Spooks Forum

Full Version: [spoilers] Lucas and his tattoos
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
(23-11-2010 03:45 PM)Byatil Wrote: [ -> ]I think that from the look Harry gave Lucas after the iconography was mentioned, it was clear Harry understood the significance of the tattoos, haha.

I have always assumed that Harry, like Elisabeta, must have received pictures of Lucas in prison (proof of life). I don't think the tattoos were necessarily a surprise to Harry - and I think Lucas is fully aware that Harry would know about the tattoo culture in the Russian prison system. Harry's reaction to the tattoos in that scene reads to me like a response to the reality of them (he uses Dum spiro spero as an introduction to avoid having to engage with the representation of time just below those words), to the physical condition of the body that bears them, and to the message in the motto. Harry may not have had a classical education, but he cannot have avoided an acquaintance with these words in the corridors of power. It is the motto of several eminent families. The translation was, I think, for the benefit of the viewer. It also, of course, allows for the blank and dutiful tone in Lucas' voice when he confirms the technical (rather than spiritual or moral) meaning of the words. It does seem that the motto has come to symbolise to Lucas more of an imperative than an inspiration.
(23-11-2010 10:11 PM)binkie Wrote: [ -> ]
(23-11-2010 03:45 PM)Byatil Wrote: [ -> ]I think that from the look Harry gave Lucas after the iconography was mentioned, it was clear Harry understood the significance of the tattoos, haha.

I have always assumed that Harry, like Elisabeta, must have received pictures of Lucas in prison (proof of life). I don't think the tattoos were necessarily a surprise to Harry - and I think Lucas is fully aware that Harry would know about the tattoo culture in the Russian prison system. Harry's reaction to the tattoos in that scene reads to me like a response to the reality of them (he uses Dum spiro spero as an introduction to avoid having to engage with the representation of time just below those words), to the physical condition of the body that bears them, and to the message in the motto. Harry may not have had a classical education, but he cannot have avoided an acquaintance with these words in the corridors of power. It is the motto of several eminent families. The translation was, I think, for the benefit of the viewer. It also, of course, allows for the blank and dutiful tone in Lucas' voice when he confirms the technical (rather than spiritual or moral) meaning of the words. It does seem that the motto has come to symbolise to Lucas more of an imperative than an inspiration.

Purely phatic talk then? I think perhaps Harry feels duty-bound to offer Lucas some support, but on a personal level doesn't want to face the consequences of his actions, embodied in this man stood before him.

"While I breathe, I hope" as an imperative... would he have had this tattoo before the suicide attempt, I wonder? I seem to remember seeing it in place in that scene, but I'll have to go back and check.

The more I look into it all, the more harrowing it becomes. I think the saddest thing is that much worse things happen to people who are tortured in the 'real world'.
(23-11-2010 10:18 PM)Byatil Wrote: [ -> ]Purely phatic talk then? I think perhaps Harry feels duty-bound to offer Lucas some support, but on a personal level doesn't want to face the consequences of his actions, embodied in this man stood before him.

That's the one! And, sub-textually, one of the purposes of the scene is to illustrate the limitations of smalltalk. I suspect Harry and Lucas both know, even as the words are spoken, that they will never "talk properly". This is as good as it's ever going to get.
(23-11-2010 10:30 PM)binkie Wrote: [ -> ]
(23-11-2010 10:18 PM)Byatil Wrote: [ -> ]Purely phatic talk then? I think perhaps Harry feels duty-bound to offer Lucas some support, but on a personal level doesn't want to face the consequences of his actions, embodied in this man stood before him.

That's the one! And, sub-textually, one of the purposes of the scene is to illustrate the limitations of smalltalk. I suspect Harry and Lucas both know, even as the words are spoken, that they will never "talk properly". This is as good as it's ever going to get.

They're both extremely stubborn as well, which doesn't help! I have to say, some of the arguments they have in 8.4 are hilarious. Just the pure defiance from both of them, as they both believe themselves to be correct Tongue I suppose in a way they really do both "know themselves" a little too well - they're far too confident in their own abilities at work!
(23-11-2010 10:30 PM)binkie Wrote: [ -> ]
(23-11-2010 10:18 PM)Byatil Wrote: [ -> ]Purely phatic talk then? I think perhaps Harry feels duty-bound to offer Lucas some support, but on a personal level doesn't want to face the consequences of his actions, embodied in this man stood before him.

That's the one! And, sub-textually, one of the purposes of the scene is to illustrate the limitations of smalltalk. I suspect Harry and Lucas both know, even as the words are spoken, that they will never "talk properly". This is as good as it's ever going to get.

