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Mark Hamill Is the Best Part of The Fall of the House of Usher


From Winston Wolf (Harvey Keitel) in Pulp Fiction to Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) in Breaking Bad to Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) in Scandal, fixers are a common character archetype in all sorts of storytelling enterprises and for good reason. Fixers not only fulfill a narrative useful role by “fixing” other characters’ problems but are just inherently entertaining in their own right. Sometimes ruthless competency is thrilling to behold. And Hamill’s Arthur Pym is nothing if not ruthlessly competent.

Both Flanagan’s conception of the character and Hamill’s depiction lean in to the cartoonish nature of a high-level corporate fixer. Arthur Pym makes no effort to hide that he’s a bad guy. The voice that Hamill adopts for Pym is a gruff, disinterested growl, which complements his most frequent accessory: a literal black hat. Pym even carries around a crossword puzzle with him to important events as if his whole vibe didn’t already make perfectly clear that he was disinterested in hearing what others had to say.

Arthur Pym is a very “big” character with little room for nuance. And that’s what makes Hamill such a perfect fit to play him. Few actors in the modern era understand what goes into creating a “big” character like Mark Hamill does. After portraying the literal scion of the Light Side in Luke Skywalker, and the perfect icon of mustache-twirling villainy in The Joker, Hamill understands better than most how to leave subtlety at the door in his performances. What’s particularly great about Pym, though, is that Hamill is still able to squeeze one small moment of something resembling humanity out of the stereotypical fixer before shuffling offscreen.

The Fall of the House of Usher‘s finale features a scene in which the Ushers’ devil of choice, Pym, meets the actual devil (or at least a lesser demon), Verna (Cara Gugino). After attempting to kill Verna only to see her effortlessly transport herself out of the trap, Pym immediately comes to terms with the fact that he’s in the presence of real evil and drops his tough guy act. Pym and Verna have a surprisingly civil conversation, in which Verna does what devils do: she offers Pym a deal. Usher daughter Camille L’Espanaye (Siegel) kept a file of blackmail on Pym. Verna can make that go away for a price.

Surprisingly, Pym becomes the first and only character in The Fall of the House of Usher to respectfully turn down one of Verna’s infernal offers. Sure enough, he’s arrested by the end of the series and becomes the fall guy for the Ushers’ many crimes but it’s clear that he avoided the real punishment that Verna certainly had in store for him.

Throughout it all, Hamill is so good at depicting both the confidence of a man who believes he’s holding all the cards and the humility of a man who realizes he’s actually holding jack shit. Hamill even gets to sneak a Trump joke in there (“Is his tab coming due anytime soon? Even I have my limits.”), which must have been fun for the outspokenly liberal actor.



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