Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, or: On crying every single time

ns1-094Mr. Thornton (Richard Armitage) observes Margaret pouring the tea in episode 1 of North & South. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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Three or four people reminded me this week that it was my Armitagemania onset anniversary and I found myself reflecting, off and on, about how that storm hit and the feeling the first weeks afterward. It was a little bit like the World Cup of Armitagewatching — it’s just instead of watching soccer in every spare second I was watching  North & South, living for the moment when I could go home and turn on that VCR. Quoting myself:

From January 7, 2010 to January 28, I was watching North & South in every free second I had, first in my parents’ living room, then in hotel rooms, then, finally, at home. Pattern: Get up in the morning, feel anxious, watch until I’m calm or else about to be late to class. Get dressed, breathing deeply. Drive to work, park, buy a coffee, walk to office. Work, teach, prepare, counsel students, write, grade, administer, with occasional breaks for food. Talk to mom on the phone. When all the crises are under control, walk to car, drive home, pick up food on the way, enter apartment. Slam door, drop bags, gasp until I sob. Stay in the dark till that stops, because if I can’t see my body I am not real and I don’t have to deal with anything an unreal body might be doing, feeling. Turn on lights, climb into bed with food, put DVD in laptop, snuggle up, watch until I feel I can sleep, usually with lights on. Sleep. Repeat. I went to therapy one morning a week. Dear Friend knew something was wrong but didn’t pester, just kept dropping into the visitor’s chair in my office and inviting me over for dinner with her partner. Twenty-one days.

Every time I am tempted to quit blogging, I remember those three weeks, how watching North & South saved me. I remember the atmosphere in that city, in that workplace, in that apartment, in that bedroom, and the way that North & South — and Richard Armitage — made it okay. I didn’t have an explanation then but it didn’t matter.

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vlcsnap-2015-01-11-21h29m20s222Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, immediately after finally killing Azog, looking over the battlefield, back towards Erebor, in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

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Since dad’s been gone, I’ve been transfixed by Thorin’s death in The Battle of the Five Armies. I’m not in such terrible shape as I was in January 2010, of course, or rather, I’m in much better shape despite everything. And it’s not quite the same because I can’t take myself to the cinema every evening, and I can’t fit it in, always, to watch it twice — but I can always fit it in to cry. Tonight I thought I would analyze that scene, but I am still too emotionally close to it; I am still crying every single time I see it.

My breath catches when I see that Thorin is determined to win.

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And then I see the point where he realizes what’s going to happen, where the calculation sets in, of how he can win, or not.

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And then the point at which he realizes that losing is the only way to win, and the pain that causes him, more than the pain from the sword pressing him into the ice:

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Look at that lip, the outer edge of the right side of his face. And this is the point at which my own breathing starts to choke, my cheek muscles clench, my eyes begin to sting. I fight it, and then, like Thorin, I lose.

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The tears are starting before he rises, and walked away, and looks back

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then it’s the whole thing with Bilbo and the way that scene is played, the way he quickly gasps out his words, the way he seems almost relieved of his burdens

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We see how massive the dwarf Oakenshield is:

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and how aware he is of exactly what has happened:

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It’s not only the eagles that draw the direct parallel between these scene and the last one in An Unexpected Journey, it is the same earnestness of tone and emotion with which Thorin speaks.

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and Thorin’s urgency

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the love and the self-recognition and the awareness of his own passing, the way he draws up his cheeks toward his eyes, is this a smile, or pain, or both?

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and that last look of love and appreciation in his eyes

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and the way in which he is suddenly gone, his eyes empty

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I think I understand better what’s going on now — after realizing that I was cathecting to Thorin, and then realizing that the job search in 2012-13 was like trying to retake Erebor — now I watch what I might have become had I not let go. Thorin realizes what I saw a few months ahead of him, that you have to give in to lose, and if you give in quickly enough, perhaps you will not die. And I watch, now cathecting with his death as I give in to my own professional death … or so I think. And Armitage’s acting remains supreme. There will be so much more to be said, but for now I will simply let myself cry — every time.

~ by Servetus on January 12, 2015.

26 Responses to “Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, or: On crying every single time”

  1. beautiful…cannot see to ype………….oh my

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  2. Thornton made me, well angry at times, so stubborn .just talk to her…geez…..Thorin made me cry every time..I have not been able to read my favorite book to the end this year, I read it every summer..not so this year, I cry…

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  3. That was simply…beautifully…genuinely moving! I vividly remembered every detail as you described and had to stifle a sob. I can’t explain it but I’ve seen other performances where Richard’s character dies but they have never had the same lasting impact on me as Thorin’s death has.

