Addendum on whether people can change

Despite titling a previous post “Final Thoughts on Whether People Can Change,” I discovered I have another comment to make on that subject based on S6 E6. I find that episode extremely informative on many counts. The question of change comes up when Al visits Ruth to help her with her computer and he is troubled by the lack of direction in his life. He is very good at helping Ruth with a variety of activities: work at the farm, fixing her ceiling leak, adjusting her computer, etc., but that isn’t what he wants to do with his life. He thought he’d be successful at something and has not found what that is yet. (I think this is what troubles many young people these days — finding that thing that really stimulates you, inspires you, makes you want to put a lot of effort into it.) Like many young people, Al does not want to simply join his Dad in his ventures either as plumber or as restaurateur.

Al tells Ruth that he’s “sick of waiting for things to change.” Ruth then retorts, “Stop waiting! Stop whining! We’re the authors of our lives. You write the story and you have no one to blame but yourself. If you want to change your circumstances, then change them. Only you can do it.”

Well, let’s analyze that. Ruth believes people can change, and we’ve known that for a while. And she needs to light a fire under Al and tell him to take action rather than whine because he has not found the vocation that excites him. However, the part about each of us writing our own story and only having ourselves to blame kind of clunks a bit. It is quite empowering to think that we write our own stories, and I personally like to think that we have the power to change them, but when Ruth talks to Martin in E8, she’s much more inclined to place a lot of blame on Martin’s parents and his childhood experiences. Surely we are all impacted by our childhood and what happened to us during our formative years. Nevertheless, Ruth tells Martin that he has the power to change, although he may have to work harder than others due to his early life. Al has had a very different childhood from Martin’s, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had to deal with hardship. His mother died when he was very young and that is a loss felt quite deeply by most children. His father has certainly been devoted to him, but they seem to have always just gotten by. Bert is no “fire in the belly” sort of man who instilled a strong work ethic in Al.

Still, Ruth’s advice to Al that only he can change his circumstances is consistent with her advice to Martin. The show’s message is regardless of our life experiences, each of us has the power to change our lives and turn them into something close to what we want. We should stop wishing things were different, stop finding excuses, and do what we can to transform them.

Originally posted 2016-05-22 14:46:56.

40 thoughts on “Addendum on whether people can change

  1. Carol

    Hey there – glad you are back. Once again another thought-provoking post. I have a question for everyone in response to it, but it is hard to put into words. I guess I would boil it down to this – is neglect-based abuse worse than any other abuse or loss?

    More explanation. Yes, Al lost his mother – terrible. She must have died from something like cancer or perhaps stroke since there has never been any talk of an accident or anything like that, and she must have been young since Al doesn’t remember her. Having never had that happen, I can’t speak to how horrible that must be. But I guess the difference I see is that Martin had something deliberately done to him and not only deliberately done but done in such a way that you can’t easily see the “marks.” Abuse of the kind that Martin has endured is worse, I think, than abuse that leaves actual scars or even the loss of a parent, because the child is left unable to know if their feelings of anxiety, anger, depression, etc., are even legitimate. The “attack” is made to the feelings themselves. Do you, and others online here, think that there is a difference and that one is worse than the other? Or is the “depth” of abuse according to the person being abused? For example – one child may be able to ignore neglect better than another.

    This is a question I have had for quite some time. Martin seems to me to be a prime example of my own opinion which is that, yes, abuse without visual scars is actually worse, because look at what he must now overcome if he is to ever put his life back together. He can’t visually see that, yes indeed, his parents were abusers, but must undergo how much therapy, etc., to even begin to see it, much less to do anything about it. (Perhaps this is why Ruth says he will have to work harder than others.) But then again, Ruth says he was sensitive and vulnerable at age 4; therefore that was probably his natural inclination. Perhaps a child who had a less sensitive nature would not have been affected as badly by the very same set of parents.

