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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Downton Abbey: S05E05 and S05E06

It's always nice to see Rosamund again, though I have to confess I had completely forgotten Violet even knew about Edith's baby! But what – Edith is going to kidnap a child now? One who is old enough to have formed an attachment to her adoptive parents? Why oh why can't they simply TELL Mrs Drewe the truth? Perhaps if she had been written as a prude or a gossip there would have been reason to keep Marigold's parentage from her, but she comes across as a fairly discreet woman.

But at this point Edith's plight seems so awful that simply coming out and confessing that she had a child out of wedlock and weathering the scandal is surely a better course of action than shipping the kid off to France.

And I continue to find it ironic that Edith is grappling with so much grief over her daughter whilst Mary seems to have completely forgotten she even has a son.

I've never hated Sarah Bunting, so I'm glad she left with a modicum of grace. Having read a couple of spoilers I was under the impression that she left town in a huff; as it happened she was given a better job offer and Tom's rejection was simply her incentive to take it.

Still, I'm left wondering what on earth the point of her was. Wouldn't the character have worked better if she had been a genuinely sweet teacher who made a few clumsy comments around the Crawleys and who subsequently felt mortified and intimidated by them? In other words, actually giving Tom's choice a sense of real poignancy at letting go of a good woman who just didn't feel comfortable around his extended family? Instead it felt like Fellowes needed to push her into being more and more awful until it was a blessed relief that she finally left.

And I like that she made the effort to tell Mrs Patmore not to let Daisy give up her studies.
Naturally Robert decides to punish Cora after she's been propositioned in her own bedroom by a man who was not given permission to be there. Of course. I'm sure all his memories of the housemaid he nearly slept with while Cora was dying in the upstairs bedroom has completely fled his memory.

It was certainly a good episode for men acting like children; on the left we have Carson getting haughty that Mrs Patmore decided not to take his financial advice; on the right we have a Russian aristocrat getting pissy that Rose had the audacity to bring a Jewish man into his vicinity. But I actually appreciate Fellowes for this point-of-view; a personal experience I had the other day really brought home the realization that men (in general) honestly have no idea how much work women have to put into coddling their fragile egos. As Mrs Hughes said: "I wish men worried about our feelings a quarter as much as we worry about theirs."

Mabel Lane-Fox can come back at any time. She was a hoot!

***

And she did come back thanks to Charles Blake and his clever plan to throw her back into the path of Gillingham. Those two already seem much better suited than Gillingham and Mary, so fingers crossed they manage to pull it off.

When it comes to the Edith/Mary rivalry I usually come down on Mary's side (though she seldom deserves it), but damn – she was a stone cold bitch this evening. Showing off a new hairdo while her sister is grappling with news of her fiancé's death? That was fairly awful of her, especially in the way she handled Edith's explosion. In fact the whole family was pretty insensitive.

And as ever, so was Fellowes. We see Mary prepare for her hair appointment, talk about her hair appointment, get her hair appointment, receive praise for the results of her hair appointment, and yet Edith finally learning the truth about Mr Gregson is all done off-screen. Oy.

The disappearing accent of the hair dresser made me laugh though.

But poor Mrs Drewe, she didn't deserve that. To love a child only to have it taken away is just as cruel as everything that's ever happened to Edith. And does Edith even know how to look after a child? I'm pretty sure Marigold isn't potty trained yet, and it's only a matter of time before she starts crying for the woman she thinks is her real mummy.

I'm assuming Edith is going to London, and fingers crossed that she actually goes ahead with running Gregson's magazine. That would be a wonderful storyline for her, far better than what Fellowes has put her through regarding this baby business, and I think she'd embrace the Bohemian lifestyle of a single mother raising her child in the big city.

Bates finding the birth control wasn't as big a deal as I thought it was, though this whole Mr Green debacle has got to end soon. So Bates is innocent. Big whoop. Can we clear his name with the police before a retreat of season two?

Is Isis being killed off because of the current unfortunate implications of her name? Because if so, wow there are a lot of stupid people out there.

As ever, Thomas's storyline is surprisingly touching, and Miss Baxter continues to impress. Of all the new characters that Fellowes has been introducing since season three, she is by far the most effective. I wasn't at all surprised that she would take care of Thomas despite the crap he's put her through – her attitude of kindness and sufferance makes her a wonderful foil to the ghost of Mrs O'Brien.

The Prince Kuragin and Violet scene was incredible. Put two esteemed actors playing characters with history in a rundown room together and just see what happens.

The horse race was fun; it's always like a breath of fresh air when the show leaves the estate and the village in order to explore the social events of the English calendar.

There are three episodes left, so what do I want from the rest of the season? Well, I have mixed feelings about Mary and Edith. On the one hand, I like that Fellowes isn't all Little Women about the two of them. They're very different people with little interest in each other, and that's an interesting course to take when it comes to depicting sisterhood. On the other hand, I'm really holding out hope that Mary will come through for Edith. Of all the people in that house I honestly believe that she would be the least scandalized to learn that Edith had had a child out of wedlock and ironically the most likely to support her decisions in the matter. Apart from Isobel I suppose.

But something else occurred to me when it came to spotting the differences between the show now and back in the good old days. I've previously said that what's missing is the core relationships that made up the crux of the show (the trinity of the Crawley sisters, the OTP of Mary/Matthew, Lady Violet's snark).

But I also think what's missing is the self-contained stories that used to be introduced and wrapped up within a single episode. Just off the top of my head, we had for example the little tale about Violet always winning the flower show and her deciding to concede victory to the man who deserved it more, or Isabel insisting to Doctor Clarkson that he perform a particular operation on a dying man in a bid to save his life. Where have those sweet little stories gone? Everything's serialized now, and as a result everything feels painfully drawn out. The mini-stories gave one a sense of completion among the larger arcs, so that every episode had at least one beginning, middle and end.
 

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