In Defense of Nicholas McGrade in Colditz

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


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:

“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.



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.



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.

colditz16 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…


“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!


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!


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?


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!


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!

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

  1. Wonderful description of Nick, that is why I feel the character! For him the love he has for Lizzie, is stronger than everything, he dominates everything, and as you say if well his, look there for Lizzie, speaks, no need for words, they are the eyes, so expressive of Damian!

    So, although I agree that Nick did very bad things, I feel, obliged to forgive him, and as you say, it is the fault a Damian!

    Never we can’t hate a character, played by Damian, never, that’s the talent of Damian!

    1. Thank you, Monique! Yes, I really think it’s his eyes that speak for Nick – he’s in love and he will do whatever it takes to have her. Which is not right. But I really think Lizzie falls for him, too; it’s just that she cannot take her exit from her relationship with Jack given that it’s war and Jack is in prison which makes it all the more complicated. She’s feeling a lot of guilt. So I think if this love triangle had not occurred in war times, it could have ended very differently. Having said that there is no way I can forgive Nick for what he did in the end.

  2. La, la, la, la, la (I have my ears covered)! I haven’t watched Colditz yet so I can’t read your post in case of spoilers. Yes, we are drawn to the bad boys sometimes, aren’t we, ladies? Maybe we survive if we’re young but it never usually ends well with bad boys.

    They are just trouble. So I’ll read your post after I get my copy of Colditz in the mail from Amazon and then see if I agree with you.

    There are a number of his works I have not seen yet. Will work on that.


    1. I am so looking forward to hearing your thoughts and to find out if you are on #TeamBookworm or #TeamDamianista? 😀 😀 😀 Or you may be #TeamNYCFan with a completely different perspective on Nick. Funny enough, I have never been attracted to bad boys in real life, it’s easy to do that in your imagination since nothing bad really happens in the end. Hehe. ENJOY Colditz!

  3. I’ve not seen this, either, but all that body language in those photos REALLY speaks for itself. LUST!!!! Desire! Passion! Wow….is it hot in here? Or is it just him?

  4. Damianista, I have the strong desire to protest further regardless of how well written this is (as usual).

    I also have to say, Monique, that I find it very easy to dislike McGrade and that is because of Damian’s wonderful acting.

    I love that quote from Damian about Tom Hardy.

    1. You most definitely should! I am 150% sure Damian does not want us to like McGrade, either. Like he does not want us to like Soames. I just can’t help like McGrade because he is just so hungry for life. Having said that, as I have written in the post, there is no way I can forgive McGrade for what he did later on. I can forgive him for telling Lizzie that Jack is dead but there is no way for him to get away with leaking Jack’s location to the enemy. Because at that moment, it is all about saving his ass. The quote from Damian on Tom Hardy is priceless. “Damn his eyes.” 😀 😀 😀

          1. I am now thinking of McGrade as Borris in Men in Black 3.

            Two people say to him ‘Make love, not war’.

            He replies ‘I prefer to do both’.

  5. Okay, I watched it. I find the whole thing very melodramatic. The music for the series is so sappy and overdramatic.

    I thought they all were a bit overacting. Maybe it was the direction.

    I couldn’t believe some of it – how the Germans at Colditz were so restrained about shooting them. They seemed to treat them pretty well. Didn’t seem to torture them. But I guess they put them in solitary which was harsh. How the soldiers talked loudly and openly of their escape plans all the time. They never whispered. They seemed to look at their maps and escape diagrams out in the open. Yes, we’re planning another escape. Okay?

    But who knows. I’m sure these things may have happened in the war.

    My father told us he had a German girlfriend in the war and walked through dangerous streets to visit her. Sometimes the Russians would come around. Maybe it was the end of the war but it was still dangerous. He was with her on an upstairs floor and they heard a commotion at the front door of the building. Banging and yelling. He got something like a sword and was positioned by her door ready to fight back but it turned out I think to be some drunken American soldiers. Interestingly enough, my mother was half German (she had a German last name) and had white blond hair when she was younger so maybe she reminded him of the German girl when they met after the war in the U.S.

    Anyway, Jack seemed a bit wacko and on the obsessive side. Not sure if that is real love. He was obsessed with Lizzie. Then Nicholas (Damian) was the opposite of Major Winters in Band of Brothers. He was sort of dopey and immature and selfish. Not taking things very seriously. Why he went after Lizzie I don’t really know. There were many other girls to pursue. But he did. And he used any means necessary to get what he wanted. Pretty extreme. Very disloyal.

    Then that artist who Nick socked and fell, hit his head and died. Well, it’s dangerous to get in the middle of a love triangle. Passions and all. He was goading Nick pretty badly and Nick exploded.

    Sad that all these young people had to live or felt they had, as if they might die at any moment. Which was kind of true. So they wanted to go for it if they found anything. Like love. Seize the day. They felt they didn’t have time to waste.

    I’m sort of surprised those prisoners were so intent on escaping. How long did they think the war would last? It seemed to be a badge of honor to escape and they felt humiliated if they didn’t. The other countries were escaping and the Americans weren’t as good at it. I was surprised they weren’t shot when they were caught. Maybe the Nazis were taking some of the rules of war seriously regarding prisoners.

    This tv movie was pretty good. Good actors. Up and coming young British actors. And the guy from “90210” who was the drug addict was the token American.

    From the first moment, Nick McGrade enters as a jerk, pretending to be a German pointing his rifle at his fellow soldiers. Then laughing. He’s kind of a bully type. Does mean things. Thinks it’s funny. Immature. Frat boy.

    He was attractive but he was a jerk. He seemed to have taken on Jack’s obsession with Lizzie from when he first looked at her picture. Maybe Jack shouldn’t have talked about her so much. Maybe Nick developed his own obsession with the magical Lizzie from hearing about her and they didn’t have anything else to focus on in prison.

    I don’t think he really loved her. I think he wanted to have someone and he had a built in connection to her by seeking her out for Jack. It was his intro. But if he really loved her he couldn’t have lied and betrayed Jack and set up the people in the safe house in Poland to get killed. It is pretty extreme.

    Sad all around. Nick killing himself by raising his gun at the US soldiers. I thought Jack and Nick had accidentally shot Lizzie when they wrestled with the gun and she would die. But of course that didn’t happen.

    Tom Hardy is really short. I thought Damian was tall but he looked short next to the really tall artist guy. That guy must have been 6’5″. I’ve never seen anyone tower over Damian.

    So, I thought Damian was excellent but his character was twisted. And I didn’t really care much about Tom Hardy’s character. He seemed a bit off his rocker also. Then again, Tom Hardy usually seems off his rocker in his roles.

    I was surprised when Jack sits on the train with the wealthy German passengers that they didn’t gag – you know he must have reeked from not bathing and then the flop sweat from trying to evade the Nazis. But they just smiled and jabbered at him in German. He had some close calls so I guess Cupid was watching over him.

    At least Damian got to have the girl. At least for awhile.

    Lizzie, hope she made the right decision after all.

  6. I think if we review most everything we do in life as adults, we can trace it back to some kind of love for someone, real love, obsession, infatuation. But it’s often because of someone we want.

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