John Standring, oh how I wanted to knock some sense into you!

I finally saw Sparkhouse a few weeks ago. As usual, I was truly impressed by Richard Armitage’s performance. John Standring was such a contrast to any other character I’ve seen him play. It really is quite amazing to me that the same man who swaggered and smirked as Guy of Gisborne also gave such an engaging performance as the shy and painfully awkward John Standring.

*Ducking before even writing the rest.*

Carol using John to make Andrew jealous.

As good as he was in this role (or probably because he was so convincing in the role), most of the time I just wanted to shake John! Carol was horrible. I know that we’re supposed to feel sorry for her because of the abuse she suffered. But I just couldn’t.  Not once did I see anything worth while in her. Maybe she really did love her daughter, but she loved herself  more. She was so incredibly selfish and mean. And then of course, there was the fact that she was still in love with that tosser Andrew (does anyone understand that?). Every time I saw JS mooning over her, I genuinely wondered what was wrong with him.

Look at how sweet he is! He totally deserved better.

I know the old adage “the heart wants what it wants.” But how could someone so good want someone so horrible in the first place? I think John really did love Carol. That is the predominate reason I can see for him selling his house, putting the money into the farm, and marrying her. As I watched I couldn’t help thinking that I wished he had a true friend, someone to say, “You deserve so much better.”



Carol reluctantly agrees to hold John's hand.

This is where I really feel the need to duck, because part of me thinks John was settling. He knew he was awkward and shy. He wasn’t exactly going to win a prize for the best chat-up lines. He was a farm hand, which probably didn’t go over so well with the ladies. And he had horrible dress sense. (Yes, I know this last one is shallow, but add it to all of the rest.) So part of me thinks that JS suspected that he was going to spend his life alone. Then out of the blue, this woman that he’s had a thing for for ages asks him to marry her. He’s not stupid, nor do I think he’s oblivious to

John confronts Carol about "making a whore of herself."

who Carol really is. He knows she’s been in prison and knows that she’s a liar. He has seen her temper. And we know he at least suspects that she still loves Andrew. He also knows that without his money she’ll lose the farm. We even know he has some doubts, because he confronts her after his argument with Andrew. I think it is possible that he saw marriage to Carol as his only chance at having a family, even if it was going to be incredibly dysfunctional.



So yes, I want to knock some sense into John Standring! Feel free to flay me in the comments section. 🙂


On a side note: I have read some Sparkhouse fanfic and I’m honestly not sure which path I prefer. There is something nice about the idea that Carol can be redeemed–that she and John can have a truly happy life together. But that doesn’t seem likely to me. I know these are fictional characters, but the stories where Carol kills herself and John meets someone new ring much more true to me.

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17 thoughts on “John Standring, oh how I wanted to knock some sense into you!

  1. Watching RA as John was heartbreaking! I completely agree with you, it was horrid to watch him going through all that hurt because of Carol.
    I’m happy RA got to play that part when he did. I think now he would be considered too handsome and high profile to be cast in such a role.

    • @IWantToBeAPinUp I think your correct about him playing this role when he did. I have a hard time imagining him being cast in a role like this now-that pretty boy status he’s acquired would make it more difficult for him.

  2. Varietea

    Ok. I’ve never seen it but I liked your summary and this is pretty much the reason I haven’t seen it (suspected the story went along those lines). Your last sentence pretty much sums up why we’re twins! ~Jael

  3. I actually have a lot of sympathy for Carol. Everyone in her life screwed her over, her Dad, her Mum, her boyfriend and his mum and dad. She didn’t stand a chance.

    Having said that, I chose to kill her off in my fic (though in an accident, not suicide) because i have family members who suffered sexual abuse in childhood and it isn’t something you ever get over. You can learn to live with it but the scars are there for life. With Carol, she was not only abused, she was also beaten and had a child by her abuser… I’m not sure that I have the skill to turn someone who is that emotionally damaged into a healthy adult. It would also have made the fic very dark in places as I don’t believe that these issues should be glossed over. Coming to terms with this stuff is hard and at times ugly and I didn’t feel that I wanted to write that kind of fic.

    • Cat, I completely agree with you about everyone in Carol’s life screwing her over. I think upon further viewings I might have a more sympathetic reaction to her character, this having been my knee-jerk reaction upon first viewing.

      I can understand your decision to kill, Carol off. She had so much baggage, and didn’t strike me as the kind of person who even desired to work through her issues. I almost feel as though you would have to have personal experience with abuse or experience counseling those who have been abused to handle Carol’s situations well in a story. I quite liked what you did with your continuation. Your new character Kate was perfect for John, just the kind of person I wish he’d met, instead of marrying Carol (although he probably appreciated Kate more because of Carol).

  4. Ah SH. The more I watch that show the more sympathy I have for the Carol. First time round I disliked the lot except for JS.

    Farmer John walked into that marriage with his eyes open. I dare say there was a healthy dose of hoping Carol would one day return his feelings. It’s painful to watch though I love the scene at Sparkhouse where John is making sure there will be sex and children. He wants a family with Carol and however reluctantly she did agree.

    My thoughts are that despite everything Carol felt safe with John. She knew he wouldn’t hurt her. Did our farmer in the overalls and beanie deserve so much more. Of course he did.

    I’ve also read the fanfic not that there is much about. Hello writers…hint, hint. Overall I think I prefer the stories where Carol is alive and she and John are happy together. I was raised on Disney as a kid, I love my happy endings. On the other hand John with someone truly deserving also makes me happy.

