Although this episode's sentimental ending is beloved by many people and has been frequently shown on Remembrance Day in the UK, I thought it was completely out of place in Blackadder. The characters were never meant to be realistic and it is totally at odds with the cynical, snarky tone of the series. The characters are all either stupid or malicious and expecting us to switch gears and take them seriously in the last 3 minutes of the show is too much. Particularly considering that the deaths of the main characters had been played for laughs in the previous 3 series enders.
The end of the series involved men "going over the top" to their deaths as did many soldiers in WW1. It was felt by the cast and producers that had the final scene been comedic it would have been in very bad taste. Particularly as there were still survivors of that war still alive in Britain. It was most appropriate that it was handled sensitively. The final image of the Flanders poppy field carries a very moving image for British people who wear the poppy on the annual Remembrance Day. The bodies of soldiers are still being recovered in those fields today and are being re-interred with full military honours. I think that it reflects very favourably on all those involved in the show that they treated the last few seconds of the series with the utmost respect for the fallen and their living relatives.
Sentimental would have involved them surviving and looking back with rose-colored glasses, not going over to their certain deaths. The final series always seemed much darker than the others, with Blackadder not scheming for power or wealth, but simply a way out of the trenches. A superb ending.
From my standpoint as a former Marine with close personal ground combat experience (including time in trench warfare at Khe Sanh) it was the perfect ending for the last series - and one of the most truthful and compelling commentaries on the insanity and absurdity of war ever shown to the mass audience.
Stephen Fry as the mad and inbred General Melchert gives a sterling performance, as does the gentleman who plays Haig, both illustrating why the British in WW I have been aptly described as "an army of lions led by donkeys."
The appropriately named Atkinson (the "everyman" British soldier is known as "Tommy Atkins") shows the foolish and "gung-ho" young aristocrat officer George (superbly played by Hugh Laurie) the idiocy of charging into machine gun fire by slinging a helmet in the air - and catching it as it falls back, riddled with holes...
Another line that resonates is Blackadder's final remark about his failure to convince them he was mad - "...after all, who'd notice another mad man around here?"
It is all I can do to watch that scene, and even thinking about it makes me tense. I understand that other combat veterans (including some from that period who were still alive when it came out) feel the same way.
Yes, the series was a comedy, and often played the deaths of each "generation" for comedy - but in many shows, they were also teaching lessons - about life, the nature of some of the upper classes, and in this case, the stupidity that is war...
1. ALL the Blackadder series end with death. This is nothing new. In "The Black Adder", everybody dies except Baldrick and Percy. In "Blackadder II", the entire cast is dead (in a blood-chilling final shot), killed by Prince Ludwig disguised as Queen Elizabeth. In "Blackadder the Third", Prince George is shot and Blackadder becomes King of England.
2. In "Good-byeee", it doesn't happen in three minutes. The whole episode builds with fatalistic sadness and an aura of doom.
3. "Sentimental"? Sentimental would be Blackadder walking past the graves of his fallen friends and making some half-hearted wisecrack through which we see that, really, his Heart is Breaking. Which, by the way, is exactly how an American producer would end the series. There was nothing remotely sentimental about this. It could stand alone as a one-act play.
Seamus, my school would actually show that episode in history class.
"Another line that resonates is Blackadder's final remark about his failure to convince them he was mad - "...after all, who'd notice another mad man around here?""
Perhaps a tip of the hat to Joseph Heller?
We in England do take armistice day very seriously and have been raised ingrained with the gravity if both of the world wars. We have been taught to never forget and that alone is enough to warrant the lack of comedy in the final scene. Certainly some sensitivity to those still living was more than warranted too.
Your write up, I think, sums it up very nicely indeed. Given your feelings about it I would say they managed to achieve exactly what they set out to.
Oscar Wilde said that a sentimentalist: "is one who desires to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it." The people who paid for the emotion in this case were the British (and German) soldiers dying by the thousands in the trenches of World War I. To the people of those nations it's not a fake emotional response because it was their young men that were fed into a brutal and senseless meat grinder in the name of a cause that they barely understood. It is much the same way as we Americans felt wathcing the woman lose her sons in "Saving Private Ryan." It's part of our national identity that our grandfathers or great-grandfathers went "over there" and died in a faraway country. A real price paid for real emotion.
I've never before heard of a criticism of this memorable ending, on the contrary, only praise is heaped on it, and in MY opinion, completely justified. It was the ending of those charactors---no more series at all. What else could have been better, given the subject matter. The writers said that despite the comedic substance of the show--it still had a serious purpose, which was aimed at the whole stupidity and mad waste and destruction of life. and all that 'civilisation' had stood for. The final scenes just HAD to bring this into focus out of respect--and brilliantly done it was too.