A Love Letter to Maddy Magellan
Loves, I have a confession. I know that I’ve been in a long-term monogamous relationship with some Batman reviewer for a good majority-of-a-decade now. I know that. But I have strong feelings for someone else, and I am unable to live my life truthfully, in my truest form, unless I sit you all in this circle and hold your hands and tell you this: I’m in love with Maddy Magellan.
I’ve been re-watching Johnathan Creek with my other half recently, and let me tell you, it feels downright scandalous to be doing that when my feelings for Ms Magellan are as passionate as they are. Magellan (as played by the inimitably fantastic Caroline Quentin) is one of those characters I could just watch eating jam straight from the jar; the performance, the writing, all sharp elbows and ordering extra snacks at the bar, I’m obsessed with it.
But watching the show again this time around (I first watched it as a kid with my dad, spooked by the overblown death scenes but not wanting to show it because I didn’t want to be sent to bed and miss the conclusion), I realized that I need to talk to someone about it. Maddy is the kind of character that we still just don’t see that much of – a successful woman (she’s a true crime writer who works with the title character), shamelessly in pursuit of the answers to the questions she’s interested in concluding, and difficult in the most hilarious ways possible, from shagging Johnathan to sabotaging his love life to turning up on his doorstep with a stack of washing for him to take care of. She’s really the engine which drives the first few seasons of Johnathan Creek, the one who rocks up on his doorstep asking for help with her latest unsolvable case, and it really is her show for those three seasons – she’s the one who calls the shots, even if Johnathan occasionally is the brains of the operation.
What I love about Maddy Magellan and Caroline Quentin’s depiction of her is how unapologetically awful and unapologetically brilliant she can be. As a kid, I envied her ballsiness, her selfishness, her confidence – as an adult, I can relate to her insecurity, jealousy, to her accidentally dating two men who look vaguely similair at once because she was drunk at the time she met them both (though, God, I wish I didn’t). The mastery of this character really comes from the way that Quentin and writer David Renwick can balance her softness and her hardness, her silliness and her intelligent focus, her vulnerability and her insufferable arrogance all at once. She’s a woman of extremes, in a lot of ways, but in that middle ground, there’s something that feels so real and so deeply, imperfectly lovable. I adore her. I love the mysteries of Johnathan Creek, and I love the man himself (and Alan Davies superb potrayal of him, too), but the reason I come back to this show over and over again is Maddy.
We talk a lot about genuinely layered female characters being so lacking in TV, and honestly, I believe that we’re still suffering a dearth. But Maddy, to me, has always been the answer to that question – intelligent, layered, presented not as a pretty little thing to look at but as a hard-edged person to deal with. I’ve got to confess it: I love Maddy Magellan, and I don’t care who knows it.
(header image via Radio Times)