    I just find this to be a very interesting question which I think affects a lot of people. Abuse by a parent or loss of a parent in any way is horrible. But it seems to me that neglect-based abuse is the worst. I heard a counselor say once that one of the worst things a parent can do to a child is to use “neglect” as a punishment – for example, getting angry at the child and not speaking to him or her for hours or days. I think this type of punishment was used often in years past and is used still, I am sure.

    Martin gets us all thinking deeply, doesn’t he? He is a psychology experiment come to life without anyone actually getting hurt since he is fictional. YES he IS fictional right???? 🙂 🙂

  2. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    One of my best friends is a pediatric psychiatrist. I will ask her about this and let you know what she says. My personal feeling is that everything has an individual dimension to it, but it would be likely that knowing you parents are deliberately mistreating you and you are helpless would be more damaging. Martin is fictional, of course. We’re enjoying the exercise of analyzing, nevertheless! I’ll let you know what she says. I’ll be publishing other posts soon.

  3. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I’ve asked my friend and she drew a distinction between Loss and Rejection. The loss Al’s experience represents became significant once he reached an age where he realized he doesn’t have a mother. However, he’s had a lot of nurturing by his father and that is huge in a child’s life. Martin has been rejected by his parents, as well as abused, and had very little nurturing except for what Joan provided, which was also eliminated when he was no longer allowed to visit her. According to my friend, loss is usually not as harmful as rejection, but she noted individual differences as a factor too (meaning that each person reacts differently). My post was really about change, but since we got into the subject of childhood experience, I want to say that Louisa has also been neglected by her mother and must have some residual problems as a result.

  4. Carol

    Thanks for your trouble. I just find all of this fascinating. I guess the way I connected my question to your post was in my mind but I didn’t put it into writing as well as I wanted.

    To me the connection is that someone like Martin, who has had the worst type of abuse as I see it, will truly have a terrible, and almost impossible, time trying to change because he won’t even have anywhere to start, except for the tiny bit of nurture from Joan. He first has to see that what he experienced was truly abuse and neglect because right now he sees it as “what I deserved.” After he can see what was done wrong, and truly believe it was not his fault (he wasn’t weak, he didn’t deserve to be bullied or teased, etc.), then and only then can he start to see how he is worthy of love and what walls he has built and begin to slowly dismantle them.

    Louisa, on the other hand, who had later rejection (not at infancy as Martin seems to have had) from one parent and love but unreliability from the other at least has a step to start on when making change.

    I just feel that the work will be so difficult, as Ruth explained, and I hope the writers can figure out a way to realistically get Martin started. I have been watching episodes from season one again for a story I am doing and, knowing what we know now, we can look back into even their earliest interactions and see how his feeling of unworthiness showed itself from the very first episode.

    Makes for some great TV though!

  5. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I see what you’re getting at and think your point about how Martin thinks his childhood wasn’t that bad because he deserved it is strong. But I also see that the show gives Martin a lot of depth especially in episodes 6 and 8. E6 is when we see him standing over the baby’s crib at 3 am and struggling with his thoughts. I don’t know what we’re supposed to think he’s going through, but since his mother has just arrived and he is clearly upset by her appearance and by her comments about his father, I would guess a lot of that is on his mind. At the end of E6 Martin tells his mother he has a family that does not include her and he couldn’t be colder towards her. When he finally confronts his mother in E8, I think we are supposed to recognize that Martin has finally found his voice, grasped how toxic his mother has been and still is, and taken control of his relationship with her. So I think the writers have already given us some basis to believe that Martin is going to change his approach. We also see him completing the operation and experiencing both relief and emotional catharsis. I guess I have more hope than you do that change won’t be impossible, but I’m not a therapist and I am an optimist. I love the way the show brings up so many important and deep issues of life while also being entertaining.

  6. Carol

    I like your thoughts on this. I thought that his finally being able to close his eyes and rest, even for a moment, when looking down at James, was very telling. I do hope that it means he is finding his feet. Heaven knows he deserves it.

