John Thornton shouts at the hapless Stephens, North and South, BBC 2004, Episode 1. I was a goner from that moment on.
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. =)
Thornton chases Stephens, violently furious.
The ideal gentleman, surely! LOL
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.
Meet John Thornton. Properly, this time. Such an arrogant turn, and head set. Damn but he’s fine. THUD.
It seems I like to watch John turn in either direction!
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.
Thornton hosts a dinner party for the mill owners.
Thornton watches the workers enter the meeting hall.
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.
Mr. Thornton very subtly ogles Miss Hale as she serves his tea.
Thornton greets Miss Hale at the dinner party.
I found myself transfixed at every minute twitch of his lips, every brief eyelid flicker when Mr. Thornton would gaze at Miss Hale.
Miss Hale refuses to shake John Thornton’s hand.
Miss Hale allows Thornton to shake her hand. And caress it ever so slightly…
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…
His passion for her is entirely over. Can’t you tell? =)
I can’t think of another proposal scene that made my heart race as this one did.
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.
Thornton learns of the death of his friend, Mr. Hale.
More eloquent hand language. John realizes that there is now nothing to keep Margaret in Milton.
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.
Mr. Thornton stares in desolation as Miss Hale begins her journey back to London. She does not look back.
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.
Thornton stands alone in the empty mill. He thinks of Margaret.
Not telling even his mother where he is going, John leaves Milton and travels to Helstone, where Margaret grew up. Was he looking for her, or simply seeking an emotional connection, a shared memory that would remain private in his heart?
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.
Margaret Hale on the southbound train. John Thornton on the northbound train. My heart began to beat faster…
The contrast here, this Thornton, with cravat off and a soft gaze… compared to the sinister and even violent man from the first episode: Is It Any Wonder I Was Captivated by this chaRActer, this actor?
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…
Naturally, no post chock-full of celebration for Richard Armitage as John Thornton in North and South would be complete without remarking upon The Train Station Kiss.
Excuse me while I ovulate.
The legendary kiss to end all kisses. Such lovely music. Such restrained reverence in his eyes and in his touch.
So tender, his lips. Such a captivating jaw line.
And don’t even get me started on the simple elegance of his hand.
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?