Parade’s End Series-Blog: Episode 4 Review

PARADE’S END: Friday 14th September, BBC2, 9pm

“Keep off the grass,â€? Sylvia warned Valentine in last week’s episode, which shouldn’t be problem for her, as the grass (Christopher is grass, in case you’re not following) is being shipped off to France to fight in the war.

This leaves Valentine largely absent from the episode, with the primary focus shifting to Sylvia, who’s determined to get to her husband at all costs.

Perhaps “fightâ€? isn’t a great word to describe what Christopher is doing over in France. As of yet, there’s been little conflict. In fact, war for Christopher has so far been as cushy as a job in local government. There are fanfares and fancy living quarters and booze and freestyle sonnet writing.

By the time that Sylvia arrives, however, things have escalated. Christopher is physically and emotionally exhausted and causalities are starting to mount up. However, the episode resists being overly morbid; this might just be the funniest instalment yet, with plenty of witty quips and one-liners.

Hotchkiss, a brilliantly inept Second Lieutenant, is particularly hilarious, largely because his incompetency seems to really rile Christopher. And while we only see Hotchkiss for a brief moment, the memory of his dim yet well-meaning grin act as a constant source of amusement whenever his name is mentioned disdainfully in passing.

The bulk of the serious stuff in this week’s episode mostly comes from the reunionbetween Sylvia and Christopher, although even that provides a few laughs. At one point we’re subjected to a confusing garment sniffing scene (two parts creepy, one part touching), in which Christopher attempts to secretly inhale an item of his wife’s clothing.

If conservative Christopher is struggling to suppress his sexual appetite, then just imagine how things are for poor Sylvia.

It’s been five years, she insists, since she so much as touched a man and even then her score was with Potty Perowne, whose idea of romance consists of harassing his victims into submission before issuing a short bout of disappointment.

Yes, sleeping with a man who’s named after a children’s toilet, she tells Christopher, was a cry for attention, something that she’s now deeply regret.

Yet you can never truly be sure whether Sylvia’s telling the truth or not. After all, to her, life’s a game. It’s all part of her captivating and intriguing personality.

I’ve enjoyed, over the past few weeks, how varied each episode of the series has been, each one revealing more about the relationship between the main characters. Last week we learned that Sylvia had a jealous streak and this week we learn that she’s capable of feeling remorseful.

Episode four is an interesting one; if not the best yet, then it’s probably the funniest. At first, it’s easy to lament the lack of Valentine, who so far has been one of the few characters that you can genuinely root for. But focusing on just Sylvia and Christopher’s tarnished relationship actually added a new layer to the saga.

If you were sure Valentine and Christopher were made for each other, episode four might change your mind. Here, I got the impression that Christopher’s heart will always belong to his wife, irrespective of how she treats him.