Parade’s End (BBC/HBO 2012)

4 Kernels

HBO/BBC Television Series (2012)

Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch (yes, that’s his full name) has been busy. Between filming episodes of Sherlock Holmes, he worked elsewhere starring in this interesting and entertaining series entitled Parade’s End. The story is based on a series of novels by Ford Maddox Ford.

Benedict plays the character of Christopher Tietjens in five episodes. After one indiscretion, his life takes an unexpected turn when he meets a woman on a train. She seduces him, and they end up copulating quite wildly in their private quarters.  He deposits his seed into Sylvia on a one-train stand and ends up marrying her after she declares the child in her pregnant womb belongs to him. The entire affair is questionable because of her many lovers, but Christoper does what he does best–the right and proper thing.

He is not a man that is necessarily well liked and is socially awkward.  The relationship with his family members is poor, he’s the object of gossip, and appears to have trouble communicating his feelings.  However, he is intelligent, and works at the Imperial Department of Statistics crunching numbers.  In his spare time, he reads the encyclopedia and jots down corrections to the content in the sidelines of the book.

Sylvia, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. She’s not exactly the stellar wife. To her shame she parties, flirts with men, and ends up having an extramarital affair.  She blames her motives for living on the wild side on Christopher, who is the picture of perfection. She loathes him and his values, and is determined to destroy him one way or the other. In fact, she seems to treat all her men with disdain. When she leaves Christoper for another man because she’s bored, abandoning even her son, Christopher keeps the proverbial stiff upper lip and parades before society, friends, and family that all is well.  He refuses to divorce, because he’s a good Catholic. You just don’t do those things.  You bear it.  Live with it.  And parade onward.

However, during his wife’s escapades with another man, Christopher meets Valentine Wannop, played by Adelaide Clemens. She is young, intelligent, and a suffragette. It’s one of those love at first sight moments for the two of them. Unfortunately, he’s too proper to do anything about it even though they keep running into each other exchanging heartfelt glances and having pleasant conversation. When they are not in each other presence, they daydream of being lovers, but Christopher cannot cross that line.

Eventually, Sylvia returns to Christopher, after having a spot of remorse. She turns to religion, though you don’t believe there’s an ounce of purity in her conniving mind.

World War I breaks out, and the series takes a diversion toward wartime and life in the trenches. However, during this period of time, Christopher begins to change for the better. He becomes a stronger man who leads, and finally realizes that times are changing. It’s no longer necessary to parade around as if life is peachy and all can be handled. The parade has ended, and he needs to do what is right for him as an individual–even if that means making immoral choices in order to find love and happiness.

It’s a fairly good series, and you’ll find that Benedict is not the Sherlock Holmes you know. The portrayal of this character is vastly different, but also extremely convincing and well done. He looks rather dashing in his military uniform with blond hair.  You’ll also enjoy the Edwardian fashions worn by Sylvia, the manipulating wife.

Parade’s End is streaming on Amazon Prime for free.  You might want to check it out. Only negative point is that I don’t seem to be the only one complaining that you cannot understand what is being said about 10% of the time.  Sometimes Benedict talks very fast, and it’s difficult to catch the words with that thick British accent.  On the other hand, it just might be poor sound quality on behalf of the producers of this film.

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