The season finale of Tom Stoppardâs Paradeâs End marks quite a transition from last weekâs 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 Campionâs words) his âchance of gloryâ?.
One look at the trenches and no manâs land should give you an idea why Paradeâs 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 characterâs emotions terrifically. Every word that her and Christopher have ever shared, Valentine explains whimsically to her mother, âhas been a declaration of loveâ?.
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 naÃ¯ve 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, thereâs always been the suggestion that the couple
might not be particularly well suited.
He is very conservative and traditional, after all, and sheâs progressive, particularly in relation to her opinions on the war and womenâs rights.
On the other hand, Christopherâs 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 âan act of charityâ?.
âJesus would have done the same!â? 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 heâs going to be with.
The real tension in the series has been the pull between Christopherâs deep-seated conservative values that have tied him to his adulterous wife for so long, and his
attraction to Valentine.
If Christopherâs character hadnât 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 heâs fully aware that sheâs always going to hurt
Still, in the end he picks Valentine, and quite poignantly, weâre 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.