It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these posts where we take a look at a couple of incredibly different Patrick Malahide characters. It is always amazing to us how easily he can transform from one character to another, so here’s a new installment of Are We Sure They’re Played by the Same Guy.
John Poole and Balon Greyjoy
John Poole is a seemingly happily married, retired science teacher who now spends his time making homemade jam and being a pretty awesome grandfather, particularly to his eldest grandchild Tanya. His life however takes a very bad turn when his only daughter Leanne disappears, leaving behind a husband and three children. How he and the rest of the family cope with this is an integral part of the series.
Lord Balon Greyjoy is, as I’m sure you well know, the ruler of the Iron Islands. He has long held ambitions for expanding his rule and has a habit of starting rebellions. His last rebellion went particularly badly when two of his sons were killed. His youngest son, Theon, was taken away from him in order to ensure fealty to the then ruler of the Iron Throne King Robert Baratheon. Balon spent the next several years stewing away while his only daughter Yara took on the role of his son.
When we first meet John Poole he seems to have it together. While we get hints that his self-centered wife Barbara doesn’t fully appreciate him, he comes across as contented with his jam making hobby and his close relationships with his daughter Leanne and teenage granddaughter Tanya. Everything about him exudes warm coziness.
But we know he isn’t too happy with Leanne’s choices in partners. Her first husband Daf is a self-centered jerk and a lousy father to Tanya. Leanne’s second husband Matt is a much better person, but it seems John doesn’t fully approve of him. Matt works as a personal trainer and is Black. He obviously doesn’t hate Matt, but there is a spikiness which shows John isn’t as perfect as he initially seems and can be more emotionally driven, especially when it comes to his daughter.
Balon Greyjoy is a hard, hard man. As mentioned before, he loves rebellions. Being ruler of the Iron Islands, he is kind of obsessed with proving himself to be as iron like as possible. So drive and ambition and constant rebellion are sort of his thing. However, by the time we meet him, he is somewhat retired from all that. But, unlike John Poole, Balon doesn’t spend his twilight years making jam. Instead, he rolls out the map and directs his two surviving children in a brand spanking new rebellion. The more Balon changes the more he stays the same.
John Poole is a splendid father. We know that he and Leanne enjoyed a close relationship. He is also very close to his eldest granddaughter Tanya. There is a sweet moment where he playacts that she is the Princess Tanya and he is her Grand Vizier. It is obvious he used to do that when she was young, and now he does it again to cheer her up during an incredibly hard time. It actually works too. She expresses her feelings, and they share a mutual hug of fear and worry. They are both terrified, but they have each other.
Later the tables turn, and it is Tanya’s turn to be Grand Vizier. When the worst happens and Leanne is found dead, John has a breakdown and is sent to a rest home for psychiatric help. Tanya always makes time to see that he is doing well and keep him company. John feels guilty over being a burden to Tanya, but she doesn’t see it that way. She wants to visit him because she loves him every bit as much as he loves her.
While John is wonderful to her, we don’t get much of a feeling for his younger grandchildren who were fathered by Matt. I think he loves them too, baking them cakes and helping out when he can, but he hasn’t had as much of a chance to get to know them. Matt is a good father, and he is always there for them. Leanne was much younger when she had Tanya and Daf was definitely not a reliable dad, so John had to step in a lot more when it came to Tanya’s care, thus making her his clear “favourite.”
Balon Greyjoy raised his children to be warriors. Not even his favourite daughter (well, his only daughter) was exempt from that. She got the big warrior training since his two oldest sons were dead, and his youngest son Theon was ward/hostage to the Starks. When Theon returns home, Balon gives him a cold welcome. He insults Theon’s finery, and deliberately shows affection to Yara as a way of highlighting Theon’s outsider status. Balon is not the sort of father to show physical affection of any kind, but he will do it to troll a brat.
