This week, Lucas North: or, Armitage and that edge of apprehension

What I hope I’m not doing — shaking hands with someone who wants to kill me. Lucas North (Richard Armitage) meets Connie James (Gemma Jones) as Adam Carter (Rupert Penry-Jones) looks on in Spooks 7.1. Source:


thefrencharmitagearmy asked recently what picture of Richard Armitage does it for you. I love the pictures of Mr. Armitage that she cited, and have written about them once platonically, and once not so platonically, but I have a hard time answering that for two reasons. One reason is that the picture that does it for me is often really contingent on my own mood and what I think I need from him on that particular day. I don’t always need that kick-in-the-solar plexus sexual jolt (although it’s never really unwelcome); sometimes I need the feeling of a force of understanding coming from outside myself, or the feeling that there’s something just beneath the surface in his eyes I’m not quite grasping and need to look harder to find. But another is that my brain works really narratively more than visually, and so it’s often a “story” I need more than an image per se — or I need an image connected to a particular story.

Since the beginning of the school term, my morning and evening Armitage fantasies have been relatively specific (yes, eventually I’ll publish them, once I have processed their meaning a bit more; I know it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged one), but they relate this time, specifically and somewhat unusually for me, to Lucas North. On some level, I’m so upset by the entire story of trauma here (not just the series 9 storyline, that’s a separate story) that since my initial heady months of watching and rewatching have ended, I can only watch most of Spooks (with the exception of 7.6 and 8.7) when I’m looking for something specific that relates to one of my own traumas. In the current case, the piece of the story that feeds my fantasy is Lucas North’s first appearance, coming in from the cold, so to speak.

This is the piece of the story I return to again and again at the moment. I think that I’m picking up on the vibe in Spooks 7.1 and 7.2 that has Lucas revealing not just his fear that he’ll be isolated from MI-5, but also that he’s lost something in the interval of his imprisonment, some fitness or sharpness, that he needs to prove again. This problem seems more or less resolved by Spooks 7.3, which has Lucas coordinating the surveillance of the terrorists and enjoying his return to spying.

[Tomorrow, I start grading again. In line with my fall values clarification, I’m implementing a plan to deal with my grading problems. I’m hoping that it will make grading faster — and thus more useful for the students, who will get feedback more quickly, and thus more tolerable for me, since the shorter duration will make it less painful. Tomorrow is just a short test, in advance of the larger grading wave that will come at the end of next week. But being able to grade is an important prerequisite to pursuing any further career in education. If I can’t do this, fixing the other problems will be pointless.]

Lucas hopes he can. He stumbles across the gravel, he gets in the car, he leans his head back in fatigue and relief, and he answers humorously. Never let them see you sweat, even when you’re wearing filthy, ragged clothing and everyone knows exactly what you’ve been through. Because you need to prove yourself not only to them — but also to you. You need to find that person you used to be, and you need to do it desperately, so that you can move into your own future.

I’m in the car and I need to start going somewhere. I’ve always been struck by the sadness of Spooks 7.1, and have written about that in the past, but this week I need the energy of Lucas — the confidence that I’m ready, if I’ve been in prison for a long time, a prison others put me in, a prison I put myself in, I’m still in shape, the pieces are all still there, and that glance up at the very end of the scene that says, I’ll be able to convince them — and myself. I’m as fit as I’ve ever been.

What scene(s) are you rewatching these days?

~ by Servetus on October 2, 2012.

24 Responses to “This week, Lucas North: or, Armitage and that edge of apprehension”

  1. I’ve been gravitating toward the 2nd episode of Strikeback and the scenes between Porter and Katie. The savior….capable, compassionate, the gentle humor. My role in life seems to be as a caretaker, but sometimes I could really use a rescue, and Porter seems to fit the bill.

    I totally empathize with your grading challenges. I hope your plan gives you some relief from the deluge. I’ve been really pushing myself to keep on top of it this semester, but if you find any tips that work, I’d love to hear them.


    • I was rewatching that compulsively this summer (never wrote about it, no time).

      The great news is that the plan TOTALLY worked. I didn’t feel any better about the grading but I finished it in something like a quarter the time I usually do, which means my resulting dysphoria was much less AND I didn’t have the additional helping of guilt on top of it. The students didn’t seem bothered at all by the way I did it, either (gave them back yesterday). The big outstanding question is whether they see the same mean improvement in their grades afterwards, i.e., are they using this kind of grade pedagogically in the way that they used the old comments?


      • Yeah, I’m so drawn in by how he handles her the way you would a child – It’s weird for me, because I’m otherwise totally unwilling to give up the control that comes with being the caretaker, but I would really like fantasy Porter to cuddle me and kiss away all of my hurts.

