Richard Armitage + John Porter status games: More from Strike Back: Origins

I wanted to follow last week’s analysis of Richard Armitage’s performance of John Porter in the first series of Strike Back (now Strike Back: Origins), and just spooled quickly through the second episode of the series. There’s a lot here I haven’t written about publicly, and the overview, and looking through my stack of drafts on this series, made me think I need to get to some of it.

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vlcsnap-2013-10-24-12h43m58s219Collinson (Andrew Lincoln) and Porter (Richard Armitage) prepare for the Bratton extraction in episode 1 of Strike Back: Origins.

[All caps in this post are mine.]

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But tonight, in honor of Cinemax’s Friday broadcast of episode 2, I want to look at how the status games between Porter (Armitage) and Collinson (Andrew Lincoln) develop from the previous episode. In episode 1, Collinson, the militarily inexperienced “expert,” first gets Porter and his team into the safe house in Basra where Kenneth Bratton is being held. After accidentally killing and wounding Porter’s comrades with friendly fire, Collinson then gives an account of the situation that implicates Porter as responsible for those deaths. Guilty (or worried about what Porter might suspect?), Collinson finds the apparently decompensating Porter a job as a security guard. When the Katie Dartmouth incident begins, Porter finds Collinson and confronts him, hoping to be sent back in to Basra to the Sword of Islam safe house, a request that Collinson denies. Toward the end of episode 1, however, Collinson is contradicted by his superiors, and Porter must be “reactivated,” an order that puts him one down, even if he doesn’t see Porter for the remainder of that episode and the outcomes of Porter’s status negotiations are held in the hands of the three women he encounters (Layla, Danni, and the mission psychologist).

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vlcsnap-2013-10-31-20h09m13s110Layla (Jodhi May) and Collinson (Andrew Lincoln) react to the order to exploit Porter’s knowledge, in episode 1 of Strike Back: Origins.

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Porter, though acting within Collinson’s chain of command, does not see the Section 20 head for most of the episode. But Collinson’s presence is felt, insofar as he’s the one to give Layla her orders, which exclude Porter from alpha team, and insofar as he’s the one who tells Alexandra Porter and her mother that Porter is missing and probably dead. Lincoln got an interesting role here for at least the first two episodes of this series — on some level, at this point he’s much more torn in his allegiances than the single-minded Porter, perhaps because he is more self-consciously aware of them. Collinson doesn’t seek Porter’s complete destruction despite Porter’s role as unknowing secret keeper; he finds Porter work and puts Porter in his line of sight, almost as if he wants the reminder of his own transgression. (This action makes me wonder about the potential multivalence of Collinson’s line about seeking to make atonement in episode 1.) Collinson genuinely wants Katie home, I think, and not just because her execution might potentially affect his career. At this point in episode 2, Layla wouldn’t have passed on Porter’s theory, and it’s Collinson alone who makes the choice to do that. Collinson is at the same time eager to grasp at every straw to save Katie and conscious that Katie’s rescue will make him look good and aware that Porter’s demise in a rescue effort will ultimately benefit him and guilty about how his effort at self-preservation has influenced Porter’s life after Basra.

But it’s not my task to discuss Lincoln’s performance here so much, except as it affects that of Armitage. The next time Porter and Collinson “see” each other, it’s via a videolink that connects a situation room in London and a helicopter in southern Iraq.

I’m not going to push an analysis of this scene into this post, not because it’s not significant, but because it’s so heavily complicated by its constitution through editing that it’s not tremendously important to note the individual moves of the actors. Though who could forget this face?

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vlcsnap-2013-10-31-21h03m56s186vlcsnap-2013-10-31-21h04m02s250vlcsnap-2013-10-31-21h04m11s80Porter (Richard Armitage) rages at Collinson to save As’ad, in episode 2 of Strike Back: Origins.

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Porter got Katie out — but Collinson simultaneously “buried” As’ad, so that we are left wondering exactly what happened in the stairwell that decisive night. (Not knowing what happened to As’ad because Porter is executed at the beginning of the second season of the show is the single most annoying loose plot strand in my entire experience of watching Richard Armitage, and it’s interesting that fanfic authors often try to rescue As’ad somehow.) Porter is the more actively powerful, but Collinson is still the one calling the shots, a nicely poetic injustice and one that leaves Collinson at least potentially vulnerable to Porter, not only because he doesn’t know if Porter’s been able to augment his knowledge of events in the stairwell while in Iraq, but also because he is left with the need to explain credibly his abandonment of As’ad.

