Sunday, February 17, 2013

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Series Three, Episode Seven [Christmas Special - "A Journey to the Highlands"]

This is the Christmas Special following the third season. If it were formally included in the series run, this is the ninth episode if you watched as they aired or are following along on DVD or Blu-ray. Of course, we're all seeing it seven weeks later, and many have not been so fortunate as to avoid the spoilers thanks to PBS's decision to delay airing the program stateside. As it is here at Inconsiderate Prick, Wordy Ginters and Josh "Old Man" Duggan will be your guides.

Old Man Duggan: So we jump ahead a full year. Despite the fact that this Third Series didn't advance through time quite as freely as the prior two did, we find ourselves in the ninth month of 1921, a full nine years later than where things kicked off. It seems a shame that Fellowes didn't expedite the Bates absolution a bit, especially given how much it all dragged, but maybe he'll advance things a little more rapidly this next series.

Wordy Ginters: I hope so. I assume we'll get to the ending in a minute. Despite that sour note from my vantage point, the last few episodes have salvaged the season, in large part because several monotonous plot threads were unstuck and set free, which clears space for new possibilities.

OMD: The new blonde maid checking out Branson as he passed by looked suspicious from the get-go. Moving right on past the fact that her head was shaped like an alien's head, it was clear to me that she was up to no good. Edna. Every British Edna is really a man, right? I think I learned that in school.

WG: Fellowes left his poker face in his kit bag. Too many telegraphed punches. Some of these last episode of the season moves would have detonated a bigger payoff with more set-up. You knew Mr. Edna wanted in Branson's trousers from jump street.

Chev vs. Bates: The Movie We All Want To See
OMD: Every once in a while, Bates will be doing something and the look on Brendan Coyle's face will seem so severe and dour as to make me wonder whether or not he is raging on the inside. Obviously it would appear as though that is not the case, as it does not appear to make sense when looking at Bates's nature, but when he was walking out of the kitchen after detailing how his Lordship loves going to Duneagle, that scowl that I project onto him appeared and I couldn't help but think to myself how he would make a great villainous mastermind to play foil to John McClane, John Rambo, or Chev Chelios.

WG: Coyle is one of the few members of the Downton crew I'd be drawn to see in another project. Crank 3: Port of Call Ripon.

OMD: Oh, no standard opening credits sequence this week, that means we have to wait an extra week (45 in total) before we see Isis's ass again to rev us up for new Downton Abbey. Do you think they're paying Branson to dog-sit while they're away?

WG: I was hoping we'd see Branson mincing about in one of Lady Cora's gowns, locking up Isis in a shed, or using Edith's toothbrush. Something with a little character. Some flair. Some reality. I know I'd have one of those beautiful gowns on before the last suitcase was loaded. I bet they are silky smooth.

OMD: No doubt.

Mary's pregnant. Color Colour me shocked.

WG: Too obvious, right? Perhaps this is the downside of the "one year later" gambit. When you drop theoretically big plot twists out of the sky, they ring off-key. Fellowes has been building pregnancy drama for the bulk of the season. To defuse that tension by planting a baby boy in Mary's womb in the last episode cheapened it somehow. It gave the whole thing a patina of cheese. Smoked Gouda.

OMD: More so than anything else, this episode made me yearn to go back to Scotland. Both my siblings studied outside of Edinburgh for a semester, my brother returned for a semester to work with the study abroad program, and my parents and sister were each married on the Isle of Mull. If I could move anywhere in the world, weather be damned, I do believe it'd be Scotland. For those curious, the scenes at "Duneagle" were filmed at Inveraray Castle outside of Inveraray in the county of Argyll, and sits near Loch Lyne. It's haunted by the ghost of a harpist who'd been hanged after peeping at a lady of the house. The chief of Clan Campbell, the Duke of Argyll, resides there. It's also a stone's throw from Oban which sets off a Pavlovian response in my salivary glands.

WG: Absolutely beautiful. One of my favorite scenes from Trainspotting is when they take a momentary break from the drugging grind and hike out into nature. One of the characters talks about how foolish it is that they run down Scotland and spend their days blissed out on heroin when the beautiful countryside is literally outside every window. Gorgeous country. Impressive Scottish street cred you've accumulated there. I've got a sister-in-law who works in a small village between Edinburgh and Glasgow. The best thing about her infrequent visits back to the states are the countryside photos she brings with her.

OMD: The condition to all that would be, of course, that I'd want to be as far as possible from Shrimpy and his family. The marital strife and incessant bickering would be much more than I'd care to immerse myself into, no matter the cost. Susan is positively insufferable. Every moment she was on screen was a moment in which I wanted to have someone, anyone stomp on my testes, and not in a pleasurable way. I feel bad for Shrimpy being stuck in a marriage as discordant as theirs. When he says, "We don't like each other," I understand completely. I can't fucking stand Susan.

WG: Jesus, she sucked. I thought Fellowes was paying homage to Single White Female with Susan and Cora, and the dueling haircuts. I was waiting for Susan to sneak into Lord Grantham's room and give him a blackmail beej.

OMD: If he can't summon an erection, does it still count?

