Review: Parade’s End (Episodes 2 to 4)

If you decided to stick with Parade’s End two hour long showing last night on HBO, you might feel worn out (I’m right there with you), and despite the end of the second episode being more interesting, you might want to give up. Don’t. Things actually pick up!

To recap, the second episode gave us a better peek into the social & cultural obligations surrounding Christopher and Sylvia when they get back together (like Sylvia’s mom saying a public outing is necessary or Sylvia dressing inappropriately at the funeral), but their marriage is really for public show only, something made painfully clear when he goes to talk to his wife in the bath and freaks out seeing her naked for all of four seconds. Christopher still refuses to divorce her so they continue with their separate lives.

Sylvia was a little less brash and insane, trying to be chaste in hopes of winning her husband back. I did feel bad when she excitedly hopes it is Christopher who has returned on New Years, only to find out it’s the maid and then frantically tries to hide her disappointment and embarrassment. She also buys the perfect painting for him (to “annoy him” she claims) and the moment she shows it to him, she looks truly happy, like she realized what she’s missed all the years. I was finally able to believe that maybe she really does love and care for him. It became clearer to me why the way she was/is: Women hate her for her man stealing ways and still hate her when she doesn’t want their husbands. She’s sort of forced to continue to be someone who is cruel, unloving and flirtatious–what’s left for her to be?

Christopher quits his job and goes off to fight for the place he loves so dearly, while everyone is oblivious to the war–a huge step for him! In a weird way, him telling Sylvia he’s off for war sort of brings their relationship a bit closer, or at the very least makes it more real for Sylvia. The thought of losing him causes her to be extra needy then lash out in an attempt for some sort of emotion or sign that he loves her too. But, he still decides to be miserable and refuses to let his wife into his life in any way (and when he does try, he seems shocked when she freezes him out), and refuses to act on his feelings for Valentine but he FINALLY starts to act more human!

So, what can you look forward to in episodes 3 and 4, besides more amazing sets, props and costumes?

-A few more deaths occur, throwing more gossip and social expectations into Christopher and Sylvia’s lives. You finally start to see where Parade’s End is trying to go, and you’re actually interested to see how things play out and how the characters have grown.

-What it’s like to be in Christopher’s family, his relationship with his brother & father and exactly what being a Tietjens means: all those social rules and his obsession with honor are actually explored!

-What Christopher means to the two ladies in his life, Sylvia and Valentine: he’s caught between his old life in London where the high society have thrown him out of their circles, but he still kind of wants to be part of their group (making Sylvia realize how much she loves him, despite her going back to some of her old habits) and becoming a new “modern man” who has seen war and has a chance at a life that might hold actual happiness for him.

-What war does to a country: most of the characters (except the brilliant Christopher of course) are in total denial of the war happening, and never saw it coming, so when it does hit, it hits them hard. But, instead of showing us how much it’s changed their lives, Parade’s End takes a unique view and kind of brushes over the war, almost ignoring it to a certain degree, focusing instead on character development (a very wise move in my mind).

-Valentine continues to add a bit of fresh air and life into the plot. She’s no longer “just a suffragette,” but still modern and crazy enough to show the stark contrast between the old ways and their current life. I love the job she ends up with, it really suits her!

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