    It has made me think a lot about angry people I know and wonder how much “stuff” like this they are carrying inside. In fact, I met a surgeon earlier this year who was so cold in recommending that my mom not have surgery for the cancer that did kill her in July. He was right about his diagnosis that it would be futile, but the way he went about it – oh so hurtful. He was almost heartless in his attitude and I wrote his administrators complaining about him. Now I wonder, what is in his heart that causes him to act like this (other doctors let me know this is his normal mode) with people who are dying.

    It also makes me wonder if surgery is a profession that attracts a certain personality type – that it requires this distancing behavior. My husband is an engineer and certainly most all of them have certain common attributes. I don’t know any surgeons personally, but it does make me wonder.

    I will hold on to your optimism and I thank you for sharing it. Look forward to your next thoughts.

  7. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Carol, you are very nice to wonder what might have been going on in the surgeon’s life after he treated your mother (and you) so abruptly. I guess we could always find a rationalization for everyone’s behavior, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. As far as certain personality types going into particular specialties, my husband and I have always believed that that is true, and we know many doctors (as you might imagine). But that only goes so far because I have known general practitioners who are abrupt and unsympathetic as well as surgeons who are caring and gentle. To be a surgeon one has to have a good deal of confidence and faith in his/her ability, but that doesn’t always have to mean there can be no softer side. There are also so many different kinds of surgeries. An OB/GYN has vastly different responsibilities from a neurosurgeon, even though they both perform demanding operations. Anyway, I’m on to lighter fare and hope to post something about the humor in S6 E1 very soon.

  8. Santa Traugott

    On the theme of change — it really runs through the series, I think. Beginning in S2, when Danny and Louisa are having a conversation about change, and when he makes some comment about people being “programmed” Louisa tells him, “but that’s nonsense, isn’t it ” (don’t remember the exact quote) Then in S3, we see Aunt Joan tell Martin that he can’t change, and he then goes into his “smarmy” behavior with Holly. Louisa correctly tells him that you have to “want to” change, which he totally rejects: “Why?” In Series 5 we have the exchange between Aunt Ruth and Louisa, in which Ruth (at that point) tells Louisa that people can’t change, and Louisa again responds that they can if they want to. Also in S6, besides the conversation between Ruth and Al, there is Martin’s encouragement to Mike to have his OCD dealt with, that he CAN change if he works hard enough at it. In fact, it’s hard to believe that this is not a theme of the program, insofar as there is one. (When you think of it, change has been a major factor in Martin Clunes’ own life.) So, this gives me hope that not only does Louisa believe that Martin CAN change, he now “wants to” change, and ultimately, I have to believe this will lead to a positive resolution.

    Here’s the thing about childhood abuse and the possibility of change: most children who have experienced abuse, physical or emotional, or neglect, grow up as Martin did, believing somehow that they deserved it. To think otherwise is to understand that your parents are not fit parents and may not keep you safe — an annihilating thought for a child. Better to believe that it’s somehow your fault. When we see Martin recognize how hateful and abusive his parents have been to him, we see a major hurdle to the possibility that he can change, cleared away.

    Martin has a lot of work to do to really change his view of himself and how he relates to Louisa. I so hope that she is willing to recognize that now he wants to try, and that she will be willing to respond to his request for help (which hopefully, he repeats when she is not sedated past the possibility of remembering it).

  9. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    As you know Santa, I definitely agree that whether people can change is a theme throughout this series. It has to be deliberate because it’s so prominent. One of the questions I want asked on the Podcast is whether the theme of change was intended to be a key element of the series. I would love to know what their thinking is about this subject. If they are so convinced that people can change as long as they put a lot of desire and effort into it, then series 7 should pursue that position, don’t you think? There are so many ways that could play out in terms of situations, but if we’re understanding their perspective correctly, we should see the characters make some substantial changes that end up being beneficial to their relationships. Not only Martin and Louisa’s relationship would improve, but also Al will finally accomplish something and possibly have a successful relationship with a significant other. Surely if his B&B plan works out his father will have to acknowledge that Al had a good idea. Martin has admitted mistakes to Louisa several times in the past. He needs to do it again and throw in how he can’t bear to be without her for good measure. I think he could have stopped her from leaving even on the day of her departure if he had just said those things then. We’ll see…

  10. Amy

    I really like the analysis of Martin’s final confrontation with his mother. It did seem that that would liberate him from some of his feelings of inadequacy, It should have been a real breakthrough, opening the doors to the possibility of change. And I do think he is quite different in S7 and willing to work to change even more, but it is Louisa who now seems unable to accept the possibility of change and who in particular doesn’t think Martin can change.

