Armitage atonement

[Thanks for the many messages of support and promises of prayers for healing with regard to yesterday’s post. I appreciated them more than you may realize.]


In the preparations for “Armigerous” Armitage, I found two scenes that intrigued me no end, that I watched over and over again. One was the scene in Strike Back 1.2, after the escape, when Porter is holding off the terrorists and his first weapon jams and the second runs out of ammo. It’s very brief, but Porter apologizes to Katie and she tells him not to be sorry.

I’ve put it in this vid twice; first in real speed and then in 25% slomo (the video says 50%, but that’s a mistake and I was too lazy to re-upload it).

The moment I’m interested comes at 0:15 and then 1:10 in the slomo. He’s just apologized, she’s responded, and then for a second, his lips close. This is the still photo:

John Porter (Richard Armitage) and Katie Dartmouth (Orla Brady) in an apparent last stand in Strike Back 1.2. My cap.

It’s interesting (cough) as a script choice to put this particular moment in the middle of a gunfire scene. It’s the point at which Porter’s quest to atone for his “failure” in Basra comes to an apparent end, as it seems likely from his and Katie’s perspective that they’ll be recaptured and/or killed by Al Nazeri et al. To me, this is a script fail, since that is the story arc that carried the whole first episode, not to mention the fact that what they end up saying to each other is so hokey. The scene should have been written completely differently, and the fact that it wasn’t underlines the repeated deus ex machina technique of resolving the series episodes. It kind of makes you want to grit your teeth.

But it’s interesting to me that he’s in the middle of this high action scene, breathing very hard, and then even when he apologizes, his first expression is exhaustion or overexertion — but as she responds to his apology, the exhaustion falls away just a tad and his mouth softens just a little bit as his corrugator supercilii contracts very, very slightly. Catching his breath? Sorrow? Affection for Katie? And then in the next cut we see him screwing his resolution together to fend off the enemy by using the useless rifle as a battering ram. So the slightly, softly closed mouth is a sort of moment of pause in the middle of the sequence that makes him seem — in the middle of this melee — quite sweetly tender. The superhero with a vulnerable soul. Richard Armitage thus seems to be expressing the provisional end of Porter’s quest here as a moment of care for Katie. This kind of tendency is an interesting feature of the Porter character, I think. Hopefully I’ll have more chance to write about that this week. We’ll see, I’ve got a lot of grading piled up.

~ by Servetus on November 13, 2011.

14 Responses to “Armitage atonement”

  1. Ooh, the first to comment again! I feel so special, makes me wish I had something more profound to say.

    That episode of SB is one of my favorites of anything RA has done. I love the contradiction of tough guy John single-handedly rescuing Katie (with the help of As’ad’s phone, of course) with sweet, tender John caring for Katie while they are held captive. The only part I didn’t like was that hokey “i’m sorry, don’t be” dialogue. In the middle of all that action, I can’t believe he would stop to apologize, or that she would be so calm in the face of the perceived failure. Porter does then revert right back to expected behavior by picking up the gun, he seems like the kind of guy who’s going to go down fighting. Which makes that whole bit of dialogue seem even more out of place.

    However, I am willing to forgive the stupidity of the dialogue because RA’s biceps look so incredibly hot in that scene.


  2. yeah, certainly agree that it’s a script fail. At most you could say it’s an absurdly stereotypical British moment (on the lines of the orchestra of the Titanic playing the ship down into the ocean to the tune of “nearer my G-d to thee”). BUT it’s interesting how he plays it, given that he has to. I think it’s there because somehow you have to acknowledge that he’s in danger of failing yet again — but this is just not enough for the viewer to process that.

    Given all that, he plays it quite well. I’m fascinated by that lip movement.


  3. Hi Serv,

    I think one reason I’m drawn to the character of and story of John Porter is his honor. Honor is not always touted in the media or films and literature–as we’ve seen yet again in recent media reports. And such bad behavior is unconscionable.

    But in the mini series Strike Back series 1, Honor was the name of the game. And Richard Armitage portrayed that honor–flawed human though John Porter was–to perfection. Being and acting honorably is something we should all strive for.

    The good guys/gals may finish last, but we finish. And we survive–through courage, and through fortitude, and sometimes through pure stubbornness. And perhaps surviving is our best revenge, when other avenues are not available to us.

