Times Previews Episode 3 of Decline and Fall

The Times has provided a detailed preview of tonight’s final episode of the BBC’s adaptation of Waugh’s novel Decline and Fall. Not surprisingly, given the darker contents of the latter part of the novel, the preview by James Jackson finds less comedy in this episode as compared to the earlier ones:

The first 20 minutes of the final part of this Evelyn Waugh adaptation are tremendous fun. On the eve of his wedding … Paul Pennyfeather (Jack Whitehall) is blithely unaware that he’s about to be plunged into his biggest crisis yet. At his bachelor lunch the hapless dupe is stuck over what to choose from the menu … Yet that’s the least of his worries when, right there, he is arrested for trafficking prostitutes. Seven years of hard labour at Egdon Heath prison awaits … It’s around here that things enter more bleak and maudlin territory, offering the sharpest reminders of the novel’s sadistic streak. If there’s some amusing liberty with the text when Pennyfeather’s escape plan is debunked by his fellow don-turned-con Captain Grimes — a contemporary wink referencing The Shawshank Redemption — things become downright grisly with the fate of the toupee-wearing Mr Prendergast. It makes for, tonally, a rather uneven conclusion to what has been an impeccably styled adaptation, graced by some top-notch performances — not least from Whitehall, playing it so unexpectedly straight.

Radio Times also offers a brief preview that is consistent with its earlier less positive assessment of the series:

…As this fairly lifeless adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s brilliant comic novel comes to a close, Paul (Jack Whitehall) falls head-first into a massive mess. He’s a naif, bribing bad men without thought, and he gets into trouble. … Brace yourselves for a shocking bit of gore, and the line “I love you, but I’m worried that you’re sleeping with the Home Secretary”.

The Catholic Herald has also published what looks as if it might be a comprehensive review of the entire series, but to read it requires a subscription. The series concludes tonight on BBC One at 9pm.

The Daily Telegraph has meanwhile turned its attention to another adaptation of Waugh’s novels. This is in an article which considers films with a Venetian setting, where it names the usually dismissed 2008 theatrical film production of Brideshead Revisited as one of the top ten in this category. This seems to be more for the extensive filming of locations in Venice, much of which involved material extraneous to the novel, rather than for the overall quality of the film itself:

This … adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel doesn’t quite live up to the reputation of the classic TV series, but features some handsome Venetian landmarks, including the Palazzo Contarini Polignac, Campo Castelforte, the Church of San Francesco della Vigna … and Punta Sabbioni beach.

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