I refer to the scene as prelude to the balance of power in the men’s relationship in one of the more gripping status game scenes of the series, the one that closes episode 2 of Strike Back: Origins. At this point, without much support from Section D, Porter has located and extracted Katie Dartmouth almost singlehandedly, been rescued himself by the SAS, and has returned to England. He’s been reunited with his daughter and visited Katie in the hospital to ask her about what As’ad said to her. He’s paid his respects to his fallen comrades at regimental headquarters, where he encounters Layla, who apologizes for her skepticism.

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Note, as the scene with Layla ends, the way that Porter lifts his chin, resolutely, squaring his jaw toward the next task and moving himself physically away from his mourning for his mates and toward “see[ing] a man about a job.” At 0:11, Collinson enters the scene with a jaunty walk that seems already to belie his nervousness even as Collinson intends it to project confidence. Throughout this scene, the one who moves less seems to win, and Porter’s physical attention toward Collinson at this point presents the sort of attentive mirroring of the predator that might be waiting to pounce.

As Porter moves to his chair, we see that he’s now appropriately dressed for a visit to Section D, in a jacket that also fits slightly better than the one used to emphasize Porter’s unfamiliarity with the halls of power, though still ill-fitting in a way that suggests he’s new to the setting. In this scene, Porter’s power will come from two sources: first, we assume, from his vindication at having successfully removed Katie from the hands of her kidnappers, and secondly, from the knowledge he’s obtained from Katie about As’ad’s naming of the person who killed Mike and Keith and wounded Steve.

“As a friend,” Collinson emphasizes, gesturing for Porter to take a seat, “I owe you an explanation. About Scarface.” Porter looks up, as Collinson sits, with a look of utter fascination. Note the move Armitage gives Porter at 0:16, a twitch of astonishment so smooth and loose that it clearly betrays its irony to us, whether Collinson can read it accurately or not.

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vlcsnap-2013-11-01-00h03m35s173First, feigned surprise: John Porter (Richard Armitage) awaits Collinson’s explanation in episode 2 of Strike Back: Origins.

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vlcsnap-2013-11-01-00h11m39s49Then, after a casual swing of the head and descent into the chair, feigned interest and attentiveness.

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vlcsnap-2013-11-01-00h13m03s239Collinson (Andrew Lincoln), in jovial, head-down, status down position, initiates his explanation in episode 1 of Strike Back: Origins.

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Collinson’s body language reflects here something every rhetorician knows: the powerful party does not ever explain its decisions. That Collinson chooses to explain already puts him a further status point down, even if eventually we realize that this explanation involves more than simply justifying his position, however implausibly self-serving his words are. Collinson needs to fish to see what Porter knows. Here, Armitage continues to give Porter a simultaneous physical tension and feigned curiosity, so that his posture of attention is simultaneously one of disbelief that further emphasizes the way in which Collinson’s attempt at bonhomie quite simply falls flat.

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vlcsnap-2013-11-01-00h16m58s24Porter (Richard Armitage) continues to attend to Collinson’s explanation, now with a simultaneously hostile and ironic curiosity, in episode 1 of Strike Back: Origins.

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Note the change of position in Porter’s body from 0:32 to 0:33 — in which the tension is released as Porter drops his elbow onto the arm of the chair, but lifts his chin and twists his lips very slightly.

Beginning at 0:37, it pays to watch in particular how Armitage uses his eyes. This effect is enhanced by the repeated gentle move of the camera toward his face, so that subtle movements are magnified in their intensity. In essence, at at least two points, Armitage seems to make Porter’s face all eyes. Armitage again benefits from a lighting across his face that makes it look Janus-like:

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Look at the ice-cold stare on the right side of the face, even as the emotion begins on the left side, where Porter’s face is in shadow, but nonetheless showing the beginnings of anger. Porter reacts to Collinson’s statement with an astonishment that is more intense for every millimeter of motion that Armitage doesn’t show us — the twisting of the right side of his head being so subtle that we feel rather than see it.

