First cup of coffee in today, and I saw this Tweet:
Now, I could easily do this. If you’ve been reading my blog lately, three of the four here would be Superman, Michael Myers and Jack Reacher, with a fourth one being most likely Harry Potter. Or John McClane from the Die Hard franchise or Rock Balboa from the Rocky franchise. Or even Carl Winslow from Family Matters.
But I’m not going to pick any of those ones since it’s obvious. I’d rather challenge myself to pick four fictional characters who have stuck with me, but wouldn’t necessarily be tippy top characters. I also don’t want to overthink it; I’m going on first gut reaction to this prompt. Again, I’m sure if I sat and did a real list, there’s a plethora of people that might even come before these four, and I’ll kick myself later for forgetting an obvious one.
Let’s do it. No particular order here, but I’ll use numbers for aesthetic purposes.
4. Tommy Gavin – Rescue Me (FX series, 2004-2011)
One of the first adult shows I can recall digging my teeth into as a young teenager was Rescue Me on FX, which follows New York City firefighters, with Tommy Gavin (played by the brilliant Denis Leary) the predominant character of the show. Back in the caveman days where television had to be watched when it was scheduled to be on, this was appointment viewing for me on Tuesday and/or Wednesday nights. I had watched “adult” shows in terms of pro wrestling, Walker Texas Ranger, King of Queens and so forth at this point in 2004, but this is decidedly adult with alcoholism, sex, violence and weighty themes, like grief, depression, trauma and loss (after all, it’s in the context of 9/11). I mean, the show is called “rescue me.” That’s not talking about the victims in a fire. Gavin is a conflicting character, and someone you loathe at times, but also, he’s courageous and brave as hell when it comes time to be a firefighter. Watching his journey, particularly his pitfalls, for seven seasons was quite the hellacious ride.
3. Lincoln Rhyme (reoccurring character in Jeffery Deaver novels, and adapted into film and TV)
Deaver is one of my favorite authors of mystery and crime. He has brilliantly constructed plots and memorable characters. Arguably, his most memorable character is Lincoln Rhyme. So far, Lincoln Rhyme has appeared in 14 novels, with the first in 1997, The Bone Collector, perhaps being the most famous since that became a great film in 1999 starring Denzel Washington. Most recently, Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector was made into a TV series starring Russell Hornsby as Rhyme on NBC, but it only received one season. I quite enjoyed what I saw of it though. So, Rhyme is a former NYPD detective and forensic genius, who ends up as a quadriplegic, thanks to the Bone Collector. The interplay with him and his young NYPD sidekick, Amelia Sachs, is wonderful. And just the way Rhyme breaks down the nuances and details of forensics so precise, sometimes being a bit of a jerk about it, is great. Probably my favorite book featuring him, if you want to get a sense for who Rhyme is, was 2003’s The Vanished Man. I’m also a sucker for weaving magic in with crime.
2. Mitch Rapp (reoccurring character in Vince Flynn novels)
When I wasn’t reading Jack Reacher in Lee Child’s novels or Lincoln Rhyme in Jeffery Deaver’s novels (so I have my unique intellectual criminologist fix and my rough bad-ass fix), I was getting my CIA bad-ass fix with Mitch Rapp in Vince Flynn’s novels. I devoured those just as much as I did Child’s when I discovered them. Unfortunately, Flynn died young at age 47 from prostate cancer in 2013, but he still wrote 14 novels featuring Rapp, and I’m pretty sure I’ve devoured all of them. They are the political thrillers with titles you would expect, Separation of Power, Memorial Day, Act of Treason and so on. But I just love the character and the action. If you need a point of reference, and have seen the TV show 24, he’s basically a Jack Bauer type character. It’s simple fun. I did not know that in the wake of Flynn’s death, Kyle Millis began writing books in the Rapp series, and there’s five more Rapp books. I have not read those, so I can’t compare. Apparently, one of the books was made into a 2017 film, but I did not see it.
1. Matilda Wormwood (1996 film)
I have to admit, I have not read the 1988 book that the film is based on by Roald Dahl, but one of my favorite films as a kid was the 1996 film with Mara Wilson (who was also great in another childhood favorite film of mine, 1993’s Mrs. Doubtfire) in the titular role. I think that might be one of the best child performances in film? Haley Joel Osment in 1999’s The Sixth Sense also comes to mind. But anyway, Matilda is a six-year-old girl whose parents don’t recognize her intelligence and show little interest in her, particularly her pathetic car dealer dad. He’s even verbally abusive. But she discovers she has psychokinetic powers, which she uses to navigate the world. Like any great young adult/children’s book, it’s pure wish fulfillment. First, to be that smart. Second, to have psychokinetic powers. Put her opposite two awful villains (her dad played to perfection by Danny DeVito and Agatha Trunchbull (what a great villain name) also played to perfection by Pam Ferris), and you have the makings of a great story that sticks in my head.
Who are four fictional character that have stuck with you over the years across any medium?