One Blackadder to rule them all?
I recall first hearing of Blackadder back in my late high school years and always put off watching it as from the short scenes I had seen, believed it to be too dark a comedy. It was a conversation with a friend, who ruthlessly quoted some of Edmund Blackadder's funnier lines that I began to take and interest. Consequently I watched every episode of the four-season I could get my hands on, including all specials.
The sitcom is by nature historical fantasy, but it's also about a host of characters that interplay so well. Most importantly, what Ben Elton and Rowan Atkinson did with the Edmund Blackadder character, adding layers to his personality and putting his conniving genius to work in different time periods including the War of the Roses, Elizabethan times and at the height of the French Revolution, create a multi-faceted man of wit, personal vendettas and aided by the servile Baldrick with his cunning plans.
But which of these Blackadder forms is the greatest? Having watched them all, first I took to charismatic Edmund-as-butler as he serves the insufferable Prince Regent. His aplomb and plotting prowess seems, after his previous incarnations, to be more steel-willed, more opportunistic and is a greater tactician than ever before as he runs circles around his inane and clueless 'port-brained twerp' of a charge.
Also I revered the Machiavellian, Lord Blackadder, who courts favour with the queen, enjoys prestige and masquerades as a man of means and money where he is, in fact, penniless, and sports a dashing doublet with a close-cropped beard - a very picture of the elegant courtier with a sharp tongue to match. Yet here, Blackadder proves as formidable as he is devious as he plots a prison escape by exploiting the guards' vulnerability.
These two, above all, are my favourite iterations of the character. But let's not forget that Blackadder exists in several other forms: as prince of the realm in 15th century England, a drastically demoted of royal lineage as a duty avoiding Captain, and his briefer appearances during the specials, including Sir Edmund Blackadder in the Cavalier Years and a turn as Blackadder-turned-Scrooge in an adaption of A Christmas Carol. Really in all essence, every special and episode adds new dimensions to the man who once briefly would be king, who assumed the identity of the prince at the death of Prince George, and who, in an enduring and controversial ending scene in the last series outing 'Goodbyeee' he dies alongside his comrades. This is why none of Blackadder character's can be compared but are really a rich palimpsest of his cunning temperatment, being elements that connect to build his make up.