Many people like the character of Richard Harrow played by Jack Huston on HBO’s hit show Boardwalk Empire. While we may admire Richard Harrow as a professional and a marksman, the true reason behind his likability seems to be somewhat of a mystery to folks that fell in love with him. What he had that many of the characters in Boardwalk Empire, and in many shows like it, is humanity. In this one man we get a complex mix of loyalty, respect, good and evil. Richard, to me, was similar to a warrior’s sword back in the feudal times.
When warriors acquired their family sword, it was a treasured heirloom that was a representation of their ancestors along with being a deadly weapon that could protect them in times of danger. When you received it, it was in good shape because the warrior sword was a representation of your ancestry, so you took pride in keeping it sharp, polished and void of rust. When we were introduced to Richard Harrow, he was like a sword that had been discarded on the battlefield. He had lost half of his face and was forced to wear a mask held up by false glasses in order for him to fit in to the world. Jimmy Darmody, his friend and war companion, brought him back from certain doom in order for him to try again to live life even with the disfigurement left with him by the war.
Let’s take a look at the roaring 20’s and how things were for a person like Richard Harrow. In a world where there were two types of people, those that have and those that did not have. The “haves” were extremely vain and things revolved around looks and reputation. For a man that is missing half his face, no one would hold their tongue in terms of how horrific he looked and how much fear was struck in them with him around. People with wartime disfigurements like Richard Harrow were more likely to be shoved aside and discarded, than to be held up and celebrated even with the sacrifice he made for the country. Hiding behind the mask led him to feel ashamed when out in public and his friend Jimmy Darmody helped him to be okay with the looks and find ways to get around his shortcomings. Like a discarded sword that was polished and fixed up again for the warrior, Richard Harrow became Jimmy Darmody’s prized, lethal weapon.
After Richard lost Jimmy, he once again became the discarded sword on the battlefield. Although polished and terrible in his effectiveness, the world and all of its corruption started to deteriorate the blade, and like a sword with no master it began to take on rust and lose its edge. What we saw of Richard in Boardwalk Empire was very much like that sword because his life held no meaning without his friend and his friend’s family, to the point where he unofficially adopted his friend’s son as his own. Richard was a selfless and phenomenal person with a gigantic heart and his making the statement that he lost the ability to love in the war seemed very false, being those of us who were watching him saw it very differently.
When Richard Harrow was called upon to kill people, the people that he killed were normally men as corrupt and evil as the ones who hired him. Even still, with every kill a part of him seemed to die and as the bodies piled up it got to the point where he tried to take his own life.
Richard found a new meaning in life when love came across his doorway and he was blessed with an actual family, or the promise of one. But he lost his last bit of humanity when he accidentally killed an innocent girl. Though we saw the poor girl laying in a pool of blood on the table, a bullet in her skull which was intended for an evil man, what really died was the soul of Richard Harrow. In the end we are shown that he died from a bullet wound received from fleeing from the sniper’s nest, but I truly believe that Richard was always dead and was a ghost, grasping at life in a world that didn’t want him.
Weapons are deemed beautiful by not only their master, but others that admire their craftsmanship, their effectiveness and history. Even when that weapon is disfigured it is still remembered for what it is capable of during it’s time of glory. Richard Harrow is a Real Man of Cinema because outside of him being as dangerous as he was, he was a beautiful human being and a true example of a gangster and a gentleman.See some words or phrases that you don't understand? Check out The Dragon's Lexicon.