Isn't Harry somewhat obliged by being head of his team to give Lucas the needed support? I don't mean they would have to fall into each others arms, but I imagine that the moral guidance and support for his 'mignons' is inbeded in his jobdescription.
He must feel very guilty about Lucas' sacrifice, mustn't he? Or is his feeling of guilt so big that he's just affraid to face it? (which I personaly would find cowardly).
Or has the job made him so adamant that he doesn't want to get involved on a more personel level? (which apparantly doesn't count for Ruth)
But it's my thought that you can't divide the profesional and the personal level in this kind of job, because everything they do and go through has an effect on them as humans. Especially when you just 'waisted' 8 years of your life by being in prison for your job.
Or am I being naïve?
(23-11-2010 10:18 PM)Byatil Wrote: [ -> ]"While I breathe, I hope" as an imperative... would he have had this tattoo before the suicide attempt, I wonder? I seem to remember seeing it in place in that scene, but I'll have to go back and check.

The more I look into it all, the more harrowing it becomes. I think the saddest thing is that much worse things happen to people who are tortured in the 'real world'.

He definitely had all his tattoos in the suicide scene, perhaps suggesting that the suicide attempt came towards the end of his time in Russia. They probably believed at this point they had broken him and he would work for them as a double agent.
Wikipedia Wrote:The title "Ancient of Days" has been used as a source of inspiration in art and music, denoting the Creator's aspects of eternity combined with perfection. William Blake's watercolour and relief etching entitled "The Ancient of Days" is one such example.

I'm fairly sure the Blake tattoo might have been discussed, but I'm interested to see that it depicts the 'creator's' eternity and perfection, as said in the above quote. Sounds strangely similar to "The Picture Of Dorian Grey", no?

There seems to be a link between the ideas of longevity and perfection here Tongue And more references to religion. I'm not quite sure what to make of it, unless it's something to do with Lucas being a perfectionist/needing to prove himself as a worthy asset. I'd suggest a fear of aging, but I'm not sure if that really fits... it would make sense in terms of him fearing the loss of his job (the only thing that makes him feel 'worthwhile' apparently), but I'm not sure.
It seems I have been promising / threatening to post in this thread for about 1,000 years. I’m ignoring season 9, obviously, except for an oblique reference at the end, because that is the only sensible course of action.

This is all the result of something Byatil wrote in the ‘What did you think of season 9?’ thread, which made me think about what the tattoos mean to Lucas in subjective and objective terms:

(17-11-2010 11:30 PM)Byatil Wrote: [ -> ]...he has some meaningful imagery stuck on his body, so I think it's safe to assume he wouldn't feel it a terrible loss to lose the Blake painting he admired so much, for example.

Of course, the tattoos mean something about him as well, and this helps us to appreciate the incredibly intricate and subtle set of expressions and communications that is bound up in them. They are a blatant contradiction - a secret that is occasionally visible – and, in that, they are a perfect description of Lucas himself: a spy at large in the community. They represent also an externalisation of internalised needs, crises and determinations, as well as being a projected record of a personal history, framed in a language prescribed by menace and possessive dominance (that which controls the language controls the tribe and all its history).

It is, it seems to me, tremendously important for narrative and character purposes that almost the first thing we learn from Lucas about the tattoos is the extent to which they have been forced: by circumstance, by requirement, by location, by cultural necessity and by the stubborn drive to survive. “You don’t do it, you don’t belong. You don’t belong, you’re dead.” This is an interesting introduction, in which Lucas identifies the presence of the tattoos as an expression of a strange sort of autonomy. He is telling Harry, as the tattoos told the prison population, that he made a choice to be part of the community in which he found himself. He could have chosen not to succumb to the tattooist’s needle, and this choice could be read as either defiance or defeat. He chose instead to survive, and the tattoos are a record both of survival and the price of survival.

The practice and record of forced tattooing or branding is, in archetypal terms, older than Cain. It has long been a near-universal expression of retributive morality, and a correlated manifestation of an unofficial codification of criminal resilience. Criminals have, throughout human history and across cultures, been marked for purposes of identification, control and humiliation. Equally, criminals have taken on the tokens of their punishment and subverted them to the point at which these tokens represent and convey insolence and rebellion. This has allowed for the emergence and refinement of a distinct visual and moral language of specificity and observance. Of course, all languages are factors of cultural and social control as much as they are expressions of social and cultural liberation. Lucas’ tattoos were not forced by the regulating authority, but by the regulated (criminal) body politic. The language of the tattoos - both in the physical manifestation and in the coding - is one negotiated, communicated, understood and controlled by the politics of a particular, paradoxical, requirement to conform to a language of non-conformity. The tattoos are a permanent record of obedience to an agenda of control and ownership – and a means of operation within, and in deference to, that agenda: they speak to a place in a system. Each tattoo is also a record of the time taken in its application, and of the time encoded in its image: eight cupolas; eight points on a star; the creation of time at the beginning of all things; the moral markers of existence (tiny pin pricks in the fabric of time) contained in mottos of belief and good behaviour; a shackle binding its bearer to a place, and a set of rules, in time; declarations of willingness, participation and belonging now and in the future; assurances of the permanence and longevity of memory.

