FanstRAvaganza 4: Re-watching North & South (Episode 1)


For Richard Armitage Week on the Web, I’m re-watching my favorite miniseries, North & South (BBC, 2004).   As I wrote before, I learned a little about it from the (many) YouTube fan videos created by its loyal fans.  Wow, I guess something about this film really touched people!  I saw it first in 2009 (Spring), not long after I’d moved to a city I didn’t know and had no local friends/connections (just like Margaret’s predicament at the start of Episode 1). 

The Backstory

Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe) is looking back on the London wedding of her vivacious/blonde cousin, Edith, as she takes the train from Helstone (her home in the rural South- Hampshire) to Milton (a growing industrial city modeled after Manchester by novelist Elizabeth Gaskell).  We meet Aunt Shaw (a wealthy widow who was married to a much older man) and Margaret’s parents, the Hales (married for love).

You know, sister, sometimes I envy you your quiet country parsonage.  Now, Edith can afford to marry for love.

Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret Hale and John Light as Mr, Lennox
Henry picks a rose for Margaret

The older brother of the groom, Captain Frederick Lennox, Henry (John Light), chats with Margaret and compliments her looks, but she doesn’t notice.  (We can tell that he’s interested in her.)  They talk of the perfect wedding and Margaret’s love of her hometown.  Soon after she goes back to Helstone (bright/green/peaceful), Henry comes for a visit, much to Margaret’s surprise.  She is shocked when he proposes to her in the church yard.  Margaret (age 18) insists that she’s “not ready to marry anyone!”  Henry leaves, very disappointed, as he thought that she cared about him (as more than a friend).

Arrival in Milton

There will be no people like us there.

Mrs. Hale (Lesley Manville) is very upset and worried about going to live in such a strange place.  (It’s dark, gray, smoky, and bustling with people and activity.)  The Hales’ loyal housekeeper, Dixon (Pauline Quirke), empathizes with her mistress (who is in poor health).  Why can’t they stay “by the coast” (seaside) while Mr. Hale (Tim Pigott-Smith) looks out for a house?  But her husband insists that she come along.  Margaret tells her father that they should both go see the properties- it’s faster. 

Maragret is visibly annoyed when she overhears Mr. Thornton’s overseer (Williams) and another man (property agent) talking about Mr. Hale in a disrespectful way.  Williams doesn’t want to discuss rent of the townhouse with her, so she insists upon seeing Thornton.  She’s a bit surprised that Mr. Thornton’s house is right beside his mill.  After some minutes, Margaret gets tired of waiting, and walks into the mill.  

Meeting Mr. Thornton

Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton
Margaret sees Mr. Thornton for the first time

There is cotton fluff going all around- Margaret has never seen such a place!  The workers are busy, aside from one man, who is trying to smoke.  Mr. Thornton (Richard Armitage) sees him before he can light up and chases him across the floor.  In one corner, he gets hold of the man (Stephens), and starts punching him (very hard), while shouting about the danger of fire in a mill.  Margaret is horrified to be witnessing such a fight; she yells “Stop!”  Stephens begs for his job and cowers on the floor (with blood on his face).  Thornton kicks him and yells over at his manager: “Get that woman out of here!”  Margaret chastises the master for his behavior before she’s urged away by Williams.

I was angry.  I have a temper.  Fire is the greatest danger in my mill aside from-

Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton
Meet Mr. Thornton

I love how Thornton stands up straighter and puffs out his chest before Mr. Hale introduces him to Margaret!  (He wanted to make a good impression.)  She’s not happy to see him- her expression is one of disgust and disappointment throughout the scene.  But she is surprised when he (passionately) tells the story of the burning of a mill in Yorkshire the previous year.  And the voice- WOW!

Introduction to the Higgins & Thorntons

They don’t much like strangers in my house.

There is some class and culture clash when Margaret meets the Higgins.  (Class difference is still a common theme, even in modern TV/films from the UK.)  They will become close friends, though the Higgins are working folks and she’s a gentleman’s daughter.  Bessie (Anna Maxwell Martin) admires how Maragaret stood up to Thornton.  We learn it was her father, Nicholas (Brendan Coyle), who helped Margaret in the stampede in an earlier scene.

