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TV Review | Blackadder Goes Forth

I have a cunning plan...


Season summary: Stuck in the middle of World War I, Captain Edmund Blackadder does his best to escape the banality of the war. (IMDb)

Blackadder Goes Forth was the last full season of the show and, in my opinion, it's best. It probably isn't the funniest (Blackadder II) and doesn't have the most interesting version of the title character (Blackadder the Third), but is still absolutely hilarious and this Edmund Blackadder (a captain in the British Army) is still several steps above the massive majority of sitcom characters to have ever existed.

Unusually though, there's a far more sombre tone to the show, which you could argue is a form of recency bias - even if the First World War ended over a century ago now and just over seventy years before the show was first broadcast - but it definitely feels like the show is being far more deferential and respectful to the reality of the situation than previous seasons rather than the all-mocking guise of previous seasons.

Gone too is the more malicious nature of the Blackadders who came before, even if this Edmund can still prove spiteful at times. You have to wonder if there was a sort of meta-commentary covering the series as a whole, with the main character proving to be the most human and relatable - simply wanting to stay alive - when having the least amount of power.

Generally, Blackadder is still out to save his own skin as befits his ancestry, but he definitely cares more for and appreciates those around him, whether telling Baldrick (Tony Robinson) to take cover with him during an air raid in "Private Plane" or lavishing genuine praise on the painting skills of George (Hugh Laurie) in "Captain Cook". In fact, his final words of the season are to wish everyone around him good luck as they prepare to charge across No Man's Land in the latest 'Big Push'.

Even when he does lose his temper at the insanity around him, it tends to be in general exasperation or blown over very quickly. It's a nice development after the previous versions, although I do think that part of it comes from Blackadder Goes Forth being more of an ensemble show than the previous seasons. A larger cast does mean there are more characters to know and grow attached to after all...

Regarding the ending of the final episode, "Goodbyeee", it's one of the best of any TV show ever, never mind a comedy, and is one of the most moving, emotional tributes to those who fought and died so pointlessly for so many years. I first saw it in a History lesson at school and honestly think it should be something every student should watch - especially because of how disturbingly relevant it is to Britain today.

Just think: an upper class who don't care about lives lost because they're safely insulated from any harm at the top of the tree; the uneducated at the bottom who go along with everything because they don't know any better; those in-between who thought it was a good idea before realising too late that it really, really wasn't; and those who realised from the start how stupid it was but lack the power to change the course of events. Remind you of anything?

Modern relevance aside, Blackadder Goes Forth is simply fantastic. It's far funnier than you could possibly imagine given the premise, with the bonus of making you enjoy spending time with these characters so much that the ending hits so hard that you'll wonder why dramas aren't capable of generating such emotion. The show might be over 30(!) years old now, but time hasn't diminished its brilliance just yet.

Blackadder Goes Forth is an all-time great comedy series, packed with more than enough laughs to keep you smiling while still making highly valid points about the futility of the situation. The final episode, "Goodbyeee", carries more emotional weight and hits home about the horror and loss of the First World War than major movie productions like 1917, with an ending that will stay with you long after it's over.




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