Parade’s End has given BBC2 a great Friday night boost, but I (having timeshifted to Bank Holiday Monday) was left cold and Katharine took quite some convincing that it had only been on an hour. The critical consensus is that Parade’s End is work of great genius — deeper and more truthful than Downton Abbey, raves the Telegraph — (we’ve never seen Downton Abbey and have no plans to change that).
And there’s no doubting that Parade’s End has pedigree, being based on the novels Ford Maddox Ford and adapted by Sir Tom Stoppard. But I just couldn’t bring myself to care for the cuckolded protagonist Christopher Tietjens (superbly acted though he is by Benedict Cumberbatch). I reckon he deserves his wife Sylvia, who is a far more interesting character. My problem with Tietjens is that he stands for a set of values that, in truth, are the source of his and no doubt many other people’s misery. His marriage is clearly a sham and all who know him know that and that Sylvia, who regards the relationship as open, is having a great time with her lover in Paris. Yet he has to pretend all is perfect, in the name of something he calls the parade (thank goodness it’s to end).
It’s is pretty clear that — despite being destined to have a unconsummated affair with a suffragette — the values Tietjens holds so dear, also serve to keep women voteless and very much in their place. Sylvia has rejected the life Tietjens had in mind for her, that is a baby making machine who might take charge of the servants, to live a great fun life instead. Good for Sylvia, I say!