Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Series One, Episode Four

It's that time of the week again. Wordy Ginters and myself (Josh "Old Man" Duggan for the un-indoctrinated) are back doing our thing with Downton Abbey. This week we've watched the fourth episode (as aired in the U.K. ) of the first series--that's British for season. 


For those who watched Downton Abbey as it aired on PBS, here's what happened: 


The fair comes to town. Anna gets sick whereupon Bates brings her sustenance in a sweet breaking of the rules. Mrs. Hughes reconnects with an old flame, who proffers his hand. After much hemming and hawing, Mrs. Hughes turns down his offer. Molesley's hand has a nasty rash, which Violet Crawley takes upon herself to treat. Much to the Dowager Countess's delight, Violet's diagnosis is incorrect. Lady Sybil begins to come into her own. Tom Branson begins work at Downton as a chauffeur--an Irish socialist chauffeur--and clearly digs what Sybil's got going on. Carson suspects there's a thief afoot. And most importantly, Bates throws Thomas up against a wall and tells him he's going to knock his teeth into the back of his head for picking on William. Bates!


Wordy Ginters: OK, I'll start with the thought I ended the episode with: I wish Joan Rivers was up in this piece, because I'd love to hear her take on Sybil's sexy pro-fem gypsy gear.

Old Man Duggan: While I don't know that the Ladies Rivers would be especially kind, I certainly liked getting to see a bit of sexy Sybil, color combinations be damned. The billowy pantaloony nature of the ensemble was a little blah, but that bodice was something else, and her headpiece was actually kind of fetching.

WG: Are you old enough to remember a Saturday morning live-action cartoon dubbed The Secrets of Isis? The aesthetic is very similar. I was getting into the Bonnie and Clyde vibe sexy Sybil was cooking up with rebel book-readin' and drivin' Branson. His Lordship was all too pleased to share the library. Big of him. I always say, "A book of mine is a book of yours. Seriously though, you have to bring that back when you are done."  That is the kind of shit I'm always saying.

OMD: Sadly, I am not old enough to have even a fleeting memory of The Secretions of Isis, though judging by the picture to our right here, I wish I could tell you otherwise. Back to the episode at hand, I do feel like this chapter was sort of Lady Sybil's coming out party--not just because was she looking for a dress for what I believe was her first "season," but also in terms of plot. Her storyline is finally getting fleshed out a bit. I suppose that has a bit to do with so much of what happens to the daughters being reliant upon the notion that they have to marry off, and Sybil's not out in the world or whatever the parlance of their times would refer to it as. To finally get substantive Sybil content was nice. And Branson's kind of the bomb. I like how self-confident he is, and there's certainly an element of Bonnie and Clyde going on in the car scene between the two. Let's hope Branson's cocksure swagger doesn't get that sexy little lustbomb pumped full of lead. And I loan the shit out of my books. DVDs, too. I still have never gotten back my copy of Freaks and Geeks, four years later.

WG: Branson works for me. Do you think "Lord Crawley" is scrawled across the inside of every tome in that beautiful library? He has a checkout system, so it's obviously a concern. Probably not. I hear you though. I am missing some hard-back Cormac McCarthy's that hurt my soul, the void they've left is so present.

OMD: In extremely elegant script, I'm sure, though there's no way it wasn't Carson who wrote it. I'm sure Carson's penmanship is top-notch.What novels do you think Carson and Hughes were reading?

WG: Actually, I was hoping that we find that out. Trainspotting at its best. Do you think they might be checking out Zero Day? Wasn't that the book that Royals book guy was reading? Back to Sybil, the nature of previous bitches on my end had to do with politics. Fellowes answers in kind. Firebrand time.

