Set over a tumultuous ten-year period 100 years ago, this five-hour miniseries tells the story of an honorable Englishman coping with his growing disillusion at the end of one privileged era and the beginning of a new, egalitarian one. As the comfortable certainties of Edwardian England begin to give way to the chaos and destruction of WWI, aristocrat Christopher Tietjens (Benedict Cumberbatch) puts principles first by marrying Sylvia (Rebecca Hall), a pretty, manipulative socialite who gives birth to a child who may not be his. While enduring his new wife’s whims and overt indiscretions, Christopher finds himself inexorably drawn to a young suffragette, Valentine Wannop (Adelaide Clemens), but refuses to give in to their mutual passion or end his marriage with Sylvia. The onset of war, combined with the advent of feminism at home and communism in Russia, ushers in far-reaching changes for the English status quo, and gradually erodes the constraints that have kept Christopher tethered to his aristocratic past.
An HBO miniseries based on the tetralogy of novels by Ford Madox Ford and set during World War I, Parade's End
is the story of Christopher Tietjens (Benedict Cumberbatch), a proper English gentleman struggling to adapt in a time of immense societal change. Christopher's wife Sylvia (Rebecca Hall) is a modern, even maverick woman who gleefully tests her husband and regularly defies convention. Propriety dictates that Christopher keep up appearances and overlook his wife's indiscretions and manipulative behavior, but the lure of local woman Valentine Wannop (Adelaide Clemens), who's involved in a steadfast battle to earn women the power to vote, threatens everything Christopher believes in. The advent of World War I challenges the staunch conventions of the English aristocracy and eventually leads to Christopher's deployment overseas. There, his unyielding sense of duty and devotion to what he deems proper threatens his comfort, credibility, and success, both personally and professionally. The characters in this series are quite complex and the skilled portrayals by Cumberbatch, Hall, and Clemens leave viewers vacillating in their support of individual characters and between convention and modernism. While the war figures prominently in the story, this is not really a series about the Great War, but an exploration of the advent of modernism, the difficulty of change, and the search for personal happiness and fulfillment. The 28-minute bonus audio interview of writer Tom Stoppard by radio host Elvis Mitchell is quite interesting and informative. --Tami Horiuchi