Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Downton Abbey: S05E01

Ah, Downton Abbey. Yes, I’m still here. 

1. Apparently this was the lowest rated premiere of Downton Abbey, and people are lining up to explain the reasons why. Personally, I think that with the deaths of Sybil and Matthew, some of the glue holding it all together has undone. The heart of the show was always Mary/Matthew’s courtship, the holy trinity of the Crawley sisters, and Lady Violet. We’re down to only one of those, and what's left over isn’t particularly interesting.

2. Despite being used as Julian Fellowes’ personal punching bag, I think that Edith’s storyline holds a lot of potential. Seeing her daughter being raised by farmhands, within cycling distance yet forever out of reach, is an intriguing storyline, especially when she has to see her niece and nephew raised in the lap of luxury amongst loving parents and doting grandparents.

I may hate the way the way Fellowes got to this point, but now that it’s here, this is probably the most interesting storyline of the new season. Although – Marigold? Who on earth picked that name?

2. My new favourite character would have to be Mr Drewe, who has figured out Edith’s secret and non-judgmentally decides to help her “live the truth without telling the truth.” The way he tapped his thumbs together as his wife was speculating on Marigold’s parentage was a nifty bit of background acting.

3. Speaking of babies – George and Sybbie are all grown up! Or at least much older than I expected. Though clearly not old enough to hone any non-existent acting skills. Are these the faces of children that have been woken from sleep and whisked through a burning building while everyone shouts and screams around them?

No they are not. But ten points to Allen Leech.

4. Violet and Isabel – the greatest friendship of all time. Seriously, it’s the gradual coming together of these two women that has formed my own personal backbone of the show. If they were young white males, fandom would be all over them. But they’re not, and that’s what makes it so awesome.

5. Another great pairing is Mosely and Baxter, either as an unexpected friendship or a potential ship. Baxter is the one unequivocal addition to the cast that’s been successful (remember Ivy? Me neither) and Raquel Cassidy has a tragic bearing and vulnerability that makes me forgive the fact that she’s yet another convicted felon working at Downton.

6. How on earth can Violet stand to have Spratt in her house? It’s not that he’s insubordinate, it’s that at any moment I’m afraid he’ll grab a butter knife and gouge someone’s eye out with it.


7. We’re well into stunt casting, but if it means seeing Harriet Walter and Anna Chancellor, then who am I to complain? Anna gets a more comedic role after completely flooring me on Penny Dreadful last night, though deep down she’ll always be Miss Bingley to me.

And oh look, Richard E. Grant next week!

8. Bates would be so much more interesting if he was secretly a psychopath.

9. I said it last season and I’ll say it again – I like Sarah Bunting, mainly because fandom’s hate-on for her is so hilariously over-the-top. Was she a bit rude? Sure, but apparently speaking back to Lord Grantham (a character that everyone wants to see taken down a peg) becomes tantamount to shooting a puppy when Sarah Bunting does it.

Evil incarnate a.k.a. not the girl that fandom ships with Branson

And she may well end up teaching Daisy mathematics, so I’m looking forward to seeing how fandom tries to work the “she’s just a love interest!” angle.

10. Cora figures out that Thomas has probably been blackmailing Baxter. I’m astonished – this is the first time in forever that she’s actually put two-and-two together and figured something that’s happening right under her nose. Of course, that’s all brushed aside sixty seconds later, but it was nice while it lasted.

11. Luckily for him a convenient house fire starts in order to keep him in the family’s good books. I suppose we should just be grateful he didn’t start it.

12. So why the drop in figures? Downton Abbey has always been an ensemble cast, but now it feels stretched too thin over too many characters that we don’t care about. Fellowes has run out of material for the likes of Mary, Bates, Anna, Thomas and Cora. Matthew and Sybil are gone. Rose and Jimmy don’t interest me. Alfred and Ivy were introduced, only to be ushered out again without doing anything.

Portrait of a sad gay evil footman.

And there are others at Downton who no longer have any reason to be there. Thomas and Branson and Daisy seem like the kind of people who would have moved on by now, and the new characters just aren’t as interesting. Seriously, I’ve no idea how Mary even tells Blake and Gillingham apart, and I’d rather see Mary and Branson act as parents and siblings-in-law than tangled up with new romantic partners.

I enjoy this show as period fluff, but that’s about it by this stage.

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