Important here — Armitage is preternaturally still. As Collinson says, “we could have lost Katie,” Porter’s chin moves down. In the previous scene I analyzed, this was a submissive movement, but here, it’s clearly a move of anger. The left corner of his mouth moves subtly down as well, and note the rising color on his left cheek. Down head for Porter is no longer a symptom of shame — the even glance of his eyes and the extremely restrained movement means that down position is now one of strength. Armitage starts, here, to “top from below” or steer the scene’s energy from the subordinate position, a power hierarchy that he will now subtly undermine for the remainder of the scene as Collinson loses power and Porter gains it.

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This is one of those really effective moments. Porter wants to hear what Collinson will say, as he’s already heard from Katie that As’ad claimed that a British soldier killed Mike and Keith. In order to hear Collinson’s version of the story, he must keep his body language still and open. Otherwise, Collinson will have no reason to continue narrating. But much more than the story of Collinson’s thinking is at stake here — it’s the story of the last several years of his life that Porter has in mind, and we see very quietly (note downward move of brow at 0:41) that Porter is extremely angry. His eyes get bigger and angrier even as the rest of his body gets stiller, so that in the end the slightly move of a brow is an index of extreme anger.

Next, two intermediate flashbacks give us the information that we already knew — that a British soldier killed Mike and Keith, and that As’ad confirmed this information for Katie. At 1:20, then, it’s Collinson who’s holding still, waiting to see how well his story is playing.  At 1:24, Porter responds by affirming that he understands Collinson’s decision, even as he shakes his head very slightly, a move that signals simultaneous denial of his verbal affirmation and also a cynical astonishment at Collinson’s cheek in asserting what Porter now believes strongly to be a bald-faced lie (even if he can’t prove it).

At 1:26, when Porter says that of course he understands, he looks almost amused at Collinson’s chutzpah …

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… and the thinness of his lips makes him look as if he’s cruelly enjoying Collinson’s discomfort. The almost clenched position of his jaw makes it look as if he’s spitting the words out, when he says that he’d have done exactly the same as Collinson did, had he been in Collinson’s position …

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…and his glance begins to look challenging before he again undercuts the aggressiveness of his glare with the down head move:

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He shakes his head as he says he’d have done the same thing in Collinson’s position — precisely because he wouldn’t have, and because he’s astonished that Collinson did. A classic performative contradiction.

This repeated gestural language is another fascinating moment in Armitage’s work. We frequently see body language repeated in patterns, at first subtly, then emerging more visibly, and then fully blown. These gradually larger and larger movements lend a rhythm to his scenes that moves us physically toward climaxes or points of tension, as if he plays his body works together with other scenic devices to give us a sense of a scene like a movement of music.

At around 1:20, Collinson accepts that he’s done what he could to make his case, and moves to the next problem the scene addresses — whether Porter will join Section 20. At this point, one thinks, both men know what’s going on. Collinson wants to keep Porter close and observable (and, as the later episodes show, on some level, Collinson admires Porter and wants to exploit his gifts), and Porter wants to be close enough to prove that Collinson was the one who changed the course of his life. Collinson has given Porter a reason to return to life, not only because of Porter’s success in ending Katie’s kidnapping, but because he’s given Porter the opening and the ingredients to explain what happened to him. Thus a distinct tone of malevolence comes from Porter’s side, both in his gestures and expressions and in the tone of his voice, in the remainder of the scene.

As a baseline, we see Porter’s face as Collinson asks him if he’ll join the section:

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Because of all the emotions that Armitage has showed us, in separate responses, we can see a sort of buildup of a number of things here — anger, astonishment, irony, pain, and determination. If this were a standard Armitage moment, we should also be seeing microexpressions of weariness (both Lucas and Guy would have shown something like that in a comparable situation), so it’s interesting that Armitage seems to have edited that out of this moment — in my opinion, for the better.

As a consequence, look at Porter’s face as he says, “Yeah,” in response to Collinson’s question:

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What gets added here, and it helps that the lighting comes up on the left side of Armitage’s face, so we can see him better — is a clearly pregnant, emotional moment — a kind of combination of grief, excitement and sudden self-assurance. Porter is: happy to be reinstated and have made the decision to do so and get at least a piece of his life back; confident that he can do what he needs to do; and also secretly gloating — because now he knows he will be able to pay Collinson back. And quietly confident, as all of this simmers under the surface.

