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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #361: Lt. Col. Henry Blake

Pretty fly for a white guy.

M*A*S*H featured earlier on this list with the profile of Alan Alda's Hawkeye Pierce. And while Pierce may be my favorite, he's not the sole character from that seminal program worthy of inclusion on this list. I also have the softest of spots for McLean Stevenson's Lt. Col. Henry Blake, the genial, overmatched, besotted commander of the 4077th during it's great first three seasons. While Hawkeye and Pierce broke every regulation they could get their hands on, and despite the protestations of straitlaced Burns and Hot Lips, Henry Blake enabled his talented and mercurial star surgeons, knowing their worth in the surgical tent more than countered the headaches they so gleefully created. As a leader he was a heck of a follower.

Henry wasn't suited to command. He was a good surgeon, a bit daffy, a bit clumsy, and at heart as kind and compassionate as they come. He missed his family and his comfortable life back home in Illinois, and took to the bottle as a way to escape the resulting depression and pressures of the war. He was a father figure to young Radar O'Reilly, and a reluctant big brother to the frat boys in the Swamp. He could be taken advantage of by enterprising officers or swaggering superiors, and often left himself open to censure or reprimand by his frequent mistakes and poor judgment. But he cared fiercely about his people, and about the work they were doing. Despite the conditions, he insisted that the job get done, and more often than not it did. Henry Blake was the picture of a man thrust into a role he resented and for which he was ill-suited, and yet he did it anyway, sometimes even well.

Henry's departure from the series was premature and stunning. Abyssinia, Henry. Thanks for the laughs.

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