In the annals of Downton Abbey disastrous dinner parties, this one was a fright to remember.
Carson: “Do other butlers have to contend with the police arriving every 10 minutes?”
There is usually at least one disastrous dinner party every season of Downton, whether it be the result of an accidentally liberal guest, an accidentally emotional family member, an accidentally rude snob, or in probably one of the most memorable moments, a man who is determined to serve something foul in the tureen. But though most of the spoiled dinner parties have been more on the passive side of aggressive, this one took Fellowes love for the reality of medicine and health 100 years ago, stopped off at the Monty Python store of effects and arrived at the dinner table just in time for his lordship to spray the entire household with it out of his mouth, like Carson had just convinced him to have a wafer thin after dinner mint. Ladies and Gentlemen, there will be blood.
I suppose that was one way to convince the Dowager to stop fighting the whole modernization of the hospital once and for all, but for the PBS crowd, I believe it was a tad much. We tune in to see the fine china glistening white, not red. If we wanted to see the landed gentry’s finery be sprayed with blood from his lordship’s own mouth, we would have gone to a Tarantino production. I will say though, after a couple of episode where nothing much happened other than lining our characters up for happy endings, that was a bit of a left turn.
Continue reading Downton Abbey: Let It Bleed
With Carson and Hughes away on a honeymoon–and it turns out she will stay Hughes, in one of the earliest instances of a wife keeping her last name after marriage–it’s time for everyone else to take turns in the spotlight in order to move them forward to their own happy endings. Or, in the case of Lord Robert, probably his doom. (Someone really should arrive with the 1920s version of Tums for the man, no?)
Lady Shackleton: “How can I present myself as an expert when I don’t know the facts?”
Violet: “It’s never stopped me!”
The downstairs crew are pushed forward this week by the sight of one of their own who now has her own happy ending, and a middle class one at that. Gwen Dawson, that plucky little maid who got herself a typewriter and then a secretary’s job Beyond the Wall where she met a nice Night’s Watchman who knew nothing, has returned. Lucky for her she married better than a Snow, to a man by the name of Harding, and is now being received by the Granthams as a board member to a ladies college, who may not exactly be their equal, but who isn’t expected to serve tea either.
Thomas gets the meatiest story this week, and the one to call out Gwen in front of everyone in order to embarrass her. But, in a scene which was ultra delightful in that it showed how things are changing instead of telling us that things are changing, instead of upper class horror and snide class jumper whispers and so forth, the scene turns into a tribute to Sybil. Yes, the third Crawley sister who stopped being necessary once there was not an Edwardian world to rebel against is issues a touching tribute by Gwen to all and sundry. Even her new Harding husband who never knew Sybil is touched. Let it be a lesson to all the Granthams that moving with the world instead of fighting against it is the best way to be remembered.
Continue reading Downton Abbey: The Return of Gwen Dawson
If last week was all about tying up the loose ends still dangling from Season 5, that’s because this week was a an exercise in lining everyone up for their final destinations. All aboard the wedding and baby trains everyone. Congratulations, you made it all the way though six seasons of Downton Abbey without dying or disappearing into the night like O’Brien. You get a prize. And you get a prize. And you! And you! Weddings for some, miniature humans and babies for others. All have won, and all will get a “happy” ending as their participation trophy.
Violet: “A peer in favor of reform. It’s like a turkey in favor of Christmas.”
Several nods were given this week to the continuing Violet versus Isobel hospital fight. It’s really unfortunately that Fellowes couldn’t think of anything else for Smith to do this season, but at least she got all the best lines of the week. Who knew asking someone if they drank at Lunch could sound so cold? But in proof that everyone knows this is tiresome, not only does Isobel have Cora and Lord Merton at her side, but now Dr. Clarkson as well.
