Lucas North unconsoled, Richard Armitage uncivilized

[Yes, I’m aware I’m discussing this scene out of series context.]

[And yeah, I’ve seen those “ads” patches appear on the bottom of each post. I’m probably going to buy the “No Ads” upgrade to get rid of them, but for now, your patience is appreciated. Don’t click; I don’t earn any money from them. “me + richard” has no  plans to monetize.]



Above is one of the scenes in Richard Armitage’s oeuvre that I’ve been watching heavily lately. I’ve been watching a lot of Spooks. This surprises me a little because, although I haven’t written much about the meaning of Spooks for me, and why I keep watching it, when I saw it for the first time, it was clearly — in the line of my interest in North & South because of vocational and moral issues around work — because of the whole question of betrayals. Lucas North didn’t end up being in my top three roles Armitage has played, in the end, but I remember talking about it with my therapist at the time, that I felt that the major theme of the series was betrayals at work, a problem that held a lot of my attention in the spring of 2011.

Even before I got back from home, sitting in the airport, I immediately turned to Spooks. I think I know why, now.

It’s because one of Lucas’ fundamental defining qualities is his isolation.

Lucas is always, first and foremost, alone.

He has work, and colleagues (with whom he doesn’t appear to socialize), but he has no wife, his romantic relationships don’t work out, his father is a story from the past (either true, or a legend, the viewer is left to decide), and in series 9, Vaughn prods him with the assertion that even the life he (now John Bateman) has been living is someone else’s.

This is the quality of his I sympathize with most at the moment: his aloneness.

You don’t need to console me and remind me that I’m not really alone. I know — I have all of you and you are great! I’m still responding to the many messages I’ve received from you. I still have family, and colleagues, and many, many RL friends.

And yet, I feel stone cold alone, at the moment. Not lonely in the sense of wishing more people were around. Alone. Bereft in a way that I wouldn’t have guessed. Adrift. As if my connection to something essential has been severed. I don’t know how else to describe it.

As one way of dealing with this, I’m trying to let myself cry. I’ve been having trouble. I can’t do it at work, and mostly I can’t do it around the people I associate with. People around me are trying hard to keep me company so that I don’t feel badly and mostly they’re doing a great job. But when tears do threaten to come, they clearly make people uncomfortable to the point that they intervene to change the topic or touch me or something. It’s not that they mean badly, but clearly open grief is difficult even for good friends to watch.

So I have to cry at other times. Sometimes it happens when I’m watching the rain, for instance, or the sunset. It happens about every other time that I recite the mourner’s prayer. I assume it will happen this Saturday during Yizkor. I actually kind of hope it will, because everyone will be crying and my grief will be less evident.

I’ve written about Richard Armitage as someone who admits crying before (although now I think the Latin should be oculis flentis and not flens), and in that post, I cited one my favorite comments of his of all time:

It was like: ‘I want to know what that feels like again because I can’t do that in my real life. I can’t cry like that because it’s not civilised.’ That’s when I thought it was really worth it.

[note that this link goes to that interview people don’t like.]

This comment hit me hard this week, and it brought me to that scene above, because it’s a keening cry of both grief and rage, of the kind that civilized people may not do, the expression of an ultimate loss.

Armitage has done other kinds of crying — the submerged face is one example.


TI2_136Claude Monet (Richard Armitage) reacts to Camille’s death in episode 2 of The Impressionists. Source:


Or the nearly brimming eyes, for instance.


ep5_242Lucas North (Richard Armitage) notes, ironically, that it’s difficult to discover that someone close to you was not who you thought they were, in Spooks 8.5. Source:


And real, open, grief, as well — although honestly, I think these tears were added by the makeup people.

ep4_320John Porter (Richard Armitage) cries with his daughter over the news of his ex-wife’s death. Source:


I can’t help but note that Didion has commented on this tendency to give people tears as particularly problematic for men crying in film —

[…] real men cry with the same sloppy, ugly abandon that women do. What I can’t understand is how we can see male actors express the ugliest, most terrifying rage and violence onscreen, but never have I seen men crying with abandon as actual men sometimes do. And this hurts both men and women.

a point I found substantiated in my reaction to Dean O’Gorman’s sloppy crying in “When Love Comes”.

