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Richard Harrow: The Tin Woodsman Earned His Heart


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#1

khaavren

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Posted Nov 24, 2010 @ 2:09 AM

Richard Harrow is the fascinating WWI vet Jimmy has brought on to work for Nucky in Atlantic City.

I'm fascinated by the voice. I wonder if Huston is doing that himself, or if they're filtering it/modifying it somehow.

The makeup department has done yeoman's work on Harrow, but I believe there is some CGI going on there as well.

Jimmy has basically given Harrow a life at this point. He now has a job and a "family" to care about and protect. In return, Harrow does what he does best, thanks to the war.
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#2

Princess Louie

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Posted Nov 24, 2010 @ 10:20 AM

Every TV show (especially the ones on pay-cable) needs a singular character - someone you don't see anywhere else on television. Sometimes it's a stock character played by an actor who is able to transform him/her into something unique. I'm talking to you, Jane Lynch.

On BE, Nucky is an interesting character, and Steve Buscemi is his usual fine self, but the characters are ones we've seen before - they're only distinguished by how they are portrayed. Which is why surely John Sayles wishes he'd waited until he saw how Michael Stuhlberg has interpreted Arnold Rothstein before he made "Eight Men Out."

But Richard Harrow? We have NOT seen this guy before, certainly not in a conventional pay-TV series. For example:

1. There is a profound ignorance in this country about WWI, and what it did to the soldiers who fought there. Richard Harrow, even more than Jimmy Darmody, shows us that war.

2. The voice! the tenderness mixed with violence! As disfigured as he is, it's not implausible to imagine him as a love interest for someone.

3. And of course, he's the most lethal weapon Nucky has, as we saw when he took out the guy who slashed Pearl in Chicago. He's already kind of a ghost. He's stealthy.

It will be interesting to see how this character is developed.

Edited by Princess Louie, Nov 24, 2010 @ 10:47 AM.

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#3

Pinball

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Posted Nov 24, 2010 @ 12:40 PM

Hear, hear!

Here’s my take on why the BE audience is responding so positively to Richard Harrow.

There is the obvious, striking effect of his physical presence (the mask, the unusual way the actor speaks and holds himself, and some good old Huston Acting Dynasty charisma). There is also the question, raised by that extremely creepy gun fugue, of the kind of psychological damage that might reveal itself down the line. It makes him unpredictable. And Princess Louie's point about the character's singularity is a great one. No, we haven't seen this guy on television before.

But I think the most important reason Richard's striking such a chord is the simplest one: He's one of the very few characters we’ve been given emotional access to and have been explicitly invited to empathize with. Giving us his dream—one expressing such straightforward yearning (to be whole, to be loved) and showing him healthy and handsome—was a genius move. For all his "alien" qualites, what could be more relatable than that? And the amount of feeling the actor conveyed via his silent/half-faced/one-eyed reaction to Margaret’s deft pickup of the Tin Woodsman idea? That was some Saul-Motherfrakking-Tighe-league stuff.
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#4

bulldawgtownie

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Posted Nov 24, 2010 @ 2:35 PM

I hope we get to see some more of his backstory, especially his life before the war. I believe the woman he was thinking of this past episode was his gf or fiancee and walking beside her on a beach may have been a memory rather than a dream. I also wonder how they do his voice. Whether we ever find the answer to that question or not I hope Richard Harrow sticks around for at least a few seasons if not for the entire series
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#5

cg11

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Posted Nov 24, 2010 @ 3:44 PM

.

Edited by cg11, Dec 12, 2011 @ 3:53 PM.

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#6

fashionista79

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Posted Nov 24, 2010 @ 4:52 PM

But I think the most important reason Richard's striking such a chord is the simplest one: He's one of the very few characters we’ve been given emotional access to and have been explicitly invited to empathize with. Giving us his dream—one expressing such straightforward yearning (to be whole, to be loved) and showing him healthy and handsome—was a genius move. For all his "alien" qualites, what could be more relatable than that? And the amount of feeling the actor conveyed via his silent/half-faced/one-eyed reaction to Margaret’s deft pickup of the Tin Woodsman idea? That was some Saul-Motherfrakking-Tighe-league stuff.