At 1:50, Porter lowers his head again, as if having said all this to Collinson face to face is just too much:

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He upgrades his register of speech, slightly — changing his “yeah” to “yes, I have,” asserting a slightly higher status, and then finally showing a bit of pleasure, albeit it again in an ironic way:

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Is he happy he got what he want, happy he’ll be able to get back to work, happy that he’ll be able to get Collinson, amused at Collinson’s cheek, or even just wryly thinking about the contradictions that brought him to this place? Because Armitage gives us several motions of Porter’s lips and jaw here, we have opportunities to think about a number of emotions coursing through him. He also gives us that Porter inward, contemplative glance from last week’s scene:

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But this time he’s calculating not everything he’s lost, not suffering under the burden of his past, but tracing in his mind his path forward, even appearing to savor the possibilities.

Porter moves his head back toward the viewer, blinks once — almost deliberately:

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At first he is still looking inward, but then his glance affirms his agreement to work for Section 20:

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And we see that Porter has once again put himself on the same status as Collinson. This is fascinating, both because formally speaking Collinson is still calling the shots and also because the position above is the highest Armitage lifts Porter’s chin after the middle of the scene. From a position of formal and physical subordination, mostly by movements of his eyes and lips, Porter emerges the clear status winner from the scene. He may still be on the bottom, but he’s getting ready to “strike back.” The subordinated head position of episode 1 said, “atonement,” but while “atonement” is not off his list here — something like revenge is now clearly on it.

Since it’s fairly obvious to the viewer what is going on in the scene, it’s admirable how Armitage manages to steer his way through it without making the scene stereotypical. I would argue that the reason that the scene gains so much tension and electricity is that throughout the entire few minutes, there are never fewer than two impulses apparent in Armitage’s playing of Porter. That means the viewer will always subconsciously be sorting through his impressions of Porter’s body language trying to figure out what exactly it is that Porter is hoping to gain: his job? recognition of his competency? a return to (self-)respect? knowledge of what has happened? payback? All of these desires swim throughout Armitage’s gestures for Porter and make the standard issue SAS operative a man with significant and entrancing subtext.

~ by Servetus on November 1, 2013.

31 Responses to “Richard Armitage + John Porter status games: More from Strike Back: Origins”

  1. Powerful stuff, Servetus. Your depth of analysis is fascinating and extraordinary.

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  2. The ability to keep such anger inside or should I say rage and deal with this way is amazing really. Great analysis Serv. Porter is going to get Collinson from the inside rather than just going straight to the top and just telling them what he knows. That would be too easy really and what Collinson has done really merits much more than that. What he did to Porter has no excuse and never will. Ideally Porter would have died in that rescue and all would have been perfect for Collinson but since that didn’t work out he has little choice but to invite Porter in. This sets up the story for all that follows and it is unfortunate that this series did not really get to play out fully. If they’d left it completely open with Porter alive they could have gone back but it will forever be a question won’t it?

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    • Porter’s also experienced how the hierarchy worked against him, so is possibly suspicious that he wouldn’t get what he wanted anyway.

      The writers reallly wanted Porter dead — see Jazzbaby’s blog and her remark from the live chat with Frank Spotnitz. They knew Armitage wasn’t ever coming back.

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  3. Thanks so much for your thoughts on this episode. I can’t wait to watch it tonight and then reread your post.

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  4. […] For even more post-viewing insight, check out Servetus’s continued analysis of the status games between the characters, as played by Richard Armitage and Andrew Lincoln ( if you haven’t already), here. […]

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  5. Oh, my goodness, I’m still learning and these are powerful lessons about acting in general and RA’s acting skills in particular. It is exactly what attracted me to watching The Actors Studio interviews, among others or the wonderful two gentlemen down on the thread (My Heroes talking about their craft! What a gift!) – I was, I am, trying to understand this immensely attractive but terrifyingly difficult profession. I wonder: have you done something similar for North and South? I am going to check in the archives because I am convinced that was the role that changed fundamentally the way he saw or felt about acting – pivotal in more than one way to his career.

