Parade’s End Series-Blog: Episode 5 Review
The season finale of Tom Stoppard’s Parade’s End marks quite a transition from last week’s episode, which was surprisingly humorous, despite its dark setting. This week, however, things are noticeably more sombre and downbeat.
In the opening minutes we learn that Christopher Tietjens has been relieved of doing relatively menial duties like ordering fire extinguishers, and on the insistence of his godfather, General Campion, Tietjens has been posted to the trenches for (in Campion’s words) his “chance of glory”.
One look at the trenches and no man’s land should give you an idea why Parade’s End is the most expensive production ever broadcast on BBC Two. The land looks spectacularly haunting and unsettling, although not the least bit dull or dreary. The atmosphere created really puts you in the shoes of these terrified soldiers, in
particular Christopher, who feels increasingly exhausted from combat.
His drained physical and emotional state even makes him briefly mistake a soldier for Valentine, his not-quite mistress back in Ealing, who is desperately longing for his
At this late stage in the series, Valentine has completely fallen for him, and Adelaide Clemens is able to sell her character’s emotions terrifically. Every word that her and Christopher have ever shared, Valentine explains whimsically to her mother, “has been a declaration of love”.
Her burning desire has even inspired her to read the Married Love by Dr. Marie Carmichael Stopes (a kind of 50 Shades of Grey of its day, but for people who have read more than one book), which happens to inspire her to conjure up some rather raunchy fantasies involving Mr Tietjens.
Over the past weeks, one of the most appealing characteristics about Valentine has been her naïve view on adult relationships. Hopelessly romantic, her definition
of love seems to have been based on idealistic fiction, and despite the chemistry between her and Christopher, there’s always been the suggestion that the couple
might not be particularly well suited.
He is very conservative and traditional, after all, and she’s progressive, particularly in relation to her opinions on the war and women’s rights.
On the other hand, Christopher’s wife, Sylvia, seems wildly different to Valentine, although her views on love are remarkably similar and no less mature. In this final
episode, she sleeps with Gerald Drake and callously describes her affair with Potty Perowne to her mother as “an act of charity”.
“Jesus would have done the same!” she insists to her less than sympathetic mother, referring to the frequently overlooked fact that Jesus was notoriously promiscuous.
The series comes to a very satisfying and worthwhile conclusion when Christopher returns to Britain after the war and finally decides what woman he’s going to be with.
The real tension in the series has been the pull between Christopher’s deep-seated conservative values that have tied him to his adulterous wife for so long, and his
attraction to Valentine.
If Christopher’s character hadn’t been so superbly sketched out early on in the series, the decision would seem obvious, but Christopher is a complicated character, a man who prides himself on tradition. He also, of course, seems to have genuine, real feelings for his wife, even though he’s fully aware that she’s always going to hurt
Still, in the end he picks Valentine, and quite poignantly, we’re left wondering whether he does so because of his fraught relationship with his wife or because he truly does love her. Irrespective of whatever his motivations are, though, it is a beautifully warm and comforting end to the series.