Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Downton Abbey Gets a Fresh Influx of Villainery (spoilers & review)


A sociopath, a drunk, and a tramp nearly ruined Rose's London wedding, even as the show's resident scoundrel showed his softer side.

Every week for the fifth season of PBS's period drama Downton Abbey, Sophie Gilbert, Katie Kilkenny, and Joe Reid will discuss the intrigues, upstairs and downstairs, of public television's favorite Yorkshire manor.

Gilbert: A slow clap for Shrimpy, please. And, though it burns me to say it, for Lord Grantham, because even a stopped clock is right twice a day, as the Dowager Countess might say. The penultimate episode of Downton’s fifth season saw the (second) most pompous man in Yorkshire finally peel off some of his prickly aristocratic armor and do a very kind deed for Mrs. Patmore, honoring the cook’s nephew with a specially designed memorial stone in the village. He also finally twigged that Marigold bears an uncanny resemblance to someone—not Edith, his own child, who, as we know will be ignored until the world stops turning, but Michael Gregson. All it took was Cora to gently confirm his suspicions, and suddenly the Crawleys have a new grandchild to fuss over, or a replacement for Sybbie, anyway, since Tom seems hell bent on moving to Boston. I hope he has snow shoes.

There was an awful lot to unpack in this episode, which once again blended moments of comedy and tragedy with the kind of surging string crescendos normally reserved for Nicholas Sparks movies. Those who predicted Lord Sinderby would be enshrined as the season’s villain before the wedding was out were disappointed—the true snake in the Aldridge grass turned out to be Susan, Rose’s mother, who paid a “tart” (as Mary put it) to pose as a prostitute in Atticus’s hotel room, allowing a photographer to capture the moment and send the (misleading) evidence to Rose. Downton loves nothing more than a person doing malevolent deeds for no good reason, from Thomas (more on him later) to O’Brien to the first Mrs. Bates to Edna the saucy housemaid. Is England really so full of sociopaths? I understand that the show needs drama, but it does get exhausting watching villains try to ruin everything all the time, and there’ve been Disney baddies who’ve had more psychological clarity and motivation than the poisonous Susan.

Since it was her wedding day, and all went well despite her mother’s worst intent, let’s take a moment to appreciate Lady Rose. Once a flighty party girl sent to Downton to straighten up, she seems to have evolved into a kind, sweet, and perceptive person, caring for displaced Russian aristocrats and managing to wrap her head around even Lord Sinderby. While it’s easy to dislike Atticus’ father for his cold manner, hearing his speech about wanting to preserve the legacy of his ancestors gave him a lot more heft as a character than Susan, who only cares about saving face. But can she have any friends left to save face for? It’s a mystery.

While Shrimpy was upbraiding his soon-to-be-ex-wife, Lord Grantham (suitably chastened by the death of his dog) was remembering that commoners also have feelings, and Rose was getting married, the Dowager Countess’s maid was taking Andy the temporary footman to gambling clubs and drinking for free thanks to him losing all his cash. I have two problems with this. The first is that Violet is far too exacting a person to stand for a person like Denker being her lady’s maid. The second is that no one gets that tiddly (it is a long way to Tipperary) and doesn’t have even a shade of a hangover the next day. Nevertheless, it took a villain to understand a villain, and Thomas, astute as he is, was able to figure out Denker’s con and win back Andy’s money, leaving Denker with a nasty bar bill to settle. Spratt would be so pleased if he wasn't stuck in Yorkshire pondering his grievances.

There’s so much we haven’t covered. Katie and Joe, what did you think of Daisy’s decision (and then reversal) to move to London and live a life of culture? How long until Mr Molesley puts a ring on it? (“It” being Miss Baxter, obviously.) Will Tom actually leave for Boston or is this just one of those insufferable problems that gets mentioned over and over again before reaching a predictably tidy conclusion? (Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the war memorial.) Why does “The Velvet Violin” sound so offensive to my ears? And, most importantly, did Lady Sinderby have the best comeback of the season?

READ MORE HERE: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/02/downton-abbey-season-5-episode-8/385723/

1 comment:

Tchr4vr said...

Hello -
Gratefully, I found your blog and enjoyed reading your 'eval' of DA to date (U.S., that is). I still wonder about Lady Sinderly. Does her husband refer to her as a'shiksa' also???