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    • Thanks, Mairimia. I wrote a long series about N&S but it’s mainly about my reaction to it — why N&S addicted me to Richard Armitage. I have done a lot of analysis of individual scenes here and there which you can find under the category “acting.”

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      • Thank you, North and South has addicted me, too! And it keeps me addicted in such a powerful way that I watched stuff I normally avoid – the spy stuff – because it leaves me with such a bitter taste of what humanity has become (see the latest scandal – it IS actually worse than what they put in series like Spooks or Strike Back). I even enjoyed Robin Hood immensely, besides the above mentioned TV series, ONLY because Richard played in those productions.

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  6. Intense stuff! I pity poor Collinson.

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    • in some ways Collinson is as tragic as Porter, although I think it’s harder for me ot see that because of my obvious allegiances.

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  7. Maybe I will be able to feel some sympathy for Collinson in the end but I will agree that he is a tragic figure. He chose to behave as he did and to me he chose it deliberately. He wanted to save his own skin and I’m not saying that it couldn’t happen to anyone but he chose his own over the life and career of another man knowing what would happen. One could argue that he didn’t think Porter would resign, that he would take desk duty but I just don’t think he believe that. Is he really haunted by what he did? Really? He couldn’t afford to let Porter bring As’ad back. With only Porter as proof he felt safe but with As’ad there, well no he couldn’t have that. He’d come too far to allow that. Yes, Porter knew now how it would work and with As’ad gone he chose the only choice he had left and accepted the job with Section 20 intending to “strike back” at Collinson in his own way. I look forward to watching tonight’s episode to see if I feel any different.

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    • it’s a classic feature of tragedy that the tragic hero makes the choice to behave as he does. You may not feel sorry for him, but that doesn’t disqualify him as a tragic figure. A tragic hero is typically overmanned by his hubris (overweening pride) to believe that he can do things he can’t do. Collinson completely meets that definition.

      I think if he didn’t care about what he had done, he wouldn’t have made the effort to employ John. This something that the ex-Mrs. Porter recognizes — that Collinson must feel some commitment around something and that if Porter’s dead he’s released from it.

      As far as As’ad goes, yes, of course Collinson wasn’t going to bring him back. But I think that’s also important as Porter’s first step to thinking more clearly about exactly what Collinson’s implication in the death of Mike and Keith might be. Before that, everything Collinson does can be justified on other grounds. And Collinson’s decision to explain himself to Porter not only puts him in a status down position, it also confirms for Porter the information he’s received from As’ad via Katie.

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  8. It seems that Porter’s words are meant to give Collinson apparent status over Porter, while Porter’s gestures, as mapped out by you, do the opposite. When Porter tells Collinson that he would have done the same thing (about leaving As’ad behind) if he were in Collinson’s shoes, I think the he chose his words carefully so that they were, in fact true, but not for the reasons Collinson was led to believe. Collinson heard that Porter agreed As’ad might be a danger to the rescue mission, but Porter also meant, “if I were you and knew that As’ad is a person who can destroy me, I would get rid of the threat. ” What the writers forgot to address is Porter’s fury at Collinson during the extraction – so if I were Collinson, I’d still be wary of JP and his apparent about face on the issue. I don’t think this is shown by Lincoln in this scene. You can see his relief at Porter’s answer, a big relaxing sigh. In future episodes, his wariness resurfaces.

    In my eyes, of the varied emotions and thoughts you proposed as to what Porter was thinking in the very final seconds of the scene, I guess revenge is closer – “gotcha” or “gonna get ya.” is what I saw, and I agree, though I wouldn’t have seen it for myself without your road map, that Armitage was one step away from mugging the obvious, yet just held back enough – the “knowing smirk,” – he let’s us read Porter’s mind.

    I love this stuff. Look forward to more. This is a great way for us to celebrate the airing of the series which so many of us have seen before, but with a different twist to keep the discussion fresh.

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    • yes, “I’d have done the same thing …” means something different for each man. I think Porter is also saying two things with it — both “yes, had I been in your position, i.e., were I trying to cover up a crime, I’d have left As’ad there” but also via his gestural language, “were I in a position of power I wouldn’t sacrifice the powerless” — a subtext he will demonstrate in the next two episodes.

