I’ll start this with a disclaimer. I may be the only woman in England not to have fallen head-over-heels in love with Benedict Cumberbatch. This is not to say that I don’t like the man, nor that I find him untalented. I just don’t see the appeal. However, this did not keep me from enjoying the first episode of Parade’s End, BBC Two’s new five-part miniseries, in which the aforementioned actor stars as Christopher Tietjens.
Parade’s End, which has been airing on Friday nights since 24th August, launches us headfirst into the Edwardian era and into the Tietjens’ tumultuous marriage. In an early scene, Christopher Tietjens (Benedict Cumberbatch) sits at the breakfast table making corrections in the Encyclopaedia Britannica and bemoaning the state of society as his wife Sylvia (Rebecca Hall) bemoans the fact that she is married to him. “If I killed him no jury would convict!” She proclaims, throwing a plate across the room for emphasis. Her dialogue is peppered with such deliciously catty lines and despite knowing that I ought to hate her for her shocking treatment of her husband, I just can’t bring myself to.
It is Christopher to whom I find it difficult to warm. Although Cumberbatch does a stellar job with the character, Christopher is far too stuffy and set in his ways, more content to be known as a cuckold than to divorce Sylvia (for her part, she is happy to remain with him, having become accustomed to the lifestyle which comes with having a husband). His budding romance with young suffragette Valentine Wannop (Adelaide Clemens) also seems a little forced, although perhaps it will heat up as the series progresses.
This is a programme which demands your full attention; I first attempted to watch it on the train and found myself hopelessly confused, particularly in the opening sequence. But after a second viewing, uninterrupted by train announcements, everything slotted into place. For its rich details, stunning backdrops, and fast-paced dialogue, Parade’s End is certainly worth a watch.
Parade’s End is available on BBC iPlayer until Friday 28th September.