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    • I think this is a much better-acted death. The main thing we have to compare it with was Guy of Gisborne and while I was terribly sad that Guy died, at the same time it was done in kind of a smarmy way.

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  4. Glad N&S was there to help you climb out of a pit. Five years. It’s been quite a journey.
    It’s hard to imagine how different my life would be right now if Richard had not impacted it.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and struggles with us along the way. It can’t be easy to share such private trials with an Internet audience, but I find it reassuring to see how much we all struggle in this experience.

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    • I was definitely someone — at least at that point — that would not have given in to any feeling unless it more or less ran me over. Which N&S did. But it’s hard to think of anything else that could have had that effect.

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  5. I cry every time, 5 viewings for me. Bilbo’s farewell offer of tea in the shire makes me cry as much as Thorin’s death. I have stopped crying by the time Bilbo reaches Baq End, but if I stay in the dark, listening to the final song,I start crying all over again. It is so hard to let Thorin go,

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  6. Can such a detailed and profound analysis be empathy and deep emotions as well? Can rational analysis make me cry? Can an utterly sad film scene give me strength and hope? – Oh yes, it can: If there is an acting artist like Armitage and a writing artist like Servetus.

    Thank you so very much!

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  7. I can not look at it ,still.

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  8. Thank you for this recap, Servetus! I have not been able to see BOTFA as often as you but I can hardly wait for the DVD so that I can study all this in detail on my laptop over and over again. Yes, Richard did such a phenomenal job. The first time I watched how he died I was in shock of what he had done and how it developed. I knew he was going to die but like this… wow…. To have gone through the journey of the dragon sickness, have him overcome it and then have it end like that broke my heart.
    As for Thornton mania – I had much the same kind of reaction: every free moment that I could be at my laptop, I was going through N&S scenes. I didn’t have many free moments, what with work and a family (my two kids were 2 and 4 years old at the time). I was very busy like you but still, like you, I was able to make time here and there although I can not remember for how long of a period. And then I had to write a continuation fanfic, just HAD to. And ever since (almost 9 years now!) I have been going back to N&S regularly. For me, it still is one of Richard’s absolute best roles. If I have to make a top 3 of my favorite RA roles so far it would be John Thornton, John Proctor and Thorin Oakenshield in no particular order… and a special warm spot for Harry Kennedy…

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    • I always assess the roles in terms of what they mean to me, how they speak to me. I was thinking I would like this role but I was absolutely not expecting how much the way the last forty minutes of this film were staged would mean to me.

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  9. Thank you so much for this very moving recap, Servetus I must say I was moved and overwhelmed by Richard Armitage “s performance in BOTFA what a wealth of talent he has. In the sickness scenes I almost turned against Thorin, so great was his acting skill, I wondered why does he want us to dislike him? The research must have been so time consuming, it was like a scene from Shakespeare so great was the effect on me.
    I too! am a John Thornton fan, whole heartedly and always will be, but, I never expected to be as moved as I have been, and wow! but I feel this has topped all. I cannot wait for DVD so I can start to see few things I have missed due to a fit of coughing. Plus tear wipping away moments OMG! how will I survive the DVD?
    I cannot praise Richard Armitage enough for his acting skills, drawing me in to every earth shattering moment of this finale of these wonderful Middle earth films. John Thornton sweet Harry Kennedy lovely John Proctor and now Thorin Oakenshield comes along to steal our hearts no other role can compare, this is most definitely his best yet. How does anyone top this? I am sure Richard will know when he comes across it.

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    • this year, with Proctor and the culmination of Thorin Oakenshield’s story — must feel like a big triumph for him, or at least I hope so.

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  10. Reading your post made me cry…again I just can’t stop! Oh Richard what you’re doing to me… again^^

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  11. Went to see it yesterday Serv and I did cry. I think that whole scene with Bilbo is beautifully acted by both and so so sad.

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  12. The screen-caps tell such a powerful story. This scene was very beautifully performed and captured, and albeit very distressing to watch at the moment it happened, these screen-caps really capture how well this scene was performed and captured by the filming crew.

    This is a living, breathing actor that expresses what it looks like when the entire soul leaves the body. Gosh, he’s good, isn’t he.
    This scene was so incredibly well-performed by both Richard and Martin that it just blows me away. Wauw and sob!
    (Sorry, I’m late into this, but RL, you know)

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  13. Been in hospital Serv so have been resting after my op, and this was something to look forward to

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  14. OMG, I love the second last screencap – sooooooo beautiful!
    Thank you for sharing this moving post with us Serv!

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  15. […] I got to tune back in just as Azog murdered Fili. That death scene is so memorable. Still makes me cry. […]

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