Blogging the Abbey, Episode 5
Russell: My Sunday night viewing this week started with the Super Bowl. I had been hearing all week about how the game was a match-up between the best offense in the NFL (Broncos) against the best defense (Seahawks). Which made me really confused, because I thought the offense was the part where touchdowns are scored, and by the time “Downton Abbey” came on the Broncos hadn’t scored any. Clearly I just don’t understand football, so it was a relief when I could finally change the channel.
On to the episode — Emotions! Pregnancy! The Dowager apologizing! Sarcastic Lady Mary!
At long last Vacuous Dancing Cousin got to dance. We finally learn what Lady Rose was planning for the Earl’s birthday, a surprise visit by the band she was dancing to before her date ran off to vomit into an urn. And lo, the dashing lead singer came right along with them. Did you happen to notice that he was black?
If the sewing machine and refrigerator hit you over the head with their “The times, they are a-changin‘” signaling, the entire “black man arrives at Downton!” practically drives a truck over you with it. Just as I found the collective tolerant reaction to Thomas being discovered to be gay (and especially his defiant refusal to be ashamed about it) a wee bit unrealistic given the prevalent mores at the time, everyone’s quick transition from looking aghast when the singer walked through the door to thinking he’s a swell guy seemed more in service to keeping them sympathetic to a modern audience than actually reflecting how things would have gone down. Gamble away your family’s fortune? We still love you, Lord Grantham! Display racist attitudes prevalent within your class at the time? Never!
I also find it implausible that a woman as no-nonsense as Mrs. Hughes would have just gone along with Lady Rose saying everyone would love the surprise and not confirming it with anybody.
Then there was Alfred, who will be leaving for cooking school after all. I wonder if he’ll regret not learning to make Daisy’s sauce from anchovieszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
This week we were also treated to Isobel, Branson and Lady Mary talking about their feelings. I actually found that scene rather lovely, the three of them finding comfort in each other as they remembered the people they had lost. My only trouble is it did rather highlight how much better Penelope Wilton and Michelle Dockery are as actors than poor Allen Leech. (He was fine, just… they’re a lot better.) (And if Joanne Froggatt’s trembling lip from last week wins her an Emmy [as it should], Michelle deserves at last a nomination for both her cutting repartee and the glance she gave Lady Rose and her gentleman friend just as she climbed back up the stairs.)
Rose: Vacuous Dancing Cousin not only got to dance, she got to dance. And good for her! The show has been rather sexless for several episodes. Pig farming and the employment of footmen has been more the preoccupation.
I thought, too, that the family’s mad dash into racial acceptance was implausible, but hey, this family has always been implausibly modern. If anyone on the show is ever reactionary, it’s the men, and then they don’t really mean it. They’ll make noises about their daughter marrying the chauffeur, but now? He’s one of the family.
Speaking of which, is there no plot that this show will not recycle? We have a prickly anti-aristocrat (a Lloyd George supporter, if not a socialist) speaking truth to power while sparks fly with an earl’s daughter. Will Lady Mary and the visiting Lloyd George tool Blake eventually get together? Well, we knew she couldn’t end up with Lord Stammering Milksop. After Dan Stevens?
Let us all take a moment to remember when Dan Stevens strode manfully about the show. And then wheeled manfully. And then strode manfully. Thank you.
Were Cora’s protests against snobbery as prominent the first season? And are they an anachronism, even for an American? I don’t care, because they are deeply satisfying to watch. I loved her telling snobby maitre d’ to fish himself. You know what I miss, though? Seeing Lord and Lady Grantham’s marriage more intimately. I thought it was sort of charming in the first season that he had married her for her money, but had fallen in love with her nonetheless.
I, too, thought the scene where Mrs. Crawley, Branson, and Lady Mary each remembered their loves was quite sweet. Mrs. Crawley the elder had been turning into a bit of a one-note joke (as commenter DaveNYC noted last week) and it was nice to have her get some depth back. And the children were onscreen for more than four seconds, I think, which is enough to convince anyone that those children are deeply important to everyone.
Not only is Edith preggers and abandoned, she seems to have reverted to her first season whininess and insecurity. I mean, people really are whiny and insecure. Some of them, anyway. But they’re not all that much fun to watch.
So what happens to Edith? Does she ‘fess up? Is there a possible sympathetic explanation of Gregson’s disappearance? It’s really either death or deception, no?
Other subplots are just blah. Alfred is thankfully gone, although exactly what everyone thinks Ivy did that was so terrible escapes me. Thomas schemes apparently purely for scheming’s sake. The endless minor humiliations of Molesley continue. First Maggie Smith gets her comeuppance, then Mrs. Crawley does. Whatevs.
Russell: I think Ivy was too pretty all up in Daisy’s face? I guess? I lapsed into a brief coma every time the Daisy-Alfred-Ivy-Jimmy storyline was explored, so my recollections are a little vague.
The only time I remember Cora being anti-snob was last season, when she wanted the Earl to ignore the fancy-pants doctor and rush Sibyl to the hospital like the local doc recommended. (Frankly, I found the resolution to that trouble in their marriage deeply unsatisfying. She was right!) I enjoyed how very effective and subtle her mere smiling was in getting Anna and Bates into the restaurant.
Speaking of Anna and Bates, I have a word of advice for Thomas. Don’t use Reluctantly Evil Lady’s Maid’s information about Anna having been hurt in some way in an attempt to bring about… whatever the hell it is you’re scheming to accomplish. Bates’s hands are veritably itching to strangle someone, and I’m pretty sure they’d happily wrap themselves around your ungrateful windpipe in a dress rehearsal for eventually choking out the Rapist Valet. Also, your hair is awful this season.
I have a guess about what happens with Lady Edith’s pregnancy, based solely on the teaser we saw for next week’s episode. (I’m guessing things take a “Vera Drake”-y turn.) Now that she’s back to being unhappily petulant, I want them to spend more time on Lady Mary delivering hilariously subtle insults to the Lloyd George lackey.
And with that, I guess it’s back to waiting.