Meanwhile, in stories we don’t really care about, the removal of the Drewes gives Daisy’s Mr. Mason a new place to live. How convenient. I’m with Daisy on this one. Get the man moved in yesterday so we can stop hearing about this already. And get Molesley off teaching where he belongs, while we’re about it. In true crime 1920s style, Spratt is hiding someone and it won’t amount to anything, other than to pair him off with Denker. (Thank god it wasn’t Bates this time.) Thomas went on another bizarre interview. I feel like these are less part of the show than a YouTube series that accidentally got edited into the production when it should have been stand alone shorts. Knowing now from my wonderful historian commentor J.Harper that Thomas not being able to find gainful employment outside of Downton is classist nonsense only makes this interludes all the stranger. But if we’re going to talk about class this week, we should turn to the only story that mattered: The Wedding of Elsie Hughes.
Continue reading Downton Abbey: Hughes Wedding Is It Anyway?
I find that my second episode recaps of Downton Abbey always complain about the same thing: how slow the season is going. The day-today of the running of a grand estate is not the stuff high-minded TV is made of. In fact, in the earliest seasons, the show got it right, skipping over entire three-four months spans in an entire episode, because the day-to-day of those who lived in the Manor House weren’t particularly interesting. Wake up, have breakfast served, go to the market, read a book, stare out the window, have dinner served, rinse repeat. So it was interesting that for our last turn round the block, that day-to-day had changed so much I didn’t actually mind the minutiae.
Violet: “If you can’t say anything helpful, Robert, please be silent.”
Though character still wander about declaiming about the changing world, the changing world is right before our eyes. No less than a decade ago, Lady Mary would not be the one wading through her pigs looking for the prize porcine for show. Even as recent as ten years ago, her father would not have done this either. Jarvis, the estate man would have done this for them. (Remember him? He quit in Season 3 when Matthew tried to modernize.) As those downstairs find themselves being offered thing that only the upstairs folk once had access too (we’ll get to that in a moment), so to do the upstairs people find themselves having to get down in the mud, as it were.
But, and this is the thing that grated, is the fact that though we are being presented with Lady Mary as this “modern woman,” it’s hard to forget that she only has this because of men. Not just her father, who stood to the side and open mindedly allowed her to take charge. But her real power comes from her son, who holds the title to the estate. Master George may only be barely out of nappies, but he’s the key that allows his mother to have any sort of position at all. If he died, she would lose the estate to some far away cousin. If he had been a girl, that would have happened when Matthew died. Mary’s son bestows legitimacy upon her. Which is why I find her behavior towards Edith and Marigold to be just quite so grating.
Continue reading Downton Abbey: March of the Pigs
It is that rare occurrence in television where a mega-popular show’s run in the country occurs later than another part of the Western world. It is with that in mind that I began to watch the last season of Downton Abbey, fully cognizant that all of this had already been seen elsewhere and that though we have eight weeks of episodes, plus a Christmas special, to go here, in the UK, Downton had laid down to rest for good.
Lord Grantham: If I could stop history in its tracks, maybe I would. But I can’t, Carson. Nor you nor I can hold back time.
And though mega fans of the show are probably wailing and gnashing their teeth, I think most of us realize it was time. It was time a long time ago. Some will argue, and I won’t say they are wrong, that Fellowes should never have agreed to do a second season, that the first season was perfect on its own, and that it was a fool’s errand to make a soap opera series based on this somewhat lackadaisical historical piece, where we checked in on the Granthams like a stone skimming the top of a pond over the last days of the Edwardian era, before World War I arrived and put an end to all that.
Some might argue that when Dan Stevens walked in Season 3, the show should have ended then. Personally, I thought losing Stevens gave Fellowes a direction for an extra season , and that if Stevens had stayed on the show would have gone moldy faster. But by last season, it was clear we were out of ideas. Storylines like the Bates’ legal woes dragged out beyond measure. Others found themselves in virtual reruns of earlier plots. Only Edith had a anything of real meat to deal with, but unfortunately, in many places it either didn’t land, or it her responses to her situation didn’t resonate with the modern audience. For thirty seconds there was almost something meaty with Mary, as Gillingham threatened to force her into marriage by holding her willingness to sleep with him out-of-wedlock over her head. But Fellowes didn’t have the stomach to really go there, and it fizzled.
Continue reading Downton Abbey: The Last Days of Downton
With the final days of Downton upon us, Masterpiece Theater brought the cast over for a fa event to build the hype for the last season. The event sadly wasn’t live streamed, but we do have the highlights below.