The Many Faces of Victor Nikiforov - Episode 3
And we’re back with episode 3! There’s actually a lot to be said about Victor here even though the focus isn’t on him most of the time. We get to see the choreo for Eros and Agape for the first time, get some more insight in how Victor acts around people other than Yuuri, and truly get introduced to Victor the Coach for the first time.
Again, I’d like to delve into this set and look at the specific scenes chosen. I hope everyone enjoys!
We start off with the intro choreo to Agape. When I chose this gif, I found myself stuck between three different options: the intro, the close-up of him skating with his fingers steepled, and the ending. In the end, I realized it didn’t matter because I had the same thing to talk about for all of them. With the intro, we see Victor reaching out with open hands as if to bring something into himself, in the middle it seems as if he is thankful and holding something gently, and at the end he presses back out from his chest with his hands firmly clasped. If we combine this with the concept of agape – unconditional love – we can see a possible interpretation of bringing love into oneself, holding it gently, then, with a firm grasp on it, giving back. I’ll talk a bit more about the meaning of the Eros and Agape routines in respect to Victor in a few, but I still felt the choreo was interesting in the respect that it also tells a story – a story of the acceptance of outside love, of cherishing that love, and of giving it back.
The second and third gifs I’d like to first talk about as a pair. Both are from the Eros choreo, but if you look at Victor’s expressions, are almost complete opposites on the emotional spectrum. The first looks to be confident and suave, and the second looks so vulnerable and sad that I couldn’t help but wonder at the contrast. Then I thought about the story of Eros, how it tells a story of a playboy who goes after “the most beautiful woman” (I say that in quotations because there’s actually no woman in this tale, it’s actually a man stealing the heart of another man then disappearing from his sight). Then I started to question the choreo in this program, whose perspective is it being told from? In the end, I came to the conclusion that it’s both. We see the playboy at the start (the first of these two gifs) and at the end when there’s a pushing away gesture. As for the jilted man, we see him in that second of the two gifs. Victor undoubtedly gets lost in his skating and his expressions become very telling as to the emotional meaning behind the programs he’s skating.
On that note, let’s look at these two individually. The suave, seductive look at the beginning of the program to me always looks so empty. After you get past the initial heart-eyed reaction of Victor looking that way in your direction, you start to see how devoid of emotions that expression really is. What we’re actually watching is Victor’s media face in action. I feel there are a couple of reasons for this but the primary one is simply that Victor is not a playboy. He tells this story with two parts within Eros’ program, but he at heart is not and has never been a playboy. So the only way he knows how to portray something like that is through his carefully crafted image that relies entirely on the watchers being too smitten with him to catch the fact that there’s nothing of him actually in it. In most cases, it takes multiple watches of this particular Victor smile to catch it but when you see it, it’s really difficult to unsee.
On the other hand, we get the third gif of this set, where he looks so incredibly sad during the Eros choreo. If you check out Yuuri skating the exact same clip, you can see that his face is completely different (confident even), which says to me that Victor’s expression here is intentional on the side of the creative team. The reason for that? This is Victor emulating the man who was seduced and then abandoned, left with his own thoughts for three months and attempting to figure out what exactly happened the night he was (quite literally) swept off his feet. We don’t know if this expression existed at this point in the program before Victor came to Hasetsu, but the fact that this is not the face of the playboy within the story is undeniable. And the sadness we can see painted on Victor’s face is a clear indicator of how he feels in this position at this point in time. Unlike when he tries to play the part of the playboy, this role is much truer to him. We are looking at the true Victor Nikiforov, unshielded and wearing his heart on his sleeve. Truly, something that one can only see on the ice.