    Thanks for sharing! Cheers! Grati ;->

    P.S. I’m blessed with a wonderful hubby who is my honorable mate and the love of my life. He supports me in good times and bad–as I also support him. I wish you and others, friends and loved ones whom you can find support and solace with–and whom you can give support and solace to.


  4. That part always jarred with me and I couldn’t work out why, but now I know! It’s a relief that you can do the analytical work for me servetus, as it’s not one of my strong points!!

    There’s no doubt though that Richard portrayed JP as such a strong, courageous, tender, caring yet flawed hero that we could love and care about him, when he could so easily have been just a two dimensional comic book action man in the hands of another actor.


  5. John seeming to resign himself to failure against the odds here does not mesh well with what John said to Katie when they were being tortured. “Just remember-I am going to kill every one of these bastards.” Even in the face of being water boarded and Katie being whipped, he wasn’t admitting defeat. That “never say die” attitude.

    There is a definite reason why I loved, respected and admired John Porter in a way I have never felt about such an action hero figure and that reason is Richard Armitage and his amazing talent. As Gratiana said, a man of honor.


  6. I have never seen this series, so it doesn’t strike me as odd that he’d apologise. All I’m seeing is a bloke whose job it is to protect a civilian apologising for not being able to do it effectively, even though he won’t give up. And doing so convincingly. It seems like a natural thing to do, though I’m seeing it totally out of context because I could never bring myself to watch it.

    It does reminds me, though, of an anecdote the ex-First Sealord, Lord West, told on the radio a few days ago about his ship being sunk in the Falklands conflict:

    “We were in the midst of being bombed, total chaos, and there were all these Miracles coming out of the sky at us, and I suddenly realised the Steward had appeared at my shoulder with a cup of tea on a silver platter. I said, “Good God, man – what on earth are you doing?” and he said, “It’s tea time, sir.” And at that point, I thought, well we’re really not very likely to lose, so that was alright.”


    • it’s just that it’s not a moment at which you’d apologize — they’re under threat of immediate death. (if you are wrapped enough into the story to believe that there’s a possibility that the cavalry won’t come riding over the hill). It’s not that I think he wouldn’t apologize, I just don’t think he wouljd do it at that point. And doing it that point makes it seem so very stereotypically British upper lip — like Lucas North saying that Russian prisons are like holiday camps.


      • Oh, OK. For me, the certain knowledge that it’s all over really is a good time for apologies and gallows humour. Maybe I’m just too stereotypically English, or the number of police and ex-soldiers and sailors in the family has skewed my perspective? I’m from a working class background, so I don’t think it’s an officer-class thing (no idea what rank Porter is supposed to be), and the soldiers I know are enlisted ranks, not officers. Maybe a regional thing? Weirdly, I am less familiar with the south of England’s culture(s) than America’s – how odd to have lived abroad and yet only ever ventured out of the north to go to London… Must remedy that.


        • Porter is supposed to be SAS. A self-made man. His background is very lower class in the movie — “northern council estate” although Armitage’s explanation of his own version of the backstory involved the Porters being an “army family” (we never saw any of that in the series).

          You’ll have to watch it some time.

          And London really is lovely. Then again, I’m from the US and have only been to LA once, perhaps for similar reasons.


  7. As usual, Mr. A did rise above a toys for boys/guns for guys book (probably a lot of dialogue was lifted from the book?) and brought far more to the series than the writers managed. Katie is one of my three favourite “RA ladies”, because of the chemistry between the actors. He evinces a genuine affection for Katie, whose courage also inspires him. Theirs is a positive emotional interdependence through a terrible ordeal. The actors bring an integrity to the episode.


    • The book was almost completely rewritten. It’s actually astounding to me that someone could pick up *that* book and end up with the SB we know as the end product. Katie’s subjected to much worse torture in the book, too.

      I loved Orla Brady in this (didn’t know her before) and then she showed up in Wallander, too.


  8. You hit the nail on the head again, fitzg. I’ve always admired Orla Brady’s acting as she is a lot like Richard in her approach……she becomes the person she’s playing. And it’s also the way Lucy Griffiths spoke about playing opposite Richard …….sometimes other actors bring out the best in him as he does in them. In my dreams of John Porter’s future, he and Katie spent quite some time together after they both returned home! After John and Alex had grieved for his ex-wife and provided sufficient comfort for one another, of course! Oh how I wanted him to have a normal life for a while!


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