Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Series Two, Episode Five

Sorry for the significant delay on this one folks. Shit just got in the way. Once again, your guides for Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey are Wordy Ginters and Josh "Old Man" Duggan. Tell your friends, family, and even foes about what's going down here. Once again, you can buy the second series on Blu-ray and on DVD. They're the original versions as aired in the U.K. (Series One available here on DVD and Blu-ray.) Why the British versions? Because they're unabridged, unlike what aired in the U.S.

Episode Five starts in August of 1918 in the trenches at the Battle of Amiens, the beginning of the Hundred Days Offensive that would eventually lead to Armistice. William jumps between Matthew Crawley and an exploding artillery round; both are critically injured. Matthew is brought to the hospital in the village, but William is being treated in Leeds despite the Dowager Countess's protestations to Dr. Clarkson. Bates and Anna head to the church while to pray for William while counting their blessings for their own happiness together. Since an instant of happiness for Bates must instantaneously be erased, Bates's detestable bitch of an ex shows up on queue--having gotten word from Mrs. O'Brien--and, despite her agreement to divorce, promises to sell the tale of Mary's weaponized anus to the papers, ruining Anna in the process and exacting revenge for Bates running back to her at first chance. Sybil and Mary tag team a Matthew sponge bath off screen as soon as he is brought into the hospital. Lady Edith and the Dowager Countess secure William's transport back to the house, where Edith is to look after him. Lavinia arrives just in time to discover that Matthew has suffered spinal damage and may never walk or worse yet be able to stand at attention and discharge his weapon with potency. Mrs. Hughes hops on the bus and delivers food pilfered from the house to the tart, Ethel, in her hovel and informs her that the toolbag Major Bryant is going to visit his convalescent chaps at Downton. After Hughes presents him with a letter, he shrugs off responsibility and high-tails it. William implores the extremely reluctant dullard Daisy to take his hand in marriage before he bites it to get a widow's pension. A war widow is hired on to be a maid. Mary enlists Sir Richard Carlisle's help in buying the former Mrs. Bates's story exclusively but not without him first becoming creepily pleased at the development and her indebtedness to him. Matthew informs Lavinia that his tool will never function again and tells her they cannot marry properly and commands her to leave him. Branson persists in his efforts to court Lady Sybil. The Dowager Countess strong-arms the vicar into marrying William and Daisy. Mrs. Bates storms into Sir Richard's office after reading his engagement notice to Lady Mary in the paper and promises revenge on Bates even if Mary's scandal is off limits. Isobel returns to find her son infirmed, crippled. Freshly married, William slips away with his father, Daisy, and Mrs. Patmore at his bedside.

Wordy Ginters: A beautiful opening scene. Rats. A battle field. Grimy soldiers getting in last glimpses of letters and turkey fucking cigarettes. And then some clown blows a whistle, and they climb ladders out of the trenches and into oblivion. Fellowes would have to possess a glib and slender mind to drop the viewer into the front lines of WWI and not allow a glimpse of the collateral damage. In this strange way, I was glad to see that he eventually exacted some emotional pain via William's wheezing death. Would have been even better if a more central character would have loosed the mortal coil. Once again, let's raise a glass to television that, despite it's soapy nature, deals with humanity on a level that allows the viewer some dignity.

Old Man Duggan: I'm in total agreement on the effectiveness of the scene. Unlike the patrol scenes we spoke of in last week's installment, these scenes in the trenches look good, especially for British television and even with the Series Two film stock (digital video or whatever, y'all get what I'm talking about) that is too clear for my liking. As for Fellowes giving us a meaningful casualty at the front, it finally happens. There's no horseshit death scene. There's no sad coughing and croaking at the end. William slips away without anyone, including us, knowing until he's already gone.

WG: Hefty subject matter in this episode. War. Life. Death. Marriage. Plans made and unmade. Who would have thought the first marriage on Downton would have been between Daisy and William?

OMD: Let's not forget the all-important specter of F2FA that looms over the episode. As for Daisy and William being the first marriage, seeing as though Mrs. Patmore runs her, it wouldn't have surprised me in the least if someone told me that she'd have been pushed into marrying William. Hell, it wouldn't have surprised me if Patmore had gotten her to marry a chimp and take it along with her in a lorry along the British countryside to spawn a British Grrl Power prequel to B.J. and the Bear.

