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WARNING: this post contains major plot spoilers from the last season of Boardwalk Empire.  Turn back now if you haven’t seen it all!!

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My regular blog readers will know that Jack Huston’s “Richard Harrow” is my absolute favorite character on BOARDWALK EMPIRE.  And I was in disbelief when Richard died last week in the fourth season finale.

I recently read a quote from Huston that the writers killed off Richard because there was nowhere left to take the role.  I disagree. Did they for a moment even consider a Richard spin-off?  For example….

1. THE FACTS OF RICHARD

Richard becomes the house mother to a group of precocious boarding school girls.  Just imagine Richard guiding them through boy troubles or explaining the beauty of their first period.  “I’ve shot.  A lot of people.  But none of them ever took seven days.  To bleed out.” he would say in the stop-and-go cadence of his gravelly, yet reassuring, voice.

"Don't let those boys.  Pressure you into anything.  You don't want to do.  If they do.  I'll kill them."

Don’t let those boys. Pressure you into anything. You don’t want to do. If they do. I’ll kill their mother and sisters.  To draw them out.  Then I’ll kill them.

2. RICHARD AND SHIRLEY

Richard moves to Milwaukee to work at a beer bottling plant… even though it’s still Prohibition.  There he meets a spunky roommate and moves into a basement apartment where he sews a giant “R” on each of his shirts, when not working on his scrapbook.

Schlemiel!  Schlimazel!  Hasenpfeffer.  Incorporated!

richardR

RICHARD AND SHIRLEY

3. RICHARD

Radio is becoming a big thing in 1924 and Richard is leading the pack.  He moves to Seattle and uses his raspy, soothing voice to dispense homespun psychiatric advice to people contacting him through the equally on-the-rise technology of the telephone:  “Your husband doesn’t.  Understand you?  Have you ever considered.  Shooting him in the face?  I once waited three days.  To shoot a German sniper.

"I've been told that.  My voice is very.  Soothing."

I’ve been told that.  My voice is very.  Soothing.

4. RICH

Richard leaves his friends behind and moves to Hollywood to pursue his dream of being in silent pictures.  However, once they realize how limiting it is to only be able to film the right side of his face, the spin-off is cancelled after three episodes…which means it lasted just a little longer than JOEY.

"How you.  Doin'?"

How you. Doin’?

6. HARROW
Richard moves to a small New England town where he opens a bed and breakfast, surrounded by a colorful cast of characters.  In the last episode, he wakes up in bed next to Nucky Thompson and realizes it was all just a beautiful dream.
"Nucky, I had.  The strangest dream."

Nucky, I had. The strangest dream.”

7. RICHARD LOVES CHACHI

Is musical success in the cards for Richard when he and Chachi move to Chicago to start a band?  In spite of Richard’s angelic singing voice, the answer is, sadly, no.

It’s just as well.  Chicago is Al Capone’s territory anyway.

"Chachi, you're.  The love of my life."

Chachi, you’re. The love of my life.

Come on, BOARDWALK writers.  Surely you could think of more gold to mine from such a rich, complex and utterly unique character!  In a spirit of hopefulness, I’ll leave you with my photo Cote of Arms.  This particular photo was inspired by BOARDWALK; Katie and I dressed up in vintage lingerie and pretended to be poor, cold, soiled doves from the show’s era.  Despite the bad situation they seem to be in, I see hope in it, and that they will take care of each other.  So I’ll hope that the writers will come to their senses and we’ll find out next season that Richard wasn’t really dead.

Though I ran it back and looked really close…and he wasn’t breathing.
Cote of Arms

Cote of Arms

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“Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens, or half their greatness goes unnoticed. It is all part of the fairy tale.”

-Peter S. Beagle in The Last Unicorn.

I have recently become fascinated with the character of Richard Harrow in HBO’s acclaimed drama Boardwalk Empire.  Richard, the World War One sniper who survived the war, but lost half his face in the process.

Still from the show.

Richard: equal parts ruthless killing machine, kind soul, tender and careful with those he loves, and loyal to the bitter end.

Still from the show.

His facial disfigurement leads him to constantly wear a tin mask over the left side of his face, a wound which pushes him to the fringes of society.  Small children become horrified and scream when he unwittingly allows them to see him maskless.  Society brands him a monster and few will engage with him in any meaningful way.

To the people who befriend him in spite of the society which dictates he should be ignored, he is fiercely devoted.  Killing bad men to keep them safe?  No problem.  Richard is, after all, a highly trained and exceptional marksman, especially considering he’s only working with one eye.

Still from the show.

But despite his ability for brutality, he is gentle and kind.  He keeps a secret scrapbook of his dreams… having a little family, falling in love and having a quiet, happy life.

Despite our very dissimilar backgrounds, I started identifying with his character early on.  He feels he is an outsider, I often do too.  He is shy and reluctant to speak, I am too (blogs are another beast altogether and really don’t count as speaking).  We both have inner demons to battle.  While I have had no training with any kind of serious weaponry, I would protect my friends and family to my last breath.  And of course we both contend with wounded bodies.  His hurts are larger and much more obvious than mine, but it’s close enough for me to bond with him over, and also inspire myself with in times when I’m tired of dragging my uncooperative body along through yet another day.

Still from the show.

Through the past three seasons of Boardwalk Empire, Richard has come more and more into my focus.   I found myself hoping for more and more Richard scenes each episode.  And while the show is too rich, detailed and engaging to ever become solely “The Richard Show” to me, it veers that way often.

And after last season’s heart-in-your-throat-the-entire-time finale?  Oh my god.  I will refrain from saying anything in detail so I don’t spoil it for anyone who isn’t there yet… but OH MY GOD.   WHAT RICHARD DOES.  I already loved him but now he has shifted into my permanent mental file of characters to draw upon in times of trial and peril.   Characters who inspire me to keep on when I want to give up, with their purity, love, devotion, strength, tenacity and selflessness.

For anyone who has already seen it, this is what I’m referring to.

Richard has obviously had a huge impact on me.  And as usually happens with things which have a big impact on me, I wanted to turn it into a photo.  I crafted a bandage to cover my left eye, with symbolic blood droplets on it (as a side note, I am nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other, and having the bandage covering just one eye for the 20-30 minutes it took to shoot this was AWFUL  for my head.  I finally stopped because I knew a migraine was just around the corner if I didn’t.)  My very generous brother lent me his (sharp!) dagger and I posed in front of the dollhouse my dad built for me when I was about five.  That seemed like the perfect symbol of innocence, as well as being personally meaningful to me.

bandage

dagger

This is my tribute to Richard; his strength, loyalty, fierceness and protection of innocence.  And hey, Jack Huston, if you somehow came across this, have your publicist contact me!  🙂

Protection Of Innocence

Protection Of Innocence

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