But see, for me, I was intrigued by Richard from the time he and Jimmy were having their conversation in the hallway of the vet hospital. When we saw Jimmy looking at him before, I thought he (Richard) was just a one-off extra, meant to show some of the physical effects from the "Great War." By the time he and Jimmy were talking about the psych tests they assumed they'd be subjected to, I was on board with the character. It was then that I realized I could watch Jimmy and Richard converse all day. The bad ass sniper job of getting Liam right in the cheek, in the exact spot where he got the German soldier just sealed the deal.

I do agree that the general positive reaction has to do with how emotional and broken they've shown his character to be, coupled with the intensity of being disfigured physically, but for me that all started from the scene with him and Jimmy in the hallway in "Home."
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#7

Medium Rare

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Posted Nov 24, 2010 @ 10:55 PM

The character of Harrow is a fascintating one, to be sure, and I am grateful to see the likes of him on Boardwalk Empire. As to why he is so endearing to viewers on TWOP, especially, it is probably because he is an outsider — an outcast, if you will. He's a social misfit. I've noticed that those types of characters tend to generate quite the following around here. Perhaps that's because they seem themselves reflected in that type of character?
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#8

Pinball

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Posted Nov 25, 2010 @ 12:27 AM

As to why he is so endearing to viewers on TWOP, especially, it is probably because he is an outsider — an outcast, if you will. He's a social misfit. I've noticed that those types of characters tend to generate quite the following around here. Perhaps that's because they seem themselves reflected in that type of character?

Heh. "One of us! One of us!"

fashionista79, if I gave the impression that I thought the work to endear Richard to the audience was done only in Ep 10, I didn't mean to! His magnetism in that first scene made an impression on me as well--and on everybody reading this thread, I'd imagine. The vulnerability that came across when he intimated his shame about what must have seemed his eternal sentence of virginity basically sealed the deal. And then with the badass, pinpoint assassination skillz? Come on!

Edited by TWoP Howard, Nov 27, 2010 @ 2:18 AM.
Fixed quote tags

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#9

anothermi

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Posted Nov 25, 2010 @ 12:36 PM

BTW, the woman in the dream with him was not a lover from his previous life. That was Odette, the working gal Jimmy hooked him up with.

And the dream was so poignant and effective (before the screaming) because it implied Harrow's desire for a normal existence which he believes is denied him due to his deformity. However, we just have to look at Jimmy to see that Harrow, too, would be denied a "normal" existence even if he had his full face back, because the war experience deformed them inside.
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#10

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Posted Nov 26, 2010 @ 2:15 PM

I love this guy! I did some searching and came upon Project Facade, which shows the pictures of facial reconstruction after WWI. Not for the squeamish, I guess, but certainly interesting for anyone interested in the medical skills of the time regarding reconstruction.

Walter Reed Army Hospital used to have a display pictures of soldiers disfigured during the Civil War and what little they could do for them then. Considering some of the processes seen in Project Facade, I don't know why Richard didn't have at least some partial reconstruction done, but I guess using the mask makes it easier for the viewer to see that there is something terribly wrong, as opposed to it being diminished by the rudimentary reconstructive surgery.
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#11

Boisvert 8

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Posted Nov 26, 2010 @ 3:31 PM

I actually had to stop looking at all the Tom Swift book covers I pulled out of tehgoogle re: this character, it was just too much. Tom Swift as Richard Harrow's boyhood reading (and his personal hero/role model?) before signing up for wartime service, plus his sister still sending him the TS books is the definition of heartbreaking:

http://en.wikipedia....mallCropped.jpg

http://www.tomswift....e/oldindex.html

Edited by Boisvert 8, Nov 27, 2010 @ 1:44 PM.