This fourth gif… well, I could say a lot of things, but they would mostly be stating the obvious. He’s gunning really hard for Yuuri in this moment, both (I think) because he wants Yuuri as well as because he knows Yuuri wants him. Victor isn’t as oblivious to Yuuri’s interest as Yuuri thinks (or rather, hopes) he is, even if Yuuri keeps trying to run away from it. That said, if you compare this Victor, who is actively trying to seduce Yuuri and show him “what Eros is to him” to the suave look at the start of Victor’s rendition of Eros, it brings to light just how false the look in the Eros choreo is. Because if this look here is genuine, then there’s no way that the look in the program is too.
Even though the face in this fifth gif is meant to be comedic, I can’t help but think deeply about this scene. This is the face Victor wears immediately after Yurio calls him out for saying that Agape isn’t a program where one shows off their confidence, and yet still skates it so confidently. Victor then gets asked what Agape is to him and he deflects the question back onto Yurio with an overly bright smile and a flimsy answer – “you just feel it, how am I supposed to tell you?”. What this says to me isn’t that Victor is some sort of genius, as others in-show continue to say he is, but quite the opposite (in terms of his own emotional awareness and how that comes out in his skating, anyway). Victor skates out his feelings, the same way that Yuuri does, and that always reflects into his programs. But, as we can see if we look at Stammi in episode 1 and combine it with the knowledge that he was lonely but didn’t know it, he isn’t always fully aware of the full emotional depth to these programs in regards to himself. So, if we assume that Victor’s confusion and obvious diversion mean that he doesn’t know what Agape the program means to him, then can we figure it out? I think so. There are many things that agape as a base concept could mean for Victor – it could mean Makkachin, his skating family, or his fans, among others. What I think it means, when you take in the entirety of the program’s meaning and how he skates it, is that it’s a love letter to his audience. It’s always looked to me like a complete story. Going back up to the first gif, where I described Agape as an acceptance of love and a giving back, I feel that we can apply that here. The program also feels like an all-encompassing gesture, almost like a goodbye of sorts. We can look at Eros and Agape as programs that are 2 sides of the same coin. If Eros is Victor’s struggles to move on to a new part of his life (a beginning), then Agape is his struggles to move on from his past and present (an end). So, even if Victor doesn’t realize it, I think that Agape was meant to be a goodbye to his skating career. He knew his time was coming, and while he didn’t want to let it go, he also knew it was almost time. And so, Agape was born as a way to say to his audience, “thank you for the love and support you have given me all this time”. Truly “Agape” indeed.
Returning to the comedy, this sixth gif is pretty much a clip of Victor’s suffering in action. Just earlier that week he shoved his face right up in Yuuri’s, got the guy all flustered, and asked him what Eros meant to him. And the answer that Yuuri came to was food. FOOD. Not only does Victor know that this isn’t what Yuuri’s Eros actually is (he knows it’s him), it doesn’t even make sense to the story of the program. From a more outside perspective, sure, food can make sense if you only look at the written definition for desire, but on a conceptual level, what Eros as a program truly embodies, katsudon couldn’t make any less sense. Unfortunately, there’s not much more Victor can do other than scream internally about Yuuri’s obtuseness to the entire concept of sexuality that seems to only exist when he’s sober.
Or he can go drown his frustrations in alcohol, which is what he ends up doing. Throwing his responsibilities for the night out the window, he decides that drinking until dawn is the best way to come to terms with his current situation. As comedic as this scene is initially played out to be, it actually brings up a serious underlying issue. When Victor doesn’t know what to do with his emotions, or he feels lost, he drowns his sorrows in alcohol. Whether he even realizes he’s doing this, we can’t know for sure because he’s never mentioned it himself but I worry both for his kidney and his mental health that this seems to not just be a one-off occurrence but a habit. Even if you factor in the possible use of the Russians being heavy drinkers stereotype, the fact that Victor is shown drinking every night since he arrives in Hasetsu and then goes off to get smashed after getting ignored (yet again) by Yuuri before proceeding to coach with a hangover in the middle of an intense training week doesn’t speak well to how he processes his unpleasant emotions and situations.
