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Recap / Sharpe S1 E2 Sharpe's Eagle

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Spain 1809
Napoleon Bonaparte is master of Europe.
His brother Joseph sits on the throne of Spain.
Sir Arthur Wellesley, soon to be Lord Wellington, the new British Commander, has crossed into Spain.
Now, together with his Spanish allies, he will do battle with the French at Talavera.

Sharpe and his Chosen Men accompany Major Hogan and the South Essex Regiment to destroy a vital bridge. When the incompetence of the South Essex's commander, Colonel Sir Henry Simmerson, results of the loss of the Regimental colours, Sharpe resolves to take an Imperial Eagle at the Battle of Talavera.

Tropes that appear in this episode:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Gibbons towards Josefina.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Josefina is amused by the sight of Sharpe and the Chosen Men jogging past the South Essex after being ordered to stop dawdling.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In the book, Berry was a Fat Bastard and Fat Idiot. Here, he's a thin and handsome young Daniel Craig, as well as smarter.
  • Adaptational Badass: Lt. Berry is a fat blubbering henchman to Lt. Gibbons in the novel. He's played by Daniel Craig and becomes a considerably more dangerous villain, while Lt. Gibbons is secondary to him.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Sharpe himself. In the novels, he grabs, taunts, and murders a much more hapless version of Berry in the nighttime skirmish with the French, whereas in the film Berry shoots first and Sharpe is saved by Harper. Also, although Lennox's last request is important, in the novels Sharpe captures the Eagle primarily to avoid being reassigned to the West Indies and thereby save his own career after being scapegoated by Simmerson. The film focuses more on the promise to Lennox and less on the self-interested nature of Sharpe's actions.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Most of the traits that Gibbons had in the novel were given to Berry.
  • Asshole Victim: Lt. Berry is killed by Harper while torturing Sharpe.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the film, Leroy says his fortune was founded on "slaves, cotton, and molasses". In the novels (where Leroy is implied to be from Boston rather than Virginia), there's no mention of slaves and the money for Josephina comes from Hogan instead.
  • Adaptation Distillation:
    • The novel spends a good deal of time focusing on how Sharpe ingeniously manages to fend off the French chasseurs and avoid surrendering after Simmerson strands them on the wrong side of the river. In the film the chasseurs just ride off after capturing the Colours.
    • Berry's death in the film is an amalgam of both his and Gibbons' deaths in the book. In the novel, Sharpe drags Berry off and murders him under cover of a skirmish while Gibbons is killed by Harper when he attacks Sharpe after the Battle of Talavera. The film distills this into Gibbons being Spared by the Adaptation and Harper saving Sharpe from Berry during the skirmish.
  • Anti-Villain: Captain Leroy is an interesting character. He hails from Virginia but is a Loyalist to the Empire, and his family made their money through the trading of "slaves, cotton and molasses". Despite the Deliberate Values Dissonance, he is nonetheless an honourable, competent and Reasonable Authority Figure and is very pragmatic. His Facial Dialogue during Simmerson's debriefing with Wellesley tell a whole story in itself, clearly not approving of his superior's Blatant Lies and habit of digging himself deeper, but he knows it's in his best interest to keep his mouth shut.
  • Arch-Enemy: Sir Henry Simmerson becomes a recurring obstacle of Sharpe's career.
  • Artistic Licence – History: No Imperial Eagle was captured at the real Battle of Talavera in 1809. Cornwell admits this in historical note in the novel.
    • Captain Leroy was born sometime before the American Revolution and if he has clear memories of living in Virginia, it would mean that he is almost certainly in his mid-40s, which would put him closer to Lennox's age than Sharpe's.
  • Badass Boast:
    • Lt. Berry declares, "Nobody can beat me with a pistol at 50 paces."
    • Hogan and Harper both provide these on Sharpe's behalf:
      • "Death is certainly the penalty for striking that officer, sir. That was Sharpe of the 95th."
      • "You can't stop Captain Sharpe, sir. You can walk away from him or stand behind him, but don't ever try and get in his way."
  • Big Bad: Colonel Sir Henry Simmerson.
  • Big Damn Hero: Harper arrives just in time to save Sharpe from Berry.
  • Blatant Lies: Simmerson's field report to Gen. Wellesley about Valdelacasa stating that Lennox panicked and Sharpe dithered while Simmerson himself withdrew in good order. This is especially blatant since Wellesley already knows what really happened thanks to Hogan.
