Downton Abbey: Aristocrats on the Verge
Oh, Julian Fellowes, you hack.
We have to laugh, because this seems to be the pattern with Downton’s creator and writer. He’ll give us a moment of sublime melodrama, like last week’s emotionally brutal death scene, in which the morals and mores of the aristocratic class were put under a fairly harsh light. We will then praise the writing and the episode. Then, he follows it up with pure tripe and backs quickly away from any damning accusations against the upper class. Then we call him a hack and storm off in a huff. It was ever thus.
But really, this episode was just silly and it’s exactly the type of episode that turns Downton from a period melodrama into a low-grade soap opera. The goal for this episode seems to have been to ensure that the audience detests Robert every time he opens his mouth and then to have all of his bad behavior and outmoded ideas swept under the rug and forgiven just before the credits roll, thanks to the Dowager strong-arming a good man into violating his professional principles and outright lying to make an aristocrat feel a little better about himself. If Fellowes had a little more courage, these events could have been an even more damning indictment of the aristocratic class than last week’s death scene, but instead it’s played for weepy melodrama and we doubt very much what was brought up in these last two episodes will be dealt with later on. It seems every once in a while, Fellowes has to have Robert act like a total dick and then profusely forgive him for it.
And dammit, we started off so well, with Cora sending waves of ice cold disdain at him; a very well-deserved disdain. When he tried to make nice, she shut him down with several stinging rebukes. “You’re always flabbergasted by the unconventional,” and the coldly bitchy, “I should think you miss her more.” When even Mary has to take him aside and tell him he’s acting like a jackass, you can be pretty sure he’s gone over a line. To paraphrase the Dowager: a more devoted daddy’s girl never drew breath. By the time he stormed into Crawley house and made an utter ass of himself at Isobel’s luncheon, we figured it was pretty much over between him and Cora. But Violet, who suddenly seems very tender toward Cora (with good reason, granted) implored Dr. Clarkson to effectively lie about his diagnosis – the diagnosis that had him defensive and sputtering the night of Sybil’s death, because Robert and Sir Phillip treated him like a middle-class moron – just to ease an aristocrat’s marriage problems. It was revolting – and the worst part of it is, Fellowes seems to have no idea that it comes across that way. To him, it seems, The Dowager Countess saved the day and saved the Grantham marriage. All’s well that ends well.
Oh, well. We can’t storm the castle so we may as well offer up the rest of our random thoughts on the episode.
- The downstairs staff is cavorting with prostitutes and DANCING. Mr Carson’s whole world is falling apart.
- Batezzzz seems to have pretty much threatened his way out of jail, which doesn’t exactly inspire strong feelings about his supposed innocence. Also: when did he stop needing a cane? A lot of walking in that jail yard, without so much as a limp.
- Everyone in the kitchen is in love with everyone else in the kitchen. The problem? Mrs Patmore put it best: “You’re all in love with the wrong people.”
- Speaking of which, Mrs. Patmore gets the award for most random succession of words in a sentence: “Anyone with use of their limbs can make a salmon mousse.”
- We love how Mrs. Hughes has become Ethel’s second-biggest defender (behind Isobel). “Well. I’ll tell Ethel she’s in for a treat!”
- Baby Sybil is Johnny Foreigner now.
- Mary and Matthew have the most doom-laden, foreboding foreplay session ever. “Let us never stop loving each other!” “Until my DYING BREATH, darling!”
- O’Brien is one hardcore bitch, but we have to sit back in awe at her ability to mastermind an outcome without ever putting her fingerprints on it. Thomas is screwed – and to be honest, he’s kind of an idiot for listening to O’Brien.
- Daisy is going to inherit Bag End from her father-in-law, Bilbo. She should thank the hell out of Mrs. Patmore for shoving her into that marriage against her will.
- “Lie is so unmusical a word.”