The third to last choice is a gif, even if it’s not moving. I chose this still image shot specifically because it presents us a view of Victor with a very uniquely complicated expression and none of the other shots of him during this scene really portray how far into his own head he is in this moment. I feel that this is Victor when he realizes he’s at a crossroads in his life and there’s nothing more he can do to affect the outcome. He’s taking a moment before he needs to go out and judge both Yuris’ skating to consider what either result will mean for him. On one hand, if Yurio outperforms Yuuri, which Victor at this point know is the most probable given what he’s seen over the last week, then he will need to give up on the spark of hope he felt from the banquet, the viral Stammi video, and saw in Yuuri himself when he accepted Eros. Victor would return to Russia, to the place that he felt was suffocating him, as a coach and not even a skater. He knows that his heart doesn’t want this, even if his logical mind knows that if Yuuri can’t perform to his potential then it’s what he’s promised to both of them. For Yuuri, the only way he could outperform Yurio would be to show Victor that spark that was shown within the viral video, to reawaken the side of himself that he showed Victor at the banquet, and to channel the confidence he had when he was first assigned Eros and demanded Victor stay if he won. For Victor to get the outcome he wants, Yuuri is going to need to pull out all the stops and show to the world (or at least those watching this ice show) the potential that Victor has seen only in small spurts so far. Looking forward from there, Victor knows that working with Yuuri isn’t going to be straightforward, but it’s still what his heart desires. He knows he has a bias, but as much as Yurio yells about Victor breaking a promise by coming to Japan (he didn’t, he still choreographed a debut program for him), he is still a man of his word and will go back to Russia if Yuuri can’t show Victor right here and now that that spark still exists. In light of all that, it’s no wonder Victor foregoes the pep talks during the warm-ups!
This second to last gif was the moment that spawned a world of controversy when this episode first aired. There were many people who initially found it hard to believe that Victor could take a situation involving Yuuri this seriously, but now that we’ve learned so much more about him, we can look at this scene a lot more critically. The thing that stands out to me the most is Victor’s honesty. Yuuri confides to Victor, through his actions more than his words, that he’s anxious but is swallowing down that emotion for the sake of showing Victor that he is all that Victor has seen in him. That he can perform up to Victor’s standards. And Victor takes this seriously and honestly. Victor does care about Yuuri, on every level that this question could imply. Yuuri wasn’t looking for a response when he admitted his worries to Victor through seeking out a comfort hug but he got one anyway. Victor reassured Yuuri on a deeper level than just “I’m looking forward to your skating”. He was assured that Victor is there for more than that, as well as for more than flirting, but for Yuuri as an entire individual. And Victor wants nothing more in this moment than to see Yuuri succeed. Victor does still want to stay in Japan, and he lets Yuuri know this through the exact words he uses – a direct response to Yuuri’s wish for if he wins, to continue eating katsudon with Victor. As tough as Victor has had it since he got to Japan, he still doesn’t want to leave. And I think this is exactly what Yuuri needed in that moment; honesty, and the reassurance that his feelings were reciprocated.
This last gif is one of the first real glimpses we get of Victor the Coach. Even at this early point, we can attribute his pat on the back then instant critique way of greeting Yuuri as he came off the ice as an emulation of the coaching style that he has had used with himself for years. Victor would have definitely seen how other coach and skater pairs interacted, but the only real long-lasting experience he’s had with a coach has been with Yakov. We know from watching the show that Victor’s coaching style evolves (and quite rapidly) to suit Yuuri’s needs but it’s fascinating to see where he begins, and how confused he is when it very obviously doesn’t work with his student.
That ended up becoming a lot longer than I initially planned but it turns out I had a lot of thoughts, especially concerning Victor’s portrayal and interpretations of Eros and Agape. If you got this far then I hope you enjoyed and if the wall of text was too much then I still hope you liked the gifset regardless! Thanks for reading! :)
Bonus because I can never get enough of Victor skating: