(Series 5, ep.7) In possibly the most aristocratic thing they’ve ever done, we left Lord and Lady Grantham at the end of last night’s episode preparing to go to sleep with a dying dog in the bed with them. At least it’s got Lord G back in the marital bed after Mr Bricker’s midnight creep.
Lord G’s beloved Isis wasn’t at her best last week, and this week a vet delivered the terrible news that Isis is very soon destined for the Great Kennel in the Sky. Lord G is now carrying Isis everywhere rather like Tom Cruise carries Dakota Fanning everywhere in War of the Worlds. Continue reading
(Series 5, ep.5) At the moment I’m finding Downton entertaining but not unmissable, while the rest of the family have given up on it altogether. Basically, quite a lot happens, but not much happens. Each week the continuing stories get nudged forward a little, new characters appear and old ones disappear, but I don’t feel any strong story arc. Frankly, it’s feeling just a little bit stale.
So what was happening this week? The Dowager enlisted the doctor’s help to split Lord Merton and Mrs Crawley up, but then they both agreed that actually Lord M and Mrs C are quite well-suited.
Mrs Patmore inherited some money and asked Carson for investment advice just because he’s a man. Then she ignored the advice he gave – mainly because he’s a man, but also he doesn’t know anything about investments. Continue reading
(Series 5, ep.4) I watched this week’s Downton online on the ITV Player, for which I had to register. Then every fifteen minutes or so the gentility of country house life was punctuated by a loud woman wanting “to bust the myths about female intimate health.” This did not enhance my enjoyment of the programme, though the glimpses of Tom Hiddleston in the Jaguar car ads made up for it a bit.
To the action now, and Lady Mary bobbed up to London for an overnight stay, during which she visited a fashion show with her Aunt Rosamund and had dinner with Charles Blake. The real reason for her visit was to tell Lord Gillingham that she wouldn’t be marrying him. She arranged to meet him at the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens. He must have felt all romantic meeting her there, but not when she told him that their week of lust in Liverpool hadn’t convinced her that he was the man for her. “Am I a bad lover?” he said anxiously. If only it was that simple. But the problem is that it doesn’t look like Tony is going to take no for an answer, and he still has the ace up his sleeve of being able to destroy Mary’s reputation if the truth about Liverpool became known. Continue reading
(Series 5, ep.3) You’d think in the pre CCTV, snail-mail world of 1924 Downton Abbey that it would be easy to keep things that took place in another city secret from your family. Lady Mary and Lord Gillingham thought they could relax in beautiful Liverpool, away from any tittle tattle and prying eyes. Unfortunately they were in Liverpool at the same time that the Dowager’s butler was in the city for a wedding. And he couldn’t wait to tell the Dowager. She covered beautifully for Lady Mary, then summoned her for a proper dressing-down about her racy behaviour. Apparently women aren’t supposed to let themselves be seduced without their mother’s prior approval.
It looks like Lady Mary might not be seeking Cora’s approval for any further seduction by Lord Gillingham anyway, because it seems that a week of hot Tony lovin’ hasn’t quite hit her spot as far as accepting him as the future Mr Lady Mary is concerned. Continue reading
(Series 5, ep.2) Downton is sometimes a bit heavy-handed about giving us historical context – for example, much of this episode was taken up by Lady Rose’s attempts to persuade Lord G to get a “wireless,” and Lord G and Carson’s objections that it would rot everyone’s brain.
Sometimes it delivers a historical lesson that just knocks me flat, and it’s often about the specific problems of being a woman in that era. This week, Lady Mary was planning her week of getting to know Lord Gillingham in a carnal sense. As I said last week, Mary is more sensible than her sister Edith, and she wanted to take steps to avoid getting pregnant. She couldn’t get anything herself, because she might be recognised, so she asked Anna to do it. “I might be recognised too!” Anna objected, but Anna has the advantage of being married to a man who is still alive. Lurking at the chemist’s until there was a female staff member to serve her and no other customers present, Anna finally obtained what was needed from a judgemental, disapproving woman who would only hand it over on the understanding that Anna had health reasons for wishing to avoid pregnancy – otherwise she thought abstinence would be enough. Continue reading
(Series 5, ep.1) Hurrah! Downton’s back! Throw another log on the fire (or get your footman to do it) – autumn has officially arrived.
