Blogging the Abbey: Episode Four
Rose: Well, Russell, I must admit that the showrunners of Downton Abbey gobsmacked me. Just when I thought, well, we finally have a nice lady’s maid…cue portentous music…Baxter, too, is Evil and Cackling! Bwa-ha-ha-ha! She will lull you into a false sense of security with the soft clacking of her sewing machine but she is really weaving her machinating trap. Although there is a touch of sadness and resignation in Baxter. Perhaps she is only reluctantly evil? Perhaps she is not another Evil Cackling Lady’s Maid, but Evil Perfunctorily Chuckling Lady’s Maid? And then (it’ll turn out) she’ll be Really Good After All, but have been blackmailed into evil by Thomas! Granted, I don’t know many truly evil people, or else they hide it well. But do they really say things like, ““She’s incorruptible. So we have nothing in common.” Seems more plausible coming from a Noel Coward character than a Cackling Evil Wannabe Valet.
Did Daisy hide the letter for Alfred informing him of the date of his exam just to keep him around and enrich his bechamel, or did the letter getssszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
While in previous weeks I carped at Moping Molesley’s unwillingness to take a footman job, Carson’s glee in telling him the position was no longer available struck me as a bit cruel. If the Earl were to come down in the world and need to work in a shop, wouldn’t the show have us feel a bit sorry for all he lost? Can the show give a little of that dignity to Molesley?
Other than Anna, Bates, and Mrs. Hughes, the downstairs characters have all the depth and realism and plausibility of Buster Keaton movies. I saw Blue Jasmine the other night, and was astounded yet again at Woody Allen’s clumsy and clueless attempts to portray lower class people. There’s something a little similar in Downton Abbey.
Anna and Bates resolved….mostly everything, so at least they are back together and she is only lying to him a little bit. It was really very moving when he told her how he loved her more than ever. She stopped looking like a Whistler portrait and came alive again when he touched her face.
On the Anna and Bates issue, Mrs. Hughes didn’t take much goading to swear on her mother’s grave, did she? (Serious question here: is swearing on someone’s grave something adults take seriously? I haven’t done this since a child, but maybe that’s because I’m godless and damned as it is.) So Mrs. Hughes tells Bates that Anna loves him and it will be the end of her if Bates leaves. Which I thought was meant to convince Bates to let the matter drop — that he should just take Anna’s love on faith, and know that no matter how she’s acting, she needs him. But Mrs. Hughes goes on to immediately tell him Anna was raped. Shouldn’t she have tried a little harder to persuade him to let it go and trust Anna? And is it really the case that they can so little spare Bates at the Abbey that his threat to leave makes Mrs. Hughes lie on her mother’s grave?
And I have to say, in the opening shot with Bates walking with his cane, he looked less like a man struggling to overcome a disability and more Puttin’ on the Ritz.
So Lady Edith went to see a doctor (a nice Jewish one!). Preggers from her one and only night of passion? And where do you think Gregson is? Faithfully carrying marks in a wheelbarrow for a loaf of bread and learning German pronunciation? Or did he make off with her signed papers for some nefarious purpose?
Napier is back! Lady Mary seemed awfully giddy to see him, even after “that ghastly business.” What was that ghastly business, anyhow? The death of Kemal or the death of Matthew? Come to think of it, sleeping with Mary is a dangerous affair. It has a 100% correlation with early death to tremendously sexy men. Napier is cute in a Hugh Grant-ish bashful, stammering, dimpled toff sort of way, but rather sexless compared to either Kemal or Matthew (when each was alive). Is he the new love interest?
And we saw children! Briefly. But they talked about them a little, too. Am I denying my socialist forbears when I say that I kinda want little Sybbie to remain at the Abbey and have a history with it, as the Earl suggests? C’mon, Branson. How much more welcoming can this family be? You had two awkward conversations one night, and you’re ready to have people stop bringing breakfast when you ring?
Vacuous Dancing Cousin is planning a party for the Earl. Will she finally get to dance??
Russell: Where to begin, where to begin…?
What, the hell. Let’s start with Molesley. No one ever starts with Molesley.
I’m tired of Molesley. And I really wish the show would figure out what they’re doing with him this season. If we’re meant to care about him because of the street paving and delivery boy bit, then it seems weird to turn him back into the sad-sack laughingstock he’s been in seasons past. The Dowager Countess went to bat for him, for heaven’s sake, so are we meant to care about his fortunes or not?
Speaking of the Dowager, her line to Isobel about how heavy her halo must get was my very favorite of hers since the show began. Even though I think Maggie Smith’s been a bit overpraised for her “Downton” acting (it’s marvelous, to be sure… just so is a lot of the rest of the cast, who seem to perpetually get eclipsed), she lived up to all the praise with that line delivery alone.
That said, Joanne Froggatt had damn well get the awards season love this year. She deserves an Emmy for the way her lip quivered when Bates told her he knew, all on its own. That scene was some of the best acting I’ve ever seen. Was it worth Mrs. Hughes swearing on her mother’s grave to get there? Since it looks like Bates didn’t buy it and plans to get stabby in coming episodes, only time will tell.
(I don’t know what that oath is meant to signify, or what they believe will happen if broken. It seems a bit theologically unsound to believe that telling a lie on your mother’s grave will consign her blameless soul to perdition. Mrs. Hughes must really like Anna and Bates to have to explain that to mom for all eternity. And I took her recourse to swearing on her mother’s grave to be more a sign of her concern for Anna than the running of Downton.)
It’s a shame Lady Edith didn’t borrow Evil Cackling Lady’s Maid’s book about how not to get knocked up from that one night of illicit sex you just had. Apparently it’s not enough that her gentleman friend has decamped to Germany at perhaps the worst possible moment in human history, he has to leave her womb in a state of social disapproval as well. There goes my hope that they’d go a whole season without reducing her to misery all over again.
Lady Mary, I know we are meant to feel bad for you as you dab your eyes because Lord Crumpetcrumb-on-Trivet is engaged to some girl named Mabel, but that is ridiculous. Dead Matthew is a reason to cry. The guy you hardly knew getting engaged just like he said he would when you turned down his equally-ridiculous wedding proposal is a reason to shrug your shoulders and see if Baxter will slip you some orange juice with gin in it. (I’m hoping Baxter is Secretly Good, too.)
And finally, I love America. I think America is aces. And I will dig out my passport and high-tail it to the nearest airport if it means I get to live in a gigantic manor where servants attend to my every whim when I ring a bell. Branson, don’t move. No amount of orange juice is worth the sacrifice.
Now we must wait and see what beverages next week holds.