In Defense of Nicholas McGrade in Colditz

I love war. We’re still here. It’s like a jungle you survive. — Nicholas McGrade

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As much as we all LOVE LOVE LOVE Damian Lewis on this blog, our feelings for the characters he brings to life could be slightly different at times… Take Bookworm and me, for example. We agree to disagree on Nicholas McGrade 😀 Bookworm’s earlier blog post about the tale of the two Nicholases perfectly captures who those two soldiers, namely Nicholas Brody and Nicholas McGrade, are. Bookworm loves Brody and does not love, not even like Nicholas McGrade. And I… Well, everyone knows about me and Brody, but I have had a secret crush on Nicholas McGrade that I am happy to make public today.

When we watched Colditz with Lewisto, he did not like McGrade, either; exactly for the reasons Bookworm lists in her post. And, to this day, he claims I like McGrade because Damian Lewis plays the character and I would not like him otherwise. Maybe. Yes, he is probably right that I would not like McGrade if another actor played him because another actor would not be able to make McGrade as human as Damian does. Damian brings out the bad and ugly in McGrade as well as the good in him. The bad and ugly in McGrade is BAD and UGLY. On the other hand, the good in him is GOOD. McGrade’s a nobody that becomes somebody thanks to war. This is his chance and he will take it. He is quite HUNGRY for life and so he is ready to go the whole nine yards and a bit more to be what he wants, to do what he wants and to have what he wants. Yes, he is flawed. But he is not evil. So, yes, I love Nicholas McGrade and it’s all Damian to blame! 😀

Bookworm does not like him. Lewisto does not like him. How about Damian then? What does he think about McGrade? Damian tells Manchester Evening News:

“I don’t consider him a bad or evil person. He just behaves appallingly in order to get the prize. He’s a working class boy with a huge chip on his shoulder. The dynamics are similar to Soames Forsyte, who also behaves terribly. And yet there were a lot of women who fell in love with Soames and thought he was hard done by. How do you explain that? That British women are a little bit kinky? I don’t know.”

Well, well, Damian… I know you think whoever loves Soames Forsyte (me! me! ME!) is a “dark horse” and now I find out you also call them “a bit kinky”… Now I really wonder what you would call me if you found out about my little tiny crush on Nicholas McGrade? No, I don’t want to know. Hehe.

So… Dear Fans… Stop reading here if you don’t want any spoilers on Colditz. And, by the way, the DVD is available on Amazon. But if you have already seen it, or don’t mind spoilers, please go ahead and see if you agree or not with what I have to say in defense of Nicholas (Nick) McGrade… And please see Colditz and let us know what you think!

London. 1939. Jack Rose and Lizzie Carter have been dating for three weeks (3 weeks only!) and Jack is about to leave for the war. She gives him a picture and a promise that she will wait for his happy return.

We fast forward to a prison escape. Four POWs escape from prison. One is shot to death a few seconds into the escape. The other three make it into someone’s barn to spend the night. Jack Rose regrets he did not ask Lizzie to marry him. He wants his girl. Nicholas McGrade wants his life back. Tom Willis is pissed nobody “wants to fight the bloody war.” As they try to make it across the border to Switzerland, Willis is captured by the SS, Jack Rose sprains his ankle and tells McGrade to run! He also tells him to find Lizzie and tell her he is alive. Yet, he DOES NOT tell McGrade to tell Lizzie he loves her or he will marry her.

source: videobuster.de

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source: videobuster.de

McGrade catches a train to Switzerland as Jack and Tom find themselves in Colditz — one of the most notorious POW camps in Germany from which we see the two of them plotting to escape one too many times! While these two stories continue in parallel, I will focus on McGrade’s story here.

source: tvspielfilm.de
source: tvspielfilm.de

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McGrade becomes a superstar upon his return since he is the FIRST successful POW escape from the war. And Damian’s portrayal of this soldier is absolutely fantastic from his mad eyes to his love for the cameras to enjoying his star status. This is his chance and he will take it! We all know less is most often more with Damian on camera. But, with McGrade, this gregarious, overconfident, borderline hyper active, “at your face” kind of guy, it is a bit “more is more” as it should be!