There was such a lot going on as well – book burning and a misjudged attempt at hair colouring were the least of it.
That random band of persons known as The Villagers decided to set up a War Memorial Committee, for the purposes of a permanent erection to honour the fallen. Lord Grantham wasn’t sure what he made of such a modern idea (though it did temporarily take his mind off the horrors of a Labour government), but he didn’t need to worry anyway as The Villagers were so modern they didn’t want him to chair the committee – they wanted Carson. As in, his butler. His Grace tried to accept this with grace, which was not helped by his wife. “I know you hate not to be wanted,” she said. So comforting.
Lady Edith was taking a lot of interest in the little girl the farmer and his wife have adopted. “I wonder where she gets her colouring from?” the farmer’s wife mused, oblivious to the fact that the child’s hair was the same colour as that of the Ladyship upon whose lap she was sitting. The farmer knows Grantham colouring when he sees it, and has suggested that they “need to find a way for [Edith] to live the truth without telling the truth.” He’s deep, that farmer. Continue reading
(Series 4, ep.8) Series four glided to a halt so sedately it might have been a car driven by Tom Branson himself. Some loose ends were tied, but enough of them remained loose to leave us counting the days till the Christmas episode and the new series.
If you haven’t seen the episode yet and don’t want to see any spoilers – turn away now! Continue reading
(Series 4, ep.7) Lord Grantham had to go to America to sort out some situation involving Lady Cora’s family, so obviously he had to have his valet with him. In those days apparently Americans demanded a different outfit practically on an hourly basis, so it was unthinkable not to have your best chap there to fasten your cufflinks.
Mrs Hughes knew that Anna wouldn’t be able to cope without Mr Bates, so she persuaded Lady Mary to persuade Lord G to take Thomas instead. I wouldn’t have taken any persuading at all – I should think Thomas would be a lot more fun on a long voyage than tedious Mr Bates. Anyway, it all means that Lady Mary now knows that Anna was attacked, but not who did it.
Mrs Hughes knows who did it, and when Evil Mr Green turned up at Downton, Mrs Hughes made sure he knew she knew. I think Mr Bates also knows now, because he was observing the way Anna reacted in Green’s presence. If I was Green, I think I’d be more scared of Mrs Hughes.
The Dowager had a touch of bronchitis this week and spent most of the episode in bed being looked after by Mrs Crawley, who sat selflessly by the bedside for 48 hours. She does miss her nursing days, does Mrs Crawley. She’s never happier than when she’s got something worthy and practical to do. The Dowager finds all this very irritating, but the pair of them are a lovely double act. Continue reading
(Series 4, ep.6) As social commentary Downton might not be the most detailed or nuanced thing, or 100% historically accurate and so on, but it’s not a documentary, it’s a Sunday night chocolate box of an entertainment. It succeeds at this brilliantly, but it manages to make some serious points too.
I wasn’t sure what to make of the episode in which Anna was raped, and I said at the time I wanted to wait until the ensuing events put it in a context to decide how I felt. The context has now settled firmly into place, and I have to say I now think the storyline is being extremely well handled (and acted by Joanne Froggatt, who is amazing). There is obviously a part of it which is about the feeling of Mr Bates that his wife has been violated and it’s up to him to seek revenge – that might well come to a head next week when the offending valet, Green, is due for another appearance at Downton. But it’s been much more about Anna’s personal feelings and how she’s tried to move on from the incident, but finds it still takes over every part of her life. What I really hope for Anna is that she somehow manages to take some of the power back for herself and Green will get his comeuppance from Anna rather than her husband. She may have an ally in Ivy, who found that Jimmy expected more than just a kiss in return for taking her to see a film (though he wasn’t threatening and he did take no for an answer). Continue reading
(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. Continue reading