In the process of going through my PayPal records looking for business expenditures, I noticed that my first payment to Netflix was the first week of April, 2014. It just so happens that the first show I ever streamed on Netflix was BBC’s wonderful 2004 adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, and although I didn’t know it at the time, my life was about to change. So yeah… I guess this is something of a One Year Fanniversary for me!
From the moment I saw John Thornton overlooking the mill floor, my heart started thudding. A few seconds later, the gorgeous jerk shouted “Stephens! Put that pipe out!” then chased the unfortunate smoker down, and delivered a beating. I was toast.
So, in honor of this occasion, I’ve been busily giffing away on North and South… many of these have probably been giffed a thousand times, but I wanted my own little John Thornton library. Prepare for Thornton Thursday overload, ladies. And pray for a fast connection, because I might have gone a bit wild. LOL
Oh, and if you, for some completely unfathomable reason have NOT watched North and South, there be spoilers below. =)
Something about Richard Armitage’s fury, his energy and on-screen magnetism just gripped me in those moments, and I knew that this was going to be something more than an enjoyable period drama. From then on, he absolutely dominated every scene he was in, and I really haven’t been the same since.
Something in the way John Thornton held himself. Something in the way he turned around to face Margaret. In fact, whichever direction he turned, impressed me.
He embodied the sinister Master so well. No sentimentality for the plight of the workers, just pragmatic business sense. Yet… he didn’t join the others in mocking the workers. And he didn’t try to stop the union from meeting.
I found myself transfixed at every minute twitch of his lips, every brief eyelid flicker when Mr. Thornton would gaze at Miss Hale.
Soon I began to develop a fascination for Thornton’s hand language. Not only are his hands beautiful to look at, but they’re eloquent. This has not abated. One of the reasons I’m not as into Thorin as many of the other chaRActers may have been that his hands were obscured…
Then there was the intensity of his smoldering. Not sure where I’ve ever seen the like. Armitage delivered barely suppressed, strong emotion in spades after Margaret rejected John’s proposal, and after John shielded Margaret from the inquest.
I guess since we’re listing all the things that made me instantly obsessed with Thornton, I’d have to include his stride. It wouldn’t have done for Thornton to mince along, or swagger western-style. No, he would move with purpose and determination everywhere he went, and I never tire of watching him in motion.
The final episode was full of angst on Thornton’s part. When he learned of Mr. Hale’s death, and knew it meant Margaret would also depart Milton, his grief was palpable.
I am certain that no John Thornton tribute would be complete without a nod to the famous “Look back. Look back at me.” Everyone I’ve steered toward watching North and South has referenced this scene and those lines.
It broke my heart, too.
As if the death of Mr. Hale and the subsequent separation from Margaret were not enough, Thornton was now devastated by financial crisis and foreclosure. Having lost almost everything that was important to him, aside from the abiding love of his mother, we were left with not a shattered man, but certainly a despondent and contemplative Thornton.
Never having read Gaskell’s novel, I remember thinking at this point, with so little time left in the program, that this particular period drama must have no happy ending. I was prepared for heartbreak. Then, the train station…
The legendary kiss to end all kisses. Such lovely music. Such restrained reverence in his eyes and in his touch.
And there you have it. Gorgeous, passionate, sinister, furious, smoldering, heartsick, tender, loving John Thornton. Is it any wonder that North and South is the proverbial “gateway drug” for so many in the fandom?