Daniela Denby-Ashe (Margaret Hale) and Richard Armitage (John Thornton) in North & South. (Premiere date: November 14, 2004.)
CELEBRATE THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF NORTH & SOUTH WITH US! The weekend of Nov. 14 marks the 10th anniversary of the BBC series North & South, and we are planning a fan-based, online GLOBAL celebration.
Thanks to Tara Jarrett for the terrific “Selfie-While-Watching” idea!
The Facebook page for the initiative is here: http://bit.ly/NS10th
FB event page: http://bit.ly/NS10EVENTPAGE
Twitter Account: Twitter: NS10 @NandS10th
Email account: ns10thanniversary at gmail.com
Here’s how you can get involved:
During the weekend of November 14, watch N&S and take a selfie of you watching (Shy people: if you, like me, are shy about taking a selfie that includes your face, don’t be concerned. My selfie is going to be of my TV with my legs stretched out on the coffee table in front of my sofa!).
Opener Nicholas can’t get work anywhere, though he’s a good worker. He’s known as a union leader by all the masters. Margaret tells her father that things could work out if Nicholas and Thorton could talk “man to man.”
Mrs. Thornton has a talk with Margaret
Two strong ladies go at it! Mrs. Thornton comes to warn Margaret about her behavior, saying that “many a young lady has lost her character” by being out late at night with a man. Margaret cuts her off, saying that she’s not going to just sit there and take such insults.
Thornton talks with Mr. Lattimer, the banker
I don’t think anyone ever accused me of being careless!
Here we see our man very worried and on edge- he snaps at Mr. Lattimer for no good reason, then asks forgiveness. When Lattimer mentions “speculation,” Thornton gets very stiff and serious. (Remember that his father killed himself after he “speculated wildly.”)
Nicholas meets with Thornton
I’m a steady man. I work hard.
With his cap in hand, Nicholas comes to ask for work at Marlboro Mills. Thornton turns him away. Nicholas says he was sent “by a woman who thought” Thornton “had a kindness” about him. This piques Thornton’s curiosity.
The Thorntons at home
Fanny is riding high now that she’s engaged to Watson, another of the Milton mill owners. She cut down Margaret again, calling her “so severe.” When she mentions speculation, John tells her angrily that “there is nothing certain about speculation!” (The emotion in Armitage’s voice is so strong and powerful!) The little joke (about Fanny’s spending) and smile at the end of the scene is just wonderful, too.
Thornton comes to the Higgins home
Thornton sees the little children (of Boucher) playing and reading. Thornton admits that he could not have taken on “a man such as Boucher’s children.” He asks Higgins’ forgiveness, offers him work, and they shake on it.
Thornton, Tommy, and Higgins in the mill yard
Tommy is learning how to read when Thornton comes over (helps with pronouncing “animal”). Both men have been working late. Thornton and Higgins discuss the importance on having a good meal for both working and studying (thinking of Tommy). Higgins has an idea that might work. The two men have a grudging respect for each other.
Aftermath of Mr. Hale’s death
Look back. Look back at me.
Mr. Hale dies (peacefully) while on a reunion trip to Oxford. Aunt Shaw comes to take Margaret home (her house in London). Margaret apologizes to Mrs. Thornton for her previous behavior. She gives her father’s copy to Plato to Mr. Thornton and politely wishes him well. Her eyes are sad, as are his. Then we have the great “look back” moment as Thornton watches the coach drive away in the snow. He feels a great loss, knowing that she will never come back to Milton.
Visit to Helstone
After three months in London, Margaret is still wearing black (color of mournng), which worries cousin Edith. Mr. Bell takes her for a visit to Helstone, but things are different from when she was a girl. Margaret thinks back to her time in Milton, and tells Mr. Bell about the drama at the train station and its aftermath. She feels bad because Mr. Thornton knows she lied. Is that all? Her godfather wonders.
Mr. Bell settles his affairs
Mr. Bell signs off most of his fortune to Margaret before sailing for South America to live out the last of his days (he’s ill). Margaret is “landlord in name only” of Marlboro Mills. When he tries to explain more to Thornton, the younger man cuts him off. Thornton is too busy with his financial problems to deal with anything else. We see him even sleeping in his office.
