Wednesday, May 16, 2012

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

Another week, another great episode of Downton Abbey. As per usual, we are watching the original UK versions of the series. Season (Series) One is only $22.96 on Blu-ray. Season (Series) Two is only $24.96 on Blu-ray. That's over 900 minutes of enjoyment just the first time through for less than $50.00, and you aren't likely to just watch it once. If you want to read the rest of the series and aren't familiar with what labels/tags on blogs are, the rest of these columns can be found here.

As for this week's episode, so much happens. Lady Sybil's political appetite grows (particularly as it pertains to suffrage), but her disobeying of Lord Grantham's mandate that she not go to Ripon to see the results of the by-election read leads to her getting her knocked unconscious, head bloodied, and almost leading to Branson--her escort--getting sacked. Thomas and Miss O'Brien scheme once again to try to get Bates fired, this time trying to hang Thomas's wine-pinching around Bates's neck and getting Daisy to lie about having seen him come up from the wine cellar. Lady Edith succeeds in drawing Lord Anthony Strallan's eye, leading Robert and Cora to hope for a future that doesn't see Edith tending to them in their old age. The rumors of Mary's Turkish anal dalliances make their way around to the Dowager Countess, to whom Cora confesses its verity and her part in the ordeal. Matthew, fresh off of fending off ruffians and rescuing Sybil, enjoys a sandwich with Lady Mary and, emboldened by getting to so ably exercise his masculinity, works his middle-class magic, wins Mary's heart, kisses her, and proposes marriage. Bates is exonerated of the wine thievery, but it is revealed that he served a two-year stint in jail for having been a thief. The Dowager Countess comes to terms with what she has learned and tells Cora that they'll do whatever it takes to get Mary down that goddamn aisle.

WG: Wow. Episode Six was chock full of plotty goodness. I'm almost at a loss at where to begin. Political unrest? The consequences of F2FA? Bates v Thomas II: Judgement Day? The early 1900s upper crust marriage system paying like with Edith & Anthony and Mary & Matthew?

OMD: A lot of shit is definitely starting to come to a head. The show covers a lot of ground in general, but this episode really advances a lot of plot lines.

WG: What leapt at you?

OMD: For me, my favorite part of the episode was a small throw-away line when Lord Grantham and Cora are sitting up in bed talking about the upcoming "season" and marrying Mary off posthaste. As the subject turns to Lady Edith and her likely fate of caring after her parents in their old age, Lord Grantham's pithy line "What a ghastly prospect" had me laughing rather loudly on more than one occasion, the last one at 3:45 AM. I'm glad to see her own parents don't really like her. I sure as hell don't.

WG: That line from his Lordship also had me in chuckles. I came this close to feeling sorry for Edith.

OMD: Also, Carson's horror at not having rung the dressing gong was priceless. At this point, is there anyone in this world or theirs whose steadfast dedication to keeping up tradition comes close to Carson's? He's a traditionalist, but he's our traditionalist.

WG: Loved to see the politics come to something resembling a full head. Perhaps you can lean on TSLF for some socio-political flourishes here. My assumption is that WWI has already started or is just on the verge of popping? My knowledge of WWI is marked and summed by two videos: Paul McCartney's "Pipes of Peace" and Metallica's "One."  Would like to know more about the liberal, socialist, and tory candidates who are mentioned. But I've been betrayed by my ears, wikipedia, or both.

OMD: TSLF, care to weigh in? The comments section awaits your input. The suffrage movement is gaining traction. Emily Davison was the person that the dipshit guy prattling on about women's rights while not allowing them to speak was going on about. Apparently Emily Davison was a militant suffragette who stepped in front of the King's horse while it was running in the Epsom Derby. Whether this was a suicide attempt or not is unknown, at least if we're to believe Wikipedia. The crazy/awesome thing about the internet is if you're a demented fuck such as myself, you can see her untimely demise embedded at the bottom of this page, as it was caught on film by Pathe Films. Her militancy when combined with her multiple suicide attempts not counting the possible one at the Epsom Derby leads me to think she was likely batshit crazy and probably did more harm than good, but different strokes and whatnot. As for time, this episode jumps ahead ten months from where the last one started. World War I starts in July of 1914. Franz Ferdinand is assassinated at the end of June. One could logically presume that this will somehow come into play this season, perhaps as it comes to a close. I know very little about The Great War, although my grandmother was alive then and her oldest brother fought in it, who I remember in the vaguest sense. I do know that Christy Mathewson died because of injurious gas that he inhaled while in the war, rendering his lungs relatively useless and sending The Christian Gentleman off at the age of 45. Oh, and Amelie, way before she was Amelie but after she was Amelie had this dude who she was engaged to for a very long time apparently. I'm sure those candidates that you'd like to know were crooks of the highest order. Don't fret another second at your not being able to find out who they were.

