Mulligan

Once upon a time I labeled the character of John Mulligan as a cad.

who, me?
who, me?

but also defended him with the opinion that he was a former bad boy just trying to get by.

yeah, let's go with that
yeah, let’s go with that

John confused me with the way he seduced the emotionally vulnerable Ellie by playing on her confidence issues. he’d talk down to her, reinforce how down on her luck she currently was–how far she had fallen from his previous conceptions of her– then flirt and build her back up again in the same conversation. that kind of manipulation never sat well with me but, ironically, I felt manipulated by the way the story was told through Ellie’s eyes, and so I fought against it. 

 

I was adamant that the pivotal scene when the drugs were found in her luggage, was not a set-up by John: he may have been hiding the drugs from her but he wasn’t using her to transport them….I was riding high on Mulligan charm. 

it's the layers. chicks can't resist all this loud fabric.
it’s the layers. chicks can’t resist all this fabric!

somehow I misunderstood when Ellie said they should just use one suitcase for their trip instead of two. I was under the impression that they were sharing the same suitcase and thus the drugs she found were not intended to be transported by her alone. 

distRActed
distRActed

I must have also missed the part where John urged Ellie to go check and see if she had enough gas in the car, leaving him alone with the luggage–which was in actuality two separate suitcases–giving him the opportunity to either switch the drugs from his case to hers or to purposely place the drugs in her case as he intended to do all along. 

distRActed-part 2
distRActed-part 2

so, my opinion regarding John’s intentions has changed. I feel better about it now because I was fighting the creepiness before, the mental abuse John was exhibiting through his emotional manipulation of Ellie. I didn’t like it but I overlooked it because it didn’t fit in with what I wanted to see. but before you let out that breath you were holding in fear for my sanity, I must confess: I find prison John the more enticing of the two. 

neck porn
neck porn

once he’s caught and gives his speech to Ellie, knocking her down a few pegs by pointing out that all the nice things she currently owns was bought with his money; the difference between the two personas is more apparent. it’s clear to me that prison John is the real him, and I dig his confidence. even though the jig is up, he’s resigned to his fate. he’s not blaming anyone for putting him there, he got caught and that is that. 

 

before, I thought the look in John’s eyes at the end was regret because he really did like Ellie and he was sad that he lost what might have been. 

Danger! Danger! do not look directly into the eyes!
Danger! Danger! do not look directly into the eyes!

but now I don’t see that look as loneliness or disappointment, but rather irrelevance: he just doesn’t care. I can respect that more than the smooth talker I thought he was before.

emptiness is the new sexy
emptiness is the new sexy

truth, even if it’s not the good kind, is preferable to a lie. 

unless it's delivered while wearing this jacket- then all bets are off
unless it’s delivered while wearing this jacket- then all bets are off.
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18 thoughts on “Mulligan

  1. Awesome, thanks! I feel the same way regarding Prison John. And I think maybe he took the role just to do that speech at the end. He was masterful. Well done.

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    1. that speech at the end was great, not only in and of itself but the way Richard delivered it. it felt real, while the other stuff felt like an act. it reminded me somewhat of the speech from Ricky Deeming in George Gently– minus the leather.

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  2. Actually, I do think he cared about her in his own way; he simply was too bitter and hardened to let love in. He probably saw it as a weakness. I agree that ‘Prison John’ is one of the best scenes Richard has ever played. Aside from that, I’ve always had the feeling that Richard was in love at that time of his life because there is something infinitely seductive about Mulligan and I can’t put my finger on it. I know it probably sounds crazy for me to say this; it’s a gut feeling that he was in a specific place in his personal life. Okay, I’ll shut up now. Thanks for this! 😉

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    1. I don’t think Mulligan was heartless but I do think he set out to use her, if not in relation to moving the drugs then definitely as a trophy of sorts–to conquer the ‘goody goody’ that he made out with in High School. as for Richard being in love himself at the time and thus more able to pull off the seductive act, I don’t really follow your reasoning. this type of seduction seemed very manipulative to me, I’d like to think he isn’t that way for real.

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      1. No, that’s not what I meant when I talked about Richard being in love; it’s got nothing to do with the character. I should have kept my thoughts to myself. Sorry.

