Benedict Cumberbatch’s new period drama Parade’s End depicts life in World War I England and the co-production between HBO and the BBC has so far impressed TV critics, with the first of five episodes, due to air on HBO tonight (February 26, 2013). Tom Stoppard worked on the adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s work of fiction and Benedict Cumberbatch (playing jilted husband Christopher Tietjens) and Rebecca Hall (Tietjens’ straying wife, Sylvia) are the undoubted stars of the show.

Both Cumberbatch and Hall have stellar reputations in the UK, though Hall is better established over the pond, having starred in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Once the inevitable comparisons to that other popular period drama Downton Abbey are out of the way, New York Times praise Cumberbatch for his delivery of lines such as ‘I shan’t have a house again, anything beyond a flat looks like impudence in a man who can’t keep his wife,’ writing that “It is to Mr. Cumberbatch’s credit that he delivers such lines without a smile or a smirk, as befits his unusual character.” They add that Cumberbatch is “almost unrecognizable in this role,” a sure sign that he’s not conforming to type – good news for any serious actor looking for challenging roles.

Elsewhere on Popmatters, Hall is described as a “firebrand” and argues that Sylvia “emerges as the most fascinating character in Parade’s End by several degrees.” 

Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in new period drama Parade's End