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Love and sacrifice

First "proper" post of what I think will be several. I can't organize my thoughts enough to sort them into categories like I did last year; it's just going to be chunks.

SPOILERS AHOY

I'm grappling a lot right now with the fact that they've solved what I consider to be the growing problem of things being All About Mitchell... with a final burst of things being All About Mitchell. I think it's important to give all the characters their due, but there's going to be a lot of All About Mitchell I have to work through first.

As I think most of you know, S1 will always be the show I fell in love with, and though I've been happy to follow the characters into a larger and darker world, and felt that move was natural, I have never felt as many do that it made the show better. It made it different. It made it something still brilliant and compelling, but more challenging and uncomfortable. Some people automatically assume that's "better" or "deeper." I'm not one of them.

On the other side of the coin, I don't think it meant the show went off the rails either. I do feel, and have felt for quite a while now, that the disproportionate weight of Mitchell's baggage made it impossible to keep a true ensemble balance. Again, it's a natural function of who the characters are: Mitchell has lived five times as long as the others. He knows intimately what it is to fully and willingly embrace being a monster, in a way that they can only imagine. The fragile balance of S1 could be maintained only to the extent that he could insulate himself from that, something I doubt he could have kept up indefinitely even without the vampire community's persistent refusal to let him go. The fact that he is dead today, to me, is largely because of that refusal, ultimately coming to a head in Wyndham's attempt to make a weapon out of him yet again.

If Mitchell had been someone other than the legendary Big Bad John, if he hadn't been Herrick's walking talking propaganda poster, hadn't been a ball of explosive emotion both destructive and fiercely loving, he might have made it. He might have set up housekeeping with his friends, created a life of simple decency, and barely ever looked back.

But then, if he hadn't been that person, he might never have tried.

George and Annie and Nina have it in them to be every bit as complex and extraordinary. We've all seen it, and then seen it eclipsed by crisis after crisis precipitated by the vampire world's pressure on Mitchell. I have my very grave doubts about Mitchell's psychological fitness to decide there was only one way out of that trap at the moment he did, and to my eye and ear, every ounce of those doubts was evident in every one of his friends as they agonized over what he was asking of them. I'm glad that, since it had to be, it was to save him from a danger far more immediate than "sooner or later I'll kill again." Even though that danger also means we go into S4 with yet more, as Nina so succinctly put it, "vampire bullshit" invading their lives. I would so much rather their lives be vampire-bullshit-free at long last!

But I also wish they could have heard what he said to Herrick in the car, that sense of wonder in his voice when he looked back on his life. When he finally understood what Herrick never did: that the world has always been theirs, because it is everyone's, and that's enough. Mitchell never achieved the life he imagined, the ideal he sought on and off for the last few decades. But none of us ever do. What he did have was ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTEEN YEARS of everything the world has to offer, and a sudden crystal-clear awareness of how amazing and precious that was. And I don't think it's an accident that learning to truly value his own life -- the one he's actually lived, not the one he dreamt of -- came out of his recent growing awareness of the value of the lives he's taken.

If he chooses to call that life complete, to not spoil it by taking even one more life away from someone else, who the hell am I to tell him he's wrong?

One final (for the moment) observation: It just struck me this morning that this is the end of the only season in which Mitchell did not drink a single drop of blood, and in which we saw neither black eyes nor fangs on him even once. (Other than, just to load irony on irony, in the teaser trailer and promo photos.) (Edit, 6/10/11: Rewatched "The Pack" last night, and realized I was mistaken. His eyes change when he picks up on Tom's presence in the house, and of course the fangs come out in the staggeringly ill-advised encounter with Sadie. But each is no more than a flash, and there's still no feeding all season, so it's a minor dent in the point. *g*)We watched the struggle of a man to come to terms with his life, and the man is who made the final decision about it.

There are several people commenting over on the blog that they feel betrayed, feel like the message is that it isn't worth trying, that some people can't be saved. And I see their point, but that's not the message I see. The message I see is that the life we have right now is worth far more than we might think.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
sabaceanbabe
Mar. 15th, 2011 02:10 pm (UTC)
There are several people commenting over on the blog that they feel betrayed, feel like the message is that it isn't worth trying, that some people can't be saved.

Except that the whole point of it is this:

But I also wish they could have heard what he said to Herrick in the car, that sense of wonder in his voice when he looked back on his life. When he finally understood what Herrick never did: that the world has always been theirs, because it is everyone's, and that's enough. Mitchell never achieved the life he imagined, the ideal he sought on and off for the last few decades. But none of us ever do. What he did have was ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTEEN YEARS of everything the world has to offer, and a sudden crystal-clear awareness of how amazing and precious that was. And I don't think it's an accident that learning to truly value his own life -- the one he's actually lived, not the one he dreamt of -- came out of his recent growing awareness of the value of the lives he's taken.


The people on the blog are completely missing that point. What you said above about Mitchell's epiphany, that's what being human is all about, isn't it?
wiliqueen
Mar. 15th, 2011 02:16 pm (UTC)
Well, this is almost a direct crosspost of a comment I made there, so we'll see what they say. Everyone has to work through it in their own way. :-)

I think it's going to take some people time to focus on more than just the final scene, and realize what really led up to it.
thanatos_kalos
Mar. 15th, 2011 03:11 pm (UTC)
I agree with you completely, plus Ithink there's also the scene between Mitchell and Herrick in the cage; Herrick wants to look in the mirror, as Mitchell says. I think that is a major catalyst to his epiphany.