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      • Isn’t there a line in a later episode that they never found As’ad’s body, leaving open the possibility that he wasn’t killed, and maybe would’ve even reappeared if the series had continued?

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        • Yes. I felt like that was an implication of the end of the series … Porter drives off looking for (inter alia) answers. I could have imagined a whole wonderful world in which he finds As’ad. I wonder if there’s a fanfic specifically on that topic (there are a few in which As’ad is found, I know, but I don’t think any in which that is the theme).

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    • headed to shul — but rereading what I wrote now, I see your reservation. I don’t disagree but expressed myself incorrectly. I think partially because I am still trying to think my way through understand how Porter’s self-understanding of his ethics plays into these scenes. I also love the ways in which Porter’s body language undermine his verbal expression and I was focused on those issues (status, power, ethics) when I was narrating. I agree that the statement that he’d have done the same is a sort of jab in the wound that signals his awareness of Collinson’s coverup.

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    • oh, and, wow, is this a sloppily written text. I should possibly go back and fix some stuff.

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  9. Has anyone actually read the book? I was just curious. I know the storyline is different in many ways but there is still the conflict. Yes, I think Porter throws out that line about doing the same with the intent that it will cut a bit knowing that Collinson would realize that he wouldn’t have done that at all. See I can forgive Collinson his cover up to a degree for himself and maybe he never expected Porter to fall on his sword so to speak that way but he stood there and let Porter’s career and life go down the drain and then he deliberately left As’ad behind knowing that he couldn’t afford to let him come in because the truth would come out so he hadn’t learned anything. Haunted? Yes I’d say he may be haunted by what he did that night accidentally but I don’t really believe he is haunted by what he did to Porter. Is he an evil man? No. He is just a desperate man looking to keep himself and his career safe at any cost.

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    • Yes, I’ve read the book several times. It has a radically different story line.

      Define haunted, if you please, if you want to say he’s not haunted. I think it’s fairly clear from a number of Collinson’s behaviors that he feels remorse about what he did to Porter — even if his pursuit of his own self-interest is a greater mover in his decisions.

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    • Oh, and in the book, unsurprisingly b/c Chris Ryan wrote it and it’s obvious from every work of his that I’ve ever encountered, Ryan bears a severe hostility toward commissioned officers, Collinson is a much less complex figure than he is in the series.

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  10. I have not read the book and so far I’ve only started to read one other so I have to bow to your view there on officers. Interestingly enough though the book I am reading, Ryan’s main character is a Captain “but” I will add that he was originally non-commissioned so that is a different thing entirely. I am not sure I do believe that Collinson is haunted by what he did to Porter but I won’t say you are wrong because I don’t believe he intended for it to go the way it did. I believe he intended for it to be blamed on As’ad period. He thought Porter would keep his mouth shut but then he didn’t know Porter. If Porter had said nothing the whole thing would have gone away of course and though Collinson certainly would have been left with the pain of what he did that night he wouldn’t have had Porter on his conscience as well. What he did to As’ad however was deliberate and yes I know once you lie you are pretty much stuck with it but we can’t go on killing people or letting people be killed in order to keep it quiet either. Still I see your point between him and Porter. If he had been completely cold he could have just let Porter go off and suffer with no help but obviously he didn’t even though he can’t stand to see him or couldn’t stand seeing him down there in the garage working and that is probably normal as well. He got him a job but just didn’t want to run into him every day because it simply reminded him of what he did to him. Truthfully there is no way to fix this. Porter may want his “revenge” now but in truth nothing will ever fix it for either of them. Notice too that in Ryan’s book Collinson wasn’t just sme other bloke, he was a titled one and Porter didn’t like him from the start. Not that this would be unusual since task force groups like SAS, SEALs, SWAT and such are very tight and everyone else is an outsider. I’ll have to read more of Ryan’s work.