OMD: I was kind of waiting for this all to happen to see what your reaction would be to the political shift. It seems as though the status quo needed to be set for Fellowes to explore the radical changes at the time. Three episodes with a few rumblings here or there seems to be about the right dosage for establishment of where everything began. Clearly, the suffrage movement and the introduction of a socialist to the mix has to appease you. It seems like Fellowes was also especially catering towards your concerns with Lord Grantham's speech to Mary whilst walking the grounds about how he's merely a custodian and cannot put her selfish but justified wants ahead of the estate. I'd have pegged Mrs. Hughes for a Bulldog Drummond fan, but that doesn't roll out for another six years or so. And the Royals guy was reading a David Baldacci book, though I'm not sure which one.

WG: The shift in the political palate is much welcomed. I'm very interested to see where it goes. You are going deep background on Bulldog Drummond. WWE reference or was that what Willis called Mr. Drummond behind his back? More importantly, why did Fellowes deny us the delicious pleasure of Bates roughing up that petulant bastard of a footman Thomas? I get it, he's a conniving prick. And conniving pricks always connive on the most innocent and sweet. I know it, but it still needles me all the same.

Royal Book Guy was reading Zero Day, by Baldacci as you've astutely pointed out. This was turned into a Clint Eastwood (yeah, I said he was seriously overrated) male political porno film with Gene Hackman called Absolute Power, about killing to cover up an affair by the President. Released in 1997. Who was the President back then? Sounds hilariously familiar to allegations in the real news.

Bulldog Drummond's nemesis. Evil to be sure.
OMD: Bulldog Drummond was an old British serial in which a former officer took up as a private investigator after WWI. His arch-enemy was Carl Peterson, a nefarious shit to be sure. Oh, we'd all have loved for Bates to beat Thomas silly with a sack of oranges, but it wasn't in the cards. This was a great Bates episode. Between bringing Anna the food while stowed away in her room (dashing as ever, I might add) and telling Daisy that being so nasty doesn't suit her, he did a whole helluva lot with very little relative screen time. As if Anna needed any more reason to fall in love with Bates, there it all was in soft lighting. I want to have his fucking child, and I'm straight and don't have any particular desire to have kids. His slight roughing up of Thomas was the icing on the cake, as he does what everyone watching the show wants to do. It also shows a little bit of that past he's alluded to in bits of conversation here and there thus far.

As for Eastwood, same page there. Overrated.

WG: Remember the faux movement to urge John Cusack to run for President a few years back? You'd see stickers or grafitti around with that iconic scene from Say Anything, boombox righteously aloft? I've got that image tattooed on my ankle with Bates' 100-mile stare in place of the pale Cusack mug. Bates is an awesome ensemble guy. By far my favorite character and personal hero. Dignity. Grace. Strength. I hope he has the opportunity to have a creative and unusual sex life with Anna, and soon.

OMD: I doubt they'll have to go Turkish. I don't remember that Cusack movement, though I should have been banging that drum.

WG: I envisioned some clever role-playing, and perhaps some light bondage. Speaking of soft lighting, the episode stood out for the cinematic touches. Progressively, they've been using more and more of the gorgeous countryside. The churches last week, the fair and fire-breathers, the library as previously mentioned. I've never been to England, but it can't possibly be as verdant in real life as it appears to be on Downton.

OMD: I'm sure elaborate costumes will be used, but not in the lame furry/plushy way. Bates has too much self-respect to have to get off while dressed as a mascot. As for England, I don't know. It seemed pretty goddamn verdant both times I've been. The visual palette has definitely been getting broader. Speaking of the Downton Fair, I was hoping to get a good look at some pre-Great War carnies without having had the benefit of modern dentistry. No such luck. If Fellowes has failed me, it's here.

WG: Ah, yes. You've found a hole in the sweater. From what we innately know about the British and dentistry, the accuracy of this "period piece" may be less than honest. Pre-Great War carnies and modern dentistry conjures up images of a Tom Waits video. Why doesn't Hughes jump at the nuptials? Her old beau seemed like a decent sort. I imagine serving the lap of luxury would seem deliciously close to living in the lap of luxury? How long has it been since you've set in anyone's lap? It's quite disconcerting.

