The thing about Benedict Cumberbatch is, his appeal is not apparent right away. Unlike Timothy Olyphant’s.
The reason self is pondering BC at all is that there is a new BBC mini-series, an adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End, which had its HBO broadcast premiere last night, just before F/X’s Justified.
And self wouldn’t have decided to watch if she hadn’t, on one of her previous visits to Bacolod, caught the new BBC Sherlock, with Cumberbatch in the lead, showcasing his lean and lanky frame, his floppy hair, his intellectual-yet-boyish affect. OH HOLY COW! This guy is playing Sherlock as if he’s got Asperger’s!
In preparation for last night’s TV watching, self had the absolutely brilliant idea of running to Trader Joe’s and buying all of The Man’s favorite snacks: prosciutto, salami, Asiago cheese, salmon and so forth. Then, when he walked in the door, self was waiting with a half-full glass of freshly squeezed OJ, perfect for imbibing with vodka. Success!
The Man took himself off to bed early, and self was able to watch Parade’s End and Justified 4.8.
In the beginning of Parade’s End, we see Rebecca Hall in horrible, frizzy, orange-y hair, looking more like Olive Oyl than Rebecca Hall. Self only knew it was her because of the mouth.
Racy scenes between her and Cumberbatch (whose character goes by the name Christopher Tietjens) are shown in flashback: the characters, after exchanging polite introductions (“My name is xxxx,” and “Mine is xxxxx”), are then shown performing the sex act in the train carriage. In broad daylight. Self was so distracted she forgot to check whether these two had bothered to draw the blinds.
Next thing you know, or faster than you can say “lickety split,” the two next present as Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Tietjens. Mrs. Tietjens loathes Mr. Tietjens. “Do you see what he’s doing?” she proclaims. “He’s annotating the Encyclopedia! If I were to murder him, no one would blame me!”
The new style of BBC productions is apparently to keep everything muted, somber, and restrained. Much like the main character, Christopher Tietjens, himself. Oh, Lord, Lord. Just when self was about to expire from exhaustion — hello! Mrs. Tietjens runs off with her lover, but soon thinks better of her decision and writes to her husband that she is ready to return, and wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her days as his wife, living a “dull” life. No question about Mr. Tietjens taking her back because — he’s British! And the British love their cuckolded male characters! Have dear blog readers forgotten Uber-Cuckold George Smiley? Anyhoo, Mr. Tietjens takes his humiliation with a stiff upper lip (for the sake of his child), and shortly thereafter meets a wonderful, blonde, willowy, Michelle Williams look-alike, who happens to be a suffragette. Self could not take her eyes off this wonderful girl’s wedge-cut bob. If self only had better hair, she would today be at the beauty salon, demanding a similar “do.”
Of course, Tietjens falls in love. That’s his fate! The two spend one night together in a horse-drawn carriage. Not engaging in physical contact, of course. The man is Tietjens, after all! The two talk. The girl calls Tietjens’ attention to a nightingale. (“Their songs change in June,” she tells Tietjens at one point. Which then indicates to self that it is June).
What was horribly distracting to self the whole time this carriage scene was being enacted was: Tietjens was wearing a Burberry-looking coat, there was fog swirling all around, and the girl was in a thin dress. Not once did Mr. Tietjens offer the girl his coat, to shield her from the damp night wind. (Is the girl going to contract pneumonia in the next episode, self wonders? Thereby necessitating that she stay in that cotton dress — which was, by the way, the ultimage vintage cotton dress, full of tucks and lace — for the entire night?)
Self then began imagining the scene with both characters hunkered down in coats. Alas, there was just no pleasure in imagining such a scene. Now she understands the director’s thinking.
Anyhoo, it’s at the end of that ride that self found herself so inexpressibly moved. The two part (of course). Tietjens halloos a passing wagon, deposits the girl in it, returns to his own carriage (The horse is lame, having been struck by a flying stone during a near-collision with a motorcar that had neglected to turn on its lights. Everything about that near-collision screamed Plot Device, especially since it was a. Night; b. Dark; and c. Foggy and how could a motorcar even proceed in such conditions, not to mention proceed without lights???)
Cumberbatch/Tietjens holds the lame horse by the bridle. And he starts to sob. The frozen sea inside him (self is paraphrasing either Dostoevsky, Gogol, Kafka or Tolstoy) is finally cracking! The camera withdraws, and as the perspective widens, we’re suddenly looking at the man from above, and damn if Cumberbatch’s knees don’t almost seem to buckle. WAAAAH!
Self will be back to watch next week, dear blog readers can be sure of that.
* * * *
Now to Our Man Raylan Givens.
This episode (4.8) had an extremely high body count. It was like Opera, only in Harlan County instead of Italy. The very first violence is — THE BEST in the history of this series. The actor who plays Raylan’s Dad, Raymond J. Barry, is absolutely, wickedly convincing and whenever he is onscreen, he upstages everyone else. And that includes Timothy Olyphant.
After this, there is a wandering assassin who steals in and out like a ninja. No, not like a ninja, like a sheriff’s deputy. Because he really is wearing the uniform of a sheriff’s deputy. Whenever this Angel of Death appears with his cell phone, one can be sure there will be blood spatter.
The fun also extends to Colt (the character self formerly referred to as Grade B Gerard Depardieu), who is still haplessly stumbling about, and even has the temerity TO TEXT while being addressed by Boyd Crowder!!! What’s up with the classroom cut-up behavior? After this, self is 100% sure Colt will go bye-bye, probably in the very next episode.
But, this season has been so great: Hardly ever has there been a stumble in either the character arcs, or the dialogue, or the plausibility, or the suspense, or the pathos, or the humor (And yes, self must admit it takes a certain love of the macabre to see the humor in all the bloody, anarchic mayhem).
Let’s see: Parade’s End is Tuesdays at 9 for four more weeks, and self thinks Justified still has a couple of episodes in this season. So for the next month, self will be jumping from World War I England to Harlan County and she may well end up with brains fried by the implausibility of watching these two excellent programs, about two such different places and cultures, back to back, but — BRING IT ON! Television is, at the moment, the most thrilling cultural media out there. When one thinks of the current fare in movie theaters: A Good Day to Die Hard, Identity Thief, Safe Haven, self thinks she’d rather stay home with Cumberbatch and Olyphant.