Sunday, February 10, 2013

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

Again we open with the information that this first hour would be the seventh episode if you watched the episodes as they originally aired in the UK. This week, we Americans are getting a second hour, meaning that this sixth episode is actually episodes seven and eight. As of two Mondays ago, you can buy the DVDs and Blu-rays for the third series at Amazon. For the uninitiated, your gentle guides are Josh "Old Man" Duggan and Wordy Ginters.

Old Man Duggan: Finally Bates is fucking out. For a show that plays rather freely with time, advancing as it would please, at times nearly a full year, Downton Abbey could certainly have skipped ahead for the sake of expediting this rather tedious story arc. Aside from a bit of Dark Bates, this story line was D.O.A. from the get-go.

Wordy Ginters: Agreed. But damn if he doesn't look good. It was fun watching him saunter about, limping with dignity, and relishing the idea of bumping Thomas out of a job.

OMD: Highclere Castle looked pretty idyllic as the car approached from prison. I wouldn't complain if that's where I ended up after being released from the slammer.

Not Mark Wahlberg
WG: Stunningly gorgeous. Have you seen the Secrets of Highclere Castle special on PBS? Me neither. I wonder how PBS will handle the relative popularity of Downton. I love the idea of PBS, but it could be soooo much better. It would be interesting if they had programming that appealed to anyone outside of the non-white relatively wealthy people demographic. More Austin City Limits, less Antiques Roadshow.

OMD: I feel like I watched it as a special feature on the Blu-rays. PBS could definitely work to have a wider draw, cut a broader swath through popular culture.

Does The Church of England have saints? If so, the Dowager Countess needs to be deified for getting rid of the scourge that is Ethel. Be gone with you, Ginger Witch.

WG: I didn't mind the Ethel recoups from whoring story line as much as you did. I'm not quite sure how to parse it. Is Fellowes simply reinforcing the style of the times? Is he insinuating that attitudes towards prostitution are still cocked up today? I don't know too many shows that pay as much attention to women and women's issues as Downton. I'm not altogether sure that what Fellowes is trying to say is all that positive though.

OMD: It's not the story line so much as the character that is the bane of my existence. I think for the most part Fellowes is on the right side of women's issues, but then again, I'm a dude. Female readers: Feel free to chime in on this subject; does Fellowes have your best interests in mind on the feminist front while portraying a less evolved time?

While it is certainly apropos of the nature of the show, the back and forth between Alfred and Jimmy/James does not work particularly well. Can we just agree that neither should be First Footman? The Downton Abbey Love Pentagram falls flat largely because we don't really give a shit about any of the characters involved. Love triangles, rhombi, etc. rarely work, and this is no exception. Also, we've largely glossed over all this, but O'Brien's role in the Thomas/Jimmy snafu has put her firmly in the place of most villainous character on the show--at least now that Ethel's finally gone. I am a little surprised that Thomas was so easily duped by O'Brien, but I guess perspective doesn't come into the picture when lusting after someone for as long Thomas has been hankering for a taste of Jimmy.

WG: O'Brien is an evil little knave, isn't she? Like most men, Thomas' glaring weakness is the fire in his loins. Is this O'Brien's revenge for the way Thomas fucked with Alfred earlier this season? Credit to Fellowes. He's taken the audience to hell and back with several characters. Particularly Thomas and O'Brien. I've felt empathy for and loathed them both at different points along the way. Thus far, they have the nasty habit of regressing from tolerable to shitheel. I can only assume Thomas will play some dickish angles next week that will remove all traces of sympathy.

OMD: This is definitely all recompense for Thomas fucking with O'Brien and Alfred. She told him as much and started right down that path shortly thereafter.

Perhaps the best thing about the whole Thomas/Jimmy ordeal has been that Julian Fellowes has been able to successfully humanize what had once been a rather clich├ęd character. For a long time, Thomas was little more than the duplicitous gay villain, something of an overused trope in English television and film. Now, finally, Thomas resides in a murky, gray area, which is much more interesting as a viewer.

WG: Absolutely. Who does Fellowes despise more, homosexuals or Catholics?

OMD: Definitely Catholics.

Jarvis sure was a-huffin' and a-puffin' when Matthew implied that the estate had been run less than ideally. This whole scene and really the chain of events leading to Branson running the estate was telegraphed last week, but it was still funny to see Jarvis go pouting off into the wild blue yonder.

WG: Poor Jarvis. Reduced to comparing himself to a broom. If you were a household cleaning implement, what would you be?

OMD: A shop-vac.

The Greatest McFly
Is it just me or did Branson's brother, Kieran, just look like an older, drunker version of Seamus McFly? Didn't it feel like Kieran's entire time at Downton would have led to bigger conflict? In like a lion, out like a lamb.

WG: I was thinking he looked a lot like the bastard offspring of Seamus McFly and Zach Galifianakas. I wish we could have heard the earthy Irish humor with which he was using to keep the servants in stitches. Jesus Christ, you know it was earthy. The dinner with Edith springing her journalism news, and the crazy Irish brother, certainly didn't live up to the hype. I did enjoy the Dowager getting in a Middlesbrough reference. Unfortunately, my beloved Boro haven't won a match since the start of the year. A smooth and confident ride back to the Premiership has foundered, and is in danger of dissolving. Is it possible that the glory days of Viduka and Hasselbaink will represent the pinnacle of Middlesbrough football for decades to come?

