25 Inimitable Men 25/25
Jack Thornton (When Calls the Heart)
Do you ever see a character and are automatically turned off by their behavior? That’s how I felt upon meeting When Calls the Heart’s Jack Thornton. I flat out couldn’t stand him and didn’t want him anywhere near sweet Elizabeth. And to be honest, I was a little worried with how the series would try to justify his unkindness, but I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that it gave him an arc worth discussing while helping him become a character worth loving. I did imagine that I’d grow to care for Jack eventually but I never imagined the fact that he’d become one of my favorite characters some day. And when a series is able to do that, we can be certain of the fact that it’s done an excellent job in storytelling through character development. Jack Thornton is tremendously honorable, irrevocably loving, and profoundly understanding.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the Jack Thornton introduced to us in the pilot is the same man we see later on because his desire to be honorable is so deeply moving, it makes him that much more noble. While in the first few episodes it seems as though he doesn’t want to help out someone like Elizabeth, upon getting to know her and the town of Hope Valley (Coal Valley at the time.), he begins to understand that her mission is the same as his — making lives a little bit easier simply by choosing the noble route. Jack’s choice to be a Mounty essentially spoke highly of his character, but his nobility is acutely projected thoroughly through his discreet showcases of heroism in his everyday choices. Whether he’s teaching a fatherless child how to throw a ball, speaking up to those who mistreat others, or the simple hello to every person who crosses his path. Jack’s goodness is reflected in the everyday choices he makes to make Coal Valley a place worth living in. A place that’s welcoming, warm, and kind even in the midst of tragedies that find its way into their home.
And while a great number of people are noble in Hope Valley, as a man, Jack stands as a shining example of how one should be — courageously steadfast to remaining as God intends. Perhaps, that’s it. No wait, not perhaps, that’s just it, Jack Thornton is a shining example of a man of God. He is, in every sense of the word, as men should be — noble, true, and loving to the bone. And his nobility, the bravery in his heart to fight the good fight in order to protect those who cannot always protect himself is a gift from God, which he follows courageously with the belief that it’s what he’s destined for. To follow in the path which God intends for us is the most noble thing we could do — to follow in the life that’s not only going to benefit us, but benefit everyone around us.
Jack’s loving spirit wasn’t the first thing that stood out in him, but when it was laid bare for the world to see, his heart’s vastness was boldly clear. When Jack Thornton loves, he loves fully — there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for someone he cares for. In a sense, Jack too grew tremendously from his time in Hope Valley — while his underlying issues forced him to block a number of emotions out, when he fell in love with Elizabeth, he fell in love with life. When he fell in love with life, he began to extend that love towards everyone else, and it slowly began inspiring every other person in Hope Valley. There’s everlasting light in love and the kind of love that Jack’s projected gave people the platform to lean on him. There are a lot of great, brave men in Hope Valley, but there’s a reason people turn to Jack — there’s a reason the kids find so much in him. He’s made it perfectly clear that in helping them, he grows profoundly too. He isn’t perfect, he could never be, but he tries and that’s visible for all to see. The love within him only ever multiplies, and as a Mounty, while he’s used to being the figure of protection, Jack is so much more than that and it’s solely due to the immense adoration that’s shown to the town. He doesn’t have to love in order to do his job, but he does so anyway and that’s what has left a mark.
While the Jack we met in the pilot was far from understanding, the man in front of us today is a great symbol of empathy. There’s nothing Elizabeth could tell him that he wouldn’t accept. And even if he has absolutely no clue how she feels to the core, choosing to accept that her feelings are valid showcases that empathy profoundly. Sometimes it isn’t about literally knowing how a person feels to the core, but it’s about being open to the fact that emotions are complex and thereby, even if they aren’t something that one’s personally lived through, they’re still vital and deserving of attention. Jack Thornton sees the world through the lenses of a man who wants to protect it, and people who want to protect anything understand and see the value in it. There’s greatness in that level of empathy that makes a man truly inimitable.
The reason it’s worth mentioning how much I disliked Jack is because we must give Daniel Lissing credit where it’s due. There are characters where even after they’ve redeemed themselves, viewers can’t seem to empathize with them because actors haven’t grown with them, but Lissing did the exact opposite — using every episode as a stepping stone to rise higher and grow from the previous performance. Lissing manages to consistently exhibit a full range of emotions for Jack to be understood to the core — embodying him in a way that makes it perfectly clear just how much he’s changed because of the responsibilities and trials Hope Valley’s brought to him. He’s exhibited just how much the profound love of a life partner could bring out the absolute best in a person by allowing us to understand that Jack’s change of heart came from the realization that Elizabeth Thatcher is so much more than a rich girl with dreams — she’s a teacher, and she’s taught him about life and love in ways he’s never even thought possible. Jack Thornton is the kind of figure every one needs in their lives to be reminded of the fact that honor, kindness, and love go hand in hand with living through God’s grace. As human beings we are far, far from perfect, but the choices we make to grow from those mistakes are what define us. And Jack Thornton chooses to grow day by day — allowing his experiences to shape him filling him more love and selflessness than he knew the day before.