We learn that Marlboro Mills has gone under. Thornton feels the loss keenly, of course. His mind goes back to Margaret- they met in the mill. Higgins “got up a petition” of men that would be willing to work again for Thornton. Then we have the big reveal about Margaret’s brother- finally! See the relief and happiness on Thornton’s face?
This mini-series has one of the best pay-offs, in my opinion. Margaret and John finally connect and share one of the best (effective) onscreen kisses you’ll ever see! (Trust me, I’ve seen a lot of TV shows and movies.) These characters have grown and changed over the course of the four episodes (about 2 years). Each episode reveals more about their personalities, feelings, values. Margaret gets on the train with Thornton to return to Milton, which will truly be her home.
Hats off to Richard Armitage for bringing Mr. Thornton to life! It’s a great and nuanced performance (for all you newbie fans). It’s not just about being brooding, smoldering, or whatnot- it’s about the subtlety of his acting. Even in today’s (modern/liberal-minded) world, it’s rare to see a leading man who can also be vulnerable (another fine example: Mad Men star Jon Hamm). Thanks for reading!
Today is the final day of Richard Armitage week on the web. Let’s go over key scenes in Episode 3 of North & South again.
Mr. Thornton walks out of the Hale’s house and stops at the the end of the street, like he’s unsure of where to go next. (Awww!) He passes Mr. Bell, but is distracted by his strong emotions, and doesn’t return his greeting.
Another mother-son talk
No one loves me or cares for me except you, Mother.
John has a drink before he enters the parlor, then he says to his mother that she was right re: Miss Hale’s lack of feelings for him. But he thinks he loves her more than ever. (Wow, another great moment where we glimpse Thornton’s vulnerability!) Mrs. Thornton shoots back that she hates Margaret (for how she rejected her son). They decided to never talk of her again.
Higgins vs. Boucher
They have a bad argument. We see that Boucher is more desperate than ever, though he’s the one who started the violence (by throwing the rock that hit Margaret). Nicholas hasn’t returned to work, unlike most of the other millworkers, staying true to his committee.
Mr. Bell’s observations
Hah, at least one guy senses that something may be going on between Margaret and Thornton! When he meets them on the street, he jokes around with them, though they are clearly uncomfortable. Thornton and Margaret don’t even look at each other. Thornton looks mad, but he keeps his gentlemanly demeanor (also in front of the Lattimers).
A father-daughter talk
Margaret and Mr. Hale discuss Frederick and his (precarious) situation should he visit home. However, Margaret has sent a letter (few days back) and it can’t be taken back. The navy “spares no expense” in bringing mutineers to justice, Mr. Hale says. His voice is full of sadness and concern.
Mary is in tears when Margaret comes to talk with Bessie, but she is already dead. Nicholas finally breaks down upon seeing his daughter’s dead body. Later on, Margret brings her father to try to console Nicholas. He rails against God and the way of the world- some are born to be masters and others “live a half-life in the shadows” (a very powerful bit of acting from Brendan Coyle). Mr. Hale wonders if Thornton and Higgins could discuss how to improve things (foreshadowing).
The Great Exhibition
He’s very interested in the world. Really, I know him to be.
Margaret joins Aunt Shaw, Edith, Captain and Henry Lennox at the Great Exhibition in London. She sees Thornton giving a speech to a group of gentlemen re: machinery, workers, and strikes. They have a little argument, pointing out that they still don’t get each other, then the others catch up to them. (Make sure to pay attention to the wary manner in which Henry and Thornton look at each other. Thornton’s anger is barely concealed, simmering below the surface. Henry comes off as arrogant.)
A mother-mother talk
Mrs. Hale lies in bed and talks (very seriously) with Mrs. Thornton. She asks Mrs. Thornton to “be kind” to Margaret and give her guidance (if needed) once she is gone. Mrs. Thornton admits that it is difficult for her to show affection.
I’m sorry, I thought I’d still be welcome here… despite what has passed between us.
Mr. Thornton comes to return a book of Mr. Hale’s and give Mrs. Hale a basket of fruit. Margaret stalls for time, as can’t let him in, because Frederick is inside. He sees a man’s bag in the doorway and hears an unfamiliar laugh upstairs. (Thornton thinks that Margaret has a suitor.) Mary goes inside with some stuff, since she’s helping the family out. Before Margaret can give an explanation, Thornton quickly strides away.
