Armitage anatomy: depressor angulari oris

Lucas North / John Bateman negotiates with Vaughan Edwards (Iain Glenn) in Spooks 9.6. Source:

Depressor angulari orbis (lit. “puller down of the corner of the mouth”), a paired muscle, is essential to frowning, and Richard Armitage certainly frowns a lot. That’s not a criticism, Mr. Armitage! But it’s key that it’s not every frown. “Angry frown” doesn’t usually involve Armitage’s chin. It’s usually “suffering frown” that involves triangularis.

Compare, for instance, this expression:

John Standring (Richard Armitage) confronts Carol over whether she will only be sleeping with him because he gave her money in episode 3 of Sparkhouse. Source:

to this one:

Mr. Thornton (Richard Armitage) shouts at Williams to get Margaret out of the mill in episode 1 of North & South. Source:

Obviously corrugator supercilii is involved in both kinds of frowns, but angry, wrathful Armitage has a very active, even tense, mouth, while angry, suffering Armitage draws the corners of his mouth downward. Indeed, the employment of triangularis is a fair indication that an Armitage character is feeling some sort of shame. For example:

Ian Macalwain (Richard Armitage) after Henno (Ross Kemp) has taken him down in Ultimate Force 2.5. Source:

You can see anger and shame competing in Armitage’s face here — his use of triangularis allows him to keep the shame under the anger but nonetheless always present.

Interestingly, despite its association with deeply felt suffering or shame, this downward mouth turn is not necessarily a sincerity gesture in Armitage’s gestural repertoire. Witness this really vivid combination of frontalis, corrugator supercilii and triangularis from Spooks 9:

Lucas North / John Bateman (Richard Armitage) tells Harry what happened in Dakar all those years ago, in Spooks 9.7. Source:

Here triangularis indicates only suffering — not sincerity. Some viewers felt that something was off about this scene, and I think it might be that we see all of Armitage’s facial muscles in action at once, as if he’s trying to say, “pity me,” which is the tone of the script, except that the character knows already that he is not going to receive pity, and is trying to indicate his suffering to generate some sympathy at least.

Taut triangularis is particularly frequent on Paul Andrews’ face:

Paul Andrews (Richard Armitage) after he returns from being questioned over the abuse allegations of his supervisee in Between the Sheets. Source:

That we see the downturned corners so often in Between the Sheets, even very early in the narrative, suggests a level of shame that should signal to the viewer his guilt, though still subliminally. In almost every scene with any emotion in this drama, Armitage flexes triangularis.

Thus, on Armitage’s face, the employment of this muscle reflects a sort of second-order complexification of a more visible reaction that we see elsewhere. For instance, it’s the downward pull of triangularis that makes Heinz Kruger appear to be a much more reluctant villain than one might initially supposed he’d be, by softening the frown, as if Armitage wants us to see that Kruger knows that a good man wouldn’t do such a thing.

Heinz Kruger (Richard Armitage) in the second before he detonates the explosive in Captain America. Source:

Turning to Guy, it’s interesting that in Robin Hood 1.13, which ends so badly for Guy, we see fleeting moments of taut triangularis throughout the beginning of the wedding scenes, especially in Guy’s interactions with Marian, but not in his reaction to Sir Edward’s absence (scoffing or anger), nor, fascinatingly, in the aftermath of the wedding.

Taut triangularis: Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage), brooding before his wedding, in Robin Hood 1.13. My cap.

Relaxed triangularis: Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage) tells Marian he’s dreamed of their wedding day, in Robin Hood 1.13. My cap.

Pronounced taut triangularis: Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage) responds to the information that he’s supposed to wait inside the church, in Robin Hood 1.13. A heavily humiliating moment for Guy. My cap.

Relaxed triangularis: Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage) turns down the offer of his men to bring Marian back to the altar in Robin Hood 1.13. My cap. That he doesn’t signal suffering here with his triangularis seems to suggest that on some level, Guy thinks he deserved what he got from Marian at the altar.

And, of course, the most pronounced triangularis employment in Robin Hood is probably found in 2.13:

Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage) reacts to Marian’s announcement that she loves Robin in Robin Hood 2.13. Source:

Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage) murders Marian (Lucy Griffiths) in Robin Hood 2.13. Source:

Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage) reacts to his murder of Marian in Robin Hood 2.13. Source:

Triangularis is unusually visible here, even for Guy, and one suspects a sort of negative synergy: as if the shame of having killed Marian combines with and intensifies the shame of not being worthy of her love.

~ by Servetus on October 29, 2011.

12 Responses to “Armitage anatomy: depressor angulari oris”

  1. Can you actually just use the triangularis without the accompanying grooves in the forehead? I seem to do that – I have no proper frown lines on my forehead but deepish indentations from the corner of my mouth downwards but slanting slightly outwards. To me, when my face is relaxed, I look disapproving or hurt or…..


  2. Fascinating stuff, servetus. So much emotion conveyed by such a small pair of muscles thanks to their owner’s amazing talent.


  3. Hi Serv,
    This continues to be a fascinating series of yours. Richard Armitage paints emotions and conveys meaning with his face, as well as with his voice and physicality. We are completely drawn in by his masterful storytelling. And as you point out, Mr. Armitage’s character portrayals lack of words from time to time is not a hindrance in his expert hands–or face–as the case may be.
    Cheers! Grati ;->


    • No. We always have a good idea of what he might be thinking, even when he doesn’t speak, and even when what he’s feeling is quite complex. It’s a real skill.


  4. […] makes his lower lip seem much bigger than usual; the beard seems to prevent us from seeing whether triangularis (a key indicator for him of sadness) is in action here. The other thing is that I feel (as I do […]


  5. […] emotional or emotionalizing uses of mentalis) and the lower cheeks and corners of the mouth (see: depressor anguli oris). But Armitage isn’t wrong that positioning and repositioning his jaw is central to his […]


  6. […] standoff with Dhillon in Spooks 8.7. Thumb down, but I included this mostly because of his mouth: Depressor angulari oris, anyone? Share […]


  7. […] really the appearance of this particular tiny little shadow, along with the judicious employment of depressor angulari oris, that makes Heinz Kruger anything more than a stock villain. He really does look angry, frustrated, […]


  8. […] eliminated. What’s potentially not to like about this look is its capacity to disguise the depressor angulari oris — it makes the wearer of the beard look very guarded. Hence the perception among some people […]


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