The tangible reality of the tattoos, the sophisticated quality of their sustaining language(s) and relationships, and the exploration of their place in Lucas’ own self-perception, play an important part in the internal frame of reference across seasons 7/8. We see him begin to find a way through to a personal narrative in which the tattoos can tell him something about the person he is (and can be) as much as they do about the places – emotional and physical – he has been. He embarks on what is essentially a new translation of the language of his own existence and experience in the hope that it can bring meaning to a reiteration of a once-familiar context. When, in 7.2, Elisabeta tells him she has been shown photographs of him in prison, it is not his introduction to the horrific emotional compromise of the pictures themselves which motivates a response from Lucas. Rather, it is Elisabeta’s reluctant whispered reference to the tattoos: “Your skin,” she says, drawing unwanted attention to this intimate detail of difference. Lucas’ body language alters immediately she says this. He drops his head, averts his eyes, moves to cover the tattoo visible on his right forearm, as though rendering it suddenly and dishonestly invisible will remove it somehow from Elisabeta’s memory, and from his own experience. In this room, where there still resides a vanishingly small piece of a more contented personal history, Lucas is not ready to engage with a still stubbornly separate (highly compartmentalised) history of ownership and submission. The memory of this unwanted history is inescapable, written as it is on his skin, a constant reminder of the extent to which both his past and his future are the possession of a controlling morality from which he can never be released.

By the time of the events of 7.6, however, we see that Lucas is beginning to incorporate the tattoos into the language by which he describes himself outside of references to prison. He introduces the tattoos as an element of his management of the rapidly escalating situation with Dean and Sarah. Interestingly, he does not display them as a means of connecting with Dean – of suggesting a shared history of trouble with the law – but at the point at which he is trying to encourage cooperation from Sarah at the safe house. Issuing passive instructions about sleeping arrangements and the provision of meals, Lucas removes his jacket and pushes up the sleeves of his sweat shirt, exposing the same tattoo that so bothered him in Elisabeta’s kitchen. This tattoo then necessarily becomes part of the rest of the scene, in which Lucas denies Sarah a regular ‘phone call to her mother, conspires at a distance with Dean in rendering a compromised telling of Dean’s own part in events, and reassures Sarah: “I promise you, everything’s going to be fine.” In short order, then, Lucas attempts to take control of his environment, loses control of the objective truth, and enters into a fraught relationship with the subjective control of his still uncertain operational capability. The tattoo is both witness to these efforts at assertive confidence and a reminder of an authoritative autonomy that is still limited by the influence of a not-so-distant system.

This is a system which will continue to define Lucas until he can find a way to define himself without reference to it, to its debatable absence from his life, or to his equally debatable absence from it. Lucas, in spite of Elisabeta’s observation that he distrusts systems, has nevertheless moved between systems all his life (family, church, education, MI5, prison, MI5 again). Uncomfortable and conspicuous in his own skin, Lucas has seemingly placed himself utterly at the mercy of the most confounding and unfathomable system of all: the divine system of creation. The tattoo of Blake’s Ancient of Days occupies a position at the centre of Lucas’ physical being. But he has left himself a way out. We should be very careful about drawing too literal a conclusion from the presence of this image, particularly from suggestions that it denotes an explicit awareness of, or surrender to, fate. We should recall Lucas’ point to Harry in 7.1 that the tattoos “all mean something. It’s a very specific iconography.” Blake and his work fall so absolutely outside this definition it is impossible to defend any kind of literal interpretation of the content or purpose even of this familiar image. This is itself significant, though, to Lucas’ decision to apply the image to the record of his personal history. This is the one image on his body which is not a part of the controlling language of the Russian prison tattoo culture. It is part of a different – though equally heavily coded – language.

The work of Blake is rendered in a manner very like encryption. It makes use of a set of extremely personal signs, symbols, textures and colours in such a way as to communicate superficially the abstract subject of the piece without ever guaranteeing access to the depth of meaning in the tightly-packed specific motive in the content. Blake lived inside his own head to the point almost of exclusion from the world around him. He did not leave a key to his code: he thought the work was the key to the code. Blake did indeed employ a “very specific iconography”, but we do not, as yet, really understand what this is, or what it might mean. We do not understand the code. Perhaps this is the real secret at the centre of Lucas’ survival within the system. He has subverted the nature of the controlling language -with its “specific iconography”, and its self-sustaining rules – by use of a fragment of language which, quite contrary to its apparent value, is in fact a token from outside the system. Lucas is his own code, and cannot be so easily read.


Cake for anyone who's made it to the end!
You continue to amaze me Binkie! I'll attempt to elaborate on my response tomorrow when I have more time, but I just wanted to say that I'm very impressed by that analysis Big Grin
Aaawww, thank you Thhug Don't feel obliged, especially considering how long it's taken me to get this post straight in my head and anywhere near this thread! I'm slow, but I'm thorough Wink I am interested in any thoughts you may have arising from this. It's a really distracting subject, with a wealth of material on which to draw, so I haven't really done more than scratch the surface.
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
Reference URL's