But the Armitage crying that I’m gravitating to at the moment is the crying in the scene above, when Lucas, having outdriven his former MI-5 colleagues, turns to look at Maya and discovers that she’s been fatally shot. All of the crucial scenes of his life and identity flash through his mind, and he simply can’t accept what he knows is about to happen.

And his cries are rage, and grief, rage and grief over her death, rage and grief over the loss of his dreams, rage and grief over everything that’s ever happened to him in his life, and he screams, in one long cry, “No……!” and then a weaker rejoinder. Anger and rage — and the realization that falls it, that the rage will have no object, that the moment where everything could have changed has passed, irrevocably.

I recognize that cry. It’s the one that grabs me, late at night, when I am at all alone, when I’ve finished my prayers and am lying in bed, flat on my back, and waiting for sleep to come. It’s the cry of absolute rage and grief and denial and refusal to come to terms. The cry that makes me stuff my hand in my mouth so as not to disturb the neighbors, but that chokes its way out of my throat nonetheless. That cry Lucas makes because nothing can ever possibly be whole, ever again. That cry that denies reality even as he knows he has no choice to come to terms with it.

I don’t know how to describe it, really. I just know that I know that cry, now. Of confrontation with reality; of refusal to believe. That cry that forces its way out even as I seek to suppress it, that overtakes me at night and won’t let go of me.

Grief. Rage. Denial. That cry that wants to unmake the world, against all reason.

~ by Servetus on September 12, 2013.

22 Responses to “Lucas North unconsoled, Richard Armitage uncivilized”

  1. (((hugs))) Idk if this helps or not, but it’s OK to cry like that!


  2. I can’t stand when men cry onscreen. I start bawling too…


  3. (((HUGS!))) I was this way after my husband left me. I simply couldn’t stop crying, feeling all my life as I lived and as I thought I would have lived slipping away from my hands. And for my aunt’s death. That was grief and rage, deep rage for how unfair life had been with her.
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  4. Re the ads, I’ve just noticed that on my blog too and I understand everyone wants to make a living, but that did not make me happy.
    Crying: I don’t really do it in RL, I can literally remember the instances I’ve cried directly because of something that has happened, that’s how few there are.
    Having said that, I’ll cry like a baby prompted by the tiniest soppy thing I’m watching It’s like I’m wired to be a strong woman in RL, and that’s not what strong women do, but I find a release when I watch moving things. It’s almost like something in me needs that buffer of fiction to allow myself to shed tears.


  5. I think by focusing on Lucas’ primal grief, you can access yours more easily. He can pull it out of us. Then after you release it, eventually you feel better (unless you are Lucas). I feel it is probably normal for you to feel alone because you just lost your mom. For the first time in your life, you don’t have one. Even though we are “grownups”, losing a mom you love is devastating. I suppose Richard could be called a muse of tears, because he provides a way to get in touch with sorrow. Of course, not only sadness, but joy as well, depending on the role and the emotions we bring to it as watchers. My daughters and I have “go to” literature when we need a good cry. So for you, at this time, it is Spooks. Makes sense to me. Stay well.


  6. I hear you, Servetus. Hang in there.


  7. Re: The ads – they’re gone right now -maybe they were temporary? As with Lucas, the death of your loved one was the final event in a long, difficult road this summer. Everything is very raw now for you, as it was for Lucas. Take a drive alone, park in a beautiful, quiet spot, and let it rip.