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#12

fashionista79

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Posted Nov 26, 2010 @ 9:06 PM

if I gave the impression that I thought the work to endear Richard to the audience was done only in Ep 10, I didn't mean to! His magnetism in that first scene made an impression on me as well--and on everybody reading this thread, I'd imagine. The vulnerability that came across when he intimated his shame about what must have seemed his eternal sentence of virginity basically sealed the deal. And then with the badass, pinpoint assassination skillz? Come on!

That's my bad. I misunderstood. I'm still in agreement with you; he truly is an endearing character, despite (or maybe because of?) the assassination tendencies.
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#13

lazarus73

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Posted Nov 27, 2010 @ 1:20 AM

Dude owns every scene he's in.
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#14

Ahoskie59

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Posted Nov 28, 2010 @ 6:44 PM

Richard Harrow reminds me of Omar from "The Wire." Omar too was an outsider, an openly gay man who robbed drug dealers of their money and stash.
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#15

BML1980

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Posted Nov 29, 2010 @ 6:40 AM

It's been said before, but I love this character. Even with his moments of psychopathy, I just want to give him a big hug.

That being said, on a more superficial note, it's a shame we don't get to see his entire face because...damn.

http://www.ivstatic....ton-eclipse.jpg

Edited by BML1980, Nov 29, 2010 @ 6:42 AM.

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#16

stillshimpy

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Posted Nov 29, 2010 @ 11:18 AM

For a couple of weeks now I've been wondering if we, the audience and the characters within Boardwalk Empire, haven't been Trojan Horse'd to an extent with Harrow. I don't mean he's a plant by anyone, I mean that he's so easy to willingly accept with great sympathy and compassion.

Casting such a startlingly beautiful man is actually what made me think that. It's just such a blunt representation of the ravages of war. Richard Harrow was a beautiful human being but war left him hideously scarred. It's just designed to pluck at the heartstrings, and allow instant emotional access. Hell, Jimmy didn't just see him as comrade in arms, he felt for the guy. Took him back to the brothel, set him up with a date of sorts.

But now I'm wondering if Richard Harrow isn't just the most badass killer of the bunch, regardless of his war service. He suggested doing something that was generally against the rules of the mob --going after wife, children, extended and uninvolved family -- simply because those kind of tactics were too easily turned on someone. Sure, you could get a response by murdering the sisters of someone you were after, but you'd better not have a known attachment to anyone yourself because that opens scary doors for their fate.

And that's what really gave me pause. Harrow should understand why that can't be done. That's also not a soldier's mindset.

I think Harrow appears very sympathetic but that the guy is actually a stone-cold killer. He's almost the polar opposite of Van Alden, really. Van Alden has an almost hilariously spooky impact because even his face seems to indicate, "Okay...you're crazy. Nice of you to wear it in the open like that so I can steer clear."

Harrow almost immediately garners compassion and sympathy. The poor man and his scarred plight, but I am beginning to seriously wonder if he isn't the scariest character of the bunch. He effortlessly out-toughed Jimmy in suggesting that they kill the family -- and it wigged me out that he started by saying they should kill the sisters, and as an afterthought, the dentist too. Harrow's mind went towards killing the most helpless, immediately.

I'm downright leery of the guy at this point and it has nothing to do with how scarred he is. I think beyond those scars Harrow might just be truly monstrous. Early on I asked myself how I'd react to the guy if he had half of an ugly face, rather half an angelic one and whereas I'm sure the compassion would be there, I'm not sure the willingness to believe he was a good man would be, given his actions since we've met him.

I know the parallel to the Tin Woodsman was drawn within the story, and that the Tin Woodsman was very good with the Wizard of Oz...but he also was meant to be without heart, and I'm wondering if that isn't the more direct parallel for Harrow.

Edited by stillshimpy, Nov 29, 2010 @ 11:21 AM.