Interestingly, as is the case with John Poole, Balon and Yara also have a bit of a role switch. When Theon is captured by the brutal Ramsay Bolton, it is Yara who insists on rescuing him and defending the Greyjoy family honor while Balon sulks. It is like Balon is the surly, selfish teen and Yara the protective, selfless parent.
John Poole starts out as a devoted husband. You get the feeling he’d love nothing more than to have his wife’s approval, but for some reason he just doesn’t seem to get it. We see some minor, but tolerable, cracks in their relationship at the beginning when she is disinterested in his jam enterprise and dismissively refers to it as a bit runny. While not exactly the worst marital betrayal, it is clear her attitude disappoints him. However, as he spirals into a very bad place, we learn the “runny” comment upsets him in other ways. He genuinely fears that she suspects he rushed the jam making process so he could go kill Leanne. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. It is difficult to say by the end of the production if their marriage survived the ordeal or not.
Very little is known about Balon’s marriage to Alannys Greyjoy other than it clearly wasn’t a great one. Overcome with grief over the loss of her sons and the unrelenting hardship of living on Pyke, Alannys left him to go back to her own home. We also know that he at least had “salt wives” in the past, but there is no mention of them in his present existence. We can presume Balon has never been a very good husband, not that he would care.
Visually it is hard to tell that John and Balon are played by the same guy though John starts to catch up with Balon in the locks department. Fortunately, Barbara quickly shuts that down by giving him a haircut. She does it more for her sake, though, than his. Both men are unsure of how to handle the grieving process, but John ultimately is the one who gives into it. Balon never really seems to face up to his loss, hiding it behind a flinty exterior. It is interesting how in both cases it is the (grand)daughter who ultimately takes control and becomes more of a care-giver/decision maker. Both men clearly find themselves incapable of truly dealing with their mourning.
RF: And my choices are…
Magnus and George Cornelius
Magnus (“The One Game“, 1988) and George Cornelius (“Luther“, 2015) are both strong-willed, dangerous men who exert a certain amount of control over their environment and those around them. They both operate by their own situational ethics and are somewhat ruthless in achieving their ends, but they differ in the way they go about it.
Magnus is… a mysterious figure when we first meet him, and he remains mysterious throughout most of “The One Game“. We get little bits and pieces of his life in the form of flashbacks and what other characters, like Nick and Jenny Thorne (Stephen Dillane and Pippa Haywood) say about him. We learn that Magnus is obsessed with magic, medieval and fantasy lore, and elaborate role-playing games where players take on characters and well-defined roles. Magnus is very interested in rules, which allow him to set parameters and have a certain amount of control over how people react to things, like when he springs them into live-action role-playing gaming situations, usually without letting them know beforehand. So he’s sort of like the DM from Hell that way.
George Cornelius is also a bit mysterious, although not quite as mysterious as Magnus. We know he’s a fairly high-powered crim who, like Magnus, is used to having things his own way and has the resources to back it up. He’s somewhat ruthless when it comes to arranging things the way he wants them, and he doesn’t like to lose control. However, he’s also well aware that there are rules to things; it’s just that his rules are those for old-school crims, not for regular law-abiding citizens. Nonetheless, there are certain boundaries he won’t cross, and you get the impression that his word is his bond. He and Magnus would probably get along splendidly in their desire for control and their adherence to their own personal codes of conduct.
Magnus is heavy on the black. Black, black, black, as befits a magician. Black leather jackets, black jeans, black boots, black hair and beard. And of course, he rides a motorcycle. He lives – or used to live – in a large mansion filled with various little magician’s tricks, like secret doorways and hidden switches and whatnot, just calculated to drive his guests insane. It’s perhaps just a touch theatrical and over-the-top, but he makes it work for him, down to the two vicious Alsatians he has guarding the place. His house seems to have been opulent once, but like its owner, it’s been out of circulation for a while. However, we do get the sense that Magnus likes the good things in life.