        RE: grading – That’s great! Are you using rubrics or something in lieu of specific comments on each paper? I’m trying to streamline by using keys for certain types of assignments so that they can see what I was looking for without my having to write the same thing on each and every paper. Every class is an experiment of some sort isn’t it? 🙂


        • wow, my perceptions were very different — I really do need to get on this. I had some draft stuff and then like most of what got written this summer, it stayed there. Why does writing take so long ???

          grading: I’ve had a rubric for about ten years; even with a TA, I couldn’t have managed the publishing expectations in my last job without it. What I found, however, was that it didn’t help me avoid the stuff which was killing me — the line editing I couldn’t make myself stop, which in turn made me feel discouraged, which in turn led to procrastination, which stretched out grading until it was one non-stop exercise in self-punishment than then generated even more guilt. I’ve expanded my rubric a lot, but I’ve eliminated paper completely on this round, anyway. The students submit their papers electronically — they get their grade posted on Blackboard, about 2 paragraphs of summary comments in their email (praise, blame, tips for improvement). They are not getting the line edit this time unless I am convinced they need it proactively (there were a few cases where I thought it would be clearer to give feedback that way; I did it in about 3% of cases this time). I also told them if they *want* a line edited paper, they should just let me know and I will be happy to provide it. That way I hope the students who really want to improve their work will identify themselves and let me give them more attention and more grading lurve, while those who are just doing the work to get the credit hours don’t take up inordinate amounts of my energy as I stress out about why their work is so bad, why they don’t care, what I can do to get their attention, etc. We’ll see how it goes. This was a small stack.

          I think what works about it is that if I’m only reading their papers on screen and taking notes, it’s too laborious to do the line edit. The screen stops me from engaging in that.


          • I see what you’re saying…I know that compulsion to line edit – is it topical or grammar/syntax that you are editing? I finally forced myself to stop editing for grammar after the first page and sending them off for a grammar intervention at the campus writing center if it is that serious. I think it is a good idea to put responsibility back on the student. I wonder about this all of the time – slaving over feedback and pondering how much of it they actually read and digest. Those who really want the specific feedback will come to you for it – that is the part of the job that is so rewarding. I got a great email from a non-trad student today in my upper division ancient history class who told me that he has a lot of difficulty readin g the primary sources, but that he has really enjoyed the challenge, and they have helped him to visual the ancient Romans in a whole new way. I’m putting that one in the plus column! Cheers.


            • That’s the most frequent comment I hear about my classes — I struggled to do what you wanted but I see know why it’s valuable. It can be rewarding. And I’ve gotten tougher over the years in terms of withstanding student opprobrium.

              I figure if this doesn’t work as regards pedagogical effect, I can always switch back — and maybe a term of withdrawal from line editing will make me less addicted to all the negative emotion I associate with it. All life is not suffering! 🙂


            • what am I editing? Everything. I can’t make myself stop.


          • Oh, BTW, after Porter makes me feel better, he goes and kicks the a– of the baddies who put me down and then comes back and flings me on the nearest available horizontal surface to work of that post a–kicking energy 😉 Apparently I have a latent need to be manhandled as well as cared for. Time to look for a therapist?


        • I should say — I worry that not having the “immediate” comments right on a paper that is physically handed back to them will mean lowered pedagogical effect. But in this particular (new to me last year) setting, grades in general are much less motivating than they were in my last job. If I need to find new motivating tools, I also need to let go of my old one(s).


          • Motivating to the students I presume? They aren’t motivated by grades? Hmmm. That might explain why I have several students who never hand anything in – what is up with that? I refuse to chase them around for it, yet they continue to tally up the 0’s. Hello midterm grade reports – sigh! I’m off to my penultimate (edge of exhaustion), but favorite class of the week – an adult ed, upper division history elective – can be a complete nightmare, but this particular group is amazing. Or maybe I’m on a sleep deprived euphoric trip? Hard to tell! 🙂


            • It took me a long time to grasp this because I was motivated by grades and the students in my last job were very motivated by them — but for a large chunk of the students I teach now, the degree / credit hours are the motivator. They’ve been told they need a degree to “get ahead,” but they don’t have to like it and they don’t have to be interested. So they come, I teach, they sit there, and at the end of it all they have three more credit hours. That’s the dynamic in the evening classes, and it was killing me last year. It didn’t matter how enthused I let myself get — they would just not respond. Because for being there and doing the work they would get the credit hours. They didn’t have to make any contribution to the time we spent together. That experience really made me reframe what the heck I thought it was I was doing.