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#17

Ahoskie59

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Posted Nov 29, 2010 @ 12:09 PM

But now I'm wondering if Richard Harrow isn't just the most badass killer of the bunch, regardless of his war service. He suggested doing something that was generally against the rules of the mob --going after wife, children, extended and uninvolved family -- simply because those kind of tactics were too easily turned on someone. Sure, you could get a response by murdering the sisters of someone you were after, but you'd better not have a known attachment to anyone yourself because that opens scary doors for their fate.


I think you're right about that. He's a stone killer. Maybe he was like that before the war, but the war and his disfigurement made it worse. He's isolated, alone, people stare at him like he's a monster. He once mentioned to Jimmy that the book his sister sent him was unreal to him because of the human connection. He doesn't have any connection to anyone.

But I still wonder why he took the chance and spoke to Jimmy, maybe because Jimmy saw his face and didn't react.
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#18

stillshimpy

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Posted Nov 29, 2010 @ 12:22 PM

But I still wonder why he took the chance and spoke to Jimmy, maybe because Jimmy saw his face and didn't react.


I really don't know, Ahoskie59, and I guess eventually we'll find out. It's clear within the story that Harrow does know that his face upsets the hell out of people, and the way he woke up apologizing that his mask wasn't comfortable to sleep in was heart-wrenching.

I could be wrong in my assessment at this point. Harrow was having a rather beautiful, loving dream of being whole again, and taking a romantic stroll with Odette, so maybe he was at one time whole but he's deader inside than Jimmy is. The only thing is, that actually seems to bother Jimmy on levels it doesn't seem to occur to Harrow.

He's certainly intriguing, whether I'm right or wrong.
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#19

Ahoskie59

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Posted Nov 29, 2010 @ 1:33 PM

I could be wrong in my assessment at this point. Harrow was having a rather beautiful, loving dream of being whole again, and taking a romantic stroll with Odette, so maybe he was at one time whole but he's deader inside than Jimmy is. The only thing is, that actually seems to bother Jimmy on levels it doesn't seem to occur to Harrow.


I think there still is a man inside but because he's been screwed over probably by everybody makes him very dead inside. The face is the first thing of a person that we see. Jimmy looked at him and didn't flinch, so maybe Harrow decided to take a chance. If you recall when he approached Jimmy his back was turned to him, and then it was Jimmy who extended his hand first, so Harrow probably sensed that his appearance didn't freak Jimmy out.

But I think Jimmy gets that something ain't right about Harrow. He carries the German face mask with him all the time, and the way he was describing the guns that he had; and yet when he realized that Jimmy uses his gun to kill people, it didn't phase Harrow at all. And that was when Jimmy brought over the prostitute.
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#20

Princess Louie

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Posted Nov 29, 2010 @ 1:59 PM

Good point about the way Jimmy accepted him, and it appears that Jimmy has brought Harrow into humanity by giving him work. And he's probably the best assassin EVER - better than even Luca Brasi. :-)

What is interesting is whether his exposure to Margaret and her children, plus the other folks in the Nucky/Jimmy circle, will open him up to humanity. Judging from last night's episode....not yet.
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#21

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Posted Nov 29, 2010 @ 3:50 PM

My take is that Richard is a killer because that's what he was trained to be and it's hard for him to turn off that training but as another poster said he still has his humanity inside of him. Not only did he have the dream that I interpreted as him longing to be normal but he also tried to put Margaret's children at ease by saying he was the tinwoodsman. I also disagree with the idea he would have no qualm with killing Margaret or her children if Nucky asked him to do it. Just because he'd calmly kill innocent people doesn't mean he'd be willing to kill anyone. There are rapists who are married, there are serial killers who are themselves family men, my point is a number of people have no problem harming others who they have absolutely no connection to while at the same time being loving and protective to those they are close to.

