Parade’s End Review: Things Are Coming Together Nicely
Following episode two of Parade’s End, it looked as if we were in for a real treat this week, with the post-programme teaser promising us romance, blood and war. Episode three looked explosive and racy, and unlike anything we’ve seen from the series so far.
So, with all signs seemingly suggesting that this week was going to be something really special, I excitedly tuned in, eager to find out how Christopher Tietjens (Benedict Cumberbatch) coped with fighting against the Germans, and whether his relationship with Valentine Wallop would ever flourish.
Certainly the opening few minutes of episode three didn’t disappoint- there was a somewhat grandiose sequence filled with exciting and sexy imagery, before it’s revealed that Christopher has been critically injured. So bad in fact, he can’t even remember his own name.
At this point alarm bells started ringing. After all, I’ve seen Neighbours, and know what happens to characters with memory loss. They have to be reminded, over time, not only who they are, but how to love again.
But fortunately, Parade’s End doesn’t quite stoop to this soapy low, and it turns out that Tietjens’ memory loss is only short-term, and the effects aren’t completely negative. Plus his head trauma seems to give him a fresh perspective on his life and his relationships with his wife Sylvia, and Valentine Wannop, his not quite mistress.
Following last week’s episode, I was starting to tire of Sylvia’s conniving and purposefully difficult way, but in episode three we saw a different side to the adulteress. As nasty rumours spread about Christopher upon his return to the country, Sylvia becomes incredibly paranoid that her husband is in love with Valentine, and calls the suffragette to tell her to “keep off the grass”, which, as far as Parade’s End goes, is a pretty big threat.
But it will take more than a phone call to put off Valentine, who by this point is madly in love with the returning soldier. She even ends one conversation with him by briskly making her way to an outhouse, where she can swoon over him in peace—next to a reeking toilet.
After watching the episode, I can’t help but feel it wasn’t quite as exciting as the teaser after last week’s episode suggested. Saying this however, it’s probably the highlight of the series so far, mostly because the first couple of episodes were such slow burners. This week it all came together and, most importantly, Christopher asked Miss Wannop (in his own words…) to “get freaky with him”.
Perhaps my favourite scene saw Valentine excitedly cleaning her house in preparation for an upper-class booty call with an uncharacteristically horny Christopher, which ultimately doesn’t happen. It’s actually a little odd to hear (after such a long romantic build up) Christopher so nonchalantly propose that they should have sex, and then to have Valentine respond with, “We’ll have to be quiet.”
But slight criticisms aside, overall this week’s episode had a more satisfying conclusion compared to the last two. We get to see a completely different side to Sylvia, who up until this point has been outwardly callus and heartless. This week, she appeared a little vulnerable and viewers can almost feel sympathetic towards her. Interestingly, I feel her thoughts towards Christopher seem very contradictory. She likes him because of his honourable and respectful qualities, but she also hates him for the exact same reasons.