I have been most graciously invited by Whatels to take part on the unpcoming review and discussion of "Strike Back" on a website (I don't know how far they want that advertsied). I am grateful for the invitation, but I'm afraid my creative focus has moved on.
However, I certainly think it is a marvelous idea and want to encourage these kinds of discussions within the fanbase. After a recent missive, I think that would meet with the approval of certain Leicestershire lads as well. To paraphrase an old campaign slogan, "It's the performaces stupid!" (What can I say, Richard Armitage is kind, eloquent, and tactful. I'm not.)
So to add to the discussion, if anyone wishes to look them over, I pulled together my character notes on John Porter, as well as additional commentary on the episodes from my notes and postings about the episodes on the IMDB Richard Armitage board.
(Apologies in advance for the typos.)
~The Character of John Porter~
Short Story –
I think if the core being of John Porter can be summed up in one word, it would be "earnest". However that earnestness is split between the polarity of “Sergeant Porter” and “John Porter the emotional being with a conscience” and it costs him.
First of all (the point that Armitage himself made) John has a conscience, which made obvious by many of his actions from saving As'ad, to saving the orphans in Zimbabwe (he tried to go back to being just a soldier doing his job, but it did not take much pushing by Masuku to get him to play the hero), to trying to help Gerry.John and Gerry's exchange, "Maybe you are asking too much of yourself," and his reaction to Gerry saying, "Maybe you're asking too little of yourself," also shows this. (And I have doubts his conscience suddenly sprang into being when he encountered As'ad. I think that has probably been building for sometime.)
His conscience (and straightforwardness) also shows in how he takes responsibility for his actions. Not only for the deaths of his comrades, he caries the additional burden of guilt in that he led that mission and failed his men's trust in him to lead them safely. A responsiblity he obviously took very seriously. (In fact, this might be a factor in why John seems more cocky and risk-prone now: He has only himself to worry about.) The scene in his commanding officer's office is very well played. John's attitude in that moment is not fear or resentment. The regretful smirk when he removes his hat shows that he knows what is coming and he understands. While he is unhappy, he is there to take the punishment he feels he deserves.
(Contrast that attitude to Collinson's trying to squirm like a rat caught in a trap when John is trying to get the truth from him in their final confrontation, and the confused look in John's eyes when Collinson tries to continue to deny it. What Collinson was doing in that moment was something completely alien to John.)
John is straightforward. He does not manipulate, nor does he tolerate being manipulated well. He will trick his enemies (c’est le guerre), but he does not toy with people. There was a very conscious, "I know you know I know" dance going on between he and Collinson when John came to work for Section 20, but John had difficulty sustaining it and started to crack at the end of the second story with the punch and "Stop putting me in your debt." John appreciates honestly in others. Example, the scene in the elevator with Dani where, in a casually couched recrimination, asked her if she had slept with other men on the orders of section 20. When Dani says, "Well, we all have our job to do, some parts more arduous than others..." John smiles, probably because she did not get offended or try to deflect the accusation, but owned up to it. Just has John owned up to what he thought his responsibility was in the deaths of his patrol.
The closest thing he comes to being manipulative is when he gets Gerry to pull John's belt off so that Gerry can rifle through it and find the picture of his family, then John is completely straightforward again. When he finally has the evidence to confront Collinson, he does not go to Collinson's superiors (or ask Layla to while he quietly catches a ride home which would have been the safe option), but has it out with him man to man. Quietly honorable in his own way (in ways that really matter), John treats even his nemesis with the honestly he would wish to be treated.