I think Harrow appears very sympathetic but that the guy is actually a stone-cold killer. He's almost the polar opposite of Van Alden, really. Van Alden has an almost hilariously spooky impact because even his face seems to indicate, "Okay...you're crazy. Nice of you to wear it in the open like that so I can steer clear."

I disagree, I think Richard has limits whereas agent Van Alden simply will justify any action he takes, whether it be torturing someone who needs to go to a hospital or accidentally drowing a fellow federal agent. In my book he's by far the scariest person in the entire BE universe
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#22

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Posted Nov 29, 2010 @ 6:59 PM

In general, I don't like the idea of Harrow being "good" or "bad". All of the characters are likeable and unlikeable at the same time, just like the rest of us, really. It's one of the things I really like about the show.
Regarding killing the innocents of the D'Alessio family, I think it's much easier for Harrow to go into "sniper mode" regarding people he does not know than for people he is familiar with. Time will tell.
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#23

Calchal

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Posted Nov 29, 2010 @ 8:00 PM

Agreed. He is a stone cold killer, but he's not a monster. As he said, killing the sisters and the dentist was a move to get the others to stick their heads up. A sniper tactic.
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#24

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Posted Nov 29, 2010 @ 8:12 PM

I think Richard continues to be a sniper because he feels he has no other options. He has found acceptance to a degree with Jimmy and his circle, probably far more so than any he's experienced since the war. I think that Richard feels that if he has to be a killer to get that acceptance, so be it. He's more or less in survival mode right now.

I hope we find out more about Richard's life before his injury. Based on his dream and his interactions with Margaret and her children, he seems to crave a loving domestic life. It would be interesting if or how Richard's attitude toward his profession would change if/when he finds a woman who genuinely returns his affections.
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#25

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Posted Nov 29, 2010 @ 9:00 PM

I think coming up with the idea to kill the innocent family members is pretty monstrous. It's not irrational violence because it serves a purpose, but it is COLD.
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#26

fashionista79

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Posted Nov 29, 2010 @ 9:00 PM

I know the parallel to the Tin Woodsman was drawn within the story, and that the Tin Woodsman was very good with the Wizard of Oz...but he also was meant to be without heart, and I'm wondering if that isn't the more direct parallel for Harrow.

It's interesting that you brought this up. In last week's episode when Margaret told her children that they had the mighty Tin Woodsman, I started running down the list of characters (in the Wizard of Oz) and what they lacked. And I really did wonder, "Well, the Tinman had no heart, what are they saying about Harrow?" This episode, with the way Harrow proposed his plan to Jimmy to draw out the D'Alessios, I thought again about the Tinman and wondered if that's what the foreshadowing (from the previous episode), for lack of a better term, was meant to imply.

I don't think that Nucky would ever tell Harrow to kill Margaret or the children, but I do wonder if he were to do so, would Harrow do it? For all intents and purposes, Harrow's a soldier once again, and soldiers are supposed to follow orders, not question them.
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#27

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Posted Nov 30, 2010 @ 9:51 AM

I think Richard continues to be a sniper because he feels he has no other options. He has found acceptance to a degree with Jimmy and his circle, probably far more so than any he's experienced since the war. I think that Richard feels that if he has to be a killer to get that acceptance, so be it. He's more or less in survival mode right now.


I agree with this. Jimmy seemed to have been the first person to accept Richard. He stood up, offered his hand and sat down next to him. I watched the scene where Jimmy first sees Richard and I think that Jimmy, like the audience wondered, at first why Richard was there since he had all of his limbs, and then when he turned his head, Jimmy was like, "damn, that's BAD." But Jimmy never looked away, never recoiled in horror he just accepted what had happened.

I think Richard would probably like a family life but in his mind he feels that's impossible; so he might as well be a killer because to him at least the gangsters accept him.

What I noticed in the latest episode is when he was talking to Jimmy he said Chalky and then called him "Mr White."