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    • I’m not sure entirely where you get this reading from. When they come back from the debrief, Collinson is the one who starts with “we were intercepted by units of the Republican Guard,” so it’s not clear he initially wants to blame it on Porter. He’s interrupted by the officer (whose name I forget — Pemberton?) who interrupts Collinson to ask Porter what happened. Porter says, “it was the kid, wasn’t it?” So I don’t know if Collinson would have gotten to As’ad in his explanation, but it’s not clear at that point in the scene that he wants to blame it on the kid. He just wants not to be responsible himself. However, once Porter raises the issue of the kid, stating that he couldn’t kill him (the officer interrupts to say, or wouldn’t?), Collinson explains that Porter disarmed the bomb and knocked the kid out but that the kid was standing there again. At that point, Collinson is lying and doing so consciously, again because he doesn’t want to be made responsible. Given what the officer interrupts to say before Collinson can reconstruct his story to fit Porter’s question, it has to be clear to Collinson that when he blames the deaths on As’ad that this will make Porter responsible, who did not kill the child (as the officer says, couldn’t? or wouldn’t). Your argument seems to want Collinson to be simultaneously politically savvy and naive and I don’t buy that. He knew what he was doing, even if he did it in a rush. He did not, however, take the chance to correct it when he could have. I agree that Collinson didn’t necessarily want to blame Porter, but I don’t agree that he doesn’t know what he’s doing when he tells his story of what happened with As’ad. And since he presumably could have gone to the officer and told another story — told the truth — and he doesn’t do that — we must assume he decides intentionally to do what he did to Porter, for his own sake, and that that troubles him as time goes on. And I think that’s why Collinson’s remorseful — and in fact, he will *say* almost exactly that in episode 6 — one lie that caused all that trouble. He’s just not remorseful enough to correct his story, take responsibility, or let Porter survive to damage his career.

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  11. I meant that Collinson most likely intended to just let them assume that the men had been killed by Iraqis period but Porter interrupted and assumed that it was the kid and it went on from there. Collinson did not make any effort to say anything to change that story and I think he just allowed it to go that way because it kept him from being responsible or having to admit what he had done. We can agree that he wanted to avoid responsibility but felt remorse for having done so. I mean only a cold hearted bastard wouldn’t right but then there he is years later faced with the possibility of having it all brought to light with As’ad and again he chooses to cut that link. He may hate what he did to Porter and he certainly hates what happened that night but he isn’t going to destroy his own life to correct anything now.

    There is another review of the second episode from CraveOnline that is positive and like many of us wishes there had been more episodes. That writer feels there was actually affection felt for Porter by Collinson. I thought that was an interesting take. I don’t think Collinson hated Porter by any means of course. He didn’t really know him that night and in doing what he did that night he tied himself to Porter forever really. I thought it a bit odd that the writer implied that the shooting might not be accidental. Don’t know where that came from. You know though the more we talk about Collinson the more you look at him and you do feel for him because it is a terrible thing friendly fire and that horror alone is overwhelming to deal with and then you have to add what happened to Porter. Remember Porter’s wife telling him that she didn’t know why he did what he did for John but he was free now and of course she would never know that he’d never really be free.

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  12. I realize that. That is what I mean. You have talked a lot about rewatching the show and how much more you see each time you watch. I’ve felt some of the same even if I’m a bit slower. I still don’t like the man and I have my own feelings about him and the job he came in with. I have to add I was military by the way, non commissioned, and I can say that in general many of us didn’t think a lot of officers but I didn’t hate them certainly. Still to me Collinson was a Spook, not technically maybe but he didn’t fit in. Still at least in the beginning there I can watch and see how it all went wrong for him and what it created for him. What would have happened if he had stood up and said that he had shot those men? Would never have happened of course since that isn’t where this story was supposed to go. It was all supposed to be about the conflict between these two. Both are damaged souls but in different ways. At any rate I’ll leave it there. I would like to have seen it all played out completely to the end. We all felt so much for Porter but you can end up feeling different about the victim too in the end sometimes. Seeking revenge sometimes turns on you.

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  13. […] But I’m really not writing about Richard Armitage’s physical charms here, overwhelming as they are. The last two weeks, I’ve explored John Porter’s execution of status games with Hugh Collinson, arguing that Armitage subtly turns over the subordinate position status dynamic of his character in Origins 1.1 via his use of physical and gestural language in 1.2. […]

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  14. […] and in consequence, seriously disrupted his life. In episode 1, Porter ended up one down, but used the same body language in episode 2 to move up. In episode 3, we again saw Porter toying with his status, playing a poker game around knowledge […]

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  15. […] Strike Back — really the point at which I joined the fandom — a show about having to assert your status to people who should know […]

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