  11. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I am glad to see that you’ve been able to read the previous posts. One thing that struck me as I read your comments and looked back at some of the posts is that the conclusion of S7 really negates just about everything we’ve spent time discussing about change. In the end Martin thinks that the efforts he’s made to change have actually done more damage than good, and Louisa ultimately tells him she wouldn’t want him to change anyway. That’s kind of disappointing, or too glib, don’t you think? Here we’ve gone back and forth through 7 series about whether people can change, how we can be the authors of our lives, how hard it is to change but it’s necessary to achieve certain goals, etc., etc. and then we arrive at the final judgement that actually change doesn’t really work out that well and maybe it’s simply better to accept ourselves and others as we (they) are. Poof, there goes therapy and any other sense of control. That “duty of care” thing is also not important. If you’re not cut out to comply with the military standards, give it up. Sort of seems rather discouraging.

  12. Amy

    OK, I clearly have to rewatch S7 when I get home because I didn’t get quite that impression. I didn’t think that Martin was saying his changes had made things worse, but that things in general hadn’t gotten better despite his efforts. I think things were worse because Louisa was not willing to change her own expectations of him or her needs. I left feeling that she was finally at the very end willing to accept that he was not normal (nor was she) and that she loved him anyway. I didn’t read it as meaning they felt they no longer needed to work on their issues. But maybe I am reading it through my own experiences with relationships and change.

  13. Santa Traugott

    This ending dialogue is an unending source of frustration for me. Not that I don’t think that they wound up in the right place — recommitting to each other, this time really for better or for worse , hopefully – but that his statement is so ambiguous. It was “I’ve tried, I’ve really tried, but it just made things worse.” And what I can’t get past is, how did it make things worse? I see that he tried, and that Louisa was largely impervious to his efforts — but I don’t see how things got worse. Some also think that because it comes after his statement that “I’m never going to change the way I feel about you” that the statement means that he tried to stop loving her, which I think is patent nonsense. I never saw the slightest evidence of that, and what would that be, anyway? But the statement was deliberately left ambiguous, I think, and in making that choice, that made it virtually meaningless, at least for me.

    Ultimately, I think Louisa came to the (belated) realization that her recalcitrance meant that she was likely going to lose her marriage unless she gave in — and given how much Martin meant to her, she was unwilling to go down that path, in the end. So her only option was to try to take him as he is. We’ll see how that works out.

  14. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks for the confirmation and clarification. Since I believe words matter (both written and spoken) and they keep saying how much time is spent on developing these scripts, and the writing has often been so excellent, it’s hard to justify (or explain) making such misleading statements.

    I am impressed with how much effort we’ve put into trying to find a way to make this last scene comprehensible. The plan was to have Martin and Louisa get back together, and not until the final scene. Now we are left doing the ratiocination. Is that the best way to end a series, or the worst?🤔😱

  15. Amy

    I actually feel differently about the ambiguity in that line. For one thing, I think it’s how people speak very often—ambiguously. Not to be difficult, but because they just aren’t clear in their thoughts or words. Especially in emotional situations.

    I also like the ambiguity because it makes me think about what the writers are saying. I see interpreting it both ways as reasonable, but also as a third way. I do think Martin tried not to feel as much for Louisa when she kept pulling away each time, but failed because he loves her. Would he have even toyed with sleeping with Edith if he wasn’t trying to stop loving Louisa? It made him feel worse each time because he couldn’t stop loving her no matter how many times she pushed him away.

