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Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Emotional Dissonance and Edmund Blackadder

I love Backadder. It is one of he greatest shows of all time, and it was on TV at just the right time for me to become hopelessly obsessed with it.  I can quote it line by line (for most episodes of the entire 4 series run) and no matter how many times I watch it, it doesn't stop being funny.

Having seen every episode somewhere north of 20 times (and some episodes many, many more) I consider myself to be something of an expert on it, being able to tell you names of episodes, characters, actors, and can tell you what the best scenes were, the funniest dialogue and the best of the cunning plans.

So, as an expert on all things Blackadder, it upset me greatly for many years that people kept disagreeing with me about the best episode.  It just doesn't make sense! I understand it better, I have watched it more, I think I have a better measure of judgement.

No, I have always argued, while that is a good episode, it is not the best.   And its always the same one! Everyone says that the final episode of Series 4 - Goodbyeee - is the best.

I used to argue by series.

Series 1 - The Witchsmeller: Better
Series 2 - Beer (or Potato) absolute classics!
Series 3 - Awesome Series! Almost everything is better, but particularly Amy and Amiability, and Duel and Duality (THIS is the best episode).
Series 4 - Private Plane and General Hospital are both awesome.

And people would still argue.

So I watched it over and over again and while I enjoy watching it, I just can't see it, can't understand it. Why do rational, sensible people tell me that this episode is the crowning achievement of Blackadder, and a fitting epitaph for the show.

And only now, when I have a diagnosis, when I understand how I am different to other people do I get it.  It is not the dialogue, the acting, the comedy or the content which is superior; it is the emotion, it is the understanding that all of those characters whom we have grown to love are all going to die and the characters know it too!

When the guns are silenced and the soldiers step up to their ladders, it is the certain knowledge that this is the end.

And what sets it apart as an episode is that final scene. This is a replica of what hundreds of thousands of young men went through in those four awful years; stepping over the parapet of the trench into enemy machine guns, knowing that they would likely die in a foreign field. Invoking the Zeitgeist, finishing with stillness, silence and poppies is a beautiful, tragic and genius moment of television.

I feel the power of it now, as I think about it, and imagine the fear, resignation and unspeakable bravery of those men, and I will never again question anyone's insistence that this is Blackadder's finest moment.

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