Downton Abbey: In a spin below stairs

bates anna downton abbey(Series 4, ep.5)  I’d like to start with a small complaint, if anybody from Downton HQ is reading. At the end of this most recent episode, I felt seasick.  For some reason, while a fixed camera is used for “upstairs,” offering a calm and clear-eyed gaze at Lady Mary, the Dowager and the other aristocratic folks, someone has decided that a hand-held camera is the way to go for the servants. Is this some bold stylistic choice, to make us feel how tenuous was the grip on life of the average servant? Or is it because the sets have been built too small to get proper cameras into them? Either way, in a couple of scenes the camera work was so wobbly that Mr Carson’s face was going round and round in small circles. I’ve made a mental note to myself to sit much further away from the television next week.

To the episode itself, then, and it turns out that Anna was right not to tell Mr Bates about her rape. Parking his bum and his walking stick in Mrs Hughes’ parlour, he mildly threatened her that he would leave Downton without even saying goodbye to Anna if she didn’t tell him what was going on. So Mrs H tried to tell him a random stranger had popped through the window on the night of the house party and done the foul deed. Mr Bates wasn’t having that. “It was Lord Gillingham’s valet, wasn’t it?” he said, with the detecting skills and tenacity of Poirot. Mrs Hughes said it was not. She even swore on her mother’s grave.  

Mr Bates then toddled off to find Anna, and tell her – rather bizarrely – that he loved her all the more because she was now made holy by her suffering (I’m paraphrasing a bit, but that was the gist). He’s not going to let it lie, either. He made it quite clear that he won’t rest until he’s had vengeance, and we know from his prison days that he has a rather nasty streak.

In comparison, Thomas’s nasty streak is much more enjoyable because (a) it’s of the moustache-twirling, mwah-ha-ha pantomime villain type and (b) it’s Thomas. He’s been a bit quiet recently, but the arrival of Lady Grantham’s new maid has given him a new sidekick. She’s busy ingratiating herself with the entire household, which suits Thomas fine because the problem with former accomplice O’Brien was that nobody liked her so she wasn’t a great source of information. But quite possibly it’ll all come back to bite him and he’ll find himself outmanoeuvred by his own protegé.

Mrs Patmore’s latest protegé is Alfred, the tall ginger footman. He went for a job interview/test at the Ritz which was amusingly like an episode of Masterchef or The Great British Bake Off. Sadly for him, but happily for Daisy, he didn’t get the job.

Lady Mary had a minor setback when she heard that Lord Gillingham was engaged. She shed a few tears while writing him a congratulations letter. She soon perked up when some other old acquaintance turned up. People seem to be “just passing by” Yorkshire quite a lot on Downton.

Lady Edith was worried that she hadn’t heard from her about-to-be-German fiance for a long time (why can’t I remember the names of half of the characters on Downton?). And Tom pondered whether he ought to take Little Sybbie and move to America, where his status of being too posh to be a chauffeur and too chauffeur to be posh wouldn’t raise any eyebrows.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Downton Abbey: In a spin below stairs

  1. Martin Rosen

    You have a problem remembering the names of the characters – so do I ! Obviously some of them are easier to remember than others, but I, for example wouldn’t have known the footman’s name until he went for the interview.

    BTW As the interview letter took 10 days to arrive, I wonder if anyone suggested that the postal service should be privatised ?!!!!

    • Sue

      I’m glad it’s not just me. Normally I would look the names up, but the ITV Downton website is not particularly helpful in that respect.

      • Martin Rosen

        I look at the actor’s names in Radio Times (other tv listings magazines are available!), but that doesn’t identify who the ‘maid with the curly hair’ is !!! (I hope another character says the person’s name).

  2. wallomrslug

    The problem is becoming that there are too many characters now. I fail to really care about these tacked on extra characters such as the non-Daisy kitchen maid and this gardener chap who may or may not have made off with the Dowager’s letter opener.

  3. remotecontrolled

    My God – you’re right. I’m really good with names and plots and I only just realised I have no clue what the soon-to-be-German guy is called
    Also, anyone else find it bizarre Lady Edith seems able to pop to London and back in a day from 1920s Yorkshire? I have a high speed rail option from Liverpool but I’m getting the impression her increasingly common commute is even more efficient than mine would be…

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