Parade’s End finale preview http://wp.me/p2kskB-ba
BBC2, Friday, 21 September 9pm
I’m going to miss Parade’s End. And the debate it’s spawned over whether it’s any good or not.
I’d admit the first episode was uneven, but the rest was among the very best British drama. It’s been closer to the glory of Brideshead Revisited than the flimsiness of Downton Abbey.
I shall miss the restrained grimaces of Christopher Tietjens. His gurning jaw and flitting eyes saying more than even Stoppard’s brilliant script could. I’ll even miss the slightly insipid, longing pouts of Miss Wannop. And most definitely the exciting whiff of scandal that follows Sylvia’s every smile. She got all the best lines.
In the concluding episode, we finally see the end of parade. The end of a senseless and barbaric war that has turned men into monsters. And mad monsters at that. The hypocrisy of this golden era when manners and protocol meant more than life or truth is laid bare, but only behind its curtain.
Also laid bare is Sylvia’s amorality, finally less charming when seen for what it is, though I’d always preferred it to Valentine’s earnestness.
But it is also the end of an era, or so it seems to Ford Madox Ford. Tietjens is the last decent man in England, yet his wife had good reason to find that decency cruel. Tietjens thinks ‘doing the decent thing’ is all over and he alone seems to mourn it. The decent thing is all about other people’s perceptions. It’s almost as sad as the war.
The end of the era heralds a new one, certainly for women. Even then it was clear they were at the beginning of a struggle, not an end. If only there was someone worth voting for.
It’s not only for selfish reasons that I wish Parade’s End had been longer. While Stoppard and director Susanna White do manage to balance poetic dialogue with space and silence that speaks volumes, it can only be for budgetary reasons that we only get five episodes from Ford’s giant tome, while we are ‘treated’ to at least three series of Downton’s froth.
It’s not very often we get such a rich cast, combined with such a crafted script and depth of character. We can only hope the Beeb and HBO go on more dates together.
Grace Dent complained that it was the best Sunday night TV, inexplicably shown on a Friday. Who watches TV when it’s broadcast? Linear TV is dead, remember? The TV schedule is your slave not your master.