December 5, 2021

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

The Good Lord Bird “Last Words”

Episode Seven

So, John Brown met his destiny, and Onion had a few surprises left over when all was said and done.

Honestly, I am glad something like The Good Lord Bird exists.  I actually picked up the novel this mini-series is based on due to how much I was enjoying this.  What I always thought was that John Brown, the real John Brown, was a fairly complex figure.  He wasn’t really as simple as a hero or a villain.  On the one hand, he fought for a good cause.  On the other, he raided a federal armory and was looking to maybe kill a lot of people.  He doesn’t fit neatly into any slot, so looking at him as a complex figure who provokes a lot of emotions is a smart move.

Then again, until this last episode, I am not sure how much The Good Lord Bird made Brown into that complex figure.  This is a mini-series that treated pretty much all the characters in a more humorous manner.  Brown is often frothing at the mouth, quoting Bible verses at the most inappropriate time, and generally somehow skating by more on his reputation and basic intimidation.  He somehow wins over a lot of people to his cause.  The various ex-slaves and freed blacks in the armory with him, for the most part, are fine with dying for the cause.  Brown may appear unhinged, but they see hope in the man.  Even Onion looks at the man at prayer and sees someone who could be a stand-in for God.

Heck, Onion learns that not only did all the black men know he wasn’t a girl, but ultimately, so did John Brown.  Brown’s reasons for letting Onion run around in a dress seem to be rather 21st century in terms of acceptance, but it comes in a quieter moment after Brown’s arrest.  He’s the sole survivor of his small army, having lost two sons and numerous followers while Onion and a couple other escaped slaves went out with the hostages and pretended to be among them.  JEB Stuart might have seen through Onion’s lies, but by then, even Onion knew he didn’t know everything, so he can only guess if Stuart was being magnanimous or not.

As it is, Brown realizes something that Frederick Douglass can say right out:  he was more effective as a martyr than as a fighter.  He acknowledges his own fault while admitting that he had a Christian love for Onion, whose own faults were quickly forgiven.  And even though Onion was barred from seeing Brown’s execution, he still acknowledges that Brown’s actions really got the ball rolling for the emancipation movement, and how it was Brown that perhaps more than anyone else put a spotlight on slavery and started enough people down the road to ending it that it eventually did.

Plus, Brown in prison, or even leading up to his arrest, is almost a different man.  Still a man of deep faith, and still a man looking to fight another day, fighting wasn’t his strong suit.  Inspiration was, and a chastised Brown goes gladly to death knowing he can do that much.

So, really, this was the view of John Brown I always wanted.  Firebrand, true believer, and a man who fought for a good cause even if his methods were not always the most effective way of doing much of anything other than inspire others to do what he couldn’t.  Ethan Hawke gave a hell of a performance, and ending the mini-series with the faces of the various African Americans of the story, slave and free, says that it was more their story and John Brown perhaps was just passing through.

10 out of 10 tips for courting John Brown’s daughter.

Well, that being that, I do need something new for Fridays again.  Hey, Doom Patrol did come back…

Let’s see what those crazy misfits got up to this time around.

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