Also...itr strikes me that most characters on this show die for or in the context of love. Annie is killed by the man she loved, Lauren asks Mitchell to kill her for much the same reasons as he later asks George to, and George kills Herrick the first time to protect the people he loves. And now Mitchell does the same. Love and humanity (and death) all seem to go together.

I can't wait to see where George goes especially after this. He's always been Mitchell's conscience and even saviour, and now he's completed the role.

I expect I'll have other thoughts soon too...at some point... *sigh* I may use your line about being a bit rubbish because of being up grioeving for a fictional vampire at the morning seminar tomorrow.
wiliqueen
Mar. 15th, 2011 03:29 pm (UTC)
Feel free. Somebody should get to say it out loud. :-)

Love and humanity (and death) all seem to go together.

Indeed.
brightknightie
Jun. 5th, 2011 10:50 pm (UTC)
More on UK BH S3 E8
>"...S1 will always be the show I fell in love with..."

Me, too! I found much to admire in S2, and to enjoy in S3, but S1 was what appeared crystal clear on my personal frequency as no show in oh! so many years. The ensemble. The created family. The dignity in undignified conditions. The raw emotions, wrapped inside. The revealed glory of the everyday we take for granted. "See how they want this? Go forth and value it!"

>"If Mitchell had been someone other than [he was] he might have made it. ... But then, if he hadn't been that person, he might never have tried."

Well said! Well seen. Wild extravagance in large and small, right and wrong.

[Um. Oh, for goodness sakes. Now he wants to talk to Nick? What? Ephiphanic suicidal good-guy vampires... in Purgatory. Aaargh. No.]

>"I'm glad that, since it had to be, it was to save him from a danger far more immediate than "sooner or later I'll kill again.""

Yes. I'm relieved they thought of a way to accomplish that in the story, because otherwise the proper thing to do would have been -- how cold this sounds! -- to wait for him to kill again, and then kill him in the act, but that wasn't the plot alternative we were being presented.

This was a much better choice all around. More dramatic, more moral, more resonant, more heroic, less predictable.

>"...we go into S4 with yet more, as Nina so succinctly put it, "vampire bullshit" invading their lives."

Yep. I suspect this is a mistake, but of course I don't yet have a clue where it's going. Will they be wiping out these "old ones" to save humanity (or at least the UK)? Rallying the ghosts and werewolves? That's not at all BH-y! But perhaps, with Mitchell dead, it really is time to go public...?

(New Bad Guy said the arresting officer "disappeared," if I heard correctly. That means Nancy made it, one way or another, I'm guessing.)

As you know, I have never been much of one for the "vampire society" trope, not here, not anywhere. Why is it that almost no one ever conceives of vampires -- of all mythical creatures -- as running solo? (I say "almost" with full consciousness of not only Huff but Murphy as exceptions... and yet even both Huff and Murphy's worlds eventually got embellished by vampire interaction and vampire social rules.) Why are vampires almost always a vehicle for parallel governments and totalitarian urges? It's so weird, because otherwise isolation and separation would be their natural condition, given their usual mythical needs and vulnerabilities. Wolves have packs; fairies have courts. Vampires... don't make sense to come in advanced social structures.

>"...this is the end of the only season in which Mitchell did not drink a single drop of blood, and in which we saw neither black eyes nor fangs on him even once."

Oh, brilliant! Thank you for that observation!
wiliqueen
Jun. 6th, 2011 12:17 am (UTC)
Re: More on UK BH S3 E8
Um. Oh, for goodness sakes. Now he wants to talk to Nick?

Oh, dear. Well, it would be in keeping. Too little, far too late, with heart running wild and brain disused. ;-}

I suspect this is a mistake, but of course I don't yet have a clue where it's going.

Nor I, and I like it that way. I was sure bringing Herrick back was a hopeless mistake, that everything that could be said with his presence in the story had been. But they used him to good effect, in a way that would never have occurred to me.

I'm not sure what it is about vampires that makes so many writers follow the path that almost inevitably leads to the Too Damn Many Vampires problem. (It still amazes me that it took so long for someone to make Daybreakers. The sustainability metaphor was addressed in one of the Doctor Who novels in the 90s -- several authors of those went back to Terrance Dicks' crack-laced "State of Decay" well and attempted to make sense of it -- but that's the only example I'm aware of.) Perhaps it's precisely because it's so easy for their numbers to get out of control? And thus creators postulate elaborate social structures to maintain order and secrecy.

Oh, brilliant! Thank you for that observation!

You're welcome! I actually felt a bit slow for not realizing it until I was in the middle of this very post, so I'm glad I'm not the only one. But when any character does or doesn't lose control in that way (or when they let the predator show on purpose) is something I keep constant mental tabs on, as an extension of nonverbal acting choices.

He did kill, of course -- other vampires, out of legitimate necessity, but killing nonetheless. That he did so without showing fang also subtly underscores the extent to which his violent impulses belong as much to the man as to the vampire.

Edited at 2011-06-06 12:19 am (UTC)
wiliqueen
Jun. 11th, 2011 12:24 am (UTC)
Re: More on UK BH S3 E8
Rewatching "The Pack" last night with havocthecat, I realized I was mistaken: Mitchell's eyes change when he picks up on Tom's presence in the house, and of course the fangs come out during the staggeringly ill-advised encounter with Sadie. But each is only for a second, and there's still no blood all season, so the point mostly still stands. :-) (My story, and I'm sticking to it...)
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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