Andrew "Combo" Gascoigne is the main antagonist of This Is England and a supporting character in ´86, ´88 and ´90. He is portrayed by Stephen Graham.
At first glance, Combo could easily be labelled as a psychopathic racist, holding staunch opinions regarding immigration and being prone to violent outbursts of anger. However, despite his flaws, it is hinted at on a number of occasions that Combo is fundamentally a good person, one who would stand up for his friends if the situation arose. Following the horrific events of the first film, Combo seems to be genuinely repentant of his actions and does his best to become a better man.
Character History Edit
Born in 1956, little is known about Combo's life before the events of the original film. According to dialogue throughout the saga and behind the scenes, Combo's father (who was of mixed race) left home when he was seven. He was living with his two little sisters and mother when his dad left home. He was never seen again. At seventeen, Combo attempted to fight Lol's abusive father, Mick, for molesting her but Mick beat Combo severely and left him for dead in the street. Lol found Combo and took him to the hospital. In 1969 Combo got involved with the orignal first wave skinheads. At some point, Combo and Lol got drunk and had a one night stand, Combo besotted with Lol from then on. Later, in 1980, Combo and Woody got into trouble for unknown reasons and Combo ended up serving a three-year prison sentence, though he held no grudge towards Woody for it. Whilst in prison, Combo became acquainted with fellow convict Banjo, the two becoming close friends who ran their block after dealing with an abusive black prisoner who kept stealing Combo's dessert. This was decidedly a contributing factor to Combo's racist and White Nationalist views.
Upon release from prison in 1983, a 27 year old Combo (with Banjo in tow) returns to Woody and the gang at a party at Gadget's house, and is greeted warmly. It was here that Combo met Shaun, a new member of the skinhead group. However, tension starts to rise when Combo talks about the dessert-stealing black prisoner in front of Milky (Woody insinuates that Combo was always slightly racist, even before his sentence). The next morning, Combo invites the gang to his flat and attempts to take control of the group by giving them a long speech about immigration and the Government's decision to declare war over the Falklands invasion, at which point Shaun angrily lashes out and attempts to strike Combo, pissed off because his father had died in the conflict. Combo takes advantage of Shaun's frustration and brainwashes him into thinking that fighting for his country against immigration will honour his father's memory. Combo even turns several members of the group against Woody, reminding them how he had been racially abusive towards Milky in the past, something he now appears to regret, and that nobody stood up for him, something Woody should have done. The only members who fall for Combo's speech are Shaun, Gadget, Pukey and Meggy. Milky briefly becomes distant towards Woody, but nevertheless stays in his group.
Combo takes his group to a National Front meeting where they become members of the political party. On the way back, Pukey expresses doubts over the group's racist views, prompting Combo to threaten him violently and tell him to 'piss off back to Woody's'. Combo and the others then engage in racially antagonistic acts, such as spraying racist remarks on walls and threatening Asian boys playing football, and if Combo ever sees them on the streets, he tells them to go home where their mum's cooking curry. When Shaun enters Sandhu's Newspaper shop, he tells Sandhu, a Pakistani shopkeeper to give him 100 fags, two bottles of wine, a bottle of whiskey and 10 cans of lager. When Shaun tells Sandhu to get them, he calls him a 'Paki bastard.' Combo and the rest of the gang start robbing Sandhu who had previously banned Shaun from his shop. If Sandhu back-chats Combo, he threatens to slay him with the sword. Combo bonds with Shaun, who sees him as a surrogate father figure.
Things take a turn for the worse when Combo approaches Lol and admits that he has feelings for her too. Lol, who is angry with Combo for hurting Woody's feelings, rejects him and tells him that their one night stand was the worst night of her life, even when Combo says it was the best night of his. Devastated, Combo approaches Milky, buys cannabis from him and invites him back to his flat in an attempt to forsake his racist views. Whilst intoxicated, Combo and Milky bond but Combo grows jealous of Milky's happy family life and attempts to provoke him into fighting. Milky merely smiles cheekily at Combo, Shaun tells Milky to stop smiling at him and Combo loses his temper. Enraged, he beats Milky unconscious, Banjo holds down Shaun, who is protesting all the while, and Meggy watches them in horror. Combo angrily throws Shaun out of his flat for defending Milky then tells Meggy that he was winding him up. Combo turns his rage on Banjo, throwing a bottle at him and Meggy. When Combo violently beats Banjo, Meggy calls him 'mad as a March hare.' Combo furiously orders both Banjo and Meggy out of his flat, and turns to Milky who is seemingly dead. When Shaun is shown crying, he comes back into the room, but Combo is weeping in shame, much to his remorse. He manages to convince him to stop crying and help get Milky to the hospital.
Ashamed of his actions, Combo leaves town.
The scene cuts with Shaun looking at a picture of his dad, who died in the Falklands. When Cynthia comes in, she assures Shaun that Milky will be alright.
