Pairing: Stringfellow Hawke/Michael "Archangel" Briggs
Spoilers: The pilot episode as well as spoilers for episodes throughout the series, including "One Way Express" and "Fortune Teller"
Notes: On a whim, I decided to write up an essay about my OTP from my own small fandom. When I got to about 4 pages, I figured I’d might as well sign up for ship_manifesto since that was what it was turning into. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Special thanks to paulasj for betaing this manifesto!
For note, I just recently got back into this show (after having seen it when I was rather young) and I was immediately struck by String and Archangel's relationship. By the time I finished watching season one, I was completely convinced they could work. The dynamic between them works so well that I think if they ever did become lovers, not only would they have a passionate relationship, but I think they would keep each other in check.
As Airwolf is such a small fandom and not widely known, I'm going to give a brief run-down of the show. In the pilot, we are introduced to the supersonic military helicopter known as Airwolf. It is designed to throw enemies off their guard as it looks like a helicopter, but has the fire power and speed of a jet. In addition, it comes equipped with armor and turbo boost and can't be seen by conventional radar. Built and paid for by "The Firm", a covert branch of the CIA, the Airwolf design was to be manufactured and used by the U.S. Air Force. However, its creator, the twisted Dr. Charles Henry Moffat, has other plans. During a demonstration of Airwolf to a local senator, Moffat proceeds to blow up the Firm's building that held the technicians and Firm employees working on the project and flies Airwolf off to Libya.
Enter Stringfellow Hawke, a Vietnam vet who lives in a secluded log cabin beside a lake in the mountains of California with his dog, Tet. We first meet him playing the cello on his lakeside dock, when suddenly a white helicopter flies into view and lands on said dock. The helicopter holds a female Firm agent as well as Michael Coldsmith Briggs III, codename: Archangel, deputy project director at the Firm. Archangel asks String for his help in retrieving Airwolf as String is one of the original test pilots for the helicopter. String, however, wants something in return. He wants the Firm to go out and search for his brother Saint John who was declared MIA after his and String's plane went down during a mission in Vietnam. The Firm doesn't go for this though and instead confiscates String's priceless art collection and says it will only be returned once Airwolf is back in the U.S. Thus String and his friend and mentor Dominic Santini travel to Libya to collect Airwolf. And that would have been the end of it, except String is extremely stubborn. He and Dom hide the aircraft in a hollowed mountain near String's cabin and String tells the Firm that he won't return it until he either has Saint John or his body (to bury). Until that time, The Firm still needs Airwolf for undercover missions. Thus Archangel (who acts as String's liaison to the Firm) tells String that he's the new pilot for Airwolf (with Dom as co-pilot).
Stringfellow Hawke is, in a word, isolated. At the beginning of the series, he lives alone with his dog, Tet. His only friend is Dominic Santini who was a friend of his father. And it seems the only reason he allows Dom anywhere near him is because after his parents' death, Dom raised both him and Saint John. As Archangel explains to Gabrielle (the female Firm agent) in the pilot, String feels like he can't let anyone get too close to him because he thinks he's... well, cursed. When he was twelve, he was in a boating accident with his parents. String survived, but his parents drowned. Before he left for Vietnam, String was driving with his girlfriend when they were in an accident. String survived; she died. Then during a mission in Vietnam, he and Saint John's plane went down. String was rescued; Saint John was separated from String and the rest of their unit and was declared MIA. After all this, String came to the conclusion that anyone he cared for or could come to care for was better off not being anywhere around him. Thus he acts cold and distant to everyone. As cold as String acts however, he still does care. There are countless times during the series where String will be cold or aloof to someone, but will walk away looking hurt and angsty. For example, in the episode "Bite of the Jackal", Dom tries to convince String to fly to Acapulco, Mexico with him. String refuses and tells Dom that he hopes he has a good time. But as Dom flies away, we get a close-up of String watching Dom take off with a sad and lonely look.
The Firm Director
Michael Coldsmith Briggs III aka Archangel is a bit of an enigma. We don't get a lot of background on the Firm director throughout the series, and the little we do get doesn't paint a complete picture. For example, we never learn where exactly his codename comes from (though I think most believe it's due to his wardrobe. Though his clothes aren't always the same, they are always white in color). There are hints throughout the series that he comes from a wealthy background, but we are given no mention of his parents or any other family he might have. Archangel is said to have been with the Firm for about twenty years and was at one time a field agent. He was obviously good as a field agent or he wouldn't be in the position of power he is as the Firm’s director. Unfortunately, Archangel is so good at what he does, that he's built up quite a list of adversaries. It's even hinted that a majority of the other directors at the Firm don't particularly like him.
