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Friday, October 30, 2015

Downton Abbey: S06E06

Eep, I'm pretty late for this one, but hey – at least my Polytech assignment is finished!

I'm enjoying this season more than any other since the first, and I can't help but feel that Julian Fellowes' writing has been reinvigorated by the fast-approaching finish line. There's no excuse now for stalling or backtracking; the end is in sight and so he can plot his episodes accordingly. As such the show has a forward momentum that's been missing for a long time.

I see Matthew Goode has made the opening credits, which means he's certain to be Mary's endgame. Also appearing there is someone called Michael Fox. Is that Bertie? If so then that's Edith's happy ending all set as well.
And yet there's definitely something of a Relationship Writing Fumble going on with Mary and Tom. I don't ship them, and I'm pleased to be watching a strong male/female platonic relationship... but honestly, they come across as more married to each other than either of them ever did with Sybil or Matthew. They spend every waking minute together, they tease each other, they communicate without speaking. Tom knows exactly what to say to prevent Mary from flattening everyone in her path (explaining why Bates is so insistent on paying for Anna's doctor), and Mary actually acquiesces to his guidance.
My jaw may have dropped when Tom caught Mary's silent cue at the restaurant and responded accordingly, even if it was so she could spend some alone time with Matthew Goode.
For one terrifying second I think I actually shipped them when Mary got off the phone and Tom teasingly said: "so this is the urgent business that takes my lady to London." If a newcomer watched that out of context, I don't see how they could have thought these two were anything but a couple.
No! This can't happen. Okay, I know it's not going to happen, but still – it's hilarious to consider that after all those failed attempts to write Mary a proper suitor, her deepest and most profound bond is with her brother-in-law.
She's also starting to press the issue of Marigold. Heck, she's probably already figured it out and is just trying to trap the others into admitting it. When the truth comes out I hope she'll rise to the occasion and take it graciously. Obviously she's going to be more upset that her family kept it a secret from her than the fact Edith has had a child out of wedlock, but perhaps it'll finally give the sisters a chance to air out that toxic relationship. After all, what does it say about Mary that everyone thought it would be best she didn't know?
Starting from the Pamuk scandal onwards, there's always been a seed of poison between them that not even Sybil's death could dislodge. And yet the two of them are very different people now – they could get on if only they could give their history a proper scrubbing.
Most of this episode revolved around Downton being opened to the public to raise money for the hospital. As it happens, I've been working my way through the early seasons, and it's astonishing to realize this simply wouldn't have happened back then. And that realization soaks into everything. It feels wrong now to watch the downstairs folk sitting in that dingy little kitchen, and I was enjoying the fact that Mary/Anna felt more like friends this episode – at least until the jarring moment when Mary said "I thought I'd have to dress myself."
(And of course, it's not like Anna is invited to dinner at the fancy restaurant).
Yet all things considered the public tour brought a new and interesting perspective to the show; much as Gwen's return did two weeks ago. Despite Carson's worrying that it would encourage thieves and jealousy, it turns out that Downton is treated more as a curiosity to the common folk – in fact, there was almost a sense of pity that the Crawleys didn't live in more modest and cosy surroundings.
I was initially gobsmacked at the implication that that really was the end of Baxter's little subplot, but thankfully it appears that Fellowes isn't done with it just yet. Her past boyfriend (or whatever you want to call him) wants her to visit him in prison. Stay tuned.
Carson continues to reassure me that I'm making the right life-decision by remaining happily single. I'm not saying all husbands are like this, but – urgh, I'm just not cut out for co-habitation. And it honestly breaks my heart to see Mrs Hughes reduced to this. She used to be the mistress of her own little circle, now she's treated like the servant of this pompous idiot. I hope she lays the smackdown sooner rather than later.
The brief Mary/Barrow scene interested me, if only because I'm not sure these two characters have ever interacted before. Things are certainly looking grim for the increasingly expendable Thomas, but as Mary made a point of seeing how good he was with George, does that mean he'll end up some sort of nanny?
Either way, we're in for yet another Mistaken for Gay subplot with Andy, which leaves Thomas crying by himself in the kitchen. He doesn't really deserve it (I'm watching season one, and he's truly awful), but I do hope he gets a happy ending.
Mr Mason/Mrs Patmore, honestly? Fellowes, you don't have to hook up absolutely everyone. And though I can understand why Daisy wants to keep her father-in-law to herself, this behaviour is beyond the pale. I mean, I get it when she's just a fifteen year old, but isn't she in her mid-twenties by now? Unless something drastic happens in the near-future, she has the dubious honour of the most stunted character growth on this show.
Miscellaneous Observations:
As creepy/gross as that comment Lord Grantham made at his daughter's expense (about how they could give people their money's worth by showing them Lady Mary in the bath), it was perhaps it was worth it for Carson's reaction:

I'm going to miss Isabel and Violet. Remember how much they disliked each other? Now look at them:
But I loved how the actors chose to play news of Violet's demotion as if receiving news of an incoming missile strike.
Aw, a picture of William.

Oh look, Evelyn Napier is here. Seriously, did Julian Fellowes have a schoolyard nemesis called Evelyn? And why is he so hung up on Mary after all this time? Having recently watched the first season, it's clear that he plays his departure from Downton in the wake of the Pamuk scandal as dodging a bullet. 
Reflections of a sad plot-point.
Hey, it's that guy from Reign. I... don't know what the point of him was, but whatever.
I'm not hugely adverse to Mary/Matthew Goode (still don't know the character's name) but I think they have a good rapport and I'd be fine with them as endgame. Though I had to laugh when Mary said: "this is moving much faster than I imagined." Of course it is, that's because it's the final season.
The best scene would have to be the montage of the Crawley ladies showing the tourists around the house and having no idea what anything was. Beautifully done, and it felt like an iconic Downton moment. They've fought tooth and nail for this house and its history, and yet they don't really understand it at all.

Likewise, the little scene between Lord Grantham and the little boy was one of the best he's had in years. "He was more a philosopher than a thief," indeed, as it would appear he's planted a thought in Robert's head. Perhaps he's not doomed after all.
Mrs Patmore has a telephone! The times are changing indeed.
I love the little side-eye Bertie gave Mary. I like Mary, but I love it when other people clearly don't give a shit about her.
All things considered, it would seem that Fellowes has gotten his writing groove back – let's hope it lasts.


  1. Also enjoying this season! And enjoying your thoughts on it too.

    Michael Fox is Andy, by the way.

    1. Oh right, Andy! That makes much more sense. Prayer circle for Edith, then...