When I say this, what I think I mean is that his downward spiral and ultimate fall wounded something somewhere in me and I cannot foresee a time when remembering that will not cause me a palpitation in remembrance of that pain. It will always be too soon. And yet I keep coming back to him. Feelings that cause me actual physical pain. What is less clear, even to me, is the cause of this intense empathy. This will get pretty rambly as I try to figure it out.
I was telling my mother about some other story recently. Not sad, she corrected. My mother is, thank goodness, one of those adults who has never tried to argue that video games cannot have real emotional weight and complexity of character, so she listened to me with absolute credulity.
I just appreciate an interesting character arc. My mother sat like a champ through this conversation she probably had no interest in I suspect she was humoring me under the Make Her Happy At All Costs clause of the Birthday Girl social contract, because it was in fact that particular day.
This incident is relevant because it shows that when I say I have never cared more about another fictional character, I am Making a Statement of Great Weight. The fact is, I have never had exactly this reaction to another character, fictional or actual. This is the pinnacle of what I think my feelings are capable of doing.
I make no secret of the fact that I was watching the show for him in the first place. To an uncanny degree, actually — in the eyes especially, and from certain angles. So I set out to take in as much of his work as I have access to on American shores. It genuinely began as an artistic interest in observing a live-action model of my character in motion, the way animators will use performance references in the rendering of a character onscreen.
This is why, I have no doubt, I was so sensitive from the beginning to every nuance of his very detailed performance as Lucas North: I was looking for it. I was studying his body language and facial expressiveness in order to better describe my Naoise. But that came after watching him in enough things to realize that, in addition to being mesmerized by him as a living embodiment of my own creative invention, I find him breathtakingly attractive.
They knew perfectly well that taking such a person, asking him to drop enough weight to look abused and malnourished, producing him from the trunk of a car with a bag over his head in his first scene, and tossing him out into events where he must immediately make a choice to reawaken the tired hero within instead of surrendering to his immense psychological baggage, would provoke a certain response in their viewers.
They knew what they were doing. I said I was going to be candid. In fact, episode 7. It made an excellent point of entry. And actually, I think this worked out perfectly. Like Lucas, I knew I was a newcomer to an established world. Like Lucas, I was watchful, hanging onto details, consciously slotting it all together, reserving judgment until more information came to light.
So what is this world I fell in love with? They work out of a highly secure building called Thames House. Well, on their attempts to be people. The head man is Harry Pearce, who runs an office with as high a mortality rate as a Whedon project. Not surprising, given the work they do, but it makes for a constantly shifting landscape. Harry is the only character to appear in every episode of all ten seasons.
At the time that Lucas appears, the team is made up of suicidally reckless but brilliant Section Chief Adam Carter, Malcolm Wynn-Jones the delightfully geeky old tech genius, the duplicitous Connie James, young idealist Jo Portman, coldly lethal Ros Myers my personal hero , and brave Ben Kaplan. I love them all. They very quickly come to feel like family to me.
Many of them are also ass-kickingly badass. The production values are slick, the dialogue smart, the humor dry, the characters complex and achingly human. Basically, it is a show custom-made to appeal to me. His father was a Methodist minister. He reveals both of these pieces of information in the same conversation, back to back, in an effort to build trust with a fatherless teen who accuses him of being a moneyed urban snob.
Furthermore, when the boy responds with mockery to the revelation of the minister father, Lucas becomes politely defensive, according the memory of his father real respect. These two facts, while not a lot to go on, do tell me some things. That Cumbria is in the north adds an element of harshness to this sense of seclusion. The north, where life and the attitude are harder than the south, the people proudly independent.
Now, the Lucas we come to know is a self-described polymath, well-educated, sophisticated, cunning, disciplined, like Armitage himself mostly scrubbed of his Northern accent but for a mild lilt on the vowels, above competent at everything he attempts, politically-minded — honed into a savvy tool for British Intelligence by factors obviously found beyond a rural Cumbrian field. So the disparity between his origin and the polished figure onscreen telling us where he comes from is a source of interest.
We tantalizingly imagine we can just see the edges of where these two selves collide. A younger Lucas — ambitious, the only color in his life existing in the vivid world of his imagination — making the decision to take his destiny into his own hands and escape the banality of his upbringing, attempting to shed all traces of his unimpressive origin, tasting forms of rebellion until finding his way through his natural gifts.
His father was a Methodist minister, he says. Slightly odd, just a tad contrarian, could have been innocuously Anglican. Lucas specifically says his father was a good father. What about his mother? Does he fail to mention her because he never knew her?
Or lost her when he was very young? That would explain some of his incongruously childlike characteristics, and lends another layer of loneliness to my picture of his upbringing in the middle of that field: I infer from this that young Lucas was shaped and molded by a stern religious upbringing which he ultimately rejected, and that despite his questioning, suspicious nature, he cannot excise its formative effects on who he is.
He was married in those years to a Russian national named Elizaveta Starkova. The timeline dictates that he has to have become Section Chief at least by the time he was thirty because he left the post vacated filled by Tom Quinn, who is Section Chief in at the beginning of the show when he was captured and imprisoned by the Russians while under deep cover on an operation in Moscow.
Lucas spends more than eight years in Russian prison — eight years of torture, interrogation, humiliation, deprivation, and hard labor. Harry Pearce is finally able to negotiate a prisoner exchange which the Russians agree to because they believe they have turned Lucas and can use him as a double agent within MI He first appears on the show during the prisoner exchange, bedraggled, underfed, disoriented, literally unsteady on his feet, doing his best to calculate the situation in an instant. His first words are a too-casual greeting to Harry, with whom there is history.
Harry was his boss eight years ago. Harry is the one who failed to get him out of Russia in all the time since. It is visibly on both their minds. This is the Lucas we are introduced to, the Lucas I fell in love with.
I know this Lucas already had the power to break my heart even before his full story came to light, because I spent an entire episode in tears when this Lucas was forced to come face-to-face with his Russian torturer halfway through his tenure on the show. His first interaction with Harry, fresh out of Russian custody, tells us a great deal without resorting to gross infodump: This is belied by his underfed, unkempt shakiness and the fact that he almost falls down on his walk to the car.
And the fact that this is very much not an accidental encounter — they are meeting in an abandoned industrial yard by moonlight, two black vehicles facing one another across a safely neutral distance, suited men standing beside each. Still, we note that Lucas makes the attempt. A rebuke to Harry for being so fatuous. He then proceeds to spend the ride back to HQ watching London pass by in a bit of a haze, his affect flat and exhausted until addressed.
Whether or not Lucas blames Harry, we can see that Harry blames himself. Lucas answers vaguely, leaving open an entire awful world of possibility. At least not in a car ride on the way back to the office. Lucas was his responsibility, and he left him in Hell. Why would he say that?
If the offer was on the table, why did it take eight years for Lucas to come home? He might be joking. Lucas always had a rather warped sense of humor. If they did offer and he agreed, why would he tell me? Is he telling me because he wants me to know he turned them down? Is he telling me to establish deniability? Then again, why were the Russians suddenly so willing to entertain the idea of an exchange? He very carefully chooses his response. What the hell did the Russians do to his man?
Lucas moves them past the moment casually. At the time, I recall being intrigued but determined not to adore the character simply because of the actor. I recall wanting the character to earn my fascination on his own merits.
In retrospect, that was just me digging my heels in because I knew he already had me. So what is it in this first scene that got me? What can I say. I like to see a man in pain, and it is clear in every frame of this first scene that Lucas has suffered. The two bosses making the prisoner exchange even joke about it.