Back to Jaw About Odyssey

by Joni Slade

Get a character listing for Richard Maxwell.


In a recent AIO chat, writer Marshal Younger asked us fans why the character of Richard Maxwell is so popular. My reply was, "Because he is the classic tragic hero. Sort of."

And then I began to think about that. A classic tragic hero is traditionally someone of high standing-the higher they are, the farther they will fall. He is often brave, successful, and well-liked. Yet he possesses one single tragic personality flaw which leads him to make bad decisions-classically, these were the decisions which brought on his downfall, often through the loss of life or loved ones.

Richard's tragedy began before his character appeared on AIO. During the opening episodes of the Blackgaard saga, in which Richard is following Blackgaard's orders, we see his hesitance when it comes to endangering the lives of others. We see that Richard is not entirely bad, that his friendliness might not always be a facade, and we see that his skill with computers had given him the potential to be great. But something in him had made him decide to work for Blackgaard instead. Some tragic flaw had turned a likeable, successful person into the villain's sidekick. In the old tragedies, this is probably where the story would have ended--or perhaps it would have become even worse. Richard had chosen Blackgaard over the potential of his own
life, and working for Blackgaard was a dead end. The tragic hero had received his punishment. The tragedy continues when Tom Riley refuses to forgive Richard.

But Richard fights back. He shows that he still possesses strength of character. He rights his wrongs as best he can, fighting against Blackgaard, asking forgiveness of those he hurt. He puts himself back in the position of hero.

However, the question remains. What was Richard's tragic flaw? What took him from brilliant student-with a life full of potential-to bad guy's lackey? In the traditional tragedy, the tragic hero must discover or at least begin to understand what went wrong: why things turned out the way they did. Has Richard done this? Does he know what made him choose Blackgaard over the freedom and potential of his other options? Perhaps. If so, however, the AIO audience has not heard about it. And since we are not entirely certain what Richard's flaw
is, we are uncertain as to whether it will resurface again. If Richard has not realized it, it is likely still a part of him, and may influence his choices in the future.

And so we listeners wonder. What became of Richard, left so callously to linger in the hospital? When he leaves it, what will he do? His life has been devoted to bringing down Blackgaard. What if Richard
once again becomes a victim of his own tragic flaw? If that happens, a tragic ending might really occur. If we never hear from Richard again, many of us may assume that his life has become worse-not better-after
his heroic actions during Blackgaard's return. Clearly, in order for this not to happen, Richard's life needs new meaning. And we all know the best place for people discover true meaning: Odyssey.