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The Hats of Downton Abbey, Series 5

It’s that time of year again. As another year passes for the Crawley clan at Downton Abbey, and 1924 winds its way to 1925, it is time for us once again to celebrate our favorite part of the series. No, not the melodrama (which has been rather bad this year.) No, not Mary’s one liners (which have been borderline cruel instead of funny.)  No, not even the Dowager, as snide and snarky as she is, and will always be.

No, we’re here once again to celebrate the hats, as we have every season so far.

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Mary may have been particularly cruel and unfeeling to Edith this season, but they are still sisters. This posed photo from the end of the season suggests maybe, at long last, their shared single motherhood might bring them together? (Highly doubtful, but anyway.)

Meanwhile, the show almost seems to given in to hats being why we tune in every Sunday. Perhaps that’s why, at one point, they simply paused the action and gave us a full on runway show, complete with the trendy hats of the age. Hit it!

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Downton Abbey Renewed For Season 6

The big news today, Downton Abbey has been renewed for Season 6. Despite Fellowes suggesting that he might be close to wrapping the series up for good, ITV and Carnival announced today the Granthams will be back next year. So even though the show hasn’t finished its run in the UK for another week,and won’t even start the run over here for another two months, we (and PBS) are guaranteed more Downton in 2016.

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To celebrate, we’ve got character studies of two of our favorite characters. I know I shouldn’t, but I’m just a little bit more Team Isobel than I am Team Violet. But only a small bit I promise.

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Downton Abbey: First Pics from Series 5

Downton Abbey Series Five is underway, and we’ve got images from the outdoor shoot yesterday.

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It’s mostly “walking to and from the village” stuff, so there’s no Cora, Edith, or Lady Rose. Nor are (most) of next season’s already announced guest stars featured. But we do get a good look at some of our favorites.

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Downton Abbey Christmas Special: The London Season

“I suppose it came to me that these balls and presentations and comings out are not aristocratic folderol, but the traditions by which members of this family mark their progress through life.” -Isobel Crawley 

This was the reason to tune in to the Christmas Special. Downton’s recreation of the Coming Out ceremony that started the aristocratic social season. This was an aristocratic tradition that ran from the 17th century until Queen Elizabeth abolished it in 1958. For us Americans, the episode was a glimpse into a world of status and wealth that never was successfully recreated here (though not for lack of trying.) It was all there–the young ladies in debutante white, the ostrich feathers, the standing on ceremony. (Though the Dowager is poked a little fun at for wanting to present Rose, the moment makes it clear that it is the older generation who have not accepted modernity who truly relish the pomp and circumstance.) George V was in the house. We only see him and Queen Mary for a moment, as they are “not admirers of the new world.” If only the Prince of Wales was so smart about keeping out of it, the whole plot of the episode could have been avoided. It may not be as obvious to an American audience, but part of the what we are supposed to know as the Granthams make all the fuss over keeping Prince of Wales’ affair with his mistress private, is that it won’t do much good in the end. For those not up on their Royal History, the Price of Wales we met this episode was the future Edward VIII. In fifteen year’s time when his father dies, he’ll abdicate the throne to marry Wallis Simpson. There’s irony in the mistress (the historically accurate Freda Dudley-Ward) calling him a faithful little chap.

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But of course, there had to be a story, and it starts with Mrs. Dudley-Ward foolishly giggling over a love letter the Prince of Wales sent her with Rose. Why exactly a mistress would be so reckless is beyond me, but I suppose the idea is that as modernity crept along and the old ways vanished, so too did the necessary discreetness in sleeping with their heir to the throne.

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Downton Abbey Series 4: A Bazaar Wrap Up

Downton likes to close their final episode of the regular series in much the same way every year–in the summer. Fellowes loves these pastoral images of green lawns and summer whites and the whole village turning out in the sunshine while smiling. The Granthams are the are shown to be hard working overseers, bring entertainment and markets to the masses in the form of the Church Bazaar, the farmers and townspeople wander around looking happy, the children have potato sack races and ice cream. Ice cream solves everything, no?

This being the end of this series, the show also decided to wrap u as many story lines as they could–such as they are. Not everything, of course. The cast were not just signed for Series Four last year, but Series Four and Five, and plenty of stories were obviously left to be resolved next fall when the show returns.

Take Edith and her pregnancy. Of course, she’s only second trimester, and magically not showing yet. But she is acting out of character, like walking out with Branson and Mary to look at the new pigs. Since when has she cared a whit for the running of Downton? No, she’s only along so she can see the new Pig Man get hired, who you all may remember a few episodes ago as “That Farmer Lord Grantham Made The Loan To.” He is ever so grateful, as is his wont. His gratefulness is taking on Grantham Problems gives Edith the grand notion to give him her baby to raise while he’s at it. After all, it’s no harder than a pig! But before she can go through with this, Rosalind shows up and Downton and then practically moves in under the pretext of helping with the Bazaar. Her suggestion–which is not a suggestion, but a fait accompli–to do the traditional thing and go abroad. Proof no one cares about Edith–Cora doesn’t even question this sudden and bizarre choice, let alone the timing, which screams “hiding a pregnancy.” At least the Dowager is not so easily fooled, or at least cares enough to notice and bankroll it. Not that Edith is happy with this, but at least goes along with not saddling the Pig man with her spawn, as this means she won’t have to tell mummy and daddy. 

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Downton Abbey Series 4: Pigs, Eggs and Toast

This week we opened with a reminder that though technology has advanced, it hasn’t advanced that much. Telegrams still rule the day for Transatlantic communication. Yet at the same time, some things have changed. The telegram arrives at the house by motorbike.

Just like that, Robert is off to New York City to bail out Cora’s brother Harold. He has gotten himself involved in an Oil scheme and now has to testify before Congress about it. (In 1922, this is most likely related to–if not actually supposed to be–the Teapot Dome scandal.) This leaves Mary to cope with Downton just as their latest investment in pigs has arrived. Blake and Napier are still living out of the house as they write their report on failing estates. Though Napier is supposedly the “sympathetic one” and Blake is the “socialist” who doesn’t care much about whether these places survive, everyone manages to talk about the estates is semi-sympathetic terms. Over and over it is emphasized that it is the refusal of the aristocrats that is causing these places to go under, rather than the changing social order. Blake himself states that it is a matter of refusing to adjust, and Napier suggests his lack of sympathy stems from his being angry with these places for not modernizing the way Downton is. All he wants is for people to modernize! it’s not class bitterness, no! Once he sees Mary is willing to modernize (and ruin an expensive dress in the mud to take care of her pigs) his whole view changes on her, and suddenly we go from just having boring Gillingham as a suitor to having Gillingham, Napier and Blake as all potential love interests. At least Blake has the benefit of being interesting.

For the record, I do believe Mary would ruin her dress for the pigs–she’s too determined to make Downton survive. I don’t believe she would know how to scramble eggs though.

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