WG: To me, this was the central plot of the episode. Initially, I was all in with Patmore on Daisy feigning her way through the little charade to make William happy. But because I'm a selfish prick of a man, it took me a few beats too long to realize the gruesome meat grinder Daisy was under. Ultimately, I figured she'd have to be simple and cruel to deliver the white horn blast of truth at William on his death bed, but that rattled breathing was starting to creep me out, and I started to admire the lisping little gravy carrier's moxie. Ultimately, I was glad to see her go through with the wedding. How about you?

OMD: I've spoken of this before, but Daisy bugs the hell out of me. That said, I want William to be happy on the way out. If his happiness is dependent upon that superstitious dipshit kitchen maid, then I guess that's what needs to happen. Patmore was completely right, and more importantly Daisy's simple belief system is what is pulling at her innards. She irritates me so much that I'd be pissed if she hadn't married William.

Is there anyone who deserves a widow's pension less than Daisy, the nattering twit? One has to be concerned for the fate of all mankind if Daisy has more money than her salary as scullery maid to spend on wares and whatnot. Someone as dim as her with money to spend is too dangerous to let loose upon society without an intricate system of checks and balances.

WG: The Paycheck Advance scourge was designed for simpletons like Daisy.

Getting back to selfish pricks, whence the Doctor informs you of spinal complications, the first line of questioning is about the fuckstick, right? I got a kick out of Matthew and Lavinia trying to "out selfless" one another, but I supposed Matthew is right. Everything has been queered. It's an awful spot with few decent options. Penelope Wilton, who plays Matthew's mother Isobel, was acting her ass off at the end of the scene, when she finally arrived to take in what had become of her son. I don't know if she spoke a word, but she nicely summed up fear, sorrow, hope, and quit feeling sorry for yourself with a few eye twinkles and a purposeful gait.

OMD: I can categorically say, "Doctor, will my Johnson still work?" would be the first fucking words out of my mouth. Do you think Fellowes is just wanting to Jake Barnes Matthew (yes, I just used Jake Barnes as a verb in an infinitive)? Matthew is right about Lavinia. If she can't get her rocks off by way of Matthew's love gun, she'll grow to resent him and his lack of functional tool. Lavinia is clearly a minx waiting to have her womanhood loosed by the sweetness of matrimony. What woman coming of age in England in and around The Great War wouldn't get hot and bothered at the sight of Matthew in uniform? I'd imagine Lavinia sizes up the situation and figures, "Hey, I stick to my Kegels, wring out towels three hours a day whilst clenching and unclenching my ass, and ride horse bareback for two hours every other day, and I'll have the skills to get Little Matthew at attention like a good horny soldier." I'd pay good, hard-earned money to watch the winsome Lavinia ride Matthew like dune buggy through the Baja. Moving past the hopes for a very sexual future for Matthew and Lavinia, Isobel's entrance into the village hospital had me choked up. Isobel may be irritating 95% of the time, but the emotional weight of a parent seeing their war-wounded child in the hospital facing paralysis and possible death is enough to garner sympathy for almost anyone. Wilton was smart to keep it simple. Let the moment do the talking. Fellowes knows this.

WG: What did you make of the other side of the would be lover equation with Mary and Carlisle?

OMD: Where Matthew and Lavinia are in it for love, Mary and Sir Richard Carlisle are in it for more utilitarian reasons. The glimpse of him wielding a bit of power at the discovery of Turkish buttsexual penetration was a little unnerving, at least for those of us who like Mary and have no problems with her foray into the world of anal splendor. I guess there's an element equal footing for the two, as Sir Richard intimated in his office, but somehow I doubt that Mary's newfound pragmatism as comes to love and marriage will find this pill an easy one to swallow. She has surprised us before, though.

WG: Bates. It ain't over by a damn sight. I liked Bates much better when he was in control. He was decisive. Sure of himself. When he chucked the magic leg fixer contraption into the pond back in Series One, it was the last thing holding him back from achieving personal greatness. Although still a towering giant, he was shrunk some here. A tad more fragile. Less self-assured. I don't like that one bit. I need Bates to be a rock. I'm afraid he's going to get rocked. No one wears fox-skulled stoles like Mrs. Bates and doesn't ultimately get what they want. You simply can't. They won't let you out of the fox-skulled stole store without some credentials demonstrating that you always get what you want. The laws of commerce spell doom for Bates.

OMD: Every time Bates's wife makes an appearance it seems as though the whole show teeters on the edge of falling off a cliff into a fiery shit-filled abyss in which our stalwart hero stands helplessly at the precipice with that fork-tongued harpy at his rear with a sword at his back and a flinty glare in her eye. The only thing that may save our Bates is the back-channel magic that Mary and her dark and mysterious Turk-killing anus can muster by way of Sir Richard Carlisle.