WG: Death by horse race! Fascinating. In England, the horsies retain much of the blueblood vibe that is evident in Downton. The tradition is altogether different for the Epsom Darby than it is for our US equivalent, the Kentucky Derby. Kentucky Derby: B-list celebrities on the red carpet and a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah in the infield. Epsom Derby: My Fair Lady Audrey Hepburn charming the swells with unintended bon mottes.

You hurt Kima, you hurt yourself.
WG: I ran around like a braying jackass for years telling anyone within shouting distance that they were morally bound to watch The Wire. One friend who finally succumbed sent an e-mail out of the blue one day that simply said: THEY SHOT KIMA! I felt what I can only assume was the same jolt of electricty in the election result riots: SYBIL IS BLEEDING!

OMD: God. I was an insufferable shit about The Wire. I'm sure everyone I know hates me for it. Blood having been drawn in such a senseless way from our beloved Lady Sybil is unfuckingacceptable, though. I want heads to fucking roll. As long as it isn't Branson's. I'm sure it's that cockfuck Thomas's fault in someway. End him.

WG: And the look she gave William upon "coming to". Aimed straight for his groin. I could see a dialogue bubble over her head that was filled with these words: "Maybe it's the head wound talking, but I want to fuck you like an animal."

OMD: To qualify her reaction as smitten would certainly be apropos. It's a little known fact but that dialogue bubble you just wrote were actually the original lyrics for Nine Inch Nails's "Closer."

WG: Lord Crawley and the Dowager were apparently filming a Romney campaign ad? "You don't have an opinion until you get married and your husband tells you what it is." Unfortunately, that sentiment probably charts hot across broad sections of our fair land. Also got a kick out of the way Crawley dismisses Branson's reading material with such disdain. If only the current aristocracy were so well read these days.

OMD: Between that line about a husband telling his wife what her opinion is and her total nattering breakdown at hearing of Mary's Turkish transgression of an anal nature this is the episode that best illustrates how the Dowager Countess--and obviously the old guard that she represents within the construct of the show--is going to have to change or get left in the dust by progress. Her willingness to come around to Mary's side in the end, her views on marriage being built on half-truths, and her open view on indiscriminate Italian noblemen give one reason to believe she may not perish as the world changes around her, but there should be cause for concern in general. One would certainly get the impression from the rather sizable chunk of support that Rick Santorum, obvious hater and hopeful oppressor of women, was able to draw from the less forward-thinking sect of the religious Right that they may well have fit in pre-WWI. As for Branson's reading habits, Lord Grantham's disdain when he utters J.S. Mill's name especially was priceless. You would almost think that John Stuart once bedded Cora to spite a young Robert Crawley.

WG: I loved the choreography in the scene between Lord Crawley and Bates, when Crawley squeezed Bates into admitting that Sybil went to the rally in Ripon. Mirrors, mirroring stances, bourgeoisie v prole.

OMD: It's odd seeing a show in which staging of characters in scenes has so much subtext. This Fellowes fellow is really thinking things out to a Hitchcockian degree. He probably taught courses at all the finest prep schools in the land that carried such titles as Power in Posture and Positioning, Carrying Yourself as to Best Imply Subservience, Eavesdropping and Scheming for Lessers, and Mirrors: Your Friend.

WG: Another nice touch, the shot of Downton Abbey's dark silhouette against the blue black sky. Underlined the plot revelations nicely, Bates in his moment of doubt, and the aftershocks from Cora spilling the beans about Mary's deadly anal escapades with Mr. Pamuk.

OMD: The aftershocks of the F2FA will forever be felt in Downton.

WG: Bates. Almost too good to be true for me in this episode. I dig the quiet honorable dignity. Quite unlike anything commonly seen in TV. If only for the authenticity and the humility. Not showy or do-goody in the least. However, to hoist himself on his own sword, potentially, because of a rough background, takes it a bit far for me. On the other hand, his line to Anna, "Go to sleep and dream of a better man" was fucking money. When Bob Kerrey was Governor of Nebraska and dragging Debra Winger around various Lincoln hotspots back in the day, the milk sop local press at one point actually got up the nerve to ask him a relatively pointed question about the relationship. Kerry simply responded "fluff up your pillows and dream about it." Not quite the same vibe. But delivered with the same doubtless self possessed confidence.