McGrade takes a position at MI9 — a hush hush branch of the British War Office established to facilitate the escape of British POWs as well as help with their return to Britain after a successful prison break. And, hey, he is now Lieutenant McGrade as well! Who can stop him now? 🙂

Nick inquires about Lizzie’s whereabouts and finds her. And guess what… He falls in love as he tells her how Jack made everyone admire her pic all the time…

source: You Tube
source: You Tube

I’m sure you all remember JaniaJania’s suggestion about Damian Lewis doing an online course to teach men how to look at women. Well, this picture should definitely be on the syllabus! OK. Our Nick will not turn out to be an exemplary guy, but the way he looks at Lizzie… SIGH. You see, in that look, Nick’s heart beating faster and him falling for Lizzie right then and there!

Nick now hangs around and tries to have Lizzie’s attention. Even though she is very kind and friendly, she is always too tired to go have drinks… until he spots her at a club one evening.

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Lizzie has received a letter from Jack but it is mostly censored. Nick is sweet with her and makes her sing: So it is hard. She cannot even remember what Jack looks like. Nick says this is not unusual. And I say: “WTF?”

Now… How come you cannot even remember how the love of your life looks like? This just tells me the promise Lizzie gives Jack is a little bit too premature. They see each other for 3 weeks for God’s Sake! So I say this is young love where promises are made in the spur of the moment and, in this particular case, it seems to be the war that makes these two young people make promises to each other a little bit too fast. Lizzie is attracted to Nick and dying to dance with him at the moment but she just feels guilty about it because of the promise she made to Jack! And, no, you cannot convince me otherwise! 😀

I give it to Nick that he plays it well. He does not push Lizzie. He just sweet talks her into a little dance… starting with “there is nothing to be ashamed about. This is war. You’ve got to live…” and ending with “You’re gonna dance with me.” And she does…. But she takes her leave immediately once Nick makes an attempt to kiss her…

source: kino.de
source: kino.de

“It’s getting late.”

“Are you turning into a pumpkin or something? I’ll walk you.”

Their leave turns into the most memorable scene of Colditz! Stuck in the middle of a bombing, Nick and Lizzie run hand in hand and Nick gets overexcited:

“We can do what we want. We can be what we want. We can have what we want… I want YOU.”

And IT IS Lizzie who makes the move and kisses Nick at this very moment. I respectfully disagree with Bookworm that Lizzie leaves the scene because she finds out about the REAL McGrade there. My take is Lizzie wants McGrade as much as he wants her and she initiates the kiss but then again she feels guilty because of THAT promise she gave to Jack and she runs away!

source: perioddramastills.tumblr.com
source: perioddramastills.tumblr.com

That is THE moment they are in love. However, while Nick is totally comfortable about it Lizzie is so self-conscious about it. It could be that, if they are not in war, and Jack is in England somewhere, I’d say Lizzie could fall in love with Nick and leave Jack for him. Remember it is just three weeks that Lizzie and Jack have been together, how much do you think they can really know each other? I believe it’s just the nature of war that makes life complicated for Lizzie. And, hey, seeing the way Nick looks at Lizzie (online course syllabus, please! Hey, partners, why don’t we prepare that syllabus together?) who can really blame her for forgetting about what Jack looks like and falling for Nick! 😀

When Nick brings Lizzie the scarf she dropped the other night she is cold to him. Last night is madness for her. It is a mistake. Because there is a promise. Does Lizzie really believe what she says? I am sorry but I doubt it. I think it is just that feeling of guilt. And when Nick tells her she can’t put a hold on her life, she goes:

“I don’t want you to come here again.”

Nick knows Lizzie may run into his arms if Jack is out of the equation… And he runs an experiment 😀 I find this scientific, if not human! Well… I would NEVER do or approve what he does. I don’t think it is okay to forge a letter and tell Lizzie Jack is dead.. Having said that… I understand why Nick is doing that. Out of LOVE! You may say if he loves her, he should treat her rather than trick her… but I have told you. This is a guy that was nobody and has just become somebody and he is extremely hungry for life, and this is his chance, and he is taking it. And… Man, the way he plays it is impressive. Nick does not run to Lizzie to console her. He stays away until… war, once again, helps him.

