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So @ave-arianna is liveblogging me while watching GBU and his reaction to Blondie walking in to the trio scene was ‘hey where did Blondie get the shawl?’

and to be honest there is no better reaction to the arrival of the mysterious poncho I am dead

?????????!?!?!!!!

Actually @chunchomunos solved this, he takes it from the dead soldier he gives his coat to:

image

Which is a pretty bullshit Blondie thing to do and I love that

Further clarifications on this /character study thoughts:

So the move to switch his coat (probably fits better, more useful) to this poncho of an unnamed solider is an interesting one for Blondie. It’s definitely taking a memento of the experience. Is he reminding himself of the kindness he once offered to someone? Is he trying to move past his relatively criminal life with Tuco? 

I feel like this could make the most sense if I understood the chronology of the Dollars Trilogy differently. I always thought of the order as going Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good the Bad and the Ugly. @bloncos pointed out that since the poncho is aquired in this movie, GBU is meant to be chronologically prior to the other two– this fits with the dates shown in the movie (check out this post on it). 

This is interesting to me as I think of the Dollars Trilogy as sort of a descent towards lower moral standards, but higher monetary stakes. That is, starting with Fistful, TMWNN has progressively fewer qualms towards what he’s willing to do to get rich. I think that’s because Blondie strikes me as sort of the most numb to the horrible things of all three TMWNN. Certainly the most inconsistent thing about the order swap is…what the hell does Blondie do with the money if he’s off being a bounty hunter or doing dirty work for the Rojos a decade or so later? 

But in any case those are neat stories that could be told, and I’d be interested in other headcanons for a different story that connects all three (that said, I also love TMWNN as a standalone character for each film, where Manco/Joe/Blondie are all their own person). 

On the other hand, if seen in two other chronological orders,The Dollars Trilogy could also be read as an <i>ascent</i> towards slightly better ethics. I do accept ALL of Bloncos’ objections, but am only looking at possible ethical angles here.

If GBU / FFofD / FFAFDM, then (1) yes, where did all of Blondie’s money go?? (We can make up our own headcanons there) (2) Blondie still amoral as Joe, but does another gratuitous act of kindness to the oppressed Holy Family (3) Blondie opens up to a few human feelings (towards Mortimer, which can be read as friendship, father figure, slash, whatever) in FFADM.

If GBU / FFADM/ FFoD (mirror reverse order), then (1) where did all of Blondie and Manco’s money go?? Headcanons urgently needed.(2) it could be argued that Joe is the most ethically-motivated of the 3 heroes (see previous para).

To be honest, the first headcanon that came to mind was that he donates all of it anonymously to hospitals for recovering solidiers in the war effort. It does fit with his silently grumpy “war….bad” vibe.

Then FAFDM / Fistful makes sense to me as a progression, as FAFDM would be picking up the work he did with Tuco, but legally, and Fistful belies a sense of disillusionment and lack of self preservation, but still with an ertstwhile idealism (possibly from losing Mortimer?)

Great discussion! A couple things:

  • I don’t think the poncho necessarily belonged to the dying soldier. He wasn’t wearing it–it was just lying on some nearby rubble in the ruins of the church (I think it’s a church?) that Blondie finds him in and could have belonged to anybody. After the soldier dies, Blondie seems to consider taking his coat back from him for a moment, but then notices the poncho and grabs that instead, patting the soldier’s shoulder and leaving him still wrapped in his coat.
  • Secondly, I just can’t see ranking FoD -> FFADM -> GBU as a devolution of TMWNN’s ethics. In fact, I’d rank it exactly the opposite. We’ve talked about this before, but even if we can’t agree on which version of TWMWNN is most/least ethical, maybe we can just conclude that it’s not clear-cut. To me, Manco seems the most ruthless and proactively violent, with the least indication of seeing much value in human life–Mortimer is the only exception (as opposed to Blondie who expresses remorse for several deaths: his partner whom Tuco kills, the captain, the soldier, and he shows compassion to Tuco as well (multiple times)). Manco also seems like the most selfishly motivated (in that he actually really seeks out a reward and articulates a material goal, while it could be argued that Blondie is just surviving while playing with danger–the treasure hunt really only comes up as a means to escape from immediate death at Tuco’s hands). The fact that Manco is acting within the law doesn’t make his actions seem more ethical to me than Blondie’s. Blondie is a bounty hunter who doesn’t kill his catches, but in fact lets them go. Possibly from mercy, possibly from apathy, possibly from a mix of both, or possibly even as a kind of rebellion against the powers-that-be. But I can’t see it as necessarily worse than hunting down and killing people, without a trial, with no questions, some of whom trusted him (that scene where he shoots everyone in the little camp he’s made with some of Indio’s gang? brutal). Manco may be more self-righteous (the dressing-down he gives the sheriff at the beginning of the film), but I wouldn’t say that means he’s actually any more righteous.
  • If the chronological order is GBU -> FoD -> FAFDM, then that does make the story a decline in ethical standards and compassion in my view. But the logistical issues (what happened to the money??) remain. (Like @bleak-nomads, I think he might have given it away. Because, again, I don’t think Blondie’s seeming apathy/numbness actually makes him less moral–I think it may actually come from a weary idealism, that can lead to random acts of altruism and kindness.) 
  • I do like @mcicioni-blog‘s interpretation of the GBU -> FoD -> FAFDM progresion though, since you could argue that he is opening himself up to a possible real human connection more than he has ever seemed to yet. (But is openness to interpersonal relationships actually more moral than detached altruism? I don’t believe so. Still, it may mean emotional growth. In general, I would say that Manco is much more worldly than Blondie, meaning that he cares more about concrete things in his own life.)
  • In the end, I think I like a “different universes” or “different stories” approach to these characters. TMWNN could have been one way, or another way, or another way, depending on whatever circumstances (or maybe even depending on who’s telling the story? if we take a fictional folk-legend approach to him). They are different takes on a rough sketch of a character, with no causal connection to each other.