At the train station
At night, in the train station, Thornton sees Margaret embracing a man. (Of course, he doesn’t know it’s her older brother, or that she even has a brother.) He is shocked- the scowl is pretty major (as Fred says). A drunk Leonards confronts Fred and they have a brief fight.
At Mrs. Hale’s funeral
Look how Thornton’s face transforms when Mr. Bell talks of Henry and his close connection to the Hales. (Maybe he’s wondering if Henry was the man at the station?) Then, a young police inspector comes over to talk to Thornton (who is also a majistrate) about an important matter. We see Leornard’s dead body.
Aftermath of Boucher’s death
Nicholas is in tears, feeling guilty. Mr. Hale is very pale with shock. So, Margaret goes to tell Mrs. Boucher that her husband is dead (killed himself). We learn that Mrs. Boucher died a few days later, leaving behind their kids.
Aftermath of Leonards’ death
To protect Fred, Margaret keeps her cool, and lies to Inspector Mason when he comes (respectfully) to question her at the house. “I was not there,” she calmly repeats. However, Mason has a witness who identified her by name. There could be an official inquest, he informs her.
When Mason recounts this to Thornton, he is (once again) shocked. He thinks about the matter- conflicting emotions flow across Armitage’s face. Later that same day, Mason goes to tell Margaret that there will be no inquest. (Thornton handled the matter.)
End of Episode 3
I hope you realize that any foolish passion for you on my part is entirely over. I’m looking to the future.
Margaret tries to thank Thornton when he comes to read with her father, but he cuts her off. His words are angry, but from his eyes, you can see that he desperately wants to know what happened. Alas, Margret can’t reveal another person’s secret.
Richard Armitage week continues! Episode 2 starts with a very cute little boy and girl who are picking up extra cotton from the floor. They have to move fast, or the mechanized looms that the weavers are using will run over them! Mrs. Thornton, a woman with a “stern brow” (like her son), is walking through the mill, scrutinizing the workers. The workers refer to her as “the dragon.”
Margaret & Thornton in the mill courtyard
Maragret gets the name of a good doctor (Donaldson) from Mrs. Thornton, who is concerned about a possible strike. We can see that Margaret has a concern for the workers at the mill. She asks the (teen) girls if they like working and they give their opinions freely, until they spy their boss approaching.
Here in the North, we value our independence.
When Margaret explains she came to his house, Thornton wonders if she’s ill (note the seriousness/concern on his face). Then they have a discussion about the “duty” of being a master. Here Richard Armitage reveals more of Thornton’s ethical values, as well as his attraction toward Margaret. She is a bit surprised that he openly tells her about the workers’ conditions. Note his eyes as he speaks- he is clearly enjoying their little talk.
Margaret has a chat with Bessie
They joke a bit about the Thorntons. We learn the seriousness of Bessie’s condition (cotton “fluff” in her lungs from when she was little). Then, Margaret reveals the truth of her older brother, Frederick (Rupert Evans), who was unfairly branded with being a traitor after a mutiny. He lives in Cadiz, Spain, after a time in South America. The Hales miss him deeply and wonder if they’ll ever see him again. This grows upon one of the big themes in North & South– fairness.
The Thorntons at home
I wish you would try to like Miss Hale, mother.
With the strike potentially looming, Mrs. Thornton is a bit apprehensive about having her dinner party. She and Fanny reveal their dislike for Margaret, which bothers John. They think she “gives herself airs” (acts superior), though her family is “not rich” and “she cannot play” (piano). Mrs. Thornton reveals that “she’ll never have you.” You can see the disappointment flicker across John’s face, then a little smile, and acceptance. (He thinks he’s not good enough for Margaret at this time.) John tries to play it cool, saying that they should try to like her because she’s the daughter of his friend.
Planning the strike
No, no violence. Masters expect us to be violent. We will show them we are thinking men.
Workers from several mills are getting ready for the strike, urged on by Nicholas (who works at Hamper’s), who is repected by most of the men. He says that they must all stick together, not like five years ago, when half of them succumbed. The men chant and cheer, thinking that they will get a wage increase this time. Boucher (who works at Marlborough Mills) has very strong doubts still.
