The war is ongoing, in more ways than one
Tongues are wagging but Christopher has a new perspective on life.
This sprawling drama can be a little disorientating as it skips around, presumably truncating scenarios to fit them into the time allotted. In fact you could say that the sometimes fractured storytelling could represent the spiralling drama that surrounds the characters; with Christopher and Valentine in the middle, their lives shattering and tinkling on the floor like broken glass. Everything about this drama appears polished and scrubbed, making the scenes of Christopher in the makeshift army hospital grimy and troubled in comparison, making his life at home seem far away than ever when he is lying injured.
It is this situation with which we joined the drama this week, with a confused, broken and desperately ill Christopher searching his memory for his name and being unable to recall as he slipped in and out of consciousness. While he was recuperating, confronted with the devastating sights of war, his wife Sylvia appeared to be simply going on as normal, flirting with men and mingling with her friends but sticking to her word by not cheating on her absent husband. However, that she should have chosen her friends carefully became such talk around polite society.
Christopher returned from war a completely different person, stiff and starched as he still was, his eyes revealed all of the pain and suffering that he had seen and experienced. In an attempt to renew their marriage Sylvia listened to Christopher’s talk of war, poetic and yet so terribly tragic, but things did not change between the couple. While he had been in the trenches it seemed that his friends had not gone through the same experiences and he began to distance himself from society a little more. With his brain not being all it once was, he ploughed effort into regaining his intelligence and even helped MacMaster to gain further credit, his stock rising while Christopher’s went drastically down. After Mrs Duchemin’s husband died having left the asylum, she was free to marry MacMaster and they made the perfect couple.
With Christopher distancing himself and Sylvia being naughty despite her best efforts to be good, the couple were no longer favoured in polite company, tongues wagging about her infidelity, the true father of her child and Christopher’s potential mistresses. Due to a curious concatenation of circumstance people were claiming that he shared Mrs Duchemin with MacMaster after seeing them on the train and other rumours were flying that Christopher had made Valentine pregnant when neither of the tales were true. Christopher cared little, merely seeing it as idle gossip but when his father was told of these rumours and believed them to be true, Christopher never managed to settle things before tragedy occurred. Christopher was broken further and only did the light return to his eyes when he saw Valentine again. Deciding, if you can’t beat them join them and feeling his principles were old-fashioned compared to the views of those around him, he decided to break his own rules, but will he go through with his wishes to get what his heart desires?
Truly this drama is a joy to watch and although it can be a little confusing sometimes and my grasp of history is perhaps not as good as it ought to be, the performances and plot are absorbing with every facial expression and every beautiful word furthering the story with no filler. Rebecca Hall is still enchanting as the melodramatic Sylvia. The sad thing is that Sylvia is right about her husband, he shows no jealousy or anger towards her various activities and this is the only way that she knows how to elicit attention from her lovers. The truth is though that if Christopher were to show her affection or get angry at her mischief, she would probably no longer desire him. Therein lies the rub of this doomed marriage. Benedict Cumberbatch was in fine form again this week, his dark circled eyes glistening with unshed tears, the war has changed Christopher and this is palpable, making Benedict’s performance all the more affecting.
All in all, ‘Parade’s End’ is a sumptuous televisual triumph and I am positively desperate to find out what happens next week. A must watch TV treat.