    • Simmerson manages to pile the brazen nonsense even higher by claiming Lt. Gibbons led the advance over the bridge...the one that Major Lennox's "panicking" supposedly ruined. Apparently, Wellesley is to believe that Simmerson ordered a major to follow a lieutenant over the bridge, and that an advance that goes so badly it requires a fallback, is still successful enough to get its leader promoted. Gibbons, of course, never left Simmerson's side, but even without Hogan's report, Simmerson's version is so blatantly contradictory that Wellesley likely would've sniffed it out.
  • Brave Scot: Major Lennox is an honorable, effective Scottish officer.
  • Brutal Honesty: Major Lennox spares no words to Sharpe over what kind of commander Sir Henry Simmerson is.
    "But thank you for reminding me I was once a damn good soldier. Now, wipe your boots. I'll take you to meet a damn bad one."
    • After the French gallop off with the King's Colours, Hogan coolly advises Simmerson (a nominally superior officer) to blow out his own brains with a pistol; more honest still, "what's left of" them.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Gibbons tries to whip Sharpe as they pass in the street after mistaking him for a common soldier. Sharpe pulls him out of the saddle. Later, Gibbons also messes with a Spanish partisan disguised as an apple farmer and gets threatened with a knife and a Mexican Standoff.
  • Butt-Monkey: Gibbons can never win a card game with Berry.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Capt. Leroy disappears after this film and isn't mentioned again. Ironically, he's played by Gavan O'Herlihy, who also played the Trope Namer.
  • Cigar Chomper: Captain Leroy is often shown smoking cigars in his scenes, particularly when Sharpe meets him and the Battle of Talavera.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Sharpe gets put through some by Berry, who kicks Sharpe’s injured leg several times.
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: How Harper saves Sharpe from Berry.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Captain Leroy: "The Rifle Regiment only has two marches: quick time and dawdling."
    • Major Hogan. When Wellesley calls him a damned liar, he responds, "That's what you pay me for, sir."
  • Dare to Be Badass: Uniquely, Sharpe combines this with a blunt description of War Is Hell to the remnants of the South Essex during the preparations for the Battle of Talavera:
    Sharpe: This place is called Talavera. There's going to be a battle here tomorrow. You'll fight in it, maybe even die in it. But you won't see it. There's a lot of smoke in a battle. Our cannon, their cannon. Our shot, their shell. Our volleys, their volleys. You don't see a battle. You hear it.

    Black powder blasting by the ton on all sides. Black smoke binding you and choking you and making you vomit, and the French come out of the smoke. Not in a line, but in a column. And they march towards our thin line, kettledrums hammering like hell, and a golden eagle blazing overhead. They march slowly, and it takes them a long time to reach you, and you can't see them in smoke... but you can hear the drums. They march out of the smoke, and you fire a volley and the front rank of the column falls and the next rank steps over them, with drums hammering. And the column smashes your line, like a hammer breaking glass, and Napoleon has won another battle.

    But if you don't run... if you stand, until you can smell the garlic and fire volley after volley, three rounds a minute... then they slow down, they stop, and then they run away. All you've got to do, is stand and fire three rounds a minute. Now, you and I know you can fire three rounds a minute. But can you stand?
  • Decomposite Character: Josefina's character from the books is split into Josefina herself as well as Teresa (mainly for the relationship drama) in this film, and later Isabella Farthingdale (for the Damsel in Distress) in the subsequent film Sharpe's Enemy.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Captain Leroy, one of the only two competent officers on Sir Henry Simmerson's staff, Sharpe's advocate, and generally depicted as a Reasonable Authority Figure is also a man whose money was derived from the slave trade. Sharpe calls him on it.
  • Demoted to Extra: Josefina is Sharpe's main Lust Object in the first two novels and a recurring character in others. However, with Teresa already becoming Sharpe's Love Interest in the first film, Josefina is reduced to a single-shot character for this film.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Major Lennox dies cradled by Ensign Denny, and Denny himself later dies in the arms of Captain Leroy.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: The death of Berry in the film is an amalgamation of the deaths of Gibbons and Berry from the book: The novel has Sharpe luring Berry off to a secluded spot under the cover of a French attack and stabbing him through the throat with his sword.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: Simerson's debriefing with Wellesley following the fiasco at Valdelacasa. Even after being caught lying, Simerson keeps at it...which only pisses off Wellesley even more.