Personality-wise, Archangel is a man very much dedicated to his work. Whatever it takes, he will make sure the job gets done. Even if String doesn’t particularly want to help him do it. Due to the nature of the Firm, Archangel has had to adopt a 'grey' view of the world in which sometimes, you have to work with the villain to get what you want. For example, in the episode "Fight Like a Dove", String and Dom discover that Archangel has been selling missiles to an infamous Nazi. However, as they learn later, his motives were not what they seemed. Beyond the dedicated workaholic lies another side to Archangel that is parallel to String's own duel nature. Though he'd do anything in order to complete a mission, Archangel doesn't necessarily have to like it. Several times throughout the series, he makes reference to the fact that he’s sent agents to their deaths and feels guilty for doing it. It's quite obvious that Archangel cares very deeply for those who work for and around him and he's risked his life more than once for friends and co-workers. For example, throughout the series, Archangel sports an eyepatch and cane, but he didn't always have them. In the pilot when Moffat blew up the building, Archangel was wounded while protecting Marella (one of his agents) from the blast. This is just one example of the lengths Archangel goes to in order to protect those around him.
Archangel: Hawke and I? [chuckle] No, we just use each other. I really wouldn't call us... friends.
Oh, where to start. To begin with, String and Archangel have a rather complicated relationship. From the pilot episode, we know that the two already know each other as String immediately recognizes Archangel's helicopter, but how long they've known each other is never touched on. It is hinted that they crossed paths during Vietnam. The impression we're given is that String doesn't like Archangel very much. Or at least, the political side of him. And yet, as the series goes on, one has to doubt this first impression. For one thing, I highly doubt that String would be working for the Firm if anyone other than Archangel was in charge of the project. On more than one occasion, Archangel's position of power is threatened by another Firm operative. But of course, String can't (or possibly won't) allow that to happen and ends up saving the day. He also saves Archangel himself during a couple of missions. For someone who doesn't seem to like Archangel, he sure seems intent on keeping him around. On the flip side, we don't get the same impression of Archangel. He seems to have a great deal of respect for the pilot and is quite at ease around him. The only things that really irk Archangel is when String is being overly stubborn about something, which happens quite often, or when he does something that Archangel doesn't want him to do. He occasionally makes mention to what a pain String can be sometimes, but it's always with a lightly annoyed (or even joking) tone and not one of real anger. Then of course, there's that familiarity and ease between them. In the pilot episode, String walks into the cabin and Archangel's just sitting there eating. And it's not just in this episode. Archangel is constantly walking into the cabin when String's not there and String shrugs it off as no big deal. This familiarity shines through with String as well. For the most part, everyone around them calls Archangel "Archangel" or "sir" or "Briggs". String, however, calls him "Michael". There are the occasional times when he calls him "Archangel" when he's not there, but when Archangel's around String prefers to use his first name. The ease they exhibit may stem from the fact that they know each other quite well. While others ponder the motives or actions of either man, the two just seem to understand what the other is thinking. One of my favorite quotes comes from the episode "Daddy's Gone A Hunt'n" when String runs off to save a friend's son from the Russians and Archangel radios in to try and help.
Archangel: I may not be accurate about your location, but I can sure make an educated guess as to your destination. Can I assist?
String: Yeah, you can feed my dog!
Archangel: How'd you know I was- Sometimes, Hawke you amaze even me.
This quote truly shows that String and Archangel have this uncanny sense about what the other is doing. Archangel already knows exactly what String plans to do and String knows that Archangel is waiting at the cabin.
Finally, there is the amount of caring between them. Oh they may not show it when they're around each other, but they do care about each other.
How do I know? This brings us back to the quote from earlier. As Archangel explains in the pilot, String tends to act cold and distant toward anyone he cares for. And Archangel is no exception when it comes to the cold treatment. String knows what dangerous work Archangel does. After all, he already lost an eye (and gained a limp) from the situation with Moffat. His logic thus follows that if he keeps Archangel at arm's length, so to speak, then there's less risk that Archangel will get hurt. Of course, this caring also comes through (if somewhat unconsciously) through their actions. For one thing, Archangel has this habit of sitting around String's cabin, waiting for him to return home. No, really. Whenever String takes off for a mission, Archangel just kind of appears at the mountain cabin and waits for some kind of news that String is still alive. In the episode "One Way Express", when String tries to keep Dom from performing an incredibly dangerous movie stunt, Archangel discovers that it's actually a cover for a robbery by a notorious criminal. Thus String tells the "movie producer" that he'll be "performing the stunt" so that he'll be able to stop the robbery. As Dom flies Airwolf off to act as String's backup, Archangel sits around in the cabin waiting for news from Dom and stares out the window wistfully. Really, that's the only way I can describe it.