WG: What did you think of the scene in the church with Anna and Bates?

OMD: Superficially, it would appear that Fellowes is adhering to the notion that there are no atheists in foxholes, at least metaphorically, as this marks the second time that someone has taken to prayer for the well-being of another where there had been little evidence of God in their lives prior to the scene. I suppose in this instance it could simply be Anna's being British and therefore more reserved that would keep her spirituality hidden, but Fellowes certainly made a point of making Mary's praying a point of derision for Edith. Given what follows immediately on the heels of their prayer, it's hard to believe a God is listening. Whether or not this is Fellowes's intent is up for debate, but the fact remains that Bates's happiness gets ripped away from him everything he grows content. The scene itself is beautiful, though, with the sepia tones coming through the windows of the church, raining down beams of light through the fore and then the rear of the shot as the track Bates and Anna's walk to the altar, a symbol of their unity in spirit if not properly in holy matrimony.

WG: And the episode's other major heel, Major Bryant. That slick lothario is beyond contempt. He richly deserves some very rough F2FA, ideally at the hands of a large and lonely Russian farm boy in the deep end of a cold mud puddle in some trench in Odessa. Good to see Hughes nudge him out of Downton. Beat feet moustache.

OMD: Bryant is more contemptuous than Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt, which had little going for it other than Brigitte Bardot. I think we can assume, however, that Major Bryant's war injuries must surely have been of a rectal variety, as there's no way he wasn't taken prisoner by the Gerries, who could sense the choadery at the core of his being and exacted a rightful punishment to his anal cavity with a branding iron and extreme prejudice.

WG: To circle back to Matthew. When he first arrived, Sybil was preparing him for a sponge bath. Not bad enough that he's nearly been turned to dust by one of the Kaiser's mortar shells, but he has to experience the infamous Sybil sponger whilst unconscious? A heavy blow. I'm convinced that she may have been able to levitate him despite his spinal injuries.

OMD: Sybil's soft touch with the sponge actually cured Franklin Delano Roosevelt's polio, but once she took her hand from his previously withered legs they reverted back to their infirmed state. Of course, FDR was conscious and then spent the rest of his life chasing tail from a wheelchair having been forever ruined by the impossibility of ever finding Sybil's equal in the female form.

WG: For a hastily arranged wedding/funeral, the service certainly took its damn sweet time. Maybe it was in the way the scenes were cut, but I was looking at my watch, wondering if William was going to last to the "I dos."

OMD: Not only was the minister a pasty, feckless doucher, but he was also a lollygagger with little appreciation for the time-sensitivity of death-bed weddings. What a shit. At least, William was granted his betrothal before being jettisoned off the show like Spock into space at the end of Wrath of Khan. I think the more impressive feat was turning William's room into the Hanging Gardens of Babylon is such a short amount of time. Molesley's father almost certainly had to have been involved in some way.

WG: I'm pulling for Branson. Audacious motherfucker. Pull that shit off.

OMD: Well we root for Branson because he is the representation of the common man with greater aspirations and therefore the embodiment of the vision the average male viewer (at least the average male viewer who is willing to watch Downton Abbey) has for himself. Yes, I'm including and even emphasizing in my own head how dashing he looked in the doctor's office with his shirt unbuttoned looking like the masculine ideal of a pirate. We also all fancy ourselves as having gigantic balls, which Branson's got in spades. Branson is us. We are Branson. And everyone is in love with Lady Sybil. Do it, Branson. Do it.

I liked Branson's resoluteness for the proletariat cause while feeling bad about the execution of Nicholas II. Fellowes again brings historical context into the mix, both placing the events of the show in place temporally and showing how the events change people of all walks. A little bit of the flame of Branson's wide-eyed optimism flickered and dimmed there. Not enough to sway him from the more pressing task at hand, of course, but still the idealist does have to get smacked in the face by reality from time to time.

The comely Ms. Swire
OMD: How good was Lavinia looking when she was sitting up in bed crying wearing that camisole? I'm not some deviant who gets off on women in tears--hell, I would usually turn tail and run if I saw a woman crying--but Lavinia was ravishing when crying for the prospect of a sexless life with Matthew. Perhaps it is just the general lack of skin on display, but I don't know that I'll ever not long to see her shoulders bared for my eyes a second time.

WG:  Nice try. I'm pretty sure you are a deviant.

OMD: You got me.

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