    The end of SH. I’m torn between John can’t ever compete with Andrew’s ghost and goody, with the twerp out of the way, perhaps he and Carol can eventually be reasonably happy together.

    Apart from the sex issues Carol has, she and John as a couple, work better. Her relationship with Andrew was always very childish. With John she’s an adult and they both love the farming life. Andrew was always a boy and John very much a man, albeit a very shy, quiet and gentle man.

    After you knock some sense into him, I’ll provide the comfort. 😀

    • Heather, your assessment of your reaction to Carol is how I think I would be. This was my first viewing and I pretty much hated everybody. I’ll be honest though, and say that it will be a good long while before I pop SH into the DVD player again.

      Yes, I think JS did walk into that marriage with his eyes wide open. Which is why I came to the conclusion he was settling. RA was superb in that scene you mention, it really was so hard to watch.

      I would agree that Carol felt safe with John, that he provided her with a sense of security. But honestly, that just highlighted her selfishness even more for me. It is just another example of what she can get from him.

      Like I said in the post, I’m not sure which I prefer-the continuations where John and Carol end up working things out and having a good, loving marriage or the once where she dies. I have a really hard time picturing Carol ever being able to get over her issues.

      I’ll get right on the knocking some sense into him for you. Then you can comforted him. Although, have you met ItsJSforMe? You’re going to have some competition on your hands if you want to be the one comforting Farmer John! 🙂

  5. Hi Jas,
    Richard Armitage was brilliant as John Standring in “Sparkhouse”. And his shy good man reminds my of my dear hubby. But unlike Carol, I know how to treat my man right. Ha!

    And John’s heartbreak as he cries Carol’s name (trilling his r’s) in the rain when Carol runs to Andrew the day after they are wed, makes me cry every time. RA is a genius for touching our emotions in a most heartfelt, sincere, and authentic way.
    Cheers! Grati ;->

    • Hey Grati,
      He really was fabulous in this role. Such a stark contrast to any other character he’s done. I’m glad your husband has you to treat him right! 😉 A good man deserves a good woman.

      That scene…RA really did make me believe the pain that John Standring felt.

  6. I consider John Strandring to be one of Richard’s finest performances. As you said, after watching him first as Sir Guy, the Sultan of Swagger and Smoulder, and then proud Mr. Thornton and sunny Harry, it was hard to believe it as the same actor.

    Because he was so good in this role and I cared deeply about what happened to him, it was hard to see him love someone so much who probably would never be able to properly return that love. But love her he did, and I think he would always stand beside her, no matter what. He was so much more a man than that weedy Andrew could ever hope of being.

    I do feel sorry for Carol, who was played by an actress I really like, Sarah Smart. When her father is beating her and she is pleading for him to stop I thought of people I have known who were abused and the scars it leaves–the mental and emotional ones that long outlast the physical scars. Was I annoyed and angered by her actions at times? Yes. But I still felt for her.

    I couldn’t understand her continued besottedness with the unworthy Andrew, but I think that was a sort of fantasy relationship for her, the fairy tale that was never the real thing. We could see Andrew was more in love with Andrew than anyone else.

    I think she did feel safe with John and she liked and did have some degree of appreciation for him treating her well. I would like to believe it became a loving relationship for both partners with the family John dreamed of–what a sweet daddy he would make!– but deep down I am afraid she might be too damaged for that to happen.

    • RA’s performance made John Standring very real to me. And the character was so good, loyal and lovable, I think really that is why I just couldn’t feel anything for Carol besides disdain. I’ve mentioned in a couple of other replies, that I imagine I would feel more sympathetic to her if I watched SH again. I will say this, my dislike of Carol speaks to the talent of Sarah Smart.

      I’m with you, I just couldn’t understand why Carol persisted in loving that little boy, Andrew. You are probably right about the fairytale/fantasy aspect of it for her. The more I think about SH, the only other character I had any sympathy for was Andrew’s wife (I can’t remember her name). She actually seemed like a good person who was caught in the middle of something she didn’t fully understand.

      As I said to someone else, the fact that Carol felt safe and comfortable with John, demonstrated her selfishness to me even more. It was just one more thing she could get from him, without giving anything in return. I would like to think that his persevering devotion would eventually soften her heart towards him–although it doesn’t seem likely.

  7. Pingback: Legenda 18: Stuff worth reading « Me + Richard Armitage

  8. kaprekar

    After reading your post, I wondered if you would be interested in some information on C19 from 2006 that I came across some time ago. Yorkshirewench wrote to Sally Wainwright about Sparkhouse and in her reply shared some information about what she had planned for the Sparkhouse sequel which was never commissioned. Here’s an excerpt “It was broadly along the Wuthering Heights lines; it was fifteen/twenty years later. Carol is still with John, and she is now loaded. She’d built up her own business. She and John have had a child, a daughter, and she fell in love with Andrew and Becky’s son. I can’t remember all the details. It was pretty dark stuff.” Full letter at the link below.

  9. sapphire

    I think John looked at Carol through rose coloured glasses, yes Carol had a hard life but she was teaching Lisa to steal (Christmas presents and the car!)
    John Standring you should have run away as fast as you could. Your grand-dad left you a roof over your head putting your money into a run down farm was a bad idea.
    That all aside I believe by winning this role RA began to believe in himself, he could ‘cut the mustard’ his performance was outstanding.

    • Thanks for commenting, sapphire. I don’t know about rose colored glasses. I think he knew what he was getting into, he was just hopeful and optimistic that maybe she would learn to love him one day. I’m in complete agreement that he should have run away from her, although he would have been a different man had he done that. I think your right about RA, this role did seem to be a turning point in his career.

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