  • Dirty Coward: Simmerson panics at the first sign of ambush at Valdelacasa and at the first sign of the French column at Talavera. His nephew Gibbons isn't any better.
  • The Ditz: Lt. Gibbons.
  • Double Meaning: Hogan's account of Wellesley's reaction to Simmerson's regiment: "'Hogan,' says he, 'the South Essex is a sight to make you shiver.'" (Either because they're fearsome or woefully incompetent, as you prefer.)
  • The Dragon: Berry plays this role to both Sir Henry Simmerson and his nephew Gibbons, which borders on Dragon-in-Chief in the second half of the episode when Simmerson simply tasks Berry with getting rid of Sharpe and lets him do all the work.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Sharpe and his green 95th Rifles uniform, as he explains to Simmerson. He also lists others like the Coldstream Guards and the Connaught Rangers when Major Hogan promises him a crack company.
  • The Engineer: Major Hogan's official job and the reason he accompanies the South Essex to Valdelacasa, though Wellesley notes that "Major Hogan's coat buttons up tight over a number of other duties."
  • Ensign Newbie: Ensign Denny is the first of several characters to qualify for this trope.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Lt. Berry, courtesy of Daniel Craig.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Captain Leroy disapproves of Simmerson's flogging of white men, only for Simmerson to shout him down.
  • Exact Words: When questioned by Wellington about certain rumours, Sharpe states on oath that no one heard him speak a promise to Major Lennox in respect of a French Eagle. This does not preclude nodding or making some other gesture to indicate his assent, or simply deciding to capture one for his own reasons.
  • Facial Dialogue: Captain Leroy is a pragmatist and knows to keep his mouth shut, but during Simmerson's debriefing with Wellesley, his annoyed expression and occasional glances towards his commanding officer's Blatant Lies tell a whole story in itself.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Sharpe and the aristocratic William Lawford.
    Sharpe: We spent three months chained in a cell in India. He had a page of the Bible. In three months he taught me how to read and write. How can you pay back a man who teaches you how to write your own name, Captain?
  • Food Slap: Sharpe challenges both Gibbons and Berry to a duel by storming into the officer's mess and throwing wine in their faces.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Sharpe gets into a fist fight with Lt. Berry when the latter tries to rape Josefina.
  • Groin Attack: Sharpe tries to kick Berry in the balls in a fight. Berry only sniggers.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Berry to Gibbons. Gibbons is on higher social standing, being the nephew of an aristocrat, while Berry is his friend (and Berry remarks that he's not "top drawer"), but Berry is smarter and tougher.
  • Icy Blue Eyes: Lt. Berry, courtesy of Daniel Craig.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Ensign Denny is bayoneted from behind at the Battle of Talavera, with the bayonet coming out through his abdomen, while Lt. Berry is run through by Harper with a bayonet.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Berry boasts that, "Nobody can beat me with a pistol at 50 paces."
  • Insistent Terminology: Captain Leroy is not an American; he's a Virginian.
  • In the Back: Lt. Berry is stabbed in the back by Harper and Ensign Denny is bayoneted from behind at Talavera.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Berry insists on taunting and torturing Sharpe rather than just killing him, allowing Harper to save the day.
  • Kick the Dog: Lt. Berry forces Private Dobbs to drill even after suffering 75 lashes that morning.
  • Last Request: Major Lennox asks Sharpe to get a French Imperial Eagle to make up for losing the King's Colours before dying of his wounds.
  • Made of Iron: Sharpe starts the episode recovering from a leg wound, then gets bloody in Good Old Fisticuffs with Berry on the way to Valdelacasa, shot in the other leg by Berry the night before Talavera, and slashed in the left shoulder by a Frenchmen during the battle but goes on to capture an Imperial Eagle before suffering a Post-Victory Collapse.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The reaction of pretty much everyone when a detachment of French cavalry appears and attack Lennox and his men.
  • Military Maverick: Sharpe, of course.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Sean Bean has a couple Shirtless Scenes.
  • Nepotism: As Sir Henry's nephew, Gibbons receives a commission. He does nothing to earn it, only standing around and ineffectually trying to woo Josefina.
  • Never My Fault: Simmerson's professional mantra. He tries to blame Major Lennox for his disastrous defeat after Lennox has died, but luckily Wellesley, who knows what happened due to the use of a spy, isn't having it.
  • New Meat: The South Essex Regiment. Sharpe does his best to prepare them.