  8. I have to say I like that article actually because it shows us a piece of the real Richard. Acting is a tough profession. This is obviously where much of the information on his lovelife comes from and though some of that may have changed it is true that having that private life especially with someone in the same business is very difficult. First he is talking about being simply human and a boy and second he is talking about what it is like surviving in the world of acting. It is cut throat and much of it for most actors is spent struggling for jobs. 98% at least of them do not work every single day and they don’t make big money hence you see him taking every single job that comes in so he does ads, audio, book reading for kids and more. Great for us of course but no doubt he is always looking for that big one that satisfies, the one that makes the heart race. When it comes to love you want that someone who makes you feel that and more so you see that is what he is saying besides feeling he wants to be able to have everything needed to support a family as well. He still hasn’t found what he wants I’d say.

    Tears, in a man it has always been something they were discouraged from showing but it is very powerful when done right. I can see how it helps when one is suffering their own grief. I’ve had my own this year as well so I can understand too. I’ve felt that loss in the night and given in to the despair of loss and pain just letting it all out. I’ve found myself breaking down while driving simply from the sound of a song that seemingly has nothing to do with my grief and yet somehow triggers that pain. It all helps but the loss of a parent so loved, so dear just takes time. I have no family left and I do have friends as well but I too feel alone and have to remind myself all the time that I still have these friends and connections. It is hard Serv but you will make it. We’re all here for you.

    Ads? I just ignore them and read.


  9. One of the most difficult things for me to watch is Mr. Armitage’s characters succumbing to or trying to control tears/strong emotion. I’ve only watched Spooks season 9 once for that reason. (And that scene above twice now) It’s strange to me that his ‘presence’ (in my mind) can walk me through some very tough emotional moments but to watch him portray similar emotions is almost more than I can process without really going into a funk. I deliberately skip parts in Sparkhouse and The Hobbit also, but I just CANNOT revisit the destruction of Lucas/John. It hurt me to watch it.
    I’ve watched him move through so much in seven and eight and to have things go so terribly wrong in nine then see him give up. I just can’t.

    I think it is his willingness to take himself to those places that is enabling me to walk through some of the difficulties in my life instead of avoiding, getting stuck in, or otherwise trying to sublimate emotions I don’t want to experience. Because I have always kept a real lid on my emotions (feeling they do not contribute to difficult situations in helpful ways) I am surprised at the emotion I can free (though still only when I am alone!) just by picturing his reaction to my true emotion.

    What I’m trying to say is, as long as you are keeping the emotion moving, you are healing. Primal screams in the dark of the night, healing. Trying to understand your emotions by studying how he expresses his, healing. Writing about his emotions and how he portrays them, helping you to recognize and allow if not accept your own, healing.

    We don’t just get past it, we move through it.

    You’re moving through, I’m glad you are so supported by friends in RL and by Mr. Armitage and his army.


  10. Oh Servetus. If I only I could offer adequate comfort. But I know that such are those times where really no one can actually comfort us. We are alone is such pain, even when people are there and offer comfort. Sometimes it is wonderful when they do. And sometimes it is worse, because we can feel compelled to comfort them in their comfort. This is where we are alone. I feel this. I don’t currently feel the same pain that you are in now – in your grief from such loss. I but have often had such a cry, and in that lies my sincere empathy and understanding.


  11. I remember seeing Russel Crowe’s character in Gladiator, as he comes upon his murdered wife and child. I had rarely seen such grief portrayed by man or woman on screen before. It was so primal (and sloppy) it made me uncomfortable, as if I were intruding.


    • I felt the same here, about this. It was intense enough to connect with the character through sympathy. And enough to instill an understanding of how someone could give up in such a fashion. Still, it was immensely hard to watch. Odd how I can watch someone being slain with a sword with less discomfort than I can watch such grief.


  12. And I neglected to comment on the actual Richard’s “Lucas Cry” observations here. I actually have to avoid Season 9, Ep. 8, because I can no longer bear to watch that scene of overwhelming grief. Along with that are the last moments with Harry before Lucas’ death. Just, there is no need.