              • Yikes…I had some of those when I first started in adult Ed…required by employers to “go back to school” and resenting the heck out of having to take “useless” history classes, but it seems to have gotten better in recent years, or at least they’re better at hiding it. Do they just need to do something like a pass/fail? Sounds like an energy sucking classroom. Putting the onus back on them to pursue more specific feedback definitely sounds like the ticket here…why kill yourself to better the ones who are just going through the motions – save that energy for the ones who really


                • Want to learn. How to motivate the uncurious and uninterested in much of anything? That’s the $64k question for modern academics. I know! Make it an online course …that will solve everything – or so I’ve heard 😉


                • It puzzled me because the best class I ever taught was one filled to 3/4 with secretaries who had been told they needed a degree to enter management. They were astounding, those students. But they could see the relationship between what they were learning and their job skills in that setting (I was teaching English comp as an adjunct at that time). i can see how people would think the material I am teaching now would be entirely irrelevant to their work lives (even if I disagree).


                  • I find myself immersed in the humanistic tradition – I really believe that all learning is relevant in some way, even calculus (shudder). There seems to be a disconnect between employers who push people to pursue a “degree” and what that degree really entails. I’ve had students who’ve taken a class like the History of Sex or Popular Culture and received static from employers in terms of tuition reimbursement – IE, “why am I paying for that.” Hello? Aren’t you the one who required them to pursue a BA/BS? Shouldn’t you have some idea that it is different from a vocational degree? It’s a sad day in academics when we have to always be on the look out for the new hook. That said, I’m thinking about a class on the history of brewing…complete with field trips. It’s official, I’m a panderer!


                    • I totally agree (unsurprisingly). The point is that you can think as flexibly as possible, which is why you should take calculus or some higher math even if you don’t like it. A discipline is a means of thinking about something. You can practice that in tons of ways, ones that seem familiar and others that don’t. And then you practice higher order skills that relate to that (communication, chiefly, in different genres and media). That’s what a BA grad should be getting / paying for. But I am a liberal arts grad myself.

                      What frustrated me in the spring is that I was teaching a class where the material was *very* exciting. The sources we read involved witches, heretics, apparitions, demon lovers, you name it. This is not my usual fare — I am a cultural / intellectual historian and I personally would rather read a political theory treatise than a court record. But I have studied the other material, too, and my colleagues noted that this material would likely generate high enrollment. It did that — but then apparently they expected me to tell them stories for hours upon hours without even reacting. I mean, I pandered and they didn’t have the energy to participate. It boggled the mind.


                  • Those are what I call Energy Vampires…they suck it all out and give nothing back. How can you have nothing to say about incubi for heaven’s sake? What do they want, a practical demonstration?


  2. Your question at the end made me aware, that currently, I am not re-watching. I am too exhausted for it for one, but for another, I need some distance to find out, how far a fan I am. Not that I doubt the fact in itself any longer, but just to measure out my fandom somehow. As I get so flooeded with news (work and fan-related), I just need to create a little space of secure appreciation and peace to which it is secure to come back to. Strange thing and hard to explain, but somehow, in my head, he is not so far away, as I re-create and re-arrange the stories he told. It also helps me to get access to the early Spooks story line, without being biased from his ending. So it is strange that you also come to Spooks 7 at the same time, while The Hobbit is dominating everything.
    Though, in comparison to you, I am far from realising, why Lucas North of Spooks 7 currently is dominant in my brain ;o)
    You quoted the scene, which I love because of the congenial way of Lucas to start playing with the expectations of his surrounding like an excellent spy, but it also makes me laugh because of the Broccoli comment. If someone would offer me broccoli, I would see it close to a murder attempt ;o)


    • This would be worth writing about a little more, I think. At the beginning I had Armitage pretty much on constant loop everywhere — all of my free time was consumed with watching him. That has definitely changed. I practically know everything he’s in by heart, but there’s stuff I haven’t seen.

      I think there’s going to be an ongoing challenge for bloggers about Armitage — the people who are posting the most just now are also bit Hobbit fans — to remember he has had a career apart from Thorin — I am happy to keep reminding people.

      I love broccoli, though.


  3. I find the first few episodes of Spooks 7 very cathartic and reassuring. Skinny Lucas gives me hope that I can survive tough situations and still be strong and capable.


  4. The newly freed Lucas North was so poignantly portrayed by Richard Armitage–even without his gaunt and emaciated appearance. The halting speech and looks, not wanting Malcom to dwell on Lucas’ incarceration, being under the surveillance of a little old lady spy in his new flat and seemingly not realizing that she probably was a plant, etc. Gosh, I hope RA was nominated for some award as Lucas.


  5. […] Lucas dealt with it. Reintegration, joyless exhaustion, enervated witnessing of death, competence, insecurity, bravado. This was the home he sought? To pitch his tent among the ever-frayed ruins of the […]


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