George Cornelius also likes the good things in life, but he projects an entirely different image than Magnus. His suits are expensive without being ostentatious; they’re well-tailored and extremely well-coordinated. Even a simple white shirt looks as though it was hand-sewn and tailored just for him. However, while Magnus likes to project an air of mystery, George Cornelius comes across as a folksy, friendly, old-school Cockney crim. He’s very informal and genial with everyone, even people he’s just put a hit on. And unlike Magnus, he tells you that you’ve been greenlit – although he might be a big cagey about owning up to doing it, due to certain legal implications.
Magnus is… a forbidding guy. He looks intimidating, and he behaves in an intimidating fashion. He’s also usually a man of few words, although on the occasions when he wants to get a point across, he can become quite loquacious. But I think he used his sudden talkativeness as a means of throwing people off his true thoughts as much as anything else. Magnus seems to like provoking reactions in people, especially if they’re reactions that he’s previously predicted and made allowances for, so that the players in his games do what he expects them to do. Magnus can improvise if he has to, but I don’t think he likes to; for example, he ends up doing away with a computer hacker who’s helped him out, but I’m not entirely sure that was part of his original plan. Magnus’ main goal involves getting revenge against Nick Thorne, for shutting him out of both their jointly owned gaming business and love, and he’s had a long time to think about to achieve what he wants.
By contrast, George Cornelius is jovial and joking, although his jokes frequently have an edge to them. He comes across as friendly, even to coppers like John Luther, but he uses his friendliness much as Magnus uses his forbidding-ness. While you might be chuckling away at George C’s old-style Cockney expressions, I think he uses that personality as a façade to conceal just how much cool calculation is going on. In his own way, George is as much of a planner as Magnus; he’s just less concerned with the overall framework. But neither of the mind getting their hands dirty if and/or when they have to. George Cornelius is also no stranger to revenge – he greenlights Luther for a hit after Luther kidnaps him and chains him to a radiator, and then forgets about him(!) – but again, this is because George understands there are certain rules, and he wouldn’t have gotten as far as he has without sticking to them. Plus he was awfully annoyed about being handcuffed to that radiator with no food, water, or potty breaks.
Strangely enough, both Magnus and George C. do have softer sides. We eventually find out that Magnus’ quest for revenge is not only because Nick shut him out of their business, but because he holds Nick responsible for the drowning death of his wife. Magnus wants Nick to realize the full impact of what happened to him, and what he lost. He also cares a great deal for his daughter, Fay, although he enlists her as a partner in his revenge scheme in ways that aren’t exactly fatherly. Magnus also carries a torch for Jenny Thorne, although he seems to love her more as an unattainable princess in a fantasy tale than as a real woman. That said, Nick kind of blocked Magnus’ opportunity for romance, so no wonder he’s a tad bitter about that.
And we also find that George C. has a softer side, although his manifests in a more businesslike way. When Luther offers him a stash of diamonds in exchange for calling off the hit, George is entirely reasonable and agrees to end the greenlight. He also agrees to provide Luther with some spare controlled substances he has lying around, so Luther can frame someone who was responsible for someone else’s death – long story, but that appears to be the way Luther usually does business. And we also see enough of George C. with a female guest to realize that he’s got some incredible charm (and cooking skills) going for him. There’s a lot more to him than your average crime boss.
So, while both Magnus and George C. are in the revenge business, and both have a lot of style as to how they carry out their plans (and what they wear while they do it), they’re pretty much unalike otherwise. Magnus is theatrical and mysterious, and uses his magic and gaming skills as a means of making sense of the world, while George C. uses his friendly Cockney façade at least partly as a means of lulling people into a false sense of security. They both abide by their own sets of rules and are pretty deadly and tenacious, but you get the sense that George can be reasoned with – provided you have a stash of diamonds or something equally valuable to wave under his nose. And they both have families that they care for, even if George C. will probably insist that his son take some remedial martial arts classes. They’re both ruthless, but you probably have a much better chance of understanding where you stand with George… unless you really enjoy role-playing, in which case, sure, go for Magnus. But don’t say you weren’t warned. 😉