Parade’s end, but a happy one?
The end of the parade has come, but will everything end well for the tempestuous trio?
After five gloriously decadent and viscerally war soaked episodes, Parade’s End is over and what a journey it was. From the wild and torrid start to Christopher and Sylvia’s relationship, to an uneasy understanding about the nature of each other, it has been a bumpy yet satisfying ride. The scenes of war were brutally played out and with a sensitivity that touched the heart and highlighted the subtle humour in situations that would have devastated any sane person. I read somewhere that Ford Madox Ford actually was in the First World War and so a lot of the emotion about the horror of war, stiff upper lippedness and the bureaucracy came from those experiences. Despite the fact that Sylvia is nowhere near enemy lines, in many ways she is the true enemy for Christopher as even miles away she still manages to influence his life and in this last episode she made a last-ditch plea to get his attention but in a way, she actually helped him to move on with his life.
The last episode started with Tietjens, Potty Perowne and McKechnie being transported together. The three men were so different but yet the same, McKechnie had the same tenacity as Christopher and it seemed to be the one thing that kept him sane (his desperation to ensure that Christopher knew that he could translate his sonnet into Latin felt like almost a superstition to keep them both safe) and Potty showed the same taste in women as Christopher, both having fallen under the same woman’s spell.
Sent to the front line, Christopher saw so many terrible sights and while he tried to show the men a strict shell, his sensitivity couldn’t help but shine through, asking about the men in his command and noting the names of their loved ones. Amidst all of the terrible sights around him, his commanding officer wandering into enemy territory with a reckless disregard for his safety and shells exploding around him, Christopher had almost forgotten about Valentine but she came to him in various ways, her beauteous visage floating towards him through the mist. Despite Sylvia being safely ensconced back in England, she still had ways of manipulating things behind the scenes and while her husband fought for his life and the life of his men, Sylvia was sowing the seeds of change at home. After Christopher returned to England having bravely saved lives, his omission of his whereabouts to Sylvia forced her to dispatch with something that Christopher truly loved but after all he had been through, he finally knew his position and his life fell into place leaving a truly satisfying conclusion.
I’m genuinely surprised actually as I honestly saw no happy endings for any of the main characters but in a way, they all achieved a kind of peace and the reconstruction of their lives were similar to that of the recovery and reconstruction of life after the First World War. I was devastated to find that when Christopher returned and saw Valentine again, his eyes did not light up at first when seeing her but only when he had made a sort of peace with himself was he able to smile again. At the end it seemed that he realised that Sylvia’s main problem was that in order to get what she wanted or to manipulate others, she often would hurt herself. Despite her seeming lack of morals, she had her own set of rules that she stuck to as much as she detested Christopher for sticking to his and only when changing with the times would they both achieve some kind of happiness in life. It was nice to actually see Christopher with people he considered as friends rather than people that he merely tolerated to get ahead in society. His friend MacMaster had Christopher’s old life in a lot of ways but I’m not entirely sure he was all that happy about it. Christopher’s realisation about what really mattered was what made this such an enjoyable journey, his struggles both physically and mentally to understand a world changing around him.
Parade’s End was a touching and heartfelt love letter across the backdrop of war with the changing face of society in fluxuating times. Benedict Cumberbatch was perfectly chosen to play the often emotionally baffled Christopher, intelligent and torn between principles and love. Rebecca Hall was also dazzling as Sylvia, with an exquisite balance between melodramatic and piteous, it was often difficult to know what to feel about her and that is what made for such fascinating viewing. Key players such as Roger Allam, Miranda Richardson, Rupert Everett and Patrick Kennedy all had their parts to play and all were impressive. The casting was superb in this drama with the story challenging and full of twists and a quite unexpected ending. A neatly woven tale of the nature of love, changing times and acceptance. Truly inspiring drama and beautifully implemented.