Me too, I’m a major fan of Madame Michelle. Jackie and Audrey were my style icons, but I love the J.Crew style of Mrs. O.

    We’ve just appointed another grey man in grey suit as GG – I loved our previous GGs, one Chinese/HK-born, the other Haitian-born. Oh well, no doubt the new GG will be very good. But he certainly won’t be much fun….

    I don’t have a big problem with Mr. A’s posterior views; he has a nicely delineated, real back-side. Which seems more real to me, than the small bottoms, we’ve been conditioned, via media, to think of a the male ideal.

    I can’t praise tailors enough. My dressmaker (which sounds pretentious, but I tell you, I had to search the markets in Jakarta, for cottons, and sarong-lengths, to have natural-fibre clothing in a tropical climate – those fibres weren’t available in N.A., except at prices I could not possibly afford.) And said dressmaker took measurements I never knew existed, to create tailored, simple clothing to fit my small, wide-shouldered, short-waisted, and just not off-the-rack figure.

    Made-to-measure is just not something most of us can realistically afford, except when plunked down in a different world. But it would be sort-of nice to see Mr. A in fitted clothing. Or maybe not; there’s something about the shirts and collars, and jackets, which don’t necessarily fit, that add to the vulnerability feature. Do we really want a male model? Don’t think I do…


    • I think you’re absolutely right here. It’s striking to me how often we see Mr. Armitage in jackets with the wrong wrist length, and how that misproportion makes him look boyish. 🙂


  15. @colexora, I’m so much with you on these issues. I will be watching SB next month, assuming my telco/whatever connections are on tap – just a millemetre away from giving up on the telco and switching to cable…

    And, if he is in CA, will watch that too.

    But not sure about the agent choices being proferred now. Just too good a talent to waste….

    But we have to keep working.


    • Didn’t his previous agent move to the California branch of United Agents? One suggests that that could potentially improve his connections in the U.S.

      I’m not so worried. His career pattern has been to start small and work up, so I do think CA could be the step to bigger things.


  16. Those of you who are able to see Spooks9 episodes are driving me wild. Here in the wilds of Western Oregon, I have only You tube which is no help. anybody out there know how to see Spooks9 on You Tube?


    • There was a channel where you could see at least episode 1, but when I looked it up to find it for you it had been closed. Obviously someone is watching …


      • @Mary Lou
        For episode 3 I found a new resource which also offers the two previous episodes and the end of series 8 online. As I do not want it to be closed down, when I openly write down the URL here, perhaps you could get into contact with me? Servetus, could you please help here?
        As I already have preordered the DVDs of series 9 and have all intention to really buying them, I have no qualms about watching the episodes online now. I just could not wait those months till the release date and have full understanding for anyone else with the same problem / fan-malady.


  17. […] I joked recently that the love language of Servetus is “close analysis.” The more I love something, the more closely I’ll look at it, and the more I’ll write. Thinking via synecdoche has been my pattern since I was a child: what does the detail tell us about the whole? (I’ll also keep wearing an awful piece of clothing just because it has a detail that I really love.) Moreover, for reasons closely connected to my personal issues for writing it, and because of the mechanisms by means of which Armitage has influenced me most deeply, a great deal of the analysis concerning him presented on this blog has been about “how.” How an effect is established, how Mr. Armitage performs, how a scene is put together, how a costume fits, how his eyes or his body move. There’s a component of “why” there as well: why I find a still picture or a scene compelling, for example. I write about myself in terms of “what” and “whither,” and I’ve commented on things like how we can know “who he is” and my own identification with Mr. Armitage that get to content issues, but even these posts have mostly been constructed as analyses of rhetoric rather than evaluations of anything I assert to be real. I’ve been reluctant to make normative recommendations on larger issues, beyond things like what he should be looking for in a suit. That doesn’t mean I haven’t; aside from the discussion about what he should say about his fans, I speculated that he might have good reasons for taking ad work; I expressed no regret about his detachment from the Charlie project, and I’ve said in a few places that I assume that the primary purpose of Captain America is networking as opposed to artistic merit or professional trajectory. Except occasionally, “me + richard armitage” hasn’t been about the really big questions, and I envy writers who can easily take on that kind of question. (It’s an issue that’s bedeviled me as an academic writer, too.) […]


  18. GD those Wacthers in the Woods! Someday, we will prevail over the various self-appointed regulaters, and have our viewing preferences. With requisite regulatory safeguards, if that is possible. Maybe, maybe not.

    The detail is important. I think we all invest in certain clothing; for instance, that just fits, and seems to relate to me, as I am just now. Whether it’s jeans, or Givenchy, or J.Crew, we relate at this point. And for an actor, you have to have that relationship with the cravat/pocket watch, or jeans to be the character. Not sure I’m expressing this properly…


    • Yeah, it’s weird — it’s like knowing that I have my neon green bookbag on my shoulder makes it able for me to bounce into the office even though it clashes with my sedate skirt, blouse and sandles and visually contradicts my physical fatigue 🙂


  19. […] the current season of Spooks outside of the protected posts for that work, but if you did read that post you know that there was just as much detail, expression, and complexity in the shortest scenes in […]


  20. […] I just noticed that I have 1700 words of draft about it still lurking, besides what I said in my original episode review, so more on this kiss sometime, but here it looks like what they’re going for — this […]


  21. […] relatively rare since series 7, although I felt strongly at the time and continue to do so, that 9.3 was a fantastic episode; 8.7 would also be on my list of great ones) it is unsurpassed, and I finally got that feeling […]


  22. […] episode to witness. If he had to do the very physical (rather than interior) role of John Porter, who substantially refined his physicality as Lucas North / John Bateman in the ninth series of Spook…, then I want to benefit from it here — I want to see how his physicality has developed in […]


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