He then proceeds to bug Dom via radio to find out why he hasn't found String yet.
Then there's the infamous episode "Fortune Teller" in which Archangel is kidnapped and tortured by a rich criminal who wants the Firm project, "The Fortune Teller" device. In the episode, Dom asks a psychic friend of his to help them locate Archangel, but when things don't go too well, String proceeds to freak out at her. He does eventually calm down (only when the psychic freaks out back at him), but he still maintains his "I'm incredibly worried here, why haven't we found him yet?!" demeanor through most of the episode. There's actually quite a lot of subtext in this one episode. For example, when they think Archangel has been shot (it was actually an imposter, by the way), String jumps out of the helicopter and he runs over to the body.
The best thing about this scene is that he knows it's not Archangel even before he turns the body over. Which brings up the question, how did he know? How well *does* he know Archangel? Then, of course, there's the rescue scene.
Archangel about to be shot.
Oh wait, just kidding!
String gives a sigh of relief.
And commence the fangirl squeeing.
Yeah. I could go on citing individual episodes forever, but I won't because you probably get the idea. I will, however, mention one final scene that happens at the end of the pilot episode. Gabrielle dies after going undercover in Libya. Once String returns, he and Archangel discuss Airwolf and such. Before Archangel leaves the cabin, he turns to String and asks him about Gabrielle.
Archangel: Did she suffer?
String: What difference does it make?
Archangel: Dammit, I sent her out there, I wanna know.
String: No, she didn't suffer.
Archangel: *sighs* Thank god for that.
An important note, Gabrielle was tortured and put out in the desert to die (with Moffat watching over her). I find this scene to be an incredibly powerful one as String cares so much for Archangel (who during the entire episode we are led to believe String doesn't actually like) that he'd lie to him. That right there is love.
Why I Ship It
I got into this fandom quite by accident. My older sister watched Airwolf with my parents when she was younger. I was too young to really get into it at the time, but I was old enough to see some of it. Fast forward to now when I still had vague memories of the show, especially of String and Archangel. I was at the library one day, and I saw that they had Airwolf season one. So I decided to go ahead and rent it and surprise my sister. She popped it into the DVD player, and out of curiosity I sat down and watched it. My sister only had time to watch the first few episodes unfortunately. I grabbed the DVD and ran upstairs to watch the rest. By the end of season one, I was hooked. Oh sure, the action and the stories were great. But that wasn’t what drew me in. I was intrigued by the chemistry between String and Archangel and I wanted to see more. There was just something about them that said there was more than meets the eye. Needless to say, I went right out and bought all three seasons. But why do I ship them? Well, why not? In a strange sort of way, I think they need each other. There’s of course the obvious reasons; Archangel needs String to pilot Airwolf and String needs Archangel so the Firm will continue to search for Saint John. But then there’s the not so obvious. They sort of balance each other out. String can tell Archangel when he needs to shut up and just let him do his job, and Archangel knows when to tell String that he’s being overly stubborn and to just get over it. It could be said that Dom could do the same but I don’t think he would be as blunt as Archangel would be. And sometimes String needs that slap upside the head. There is also the fact that without Archangel, String would probably never leave the house. There have been times when even Dom could not get him to leave. But all it takes is Archangel walking through the door and telling String that he needs him to go on a mission and he leaves without a second thought. Essentially, I ship them because of that need. One without the other just doesn’t seem right.
Okay, I'm not going to lie. The fandom, unfortunately, is extraordinarily small. The series, which aired from 1984 - 1986, only lasted 3 seasons (there is actually a fourth season from 1986 - 1987, but a majority of the fans count this season as a completely different series as all three of the original cast members (String, Dom, Archangel) were written out and replaced.) Needless to say, there's not a lot out there and the majority of the fanfiction on ff.net is het. Of the fiction I've found, only one is String/Archangel. The reason for this is because at the time the show aired, the Internet didn't exist, so most of the slash can be found only through fanzines.
The one slash fic I've found online happens to be incredibly well written, and I've gone back to read it time and time again. Nor Iron Bars a Cage by Fortune Teller takes place after the episode "Fortune Teller" and has String and Archangel trapped in String's cabin during a snowstorm. If you take season four into account, this is kind of an AU as Archangel confronts String about his brother and memories that String has buried deep into his subconscious. It's a very moving and sweet story and I think it captures both characters quite well.
Update as of August 2014: As of 2012, the author has apparently removed the above fic. If you really want to read this fic, you can use the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to go to a previous copy of the site. I am not sure how long this will work, however.
If you do want to check this show out, I highly recommend it (and really, we need all the new fans we can get).