OMD: Everything past the christening was what was originally the eighth episode. So let us get into the cricket. One of my favorites part of the episode was Molesley talking up his prowess on the cricket lawn/field/whateverthefucktheycallit only to turn out to be completely inconsequential and, according to his father, not particularly good to begin with. I also really like Anna's sly little joke to Matthew when he said Bates was lucky he didn't have to play. "I think he'd like to walk normally, Sir, even if playing cricket was the price he had to pay." The thing that struck me as odd was what in God's name would make Lord Grantham want Tom to play in the Village vs. House Death Match when he's never played the game before. If you cared about winning, that is not the smart play.

WG: Roster management is apparently much more difficult than it appears. I think Grantham's hard-on for Tom joining the squad had to do with his archaic view of tradition. It's for the estate, man. Despite the faulty analysis on Grantham's part, Branson looked like the Irish Amos Otis out there.

OMD: Bates gets his valet gig back after a significant detour, and virtually instantaneously the tension between Thomas and him gets ratcheted back up. Then Jimmy turns toolbag at the drop of a hat, demanding Thomas be turned out without a reference. Thomas really starts to get it from all sides for a bit there. Thankfully for him, Mrs. Hughes swoops in. At this point, she's got to be my favorite character. Pragmatic. Sensitive. Understanding. She also plays so well against Mr. Carson while perfectly complementing him as the matronly head of the servants. Strange that it ends up being Bates who saves Thomas's hide. "Why do you have to be such a big girl's blouse about it?" Fucking brilliant, Bates.

WG: Bates is Christ.

OMD: My favorite moment of the episode, hell of the whole season, is this (and I'll let it speak for itself): Lord Grantham: "I mean if I shouted blue murder every time someone tried to kiss me at Eton, I'd have gone hoarse in a month."

WG: Too bad some of the luster from that gem was worn off a few lines later with Bates' "batting for the same team" crack. He might as well have been wearing a digital wristwatch.

OMD: Jesus Christ is Rose irritating. I could tell the instant she walked in the door that we were in for some trouble, and not in a good way. Petulant little party girl. She looked ridiculous in that get-up she left Lady Rosamund's house in. And Terence Margadale was straight out of central casting. Oh, a cheating husband? Let's get Edward Baker-Duly in here.

WG: I would have bet the mortgage that The Happy Mondays were going to be playing at the Blue Dragon, and that Rose was popping E in the cab ride over. You know you talk so hip you're twisting my melon man. Kawl the Kopss. Bez!

OMD: The Blue Dragon. For those curious, Smokey Green and the Louisiana Boys do not appear to be a real band, not one that is apparent through any cursory search of the internets. The club reeked of BBC approximation of a Jazz club, didn't it? I like that they thought it was so decadent as to liken it to the Outer Circle of Hell in Dante's Inferno.

WG: Praising with faint damnation.

OMD: I was pleased to see Bates and Anna fixing up The Bates Family Fuck Palace. Anna, the eternal optimist, and her hubby have waited a long time for it.

WG: Could have been more garish for my taste. Cheetah print. Mirrors. Red lights. Black leather. Nagel prints.

OMD: Mary's small operation. What do you have? I'm guessing Pamuk broke her with a Turkish Anal Curse and that Dr. Ryder is a witch doctor. He fixed her with a Sybian and a bath of chicken's blood.

WG: I was thinking he probably had to remove a muscle from her anus. A ride on the Sybian and a chicken blood bath seems like something Carson would prescribe for moral lapses.

Arthur Fonzarelli
OMD: Towards the end of the episode, we finally get a glimpse at why Robert is so ill-equipped to handle the estate and why he has repeatedly gotten them into dire financial straits. Charles Fucking Ponzi. 100% profit in 90 days? Good God, nothing could be amiss with that. Sign me up. Where Fellowes [apparently] failed to plug in a bit of timely Jazz at the Blue Dragon, he succeeded in inserting a bit of timely detail with the Ponzi reference. The most frustrating part of Robert's bristling at anything that smells change is that he views any disagreement with him as an attack, that everyone is against him. It is so petty, yet entirely how he deals with dissent. Everything is fine and dandy as long as everybody does exactly as he likes.

WG: The Ponzi shout out was good stuff. Grantham has a thin skin. He's petulant and prone to self-pity. However, the Dowager usually brings him around one way or another. In this case, the firebrand Branson with some Don Clifton strengths-based alchemy.

OMD: It was hard not to laugh at the soapy turn that Edith and Michael Gregson's love story took. Married to an insane woman who has been institutionalized and is therefore impossible to divorce? I bet that happened to every character on One Life to Live at least twice. Todd and Blair both should have been institutionalized.

WG: Did you know that Colm Meaney (how the fuck is he not on this show?), Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne all spent time on the One Life to Live set? The "my woman is crazy" plot twist was stale, but I'm holding out hope that Edith can score some age appropriate strange for a change.

OMD: I knew about Cranston, but not Meaney or Fishburne.

Whenever anyone walks by The Dog and Duck Pub in the village, I have a Pavlovian desire to walk to the identically named pub a few blocks away and knock down a few.

WG: Who knows what delights lie within? You must do it.

OMD: How fucking satisfying was seeing Bates lay down the law on O'Brien? "Sort it out by this evening... Or you'll find your secret's no longer safe with me." Slip on that soap, O'Brien. And Anna was joking about Bates running for Parliament, but he's got all the tools to succeed in politics now. He fucking slapped O'Brien silly just as any deft politician would. She hopped to it right quick. The thing is, I bet Anna puts two and two together and figures out what the "Her Ladyship's soap" means eventually.

WG: The pieces on the chessboard have been moved around a bit. With Thomas sticking around, the slippery soap gambit in play, and Bates possibly plumb square in the vile O'Brien crosshairs (just like old times), plenty of drama to be churned.

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