  • No-Sell: Sharpe tries to kick Berry in the groin during their fistfight. Berry only chuckles.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: When Leroy accuses Sharpe of being a Glory Hound who caused unnecessary bloodshed at Talavera, Sharpe retorts that Leroy's own fortune was built on the bloody and exploitative enterprise of slavery.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Captain Leroy is always courteous to Josefina, expresses regrets to Sharpe before passing on unpleasant orders from Simmerson, and even loans Sharpe money to pay Josefina's disgruntled maids.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Sharpe describes how Major Lennox managed to rally a regiment to victory in India.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Gibbons hears who he tried to hit and the man's reputation: it was Sharpe.
  • Old Soldier: Major Lennox is the only member of Simmerson's staff who is a veteran, having come out of retirement because his wife died.
  • Old Windbag: At a meal with their Spanish allies, Sir Henry delivers a speech that lasts for close to a full hour (with Hogan cheering him on and calling for more, because he has a bet with Leroy that Sir Henry will go over the hour).
  • Only Sane Man: Captain Leroy finds himself in this role among the officers in the second half of the episode, as Simmerson is The Neidermeyer, Lennox is dead, Sharpe gets himself caught up in a feud with Gibbons and Berry (particularly the latter) and Denny is in awe of Sharpe, which gets him killed.
  • Open Secret: It doesn't take long for rumours that Josefina is short of money to flood the South Essex.
  • Post-Victory Collapse:
    • Dobbs suffers one after managing to fire four rounds a minute after receiving 75 lashes.
    • Sharpe himself suffers one after managing to capture an Imperial Eagle with a sabre-wound to his left shoulder.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation:
    • In the novel, Sharpe initially commands around thirty riflemen but the film trims this down to The Squad of Harper, Cooper, Harris, Hagman, and Perkins.
    • In the novel, the bridge at Valdelacasa is an old Roman stone bridge rather than the rudimentary wooden set constructed for the film, and the battle there is of a larger scale with hundreds rather than dozens of men on each side.
    • In the books, Teresa isn't introduced until Sharpe's Gold so Josefina serves as Sharpe's Love Interest in Sharpe's Eagle, but since Teresa was already introduced in the previous film, the relationship between Sharpe and Josefina is scrapped.
  • Rank Up: Sharpe goes from Lieutenant to Captain in this one.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Berry and Gibbons gave Josefina a "nice honeymoon." What's worse, they (Berry in particular) only did it to try and piss Sharpe off enough to lead to his disgrace.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Probably the best one in the entire series. The exchange has to be read:
    Wellesley: (calmly)...Major Hogan reports a number of losses, Sir Henry. He says you first lost your head, and instead of destroying the bridge, you marched over it. He says you then lost your nerve and ran from a small French patrol. He says you lost ten men, a major and two sergeants. He says you finally lost your sense of honor and destroyed the bridge, cutting off a rescue party led by Lieutenant Sharpe. Major Hogan leaves the worst to the last: He says you lost the King's Colours.
    Simmerson: The fault was not mine, sir. Major Lennox must answer
    Wellesley: (roaring) Major Lennox answered with his LIFE! As you should have done if you had any sense of honour! You lost the Colours of the King of England! You disgraced us, sir! You shamed us, sir! You will answer. The South Essex is stood down in name. If I wipe the name I may wipe the shame. I am making you a battalion of detachments, you will fetch and carry. The Light Company put up a fight, so I will let it stand under a new captain.
    Simmerson: To be commanded by the newly gazetted Captain Gibbons, sir?
    Wellesley: To be commanded by the newly gazetted Captain Sharpe, sir.
    Simmerson: I have a cousin at Horse Guards, sir... and I have friends at court.
    Wellesley: A man who loses the King's Colours... loses the King's friendship.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Referenced. After Simmerson loses the King’s Colours, Hogan tells him to take a pistol, go behind a tent, and blow out what’s left of his brains. He doesn't.
  • Retirony: Major Lennox was retired. Then his wife died, he had nothing else but the army and the South Essex was all he could get. Sure enough, he doesn't make it through the skirmish at Valdelacasa.
  • Right Behind Me: Maj. Hogan pokes his head into Sharpe's tent just as Harper is describing him as a "murderous old bugger", prompting awkward looks from Sharpe and Harper.
  • The Scapegoat: Simmerson tries to pin the blame on Lennox for losing the King's Colours since Lennox is dead and thus can't defend himself. This goes... poorly.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Subverted:
    Simmerson: I have a cousin at Horse Guards, sir... and I have friends at court.
