(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
Oh I say, I've gone all tingly below the Siegfried Line
I’m not an uncritical fan of Downton Abbey, but I have to say, this Christmas special was brilliant festive telly. It had about fifteen simultaneous plots snatched from the likes of Agatha Christie, PG Wodehouse, Enid Blyton and Barbara Cartland. For our viewing pleasure we had:
- a murder trial, mention of which was being suppressed by The Press along with the Downton dead-Turk-in-a-bed sex scandal
- the machinations of a charming bounder fortune hunter
- the lingering family aftermath of a ‘phoney’ deathbed marriage
- the thwarted ambitions of a talented cook
- the stealing of a beloved family pet
- the birth of a baby across the class (and Irish sea) divide
- a convoluted love triangle involving a dead woman
Oh yes he did
All of these were woven neatly around use of the newfangled ‘game’ popular in 1919, the Ouija board. This was used as a veritable deus ex machina. Never has a glass being shoved about willy nilly done so much to promote the speedy tying-up of loose plot ends. I’m not sure if whole words were written on that board, but it seemed to communicate complicated messages at impressive speed. The Downton Abbey protype of Twitter perhaps?