A half hour of genius

My partner and I have been rewatching ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’, prompted by reading John O’Farrell’s comic history of Britain and Stephen Fry’s recent event here in Melbourne.

‘Blackadder Goes Forth’ has all the trademark humour of the preceding series, and all the writers’ penchants for including historically accurate jokes. It all leads to this final half hour – perhaps the best written, best acted 30 minutes of television ever made.

I say this because the comedy remains very funny, but underlying it all is a dark, horrible inevitability. The hideous and profligate waste of lives for nothing more noble than, as Blackadder tells Baldrick “It was easier to have a war than not have one”. The humour is sharp, poignant, always respectful of those who suffered in the trenches, always scathing of those who sent them there to die so uselessly.

I always laugh all the way through the episode. And then, in the final few minutes, I always cry.

It’s a testament to the power of the writing, and of the superb cast, that every single time I watch this episode, they achieve both of those responses.