Our Milton craftsmanship can compare with the very best.

Well, that was an awkward tea!  Mrs. Thornton (Sinead Cusack) is very stern and humorless.  She says that her son is “sought after by all the ladies” in town. When Margaret smiles and gives a little laugh at that, she is offended.  Fanny (Jo Joyner) is hilarious (without knowing it). 

The Masters’ Dinner

Mr. Thornton at the mill owner's dinner
Mr. Thornton at the mill owner’s dinner

I do not run a charitable institution.  My workers expect me to be hard. 

This is an especialy well done scene!  The director and cinematographer work with light, shadow, and angles to cast Thornton as an ambiguous character.  We don’t yet know if he’s a good or bad guy.  We also learn a bit about the other mill owners, too, as they discuss “the wheel” and how they deal with their workers.

Tea with the Hales

Mr. Thornton admires Margaret
Mr. Thornton admires Margaret

Margaret is ironing the curtains.  Thornton smiles when he comes to the door of their house- love that!  He admires (checks out) Margaret as she pours him tea, but she remains stand0ffish. He tries to connect with her in this scene, but fails.  When Mrs. Hale talks about the new decor, he makes a comment on “Milton taste” and smiles over at Margaret. Again, no positive response from her.  But when he mentions the South, she gets ticked off, saying he “knows nothing about the South” and there being “less suffering” there than in  his mill.  Look at the (obvious) disappointment on his face! 

I do know something of hardship…

But things really get serious (we are more drawn in) when Thornton tells the story of his past.  Notice the change in his posture, voice, and expression with each sentence- just subtle/superb acting!  The Hales are silent and admit to being taken aback by his (emotional/forthright) disclosure.  Mr. Thornton is reading the great books and discussing them with Mr. Hale to improve his education (which was abruptly halted as a boy). 

Margaret, the handshake is used up here in all forms of society. 

Mr. Thornton is offended when Margaret refuses to shake his hand.  He wanted to leave her with a positive impression. 

The Meeting of the Millworkers

Nicholas rallies the men (from different mills) at the Lyceum Hall for the first time.  (Mr. Hale said they could meet during his lecture time.)  Boucher, who has a wife and six young children, speaks his concerns.  The strike fund can’t help men like him, he thinks.  They millworkers are not striking yet, but need to be ready for the future.

Conclusion of Episode 1

Stephens comes back to Marlborough Mills to beg for his old job, saying he can act as a spy and find out what the other workers are up to.  Thornton yells a him and shoves him out.  Part of this encounter is witnessed by Margaret and her father, who don’t approve of such harshness.  Margaret wishes she could tell Edith how she really feels- she’s “lonely” and Milton is “hell.”

Richard Armitage Week on the web

The Company Men (2010)


This is a slice-of-life indie film (set in the mid-sized city of Gloucester, MA) centering on several executives working for GTX, a fictional manufacturing company that has had some heavy lay-offs.  It was written/directed by John Wells (ER, Mildred Pierce, The West Wing, etc.); Maria Bello (also from ER) has a role in the film as a shrewd businesswoman.  Though it focuses on white, upper-middle class men, I could relate to it on several levels.   

Discussion of lay-offs in the boardroom
Glen McClary (Tommy Lee Jones), Sally Wilcox (Maria Bello), and others discuss lay-offs

Old friends James Salinger (Craig T. Nelson) and Glen McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) have built GTX from the ground-up, but Salinger, the president, wants to trim costs in order to raise profits.  McClary feels like he’s going about it the wrong way; he also feels guilty for benefitting from the rise in company stock.  Sally Wilcox (Bello) handles the lay-offs, which come as a shock to Robert Walker (Ben Affleck), a top sales exec (w/ MBA) who’s worked for the company for 13 years (all of his career).

