Michele and I just finished watching Parade’s End on HBO (on demand). After a somewhat long courtship – first two hour episodes – when we made the mistake of expecting something like The Age of Innocence, we have fallen in love with it. OK, that may be a little too dramatic, but we both liked it and, increasingly, identified with and against different characters. The hero – protagonist may be a better word – Christopher Tietjens, seems to be an extra uptight Englishman, at first, but we begin to realize that he is trapped in a world that he has been born into. He may be the only one still following the rules but that doesn’t make it any easier for him to breakaway even as he see the problem, saying at one point, Everybody thinks me a fool. I am starting to come around to their opinion.
Because Parade’s End takes place in the same time approximately the same location, and seems to deal with the same issues as Downton Abby, we expected the two to be similar. But they aren’t. Parade’s End is much slower than Downton Abby at first, but it gains in power and sucked us in. The characters are about three times deeper, probably because the story, adapted for TV by Tom Stoppard, is from a series of books, by Ford Madox Ford, that were written based on his real experiences before and during the war. In this England, the sense of noblesse oblige is dying out and all that is left is the overbearing restrictions of a society that is trying to resist the changing world.
A sort of weird thing about HBO is that its series are often made to shock with lots of nudity and swearing, think The Sopranos, or Deadwood, or The Wire, and the movies are subtle to the extreme, think The Tuskegee Airmen or Everyday People. Parade’s End, as a mini series, seems to be in the middle, especially compared to Downton Abby, but it does lean towards the subtle. Because I like Parade’s End better than Downton Abby, I want to say Check it out if only for the costumes and the gorgeous Rebecca Hall, but it is not for everyone. I keep remembering a friend’s comment about liking Aliens, the second Alien movie directed by Cameron, better than Alien – the first Alien movie directed by Ridley Scott which was my favorite – and thinking He must be nuts. But I have come to accept that some people are Alien people and some people are Aliens people and the same is probably true about Parade’s End and Downton Abby.