A bomb explosion near Lizzie’s apartment leaves her friend Jules badly wounded. She confesses to Lizzie that she is not the woman she thinks she is. Jules has never made love and now she is so scared nobody will want to be with her — which turns on a switch in Lizzie’s brain… What if? What if? Jack is dead. And Nick is available. So Nick receives yet another spoil of the war with a knock on the door: It’s Lizzie!

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So… Love is in the air until news arrives that Jack Rose, finally, has been able to escape from Colditz. Now what? Nick starts to lose it and ends up doing crazy stuff including killing a guy (it looks like an accident but honestly I am not sure) who has figured out what he has done. And then he leaks information about the safe house Jack will stay until his safe return to Britain. And even I cannot forgive him for that. When Jack, against all odds, manages to come back to Britain, Nick has only one more trick left in his sleeve: Ask Lizzie to marry him and move with him to America… before Jack arrives. Lizzie says YES:

“I want to be wherever you are.”

If this is not love, what is?

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Sorry, Nick, you cannot always do what you want. You cannot always have what you want. Jack arrives before the loved up couple leaves for America and Nick pulls a gun… He is shot to death by soldiers who have now arrived to arrest McGrade for treason. And… it’s Lizzie that runs and comforts Nick as he is dying. If this is not love, what is? Yes, she now calls him a bastard but he’s her bastard…

Last scene. Lizzie and Jack. Together. They are not natural with each other, they are almost awkward with each other. Come to think of it, they had only spent 3 weeks together before Jack left for the war. Lizzie, at this point, knows Nick much better and she, in fact, loved him. She is now trying to get to know Jack whom she thinks she loves… They probably end up together. And maybe not… But I don’t think Lizzie will ever forget Nick. And not because of what a bastard he is, but because of how much he loved her…

I wanna close with a FUN quote from Damian who resents Tom Hardy for getting the girl every single time 😀 Gotta LOVE this guy!

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Author: Damianista

Academic, Traveler, Blogger, Runner, Theatre Lover, Wine Snob, Part-time New Yorker, and Walking Damian Lewis Encyclopedia :D Procrastinated about a fan's diary on Damian Lewis for a while and the rest is history!

7 thoughts on “In Defense of Nicholas McGrade in Colditz”

  1. I loved Nick in Colditz, yes he did awful things, but he has one big excuse, the immense love he feels for Lizzie!
    It is certain, no love, can excuse what he did, but as you say so well, it’s Damian Lewis, and his interpretation and so intense, that we come to forgive !

    1. You and I are a bit too forgiving when it comes to Nick McGrade, Monique! But, yes, he really loved Lizzie! It’s all Damian to blame <3

  2. I watched Colditz recently and enjoyed it very much. I would only add that McGrade is a small time crook and full time hustler. He looks out for No.1 with a wild brash charm. He loves standing on the train tracks like a girl we know and love does. I found Damian’s portrayal utterly enchanting but I’d throw myself on a grenade to keep any woman I cared about from him – he’s dangerous. Wouldn’t we all like to stand next to that fire for just a bit though?
    And his hair was particularly beautiful in this film!

    1. Agreed! Especially that he is dangerous. He has too much charm to stand away from him and Lizzie could not resist, either.

  3. So good to read your post about Colditz! Nick burns! You can overthink it but those others pale in the light of his passion. I recall a passage in a book titled Dispatches by Michael Herr, a war correspondent in Vietnam. A group of fellow journalists are drinking and a guy reads an article from stateside saying that we must take the romance out of war. A man roars with derisive laughter at the idea. “You cannot take the romance out of war!!” He has lost his legs. I think of Nick in the scene you quoted “We can do anything!” Not endorsing just sayin’.

    1. Thank you! You are absolutely right, McGrade seems to be the most passionate character Damian has ever played on screen. And I understand his love for war even though I do not endorse it. The war made him somebody and gave him the confidence he probably never had before about himself and what he was capable of doing. As much as I love Tom Hardy I think Jack Rose is a pretty boring character; Nick is the meaty one while Jack gets the girl in the end!

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