Bobby and Maggie
Bobby (Ben Affleck) & his wife Maggie (Rosemarie DeWitt)

Bobby drives a Porshe, lives in a beautiful house (beside a golf course), and has a lovely family.  However, he’s reluctant to share the bad news with his family (including parents), or rely on them for support.  Bobby thinks that he can get a job right away, but turns out to be wrong (you’ve been there).  Bobby’s understanding wife, Maggie (Rosemarie DeWitt), goes back to work as a nurse.  She urges him to cut back on costs, but he exclaims: “I need to look successful!”  When you don’t have a job, you feel anxious, depressed, irritable, and- perhaps this is more so for males- useless.

Tommy Lee Jones as Gene McClary and Chris Cooper as Phil Woodward
Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) & Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper)

Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper, one of my favorite character actors) is let go in the second round of lay-offs; he takes it very hard.  He worked his way up from the factory floor (where he installed parts on ships) and is pushing 60.  One of his daughters is in college (Brown, no less) and the other is eager for her school’s senior trip to Italy.  His wife suffers from headaches and doesn’t seem like much of a helpmeet.  Phil tells Gene: “My life ended and nobody noticed.”

Jack Dolan (Kevin Costner) and Bobby (Ben Affleck)
Jack Dolan (Kevin Costner) & Bobby

When his brother-in-law Jack Dolan (Kevin Costner, in a low-key but pivotal role) offers Bobby a job with his small carpentary business, Bobby quickly rebuffs him.  That’s not the type of work he sees himself doing (been there, too).  After a few months of disappointment, Maggie reminds him that they can’t pay the mortgage.  Bobby has to swallow his pride and make some uncomfortable decisions. 

What drew me to this film is it’s ensemble cast.  I thought Cooper, DeWitt, and Jones performed their roles especially well.  Affleck and DeWitt have good chemistry in their scenes.  Most of the situations are very relateable.  Bobby is still a lucky guy, even without the trappings of success. 


Game of Thrones: Season 2 – Memorable Lines

Episode 1: The North Remembers

Tyrion (to his sister, Cersei): You love your children.  It’s your one redeeming quality- that and your  cheekbones.

Aiden Gillen as Littlefinger
Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aiden Gillen) threatened by palace guards at Cersei’s command

Baelish (after telling a not-so-subtle tale to the queen): Knowledge is power.

Cersei: Power is power.

Michelle Fairley as Catalyn Stark
Lady Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) meets with King Renly Baratheon in Highgarden

Catelyn: There’s a king in every corner now.

Jack Gleeson as Joffrey
King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) gets slapped by his mother, Cersei

Joffrey (to his mother, Cersei, after she slaps him): What you just did is punishable by death.  You will never did it again.  Never. 

Jeor Mormont (to Jon): You want to lead one day? Then learn how to follow.

Episode 2: The Night Lands

Janos Slynt: (angrily) Are you drunk?  I won’t have my honor questioned by an imp!
Tyrion: I’m not questioning your honor, Ser Janos.  I’m denying its existence.

John Bradley as Sam and Hannah Murray as Gilly
Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) befriends Gilly (Hannah Murray), one of Krastor’s daughters/wives

Sam (to Jon re: Gilly): I can’t steal her.  She’s a person, not a… goat.

Liam Cunningham as Davos and Lucian Msamati as Salladhor Sam
Ser Davos Seaworth, “The Onion Knight” (Liam Cunningham), forms an alliance with charming smuggler, Salladhor Sam (Lucian Msamati)

Salladhor Sam (to Mattos, Davos’ son): I’ve been all over the world, my boy, and everywhere I go people tell me about the “true gods.”  They all think they found the right one.

Episode 3: What is Dead May Never Die

Ser Loras and Brienne of Tarth after their fight
Ser Loras Tyrell, the “Knight of the Flowers” (Finn Jones), & Brienne of Tarth (Gwendolyn Christie) after their fight- she won