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        1. I’m not being argumentative or chastising you, I just don’t follow your train of thought, that’s all. if you would like to elaborate: do you mean he seems more playfully seductive? like maybe he was in a good place romantically so it brought forth that kind of charisma naturally? you don’t have to explain if you don’t want to, just know I wasn’t jumping on you for saying Richard was romantically involved at the time. I know that’s a touchy subject for some but I’m a sappy romantic at heart so it’s not touchy for me 🙂

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    1. Yes, I’m going to have to go back and rewatch too. If I can bear to look at those clothes again (ok, apart from the velvet collar coat, which I agree is sexy). I can’t get over the fact that the hairstyle makes his face look square, which it most definitely isn’t ;-(

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  3. Nice to see a post about one of the lesser-known (and certainly lesser-loved) chaRActers!
    I have never really come to a proper conclusion on whether Mulligan *did* have honest feelings for Ellie or whether he was just playing her. With the usual bias that enters my brain whenever Richard plays a chaRActer, I veer towards believing in Mulligan’s love for Ellie. But yeah, he definitely manipulates her, he lies, and whether he has placed the drugs in her case or not, he has deliberately pulled her into his criminal activities…
    I find the prison speech quite ambiguous – again, I have never figured out whether there is regret or not. And I have been wondering whether the ambiguity was deliberate.

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    1. yes, it’s tricky b/c of the way we’re seeing John through Ellie’s eyes (apart from the scene w/the ex-lover/best friend). that’s why I resented how the story itself was pushing me into seeing things one way when I may have not gone that route naturally. I would like to think that John had some level of feelings for Ellie, that it may have developed into something more concrete over time, but I don’t think he had any problem cutting her loose when he did.

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  4. I’ve said it before (not online, I don’t think…LOL) but I’ll say it again (and just put it out there). There are a few characters Richard Armitage has played that one would do good to steer clear of. Lee from “Cold Feet” with a girl on every corner; Paul Andrews from “Between the Sheets” with lies upon lies; and John Mulligan from “Moving On” with drugs upon drugs. Lee never would have stood a chance with me. I would’ve seen right through him and sent him away before he uttered word one. It’s easy to see what he is. Paul might’ve stood half a chance, but once the lying started, it’s over! That leaves John Mulligan. Him, I would’ve fallen head over heels in love with and then I’d be writing this response from JAIL! I felt myself being manipulated and just didn’t care. Richard is so slick, charming, and sigh-worthy that I went completely blind to any misdeeds his character might’ve committed. Even in the final scenes, I found him utterly fascinating. So, yeah, I admit it. I would’ve driven right to the airport without a second thought to all warnings, gotten arrested in customs and rotted away in jail whilst he made himself at home in my former flat. I still wonder if I would be angry with him or myself. Either way, I’m grinning. LOL 😊

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  5. I really loved how you reviewed your previous position in this post. At the time i got the DVDs, I watched that episode over and over and over again. I had a theory that Armitage took that role because of the prison scene, because he got such great lines.

    As to the question of his intent to use her — I think there are people who use others without malevolence, if that makes any sense. He saw he could use her — but that’s what he does, that is his identity, that is who he is (as he explains in the end.) Admittedly, she didn’t see that. But I don’t think he wanted to “get” her, specifically, although he certainly did want to use her, and he put all the risk for what he planned to do square on her back.

    To me this question was complicated by an apparently naive script — anyone who’s ever flown through a New York airport knows that the probability of being approached by a drug sniffing dog while waiting for one’s luggage to be returned is extraordinarily high. To me as viewer, that made the conclusion that he wanted to harm her somehow more probable because what idiot would do that thinking it had a strong chance of success? That makes it look like a real setup that intended to frame her or harm her as part of its motivation. If one considers the possibility, however, that that didn’t occur to the screenwriters, it looks different. Learning that all of those episodes were essentially winners in a screenwriting contest made me think, oh, possibly this was something a novice scriptwriter wouldn’t have bothered to look at very closely.

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    1. yes, I admittedly change my mind often 😛 which makes looking back not only nostalgic but seeing the characters from diff’t angles helps round them out. I agree that John didn’t seem to be intending to do Ellie harm in using her the way that he did, it just was what it was for him. his speech at the end suggested a certain mentality- he wasn’t sorry b/c that’s just the way things worked in his world.
      I didn’t know that the episode was part of a screenwriters contest of sorts, that puts an interesting spin on things 😎

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      1. Here are the deets from Richard Armitage Online — not a contest (sorry!) but a conscious selection of novice writers and directors: http://richardarmitageonline.com/moving-on/moving-on-introduction.html Anyway, it occurred to me that these pieces were “beginner” material (and I think, to some extent — esp the one about the Asian man with the English woman — really beautiful because of that. None of them were jaded).

        re: closing speech — to me there was also an element of him wanting to say, “you don’t know what the world is really like,” i.e., even if I am in jail at least I’m living in the real world, unlike you. I think his estimation of her was accurate — she was living off the profits of his ill-gotten gains and she got off very lightly.

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