BTW, Jimmy didn't exactly tell Richard that going to Philadelphia was a bad idea, he just couldn't say anything because the doctor was there.
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#28

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Posted Nov 30, 2010 @ 10:24 AM

I think coming up with the idea to kill the innocent family members is pretty monstrous. It's not irrational violence because it serves a purpose, but it is COLD.

As Calchal, pointed out it was a tactic to Richard, nothing more and nothing less. He took the idea to Jimmy before acting on it which is why I said he had limits. If he were truely a monster he would've went ahead and done it as soon as the idea popped into his head

For all intents and purposes, Harrow's a soldier once again, and soldiers are supposed to follow orders, not question them.

That's debatable. There are people who do believe that but there are also those who believe a soldier should have some sort of moral compass, which is why the Genevea convention took place and there are rules as to what a soldier can or can not do. If someone is issued a lawful order and disobeys he will be courtmartialed however if he's given an unlawful order, say to rape someone and then put a bullet in their head, he is obligated to disobey that order and he will not be punished

Edited by bulldawgtownie, Nov 30, 2010 @ 10:35 AM.

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#29

stillshimpy

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Posted Nov 30, 2010 @ 10:40 AM

He took the idea to Jimmy before acting on it which is why I said he had limits


I have trouble seeing that as a limit, a level Richard won't go to, bulldawgtownie. I agree that if Richard doesn't murder people without a reason that is at least a degree less on the "honking murderer" scale, but coming up with the plan to murder innocent (and presumably rather defenseless) people as a tool rates on my "Okay, that's a monstrous thing to do." and requiring someone else's say-so isn't much of a limit to monstrous acts.

They're human beings and he was talking about slaughtering them and here's the thing, I think he'd do it with about as much difficulty as he brought it up: none that can be perceived by the human eye.

In general, I don't like the idea of Harrow being "good" or "bad". All of the characters are likeable and unlikeable at the same time, just like the rest of us, really.


I also enjoy layered characterizations with gray areas, sopheeso but there are certain character actions, or character reveals that exist in the pitch black for me. No shade of gray exists for me in the "Hey, here's an idea...we'll murder a bunch of women...and a dentist with about as much passion as flattening a tire."

Labeling any character good or bad is a distancing thing because it's pretty difficult to care about a character that hits the "Yikes, bad. Possibly even just pure evil." and I think that one of the devices within the story is that it's difficult to relate to people only mentioned as being representative of human lives but that's part of the reason I brought up Margaret and her children. Those people Harrow was willing to murder are -- if they existed outside of fiction, of course -- meant to be as important to someone as Margaret is to Nucky, or her children to her, for that matter. They're just as important, even if they only exist in dialogue in what they are supposed to represent. If Harrow fell in with the brothers rather than Nucky? The people Harrow was suggesting be slaughtered could have been Margaret and her children.

I don't think that Nucky would ever tell Harrow to kill Margaret or the children, but I do wonder if he were to do so, would Harrow do it? For all intents and purposes, Harrow's a soldier once again, and soldiers are supposed to follow orders, not question them.


I don't think Nucky would either, fashionista79 but as I was saying above, they are as important in terms of human lives. It's cool to know that you also were given some pause by the "Yeah, the one without a heart...oh man, that doesn't bode well." On whether or not Harrow would do it if ordered? It's just a guess but I would hope he wouldn't, while fearing that he would.

Edited by stillshimpy, Nov 30, 2010 @ 10:54 AM.

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#30

Princess Louie

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Posted Nov 30, 2010 @ 11:01 AM

Re Tin Woodsman metaphor - recall that in the story, it turns out the Tin Woodman did have a heart. He could cry.

I think Richard Harrow has a heart too, but it's been buried underneath the shock and brutality of war, and what it cost him. Jimmy has given him a purpose in life, which he needed - and which has made him incredibly loyal to Jimmy - but I'm wondering whether eventually he will see Jimmy differently.

Again, such a fascinating character. I can't wait to see what they do with him.
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