Margaery Tyrell: Loras!  Highgarden!
[Loras knocks his opponent’s shield away, then the flail. The other knight charges at  Loras, grabs him by the waist and knocks him to the ground.  The crowd boos in disapproval.  Loras’ opponent opens his visor and holds a dagger near his unprotected face.]
Loras Tyrell: I yield!  I yield!
[Margaery sits down, disappointed at her brother’s defeat. The winning knight stands and sheathes the dagger.  Loras stands and quickly moves away from his opponent.]
Renly Baratheon: [claps his hands] Well fought! Approach.
[Loras removes his helmet. His opponent approaches Renly and bows.]
Renly: Rise. Remove your helm.
[The knight rises and removes the helmet.  Catelyn and the rest of the crowd are surprised to see it is a woman.]
Renly: You are all your father promised and more, my lady. I’ve seen Ser Loras bested once or twice, but… never quite in that fashion.
[Loras is visibly annoyed to hear that.]
Margaery: Now, now, my love.  My brother fought valiantly for you.
[Renly smiles at his queen.]
Renly: That he did, my queen.  But there can be only one champion!  Brienne of Tarth, you may ask anything of me you desire.  If it is within my power, it is yours.
Brienne: [bows gracefully] Your Grace, I ask the honor of a place in your Kingsguard.
[The crowd gasps, for this is unprecedented request.]
Loras: [quietly] What?
Brienne: I will be one of your seven, pledge my life to yours, and keep you safe from all harm.
[After long moment of silence, Renly answers:]
Renly: Done!  Rise, Brienne of the Kingsguard.
[Renly claps his hands, and Margaery joins him.  The crowd applauds, but rather feebly.  Brienne stands.]

Varys (to Tyrion): Power resides where men believe it resides.  It’s a trick.  A shadow on the wall.  And a very small man can cast a very large shadow.

Episode 4: Garden of Bones

Tyrion: What kind of knight beats a helpless girl?
Meryn Trant: The kind who serves his king, Imp!
Bronn: Careful now.  We don’t want to get blood all over your pretty white cloak.
Tyrion: Someone get the girl something to cover herself with.
[Sandor Clegane (The Hound) gives Sansa his cloak.]
Tyrion: (to Joffrey) She’s to be your queen. Have you no regard for her honor?
Joffrey: I’m punishing her.
Tyrion: For what crimes?  She’s not fighting her brother’s battle, you halfwit.
Joffrey: You can’t talk to me like that.  The king can do as he likes!
Tyrion: The mad king did as he liked.  Has your uncle Jaime ever told you what happened to him?
Meryn: No one threatens His Grace in the presence of the Kingsguard!
Tyrion: I’m not threatening the king, Ser. I’m educating my nephew.
[to Bronn]
Tyrion: Bronn, the next time the Ser Meryn speaks, kill him.
[Back to Ser Meryn]
Tyrion: That was a threat.  See the difference?

Renly meets with Stannis
King Renly (Gethin Anthony) meets with King Stannis (Stephen Dillane), his older brother

Melisandre (very seriously): You should kneel before your brother [Stannis].  He’s the Lord’s chosen- born amidst salt and smoke.
Renly (amused): “Born amidst salt and smoke.”  Is he a ham?

Episode 5: The Ghost of Harrenhal

Harrenhal (reputed to be haunted)

Tyrion (to Bronn): The king is a lost cause.  It’s the rest of us that I’m worried about now.

Episode 6: The Old Gods and the New

The royal entourage on the streets of King's Landing
The royal entourage on the streets of King’s Landing

Tyrion (to Joffrey): We’ve had vicious kings and we’ve had idiot kings, but I don’t know if we’ve ever been cursed with a vicious idiot boy king!

King of the North, Robb Stark plans war strategy
The King of the North, Robb Stark (Richard Madden), plans war strategy