Meeting Mr. Bell
Mr. Hale’s closest Oxford friend, Mr. Bell (Brian Protheroe), comes for a visit and compliments Margaret (calling her a “goddess”). At first, she is embarassed, as she doesn’t see herself in that way. Mr. Bell is in town to see his banker, as he’s heard about the possible strike.
Higgins vs. Boucher
Boucher, who has grown very desperate, can’t stand to see his family go hungry and says that the union has no pity. Nicholas (angrily) gives him some money from the union’s strike fund, but it’s not enough. Later, we see Margaret leave some food outside the Boucher home, as his wife won’t directly take charity.
Mrs. Thornton’s dinner
Oooh, this is the point where we see Thornton all dressed up! There is also the hottest handshake in history- he doesn’t want to release Margaret’s hand. The camera lingers on their hands. They are clearly attracted to each other on some level. John looks at her like she’s the only one in the room for a time. I love the little sigh (barely perceptible) he gives before he has to leave Margaret!
When they sit down to dinner, it’s a different story. The guests are surprised to learn that Margaret is friends with the likes of Higgins. Thornton thinks that giving Boucher a basket is just prolonging the strike. Margaret shoots back: “But surely, to give dying baby food!”
Margaret learns about her mother’s health
Dixon has been hiding the fact that Mrs. Hale’s condition is getting worse. Dr. Donaldson has been visiting relgulary, Dixon admits. Margaret and her mother have a emotional talk; her mother breaks down in tears. They decide to keep the truth from her father (he’ll worry too much). Margaret explains to Dixon that she “can bear it better” than Mr. Hale.
The strikers strike back
Thornton has brought in the Irish workers via an agent under cover of night. The next morning, Margaret comes to the Thornton home to see about the “water mattress” which Fanny said she could borrow. Fanny is very scared of the strikers who are at the gates. Eventually, the strikers push open the main gate and rush the courtyard.
Margaret tells Thornton to go down and “face them like a man.” Note the surprise on Thornton’s face. A few moments later, she follows him out, realizing that he’s in danger. When he refuses to send the Irish back, the crowd gets even angrier. Margaret puts her arms around Thornton’s neck, insisting that “they will not hurt a woman.” But it’s too late, Boucher hurls a rock which hits her on the left side of her head. She falls to the floor, unconscious and wounded, much to the shock of Thornton. The soldiers arrive on horseback and beat some of the strikers down. The others run off as fast as they can.
Consequences of the strike
While Thornton is off talking with the other masters, all he can think about is Margaret lying bloodied. (Some viewers commented that there is more blood on her face, in his mind, than in actuality. Hmmm… that could be the case!) Margaret has decided to go home, after Dr. Donaldson checks her out. Mrs. Thornton and Fanny are amazed to hear such a thing. However, her mother is unwell and knowing of such an event would be too much for her.
She’s such a reckless young woman!
When Thornton returns home, he’s amazed that Miss Hale has gone. His mother insists that “everything was done properly.” He says he’s going to check on her, but she asks him not to go. Then there is a dialogue-free sequence where we see that he has goes for a walk instead. Meanwhile, Margaret tends to Bessie, who’s gotten worse.
The mother-son talk
This is one of the best scenes in the mini-series! John comes back from a long walk and starts to tell his mother what he’ll “have to say” to Miss Hale. (We assume that he wants to thank her.) However, Mrs. Thornton point s out that “she made her feelings plain for all to see” by rushing out to save him. The servants all saw and the whole town will be gossiping about it. As a man of honor, her son should propose to Margaret. John is very surprised to hear this interpretation, because he didn’t even dare to think that Margaret could love him. He doubts that she cares for him. Notice how his face softens as he reveals his true feelings to his mother (as she is the only person he can be vulnerable around). Armitage and Sinead Cusack not only look like they could be related, they have terrific chemistry together!
The proposal (end of Episode 2)
I understand you completely.
As regular readers know, I wrote about the proposal scene before. (I prefer the extended scene which is under the special features.) John and Margaret really push each other’s buttons in this scene! They are both very proud, spirited individuals with strong value systems. They start off talking about the strike, then he switches the subject to feelings. Now, Margaret is not thinking in that vein, so she stops him fast with some cutting remarks (recall her word choice). This wounds his pride- he shoots back, claiming that he loves her (not doing this to protect her reputation). They don’t yet understand each other. Wow, just a perfect ending to the episode!