OMD: Having not said anything about having served hard time would have gotten him fired from any other place in that verdant land. I don't know that he was falling on his sword so much as fessing up to something he thought would eventually be found out and was simply beating them to the punch he assumed was coming. There was also likely a bit of resignation in Bates as he once again had to fend off a serious of strikes from the Dastardly Duo. An honor-bound chap such as himself would certainly feel almost crippling shame at having his past found out. I love the fucking pedestal that he has put Anna on. And that goddamn scene with Anna with the aforementioned line to which she responds, "There isn't one," is another moment that you don't want to watch with a lady in the room for fear of her seeing watering eyes.

WG: What did you think of the politics inside the house, specifically the cat and mouse action between Bates and Thomas?

OMD: Bates is simply too good a man for this crazy fucked up world. That he doesn't want to take Thomas out himself is almost a fault. His integrity is beyond reproach. He sticks up for William and doesn't seem to hold Daisy's weakness against her. He feels bad for getting Branson into shit with Lord Grantham. Bates only dropped the thief bomb when Thomas was being a shit and still made sure to do so when one of their superiors was not present. I can never decide which one I hate more: O'Brien or Thomas. I think O'Brien is actually at the top of my shit list. I wish Bates would throw her up against a wall and threaten her. Even better, maybe Anna.

WG: The scene when Anthony shows up in his fancy car with tickets to the classic rock show in York was nice. I don't know which I preferred the most, Mary deftly spinning cold excuses out of thin air to avoid the presumed invite, or the blaze of dogshit smile pasted on Edith's face when Anthony invited her instead? Classical music will be heard. Finger-blasting in the Rolls is likely.

OMD: They were going to check out Captain Beyond right? Also, I think "Lady Jervas" was code amongst the aristocracy for the mixing of fine fruits and the finer arts of cunnilingus, so their stopping at "Lady Jervas's" place for a bite had an entirely more sordid implication than one might initially believe. Or not.

WG: I got a kick out of Sybil's petulant defiance after she gets verbally dressed down a second time by his Lordship: I'm interested! I'm political! I have opinions! Rock Rap history books indicate has that Rage Against the Machine was based on this simple yet powerful credo. A clarion call to political awareness that cuts across race, gender, class, and the world of dressing gongs and non gong families alike. Seriously tho, kind of scary how many parallels you could torture out of this episode and current events. Occupy Ripon!

OMD: There are certainly a dearth of themes that apply to both Downton Abbey in 1914 and the Western World today. Rage would have been just as irrelevant then as now, so that works, too. 

WG: The piano line in the Downton theme music that plays over the beginning credits is vaguely evocative of the piano line in Nick Cave's "We Came Along This Road" from No More Shall We Part. Just the piano line mind you. Speaking of the beginning credits, its as obvious as dog shit on a shoe, but I dig the logo as well. The upstairs downton on top, the "downstairs" downton mirrored on the bottom. Perhaps fodder for down the line.

OMD: I've said it before, and I'll say it again: This song will be the ringtone for my phone once I break free from the chains of ringtone

Lastly, I would be remiss if we closed this out without discussing the most important plot point hit in this episode and perhaps even the first six episodes of the entire series. Mary and Matthew. Obviously, it's been building since Mary came around to see what a bitchin' dude Matthew is, but when they're sitting on the bench 'neath the tree their growing affection for one another is really sweet. The scene that really works spectacularly well is the two of them at the table. Matthew poo-poos meaningless decorum, gives Mary the proper wine glass while drinking from what may as well have been a Dixie cup. Their even being alone in that circumstance is more than a little gauche for the time. All it takes in the end is being left alone over sandwiches and Matthew and Mary get all hot and bothered over one another. If only someone would have figured out that all they needed was to put Matthew and Mary alone in a room with sandwiches, and they'd profess their undying love for one another, then much of their resistance to one another could have been skipped. If only I'd known the power of the sandwich as a lovelorn teen... Seriously, though, their repartee over their micro bacchanal is fucking pitch-perfect. Dialogue. Chemistry. Not one note missed. And all of the important stuff that they have to work through gets said, but the proposal itself, which isn't really that interesting to see happens off-screen and is only later revealed in Mary's bedside conversation with Cora. Once again, shit that lesser shows would air and blow up with overblown pomp and asinine circumstance happens off-screen because Fellowes & Co. know that ultimately the act of the proposal isn't an integral part of the show. It's so refreshing to not be treated like we're subtarded.

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