[Robb Stark receives news that Theon Greyjoy has betrayed him and seized Winterfell.]
Robb: This cannot be true.
Roose Bolton: We’ve had ravens from White Harbour, Barrowtown and the Dreadfort. I’m afraid it is true.
Robb: Why? Why would Theon…?
Bolton: Because the Greyjoys are treasonous whores.
Robb: My brothers…
Bolton: We’ve heard nothing of them… but Rodrik Cassel is dead.
Catelyn: [angrily] I told you- never trust a Greyjoy!
Robb: I must go north at once.
[Robb stands and starts to walk out of the tent.  Roose Bolton approaches him.]
Bolton: There’s still a war to win, Your Grace!
Robb: [angrily] How can I call myself “King” if I can’t hold my own castle?  How can I ask men to follow me if…?
Bolton: [firmly] You are a king!  And that means you don’t have to do everything yourself.
Catelyn: Let me go and talk to Theon.
Robb: There will be no talk.  He will die for this!
Bolton: Theon holds the castle with a skeleton crew.  Let me send word to my bastard at the Dreadfort; he can raise a few hundred men and retake Winterfell before the new moon.  We have the Lannisters on the run; if you march all the way back north now, you’ll lose what you gained.  My boy would be honored to bring you Prince Theon’s head.
Robb: Tell your son Bran and Rickon’s safety is paramount.  And Theon… I want him brought to me alive.  I want to look him in the eye and ask him “Why?”… and then I will take his head myself!

Episode 7: A Man Without Honor

Tyrion: It’s hard to put a leash on a dog once you’ve put a crown on its head.

Arya: Visenya Targaryen was a great warrior.  She had a Valyrian steel sword she called “Dark Sister.”
Lord Tywin Lannister: Hm.  She’s a heroine of yours, I take it.  Aren’t most girls more interested in the pretty maidens from the songs?  Jonquil, with flowers in her hair?
Arya: Most girls are idiots.

Theon Greyjoy at Winterfell
The Prince of the Iron Islands, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), takes over his former home, Winterfell

Theon: It’s better to be cruel than weak.

Ser Jaime Lannister re-captured by Stark allies
“The Kingslayer,” Jaime Lannister (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau), is re-captured by Stark allies

Jaime Lannister: I was sixteen once.  I also had to replace someone’s squire on short notice.
Alton Lannister [a distant cousin]: Which knight was it?
Jaime: Barristan Selmy.  The fight against the kingswood outlaws, before your time.
Alton: What was he like?
Jaime: He was a painter.  A painter who only used red.

Episode 8: The Prince of Winterfell

Tyrion (to Cersei): I will hurt you for this.  A day will come when you think you  are safe and happy, and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth.  And you will  know the debt is paid.

Conleth Hill as as Varys and Peter Dinklage as Tyrion
Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) & Lord Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) discuss war strategy

Varys (to Tyrion): You’re quite good at being Hand, you know. Jon Arryn and Ned Stark were  good men, honorable men. But they disdained the game and those who play it. You  enjoy the game. And you play it well.

Jerome Flynn as Bronn and Peter Dinklage as Tyrion
Bronn (Jerome Flynn), bluntly tells his employer/friend, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), that books won’t help him win a war

Bronn (nodding to an axe in Tyrion’s hand): Do you know how to use that?
Tyrion: I chopped wood once.  No, actually, I watched my brother chop wood.

Episode 9: Blackwater

Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark and Sibel Kekilli as Shae)
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) & her handmaiden Shae (Sibel Kekilli) watch King Joffrey Baratheon, palace guards, & other men leave for war

Shae: Some of those boys will never come back.
Sansa: Joffrey will.  The worst  ones always live.

Tyrion (shouting encouragment to the Lannister troops): Those are brave men knocking at our door.  Let’s go kill them!

Episode 10: Valar Morghulis

Maester Luwin (to Theon): You’re not the man you’re pretending to be.

Catelyn (to Robb re: her marriage to Ned): Love didn’t just happen to us.  We built it slowly over the years, stone by stone.  For you, for your brothers and sisters, for all of us.  It’s not as exciting as secret passion in the woods, but it is stronger.  It lasts longer.

Cersei (Lena Headey) drinks and (bitterly) educates Sansa on the realities of being a queen
Cersei (Lena Headey) drinks and (bitterly) educates Sansa on the realities of being a queen

Cersei (to Sansa): …but this is Stannis Baratheon.  I’d have a better chance seducing his horse.

Varys (to Tyrion): There are many who know that without you, this city faced certain defeat.  The King won’t give you any honors, the histories won’t mention you, but we will not forget.

Tyrion (to Shae): I do belong here. These bad people are what I’m good at, out-talking them, out-thinking them.  It’s what I am.  And I like it.  I like it more than anything I’ve ever done.