@bloncos while I agree with you on the fact that Manco seems more rightuous than Blondie…I gotta say, I wouldnt’ call what Blondie does ‘a bounty hunter who doesn’t kill his catches’ – I mean, by and large all we know of his work is that he works with Tuco to steal bounty. And either by inventing charges or by having Tuco actually commit crimes, procures larger and larger bounty. By and large they both have goals, and though Manco might be more focused in his, he’s certainly more lawful (and I think it less likely others were hurt in his pursuit of that goal). And cripes, if we’re comparing ethics in pursuit of that goal, why not split bounty with Tuco and just tell him he was finished doing the bit with him? Why leave him to possibly die in the desert? I really find Blondie’s compassion for Tuco walks the line between legitimate compassion and just avoiding harder truths about what he’s doing (ie. an unwillingness to betray Tuco completely by killing him; compromise, put him in a situation where he is likely to die or suffer greatly). But I think Blondie does want to trust Tuco, but knows logically that he absolutely cannot. 

I don’t think there’s anything in canon to say that he does any bounty hunting besides his scam with Tuco (though it’d make a fine headcanon)– nor that he hasn’t killed in pursuit of bounty before. And in terms of Blondie being merciless, well, I’d say he shows about as much mercy as Manco would in the situation where he’s stuck with Angel Eyes’ hired guns, and picks them off one by one with Tuco– and derives enjoyment from that as well.

I think the reading of him as ‘tagging along so that Tuco won’t kill him’ with the gold is….very peculiar and interesting. So in that case, he’s unwilling to kill Tuco, unwilling to leave the gold to Tuco, so he just follows along? I mean that’s consistent with a lot of the passivity I see in Blondie, but I have a tough time believing he’s entirely unmoved by chasing after the gold 😉 At the very least it’s something to focus his energies on. 

I don’t think there’s anything in canon to say that he does any bounty hunting besides his scam with Tuco

But after he ditches Tuco, we see him with another guy, doing the same routine. Tuco finds him hiding with his shotgun, watching a hanging. When Tuco tells him to drop the gun, Blondie nods to the guy about to be hanged and gives Tuco a questioning look. Tuco shakes his head no. Blondie grimaces, sighs, puts the gun down, and watches as the guy starts to hang. “Sorry, Shorty,” he says. 

So we do now that he does this thing at least twice.

The way he leaves Tuco is awful, totally. But at the same time, it’s basically how he found Tuco, except this time there aren’t three guys with guns on him. I think he decided that Tuco was getting too hard to work with (demanding more money, berating Blondie for missing one shot) so it’s like he figures, “I’ll just put him back here I found him.” He probably should have given him his share of the money–pretty shitty of him not to. But…he did save/spare his life. Manco would have killed him. Blondie gives him a chance. And that’s all it is–a chance. I think you’re right about it being a compromise, and a questionable one, but just because Manco walks a hard line consistently and Blondie doesn’t, doesn’t make one better than the other to me.

And either by inventing charges or by having Tuco actually commit crimes, procures larger and larger bounty.

We don’t actually know this. It could just be that the bounty for Tuco is going up as he keeps escaping from captivity again and again. I don’t think there’s anything implying that others are hurt by this either. Certainly not directly. You could argue that not killing Tuco is irresponsible because Tuco might kill others, but saying people are being unethical for not killing people just doesn’t sit right with me. (I’m pretty anti-death-penalty btw, maybe a difference of opinions there is coloring our views of these two?) And if you say that Manco hurts less people in pursuit of money, that’s really only true if you write off the criminals as deserving to die. I think Blondie is essentially trying to find a loophole where he can get money from doing something that he believes has close to 0 net effect on anything. Make money for catching bad guys, then let them go, as they were before he came across them.

I think the reading of him as ‘tagging along so that Tuco won’t kill him’ with the gold is….very peculiar and interesting. So in that case, he’s unwilling to kill Tuco, unwilling to leave the gold to Tuco, so he just follows along?

Heh, what can I say? Yes. Sort of. I think actually outsmarting everyone and getting out of it with the gold is his ultimate goal. But it’s like what he says to Angel Eyes–if Angel Eyes had tortured him, it wouldn’t have made him give up the name on the grave because he knows that having that secret is the only thing keeping him alive. From either of them. Could he just walk away? He could try. But there’s no way they’d leave him alone. If in that final shootout, he just said, “Here’s the gold, guys, I don’t want it”–they’d probably have killed him anyway. Playing along is the easiest choice–it’s like a two-way ransom they’re all caught in. It’s not that he doesn’t want the gold–he does–but I don’t think he’s as motivated by it as the other two (he does leave half of it with Tuco) and it’s not something he would necessarily have sought out on his own (I don’t think he’d have gone to the lengths Angel Eyes did to track it down, at the very least).

It’s true that he’s pretty ruthless in the shootout with Angel Eyes’ hired guns. Blondie is a killer, I’m not saying he’s not. But they were there to kill him. (Eventually–they couldn’t kill him while he still was the only one who knew which grave to dig up, but it was almost certain they’d have killed him once Angel Eyes had the gold.) Blondie also totally could have just let Tuco deal with them on his own at that point and maybe be killed (Angel Eyes knows Tuco’s half of the secret, so Blondie doesn’t need Tuco for the gold) while also taking out a bunch of Angel Eyes’ guys and bettering the odds for Blondie. That’s what Tuco expects, and why he’s surprised when Blondie steps in to help him in that fight.

I think Blondie does want to trust Tuco, but knows logically that he absolutely cannot.

Definitely agreed there.