OMD: It's been at least a week since I last sat in someone's lap. I found it far from disconcerting though...

As for Hughes, I think she feels very at home at Downton. When she was hemming and hawing in her office, did it seem to you that she was channeling Joan Fontaine in Rebecca, wringing hands and fretting feverishly? Fontaine's performance almost ruined that goddamn movie for me.

WG: Back to your earlier point regarding the patrician vibe of Lord Grantham, and the more rebellious (or selfish) interests of Mary. The broad themes aren't all that different than Mad Men (perhaps even MORE overrated than Clint Eastwood), which can be summed thusly: the times, they be a changing. The youth, they be crazy. The young aren't so willing to continue walking the traditional path, they react to a little injustice (Matthew fixing up the workers shacks on the grounds) or inequality, and they sure as shit are going to dress how they want.

OMD: Totally agree on Mad Men. Not. That. Great. All style. Very little substance. There isn't a single character on that show that I give an ounce of a shit about. Thankfully, the difference between the shows is that Downton is full of characters that are interesting and which the creator actually seems to care about. Mad Men has an interesting character.

WG: Fontaine almost ruined Rebecca, but Mrs. Danvers served as the inspiration for Henry Rollins curiously long career. Burn it down. I actually liked the first few seasons of Mad Men. There was some whimsy and oddness thrown in with the nostalgia, and it worked. A character had his foot run over by a lawn mower in the office. Little bits of Lynch type stuff. But now those flourishes are long gone. The nostalgia is the main thing, and that horse has been ridden to dust.

OMD: I watched the first season and didn't care enough to continue on. Don's the one compelling character. The art direction and production design are fantastic, but the moments in which the show was truly great were so seldom that I simply gave up trying to care about the show. Having to wait four or five episodes to have one moment of transcendence like the carousel scene was simply too much for me to jump aboard with.

WG: To your original query, no, Hughes is at home at Downton. It has the same pull on her as it does for Lord Crawley. Mary also becomes more human with each episode. Takes some serious self-respect to deny a life of luxury because it wouldn't be legit. Matthew ain't that bad. I'd marry him in order to keep the dinner gong a relevant part of my lifestyle. My eyes may have deceived, but I thought I noticed the faintest kindling of a relationship between the two.

OMD: And I totally agree on the Mary front, though I never really saw her as anything more than capricious when I started watching the show. TSLF was watching this episode with me and was marvelling at how on the second time through, she was liking Mary a lot more. We had actually gotten into an argument about a month back about Mary and some plot points that haven't happened yet, but TSLF kept taking the non-Mary side of the issue, much to my dismay.

WG: Interesting. The stereotype would assume women to be naturally inclined to be sympathize with Mary's plight. Can't be an heir for ridiculously outdated reasons (the broad strokes of which were mocked beautifully on 30 Rock last week during one of the old timey news segment skits). Forced into a marriage she doesn't necessarily choose in order to keep her deadly buttocks inside Downtown Abbey, and a hand in mom's purse.

OMD: The point of contention was neither entail nor tail related. I'll refrain from going much further than that so as to protect you. I do like that Mary feels unfulfilled in the life that she is to live. Her describing it as sitting in a waiting room waiting for someone to marry is sad.

WG: You are a wise and gentle companion. It was sad. A realization that has been building since episode one. What good is that lifestyle if you can't get what makes you happy?

OMD: How much did you want to slap Edith for trying to insinuate that Lady Sybil was putting on weight? How dare she?

WG: I forgot about that! A very low blow. Very low. How about the Dowager acting as if she had sat on a bowl of demon fire when she landed in that swivel chair?

OMD: Hilarious. Her line about always having to fight an American was funny, too. That's what she gets for relying too much upon a cane though. If the cane doesn't turn into a sword, then it's not worth having. Those were words my grandmother put us to bed by.

1 comment:

Shane England said...

I'm actually starting to dig Thomas's swagger a bit. As much as we all enjoy Bates, I don't think he scared Thomas at all.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...