  13. Do you know the opera “La Bohème” by Puccini? Right at the end, in the last few bars, this human cry is transformed into music. Beautiful, heart-wrenching music.
    I turn to music when I need to let my feelings out. It helps me letting them out and soothes my soul afterwards. Hope you have something to soothe your soul.


    • Talk about letting go! I first saw “Boheme” when I was a teenager, and didn’t know the story. By the time I head that last cry and that soul-piercing music I was sobbing uncontrollably. That time it was Mom who was embarrassed!


  14. Crying is ok, sometimes a good cry helps a lot. I can cry at the drop of a hat, like to today at work. Mr. 70 sent an e-mail (at work on our work e-mail) about Jimmy Doolittles and his raiders, that there is only 4 left, it was very sad and I had to fight back the tears.

    The male is told that it is not manly to cry, well I think that it is. To show emotion is a good thing, there is healing in crying. That RA can cry and does so while doing a role might send a sign that it is ok.


  15. I have always found an easy outlet in tears, for all kinds of reasons. My husband no longer feels the same shame in shedding tears, as he did when much younger, but the “men don’t cry” attitude instilled in his generation is difficult for him to totally lose altogether.

    Losing my father twenty six years ago meant a little piece went missing from my heart, a feeling that I don’t think will ever really go away. The grief and the pain have long since eased, but I still miss him very much.
    Be kind to yourself, Serv, give yourself time to move through the healing process, however you need to do it.

    Harry and Monet are my sunshine, Porter is my hero, Thornton is for when I want some romance, and Guy is for….well, maybe it’s as simple as him being sex on leather-clad legs (except for his final scene of course). Call me shallow, but Thorin is probably sex on (short) legs as well. 😉
    As for Lucas, his isolation in Spooks 7&8 breaks my heart, and in 9 it’s even worse. I have watched it right through only twice, the last few episodes through floods of tears. It’s simply too painful.


  16. This is my first comment I´ve written down on a sheet of paper before posting because I´d to sort my thoughts.
    As I mentioned in my comment on “Lucas comforts with a look” I still try to find out why he is my favourite RA character. Maybe I´ve found another piece of the puzzle, so thank yo so much Servetus for this post.
    The scene in the vid I experienced twice in my life, after the death of my mother and after separating from my husband. The worst thing I´d ever done in my life was telling my grandma that her daughter (my mother) was dead and couldn´t tell her the reason (committed suicide). I wa so lost, felt so much rage (how could she do this to us) and felt so guilty at the same time (suppose Lucas felt guilty about Maya´s death, too). At night, I bit on my fists not letting out my cries because of the family.
    Now, that I stay on my own, it´s so relieving to let cries out whenever they come over me.
    I agree totally with CarlyQ about the HEALING issue…


  17. I think it’s normal for you to feel adrift after your mom passed away. My father was my anchor so I felt the same way when he passed away and still do to this day. The grief gets easier to bear with time but I don’t think grieving over the loss of a parent ever goes away completely.
    I remember the first and only time I saw my father cry. It was heart breaking to see because he was crying about my mother leaving him…and this happened almost 25 years after she left. He loved her til the day he died. As for myself, I’ve been crying off and on all day. It started with a confrontaton with my daughter (who’s bi-polar) first thing this morning. Then I got a call from work giving me a heads up about a unexpected meeting re a project that’s not going well. When I got the call, I couldn’t say anything because I was on the verge of breaking down. My co-worker kept calling my name and asking if I was ok. I finally sobbed that I’ve have to call her back. I’ve never cried around a co-worker and was totally humiliated. The work day just got worse after the meeting — ending with me sitting at my desk with tears streaming down my face while analyzing spreadsheets. Then I watched a video of a 13-yr-old disabled girl singing on the xfactor. She was so positive, happy and full of enery despite the fact that she couldn’t use her arms…made me feel guilty for having a pity party all day. Now I’m just drained.
    Crying may not be civilized, but it’s human.


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