    Wellesley: A man who loses the King's Colours... loses the King's friendship.
  • Serious Business: You wouldn’t think that losing a flag would be so disgraceful. note 
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Josefina is attached to Gibbons, but is drawn to Sharpe for his sense of honour and dependability. At the end of the episode, she ends up with Captain Leroy, who is just as honourable and dependable.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Berry rarely raises his voice above a whisper.
  • Southern Gentleman: Captain Leroy is an unusual example, being an American Loyalist fighting for Britain in the Napoleonic Wars. His family made its money on "slaves, cotton and molasses". The working-class Sharpe calls him out on the first of these near the end of the episode.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Gibbons is killed by Harper in the novel. Here, he flees back to England with his uncle.
    • Capt. Leroy can be considered this in the long run since he disappears after this film rather than being killed in action in a later novel.
  • Spiking the Camera: Lt. Berry spends most of his introductory scene looking right at the camera.
  • Standard Snippet: This episode introduces the song “Over the Hills and Far Away” sometimes heard at the close of different episodes, sung by John Tams.
  • Suddenly Shouting: When Simmerson has the audacity to try to pass off the blame for his debacle at Valdelacasa on the late Major Lennox, whom he sent into the fray unnecessarily and unaided, the normally impeccably controlled General Wellesley absolutely loses it.
    Simmerson: The fault was not mine sir. Major Lennox must answer--
    Wellesley : (roaring) Major Lennox answered with his life! As you should have done if you had any sense of honour! You lost the Colours of the King of England! You disgraced us, sir! You shamed us, sir! You will answer!
  • Suspiciously Small Army: The units are all rather small due to budget constraints. In particular, the entire South Essex regiment (between 600 and 1,000 men) never contains more than a few dozen men.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Sir Henry Simmerson’s favourite method of discipline. He orders Pvt. Dobbs receive 75 lashes for collapsing from exhaustion.
    Simmerson: My dear Captain Leroy, you may be a Loyalist, but you are still an American. You do not know the British soldier, sir. He is a brute beast in a red coat, he needs the lash! Whip him in, Mr. Berry.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Ensign Denny appears quite shocked after killing his first man at the bridge at Valdelacasa.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: When Lennox is marching over the bridge thanks to Simmerson's ineptitude, he whispers "This is a fool's errand" and tells Sharpe to watch his flank.
  • Token Enemy Minority: Major Leroy, an American Loyalist officer in the British regular army at a time when England was still occasionally in direct conflict with the United States like The War of 1812. Though, since he specifically describes himself as being 'from Virginia' rather than America, he's not that much of an enemy.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Teresa and Josefina, and they actually get along very well.
  • Unfriendly Fire: Berry attempts to kill Sharpe during a night patrol, and gets killed by Harper for his trouble.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Lt. Berry bribes one of Josefina's maids by dropping a coin down her dress.
  • Villainous Crush: Gibbons has one for the Countess Josefina. She falls for Sharpe instead, then Leroy.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: From Captain Leroy to Sharpe after the efforts of Sharpe to capture the French Eagle result in the death of another young officer who followed him into the battle. All the more so as Sharpe undertook the action in order to secure his own promotion to captain. Sharpe returns the favour by calling Leroy out on his slave trading.
  • Whip of Dominance: Berry is eager to use a riding crop on Josefina.
    Berry: The Countess has been very naughty: making eyes at Sharpe, making a fool of Sir Henry and calling herself a countess. Very naughty indeed. Naughty girls get spanked and put to bed.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Berry's plan amounts to this; he and Gibbons rape Josefina, knowing Sharpe will call them out. Berry will take up the challenge and they'll duel; if Berry wins, Simmerson is down an enemy. If Sharpe wins, he'll forfeit his career and reputation by disobeying Wellesley's ban on duelling.
    • He is, in turn, Out-Gambitted by Colonel Wellesley himself, who orders Berry and Sharpe to lead a night patrol on the (correct) assumption that they will sort it out during the confused night fighting, and Berry ends up getting killed by Harper after trying to murder Sharpe.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: The look on Wellesley's face after Simmerson tries to pull Screw the Rules, I Have Connections! during the debriefing. Even with how disastrous the meeting has gone up to that point, it's almost as if Wellesley can't believe Simmerson is actually stupid enough to try to threaten his own commanding general.