Three years later, Combo arrives unexpectedly at Shaun's house one night, drunk and bloodied, and collapses on the living room floor. The next morning, Combo tells Shaun that he has returned because his mother is dying. Shaun and Smell take him to his mother's house, but she has already passed away. Combo takes a moment to pay his respects to his mother, and embraces Shaun as a friend, thanking him for his help.
Later on, Combo decides to visit Lol at her house. He rings the bell several times, but there is no answer. He peers through the living room window and sees Lol sobbing alone in a corner with Mick lying dead on the floor. Fully aware of what has happened and with nothing to lose, Combo alters the scene to make it appear that he had killed Mick in Lol's defence by smearing his fingerprints over the hammer Lol used to kill Mick, and injuring himself with Mick's hand. Subsequently, Combo is sent back to prison for manslaughter, though this time with a clear conscience.
Two years later, Lol visits Combo in prison. Looking back on her life over the past few years, Lol has come to realise that Combo was the only one who was ever truly there for her. She visits him to thank him and apologise for what she told him in 1983, and admits that she loves him (the exact nature of this love is not revealed). During the visit, Combo asks about Woody and Milky, and is shown a photograph of Lol's baby daughter Lisa, who was the result of a fling with Milky. Combo appears to be genuinely happy for Lol and does not make any racist remarks, hinting that he has abandoned his racist ways. Combo also tells Lol that he is changing his life for the better and continuing with his education by taking his GCSEs in English, Maths and Sociology. He is last seen in the final scenes spending Christmas alone in his cell, eating christmas dinner whilst reading.
1990EditWith his parole hearing imminent, Combo now 34, contacts Lol and asks her for a temporary place to stay, which Lol and Woody agree to out of gratitude for Combo taking the rap for Lol. After a special lunch attended by their nearest and dearest, they reveal the truth behind Mick's murder, along with the news that Combo would be moving in with them upon his release. Though most believe that Combo has changed for the better, Milky remains unconvinced and expresses anger at Woody and Lol's decision, referring to Combo as a "racist fucking cunt", one who almost beat him to death. Though Milky eventually accepts their decision, he refuses to allow Lisa to share the same roof as Combo.
Combo moves in with Woody and Lol, sharing a tearful embrace with Woody and showing his guilt for what he did to Milky (as this is the first time Combo and Woody have seen each other after the former beat Milky) and symbolising Woody's forgiveness. He smokes and drinks with them, and openly inquires about Lisa, whom they say is spending time with Milky, though Combo still appears to believe that Milky does not want Lisa near him.
Combo eventually moves out of Woody and Lol's place and manages to get a job with Helen (Lol's nurse), as a sports coach for disabled teenagers, changing his life for the better. On his first day, however, during his lunch break, he runs into Milky who confronts him about the past. Combo is repentant and asks to discuss matters with Milky over a coffee, to which Milky agrees, although Combo senses something is wrong when Milky drives him to a cafe far away from where they set off. Combo is deeply apologetic for his previous behaviour and wishes to earn Milky's forgiveness. Their conversation is cut short when some of Milky's relatives menacingly enter the cafe. He explains that whilst he was in hospital, his family swore to avenge the beating he had received from Combo. Accepting his fate, Combo states that he forgives Milky, and hopes one day Milky can forgive him. He then accompanies the men into their van and they drive him to an abandoned warehouse where they park and turn up the radio. However instead of beating him up as he expected, the men hand Combo over to two white men whom Combo appears to recognise. He struggles and begs them to spare his life. The two men carry Combo, struggling and screaming for help, up the stairs into a room and the door is closed. He is not seen again.
Two months later, at Woody and Lol's wedding, Milky is wracked with guilt over his part in Combo's fate. In Woody's speech, he expresses his sadness in not having Combo as his best man as he has disappeared and left no trace of where he has gone. Lol has noticed Milky's strange mood throughout the day and enquires whether he has seen or heard anything of Combo, saying that it was very uncharacteristic of him to vanish without word. Milky senses that she suspects he has played a part in Combo's disappearance and she asks him to look her straight in the eye and deny having anything to do with Combo's disappearance. Just as he is about to respond, Gadget and Shaun enter the room and the conversation between them dissolves.
The fate of Combo has not yet been confirmed/revealed by Meadows or Thorne, but the look of guilt on Milky's face at the wedding, which is set two months after the incident, leaves the viewer to assume the worst, and that Combo suffered a painful death and was buried at sea.
- Combo has the tattoo of tears on his face. This means he has killed someone but it is unknown who. He also has a tattoo of a swastika in the centre of his neck.
- Combo is seen having violent outbursts and intrapersonal communicating. This was confirmed by Graham that he is suffering from mental relapses of the abuse he and his siblings suffered from his father when they were children.
- During promotion for This Is England '86, the first fact that Shane Meadows confirmed was that Combo would return, though he did not appear until the end of the third episode getting just a brief mention in the first two. Meadows stated in an interview that he deliberately coincided Combo's return with the scene of Mick raping Trev in order to create more anticipation for the series' finale, since it was already known that Combo would play a part in the final confrontation with Mick.
- Trudy a character in the series is played by Hannah Walters, Stephen Graham's wife.