    And I do think that his attempts to change made things worse—for him! He tried inviting people over for dinner. Louisa got angry. He tried to show her the clock to share something he loved—she walked away bored. He tried to go to the beach with her. She was annoyed. I think those things made it worse for him.

    So those are the two ways I interpret his lines. I am not sure which he meant (or which the writers meant), but I like the richness of the ambiguity.

  16. Santa Traugott

    I like ambiguity too, but only when the optional ways that the statement could be interpreted make logical sense to me.

    But I do agree, if you look back over all of the seasons, then it’s often the case that when he tries to please Louisa or make her happy, or just be of help to her, he often winds up making things worse. Partially because of his ineptitude and partially because of her thin skin.

    But in this season, what did he do to make things worse? He tried to get therapy to help himself be a better husband, and when it turned into couples therapy, it clearly made Louisa angrier and more defensive, but also got her to think through her feelings about him in a more constructive way.

    I think most of the ploys that the therapist recommended fell flat, . Maybe it made things worse in that it just convinced Louisa that nothing would do any good – that their situation was too difficult. But really, that’s largely her interpretation of how things played out (in my view, anyway).

    So maybe you can say that he meant, the more I tried to get you back, the more you resisted and dug yourself (and us) into a deeper hole. I think that’s a bit of a stretch, but maybe.

    What I would say about his trying to stop loving her is that, especially in early seasons, he kept trying to deny and repress his feelings for her. That may be a distinction without a difference, but I don’t think so. But I really didn’t see any evidence in S7 that he tried to stop loving her. I saw him almost frantic with his desire to get her back, but then ultimately resigning himself to the possibility that she couldn’t bring herself to take him back, and he would have to deal with losing her.

  17. Santa Traugott

    BTW, Karen wrote a wonderful post — September 2014, called “Ambiguity Unbound.”

  18. mmarshall

    I agree with Santa that in the earlier seasons he was falling in love with Louisa, but repressed those feelings and did nothing about them because he really couldn’t fathom how acting on them could end well for him — and maybe now (once married) he’s realizing that they haven’t worked well for him! Being attracted to her was fun, but once in the relationship, so much is required of him constantly pusing him so out of his comfort zone that he is in a constant state of anxiety about everything connected with Louisa. It did make things worse — for him! After rewatching S5 and 6 and of course in 7 I saw how very much he tried, in his own ways, to please Louisa and make her happy (taking care of the baby, trying to do things her way, like rock the baby just so, etc), but she still was unhappy. The more he tried, the worse his blood problem became, and the more strained their marriage was. It probably did seem easier for him to just love her from afar.

    I’m still stuck on the idea DM proposed that Louisa “lied” in that last exchange in S7, and just needed to say something to capitulate, keep the marriage, and change her stance that things HAD to change. She at least realized that she wanted the marriage and was the one keeping it from continuing. I think she’s a long way from realizing what it’s going to take for her to be happy living with Martin and perhaps that will be explored more in S8.

  19. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I’m replying here even though Santa and mmarshall have already taken a turn at responding. I very much appreciate ambiguity and, as Santa mentioned, I wrote a long post on it (see Ambiguity Unbound, Sept. 12, 2014). But I would like to draw a distinction between ambiguity and muddled when it comes to words. When I wrote about the use of ambiguous words in the post on ambiguity, I was referring to multiple meanings that then lend themselves to multiple interpretations. I don’t see that in this concluding conversation. What I see is a use of words that may resolve the issue between Martin and Louisa at the time of the conversation, but lack the logical connection to our previous knowledge of this couple and this show. Of course, you’re right that when people speak to each other, they are often unable to express themselves as well as they’d like. But this is a TV show that has taken a lot of trouble to put words together in a most engaging and intelligent manner. I’ve looked at several of the virtuouso monologues with great appreciation. It’s unlikely most of us would have come up with that sort of speech on our own, so we can’t really compare it to how we speak under normal circumstances. In this last conversation of S7 we are knocking ourselves out trying to find ways to understand it. Should we go back through old series or stick with the one we’re watching? Can we find any examples of when Louisa was obsessed with people being normal, or are we trying to come up with background info that gives us some justification for her to say that? This is not ambiguity; it’s obfuscation!

    I also want to say that we can never forget that much of the interactions between Martin and Louisa are meant to be awkward because of how that contributes to the humor. Not only that, but Martin is truly supposed to be clueless and totally unaware of what he’s doing that might annoy Louisa. I don’t want to rehash the various occasions in S6 when either Martin or Louisa might have been more sympathetic. They both had their moments.

    Ultimately, the fact that here we are still discussing this scene is, perhaps, a tribute to how the show has gotten into our heads to such a degree that we have noticed far more than the writers, et. al. every expected us to.

  20. elle

    “I’ve tried….but it just makes things worse.”
    I understand that to mean, in the present, he tried to accomodate her at the picnic (it failed), at the birthday party (it failed), at the dinner date (it failed). In one of their last therapy sessions, they were both very discouraged and asked the therapist was it all supposed to be this hard (working at marriage, therapy).

    If we remember his exchange with Ruth and with Louisa before her surgery (series6), he is aware that he must try and make things better. Ruth tells him “you must change….” and, I believe, this is also part of his declaration “I’ve tried, I’ve really tried.”

    Louisa’s “confession” about expecting everyone to be normal was and is still a mystery. If we remember back and throughout the relationship, Louisa expressed many times her frustration as to why he couldn’t engage with his patients in a more positive way or have better bedside manner. I wonder if this
    is what she is referring to when she says “normal.” I’m at a loss, frankly.

    I agree with yout conclusion, though. Louisa admittedly didn’t want a failed marriage and he seemed ready to just end it. “You’ve never let me down…” was her own epiphany and explained her turnaround. What he gave her was far more important than her distorted view of what “works.” None of us know how
    they will proceed, but there is hope that lessons have been learned.

  21. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Just quickly…failure is different from making things worse. I agree that his words are meant to refer to the recent past. In that case, he has not made things worse; they just haven’t gotten any better. (I would also suggest that there were brief spells where things got better, e.g. during the hugging episode. But while that could have led to an improved relationship either because they would both sense a real breakthrough OR the therapist might have taken advantage of this opportunity, we were just being teased because the plan was to prolong the reunion until the last episode. That’s where the plan became too transparent and I held out no hope for a reconciliation until the end of the final episode.) He definitely tried; however, they flipped things around and this time Louisa was the intransigent one as opposed to Martin being unreachable in S6.

  22. elle

    Ah, a distinction. Failed vs worse. This a little too intense and too tedious for me. I haven’t been here at this blog for quite sometime and its come back to me just why I haven’t.

    My point was he speaking from a place in the present and their recent past. Santa mentioned the ambiguity of his words to her
    and other nonsensical speculations that she has read, etc.

    Are we going to analyze if indeed he fail her or made things worse? I think a case could be made that he indeed did fail her at times and made things worse but that was NOT the point of my reply to SantaT.

  23. Santa Traugott

    “I tried…” Tried to do what? to make Louisa happy, to improve their relationship, to change myself so I could be better husband? Any or all of the above works for me, and the idea that it could be any or all adds a note of ambiguity.

    “But it just made things worse.” What things? his depression? his living situation? their relationship? I think it has to mean, in context, it just made our relationship worse — i.e., pushed us farther apart, not closer. He has to be talking about whether they’re going to get back together, because that’s what the whole season’s been about. It isn’t passive — things just GOT worse. It’s active, it’s MADE things worse.

    So the question for me, remains .. how worse? in what way worse? did whatever it was he tried really push Louisa farther away, make reconciliation less likely? I don’t get it — they never got any better, true, and maybe he did lose hope, but they couldn’t get much worse, in my view, because Louisa was not responsive and remained unreachable until the very end. The real question for me is, what did Louisa want of him? What was she thinking, when she went to Spain, while she was in Spain, after she came back and she kept holding out vague assurances that their separation was only temporary, while doing absolutely nothing to move their reconciliation along? I think that would be an interesting discussion, but maybe this is not the right blog post in which to have it.

  24. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I am sorry if you took my comments as concentrating too much on the distinction between the meaning of failure as opposed to that of worsening things. That is only part of the many incredibly problematic elements of their last words in E8. I’d like to think you would give all ideas a chance. What we do here, I think, is have a lively discussion with a forum for all sorts of views. No one has a monopoly on what’s the right answer.

  25. Amy

    By some very strange fluke, I just saw the last scene of S7E8. We are in Santa Fe, and I turned on the TV and there were Martin and Louisa about to cut into the neck of Mr. WInton. So strange! So anyway, I watched it in light of all these comments with fresh eyes. Here’s what I now think. I believe he definitely meant that he had tried to stop loving her and that it made it worse for him. He follows it by saying “I love you, Louisa.” She says, “I love you.” I now am convinced that the writers meant it to be interpreted as him saying that trying not to love her, trying to disengage, made it worse for him. He loves her too much.

    Maybe it’s my always romantic perspective made even more so by the fact that I am in this incredibly magical city on vacation, but I believe Martin was saying that he could not stop loving her, even though it was killing him in some ways to care so much about her. I now feel very hopeful that S8 will get these two on the right path and let us have closure by S8E8.

    Happy thoughts from New Mexico. 🙂

  26. Santa Traugott

    Wouldn’t it have been nice if he had said, instead of “I’ve really tried”, “I wish I could, it would be easier.”

    That latter statement I can totally see. Since we never will have any evidence of his inner struggle — that he was trying to stop loving her — one can certainly think that he was, even though there really was no evidence of all of that in this series, at least.

  27. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Holy Mackerel! You folks are up late (or early)!! I like Amy’s inclination to be romantic, and I love Santa Fe (and really appreciate Santa here!), but I have to agree with Santa’s comments. Perhaps in trying to make Martin too cryptic, which he generally is, they also made his remarks too indecipherable in total.

    Enjoy New Mexico. Check out Taos too!

  28. Amy

    Not to belabor the point (if I haven’t already), but here’s why I feel he was talking not about changing himself, but about trying not to love her. Louisa says first that she knew he would never let her down. He responds with a statement that he can’t change how he feels about her and then makes the ambiguous statement of “trying,” followed by his declaration of love for her. In context, the trying can only refer to his feelings for her, not trying to change himself. Her statement about him not letting her down was about his constancy, and his three follow up comments should all also relate to his constancy. That is, at least, how I now clearly see it.

    Does anyone know if anyone affiliated with the show—writer, director, producer, or cast—has commented on that final scene and what it meant?

  29. Santa Traugott

    (I have to respond to your last comment here — getting too narrow below!)

    My only remaining point is that that may well be what he meant, but there is no other outward and visible evidence of this internal struggle in S7 (is there?) and in fact, it runs counter to virtually all of our previous experience of how he feels about her. So I see it as coming out of left field, which I don’t like as a literary device (although yes, it is very romantic and satisfying in that way).

  30. Santa Traugott

    Although I will say, one thing that would have brought Louisa around real fast is if she thought that her resistance was actually having the effect that he might stop loving her. So maybe she saw something I don’t! Look at the Fanfic “That darned phone call” for how that might have played out.

  31. elle

    Wouldn’t it be more plausible to assume that his remarks were a response to her words “I’m different. You’re unique…”

    I think, Santa, you’ve answered you own question. All of the above. Martin was quick to make Louisa feel as comfortable as he could. He gave up his home to her. Martin sought a therapist in a effort make Louisa “happy.” Martin lightened his regimented need for a quiet, tidy home. Was all or any of this part of his admission “I’ve tried…” Plausible

    That quickly changed when he made the decision to end their “situation” and presented her with “the list.” That is debatable but again, plausible. Another thought and maybe its been discussed but was the therapy helpful or did it make matters worse. (or both)

    We know that Louisa could not see a path forward. His issues were complex and she was unable to help him. Would you say she was simply overwhelmed and at her wit’s end?? Could you say the same for Martin. Why, yes, I could.

    These two characters have had a difficult relationship and their issues are messy, complicated and I find both of them damn perplexing. As long as the writers choose to keep their issues complicated and keep these characters profoundly in the dark, they’re banking on the viewers returning.

    Have fun all and may your discussions continue to enlighten and brighten your days.

  32. elle

    Now, silly. We all know the answer to your diatribe about Louisa and how vague, unreachable, and unresponsive she appeared. She expected the unthinkable and the unreachable. She wanted all and everyone to be “normal.”

    This is not the place for that discusiion but I couldn’t resist. My apologies.

  33. Santa Traugott

    Well, Elle, I agree that in fact, she was at her wit’s end, didn’t really see a way forward, and, I think, was just punting, stalling, on making what would seem to be the inevitable decision to divorce. Perhaps hoping against hope that something would happen while she was stalling (or stalled) to alter things so that she could see some kind of path forward. And perhaps also hoping that he would come to the conclusion himself that there was no way forward and spare her from making the painful decision.

    But as she herself said, she couldn’t figure it our herself. That’s why, I think, she perked up when he told her he was seeing a therapist — maybe THAT would make him into a person she could live with. Someone more “normal.”

  34. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I’ll further complicate the matter by noting that Louisa’s claim that he’s never let her down is also really off. He’s let her down many times, most notably at Sports Day. But I’m at the point where I think we are never going to determine what was on the minds of the writer/producers and we are spinning our wheels.

    To the best of my knowledge, no one associated with the show has ever said anything publicly about the final scene. I don’t think they’ve ever been asked either. From what I can tell, anyone who gets a chance to ask questions tends to use the opportunity to mention funny scenes or simply be satisfied that in the end Martin and Louisa are back together and have a closing kiss. I would speculate that the writer/producers were banking on that and are not bothered by all the parsing we have been doing. They satisfied most viewers with the ending, which BTW, is not at all suspenseful to me. Louisa says “Can we go home now?”, they express their love for each other and kiss amorously. The next step is they stand up and go home together.

  35. elle

    “…a person she could live with. Someone more normal”
    I don’t recall that as the pressing issues in the prior series or series 7.
    The person she left had a great many issues to sort through. That was the narrative.

    Yes, Louisa was surprised at his news that he had sought help. My memory is that he was still unwilling to admit that there were problems even after she tells him of her plans.

  36. Santa Traugott

    I needed a sarcastic icon in that last sentence. Because i agree with your view of why she left him the first place. That he needed to be “normal” was not a plot point that seemed congruent. Or, it came out of left field.

    BTW, I forgot to add in my diatribe that when she came back, she was also seriously ticked off. Or so it seemed to me.

  37. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    The fact that you see Louisa as ticked off upon her return is, to me, another confused circumstance. Here she doesn’t contact Martin for 3 weeks, but when he calls her she makes several attempts to call him back. During those attempts she leaves messages that give the impression that she wants to talk to him and that she regrets having trouble contacting him. Then she shows up with no warning of when to expect her, even having not called from the airport, either in Spain or in England. Martin is properly surprised to see her and she at first looks like she has come back partially to please him. But the next scene is Louisa facing away from Martin, acting distant and having mixed emotions. They have the usual awkward conversation with the strange moment when Louisa tells him she brought him a gift. Oddly, it is some sausage that she knows he would be unlikely to find appealing. Is this an attempt at humor that just falls flat? Regardless, there is no consistency and it’s hard to pin down what we’re supposed to think. We know she was always going to come back for the purposes of the show, there has to be some tension, but what the heck happened before she left for Spain, and how were they getting along then?

    Anyway, I see her more as unsure how to act than ticked off, but it’s impossible to know what they were going for, IMO.

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