If I wouldn't want to be around that familial conflict, then I really want nothing to do with the nonsense going on downstairs at Duneagle. Holy shit, those Scots are serious.

WG: Carson's counterpart was terrifying.

OMD: Every time they showed him, I shat myself.

When Isobel and Branson supped, I instantaneously cringed at the inevitability of Branson and Edna getting briefly entangled, as the transvestite alien spied a possible way to jump class strata. No me gusta. When she asked if Branson was ashamed of himself or what he was, I wanted to cut out her tongue. Do not fuck with Branson, Edna. You won't like what it gets you. Of course, her ham-handed button-pushing was instantly identified by the ever empathetic Mrs. Hughes, and the fiendish Edna was sent packing. It sure as shit looks to me that toying with Branson's emotions gets your ass fired if Mrs. Hughes picks up on it.

WG: I was disappointed he played the rube. Look, we all know Branson has had a rough couple of years. A fucking whirlwind. Can't be disputed. But where is the street tough revolutionary who fire bombed the swells mansion back in Dublin? That cat is long gone. He went from The Clash to The Alarm far too quickly.

OMD: Waking every morning to the 'pipes would be abrasive. I like the bagpipes as much as the next guy, but holy hell are they loud.

WG: I enjoyed the look on the Dowager's face immensely. Reminded me of the impromptu disgust she displayed when Shirley McClain was singing to her way back when. Does anyone register the unspoken "are you shitting me?" better than the Dowager?

Tufton, ca. 1980
OMD: Doesn't it seem like Mrs. Patmore's sleezy courtier had to have been transported forward in time from the 1920s? There's no way that guy is actually alive right now, is there? He could pass for Sloth's brother. How the hell is it that Patmore's back was turned every time he skeezed on a lady.

WG: He was a combo of Mel Sharples from The Brady Bunch and Schneider from One Day at a Time. A sweaty charmer.

OMD: Servants at the county fair. The family at the Gillies' Ball. This would appear to be the party down episode. If only Party Down were catering both of the functions [he looks longingly off into the distance]. I'd like to see how many R.D.D.s and R.D.D.s those Scottish servants would register on Ron Donald's watch. Also, I don't often agree with Carson, but when he said that "[he] would sooner chew broken glass" I laughed, but most of that comes from my similar disposition when it comes to spending time with the people. Do you think the merry-go-round was the same one used at the end of Strangers on a Train? I bet it was. It's still crazy to think that Hitchcock actually had that old man crawling under that contraption, hazarding death. Jimmy/James is quite the hustler, eh? No wonder Thomas fell hard for him. I'm glad Thomas and Jimmy made amends, if only just a bit. If you told me that I'd say anything nice about Thomas a year ago, I'd have punched you in the teeth.

WG: Exactly. Despite the fumbled footwork on some ends, Fellowes still comes through by making the unsympathetic sympathetic. I thought that merry-go-round came straight from the set of The Crush.

OMD: Fucking Lady Rose. The instant she returned to the screen there was one thing that I was certain of: she's replacing Sybil. Fuck me. The "mommy won't let me tart it up in the city" woe is me bullshit is not endearing her to me at all. Furthermore, I just don't see how Fellowes will be able to make her interesting. Surprise me, Julian. Please.

WG: Would it be possible to link her romantically with Branson? How about Carson? How about Edith?

OMD: My hope is that Carson finds love, even if it's not with Mrs. Hughes.

Clarkson and Isobel? What the fuck is going on here? Are we watching some weird, between war game show called Coupling Up? Are the hosts Ivor Novello and Lillian Gish? Clarkson gets himself a bit of the old liquid courage, musters up the gumption to ask her to think on marrying him, only to have her seemingly misunderstand what he was getting at while telling him she was afraid of change/remarriage.

WG: Did she know what was going on? I think she was completely daft. She's too busy working on the social safety net to be concerned about a crazy little thing like love.

OMD: I think she was completely oblivious.

Edith and Gregson. He loves her, obviously, but it wouldn't be an Edith love interest without an impassable hurdle. Of all of her prospective beaus, I actually like Gregson the most, but mostly because Strallan was disturbingly old. I'll never forget how Strallan had Branson's back after he was dosed, though. I love you, Sir Anthony.

WG: It will be interesting to see who Fellowes degrades more next season, Bates or Edith. With relatively bright skies shining over Bates and Anna, they would appear to be doomed. I can only assume that Gregson will be killed in a car accident.

OMD: Yeah, the family Bates is fucked.

So I happened across a headline on the front page of IMDb on what couldn't have been later than December 27th talking about what was next for Downton Abbey without Dan Stevens. I was fucking livid. This is the second time in three years that I've had a character's death spoiled in a fucking headline within a day or two of the episode airing. Have some fucking class, internet. Basically, I spent the entire episode waiting for the shoe to drop. Does he do something stupid to wrong Mary or does he just die? When does he die? How does he die? The whole fucking episode I just sat there guessing. Hunting accident? Shoe-horned affair? Hit by a stray shot as Susan attempts to kill Shrimpy? Death by food allergy while eating exotic food Scottish fare in the highlands? Turns out it was death by lorry while delivering news of a baby boy to the family at Downton. His death was presaged, of course, by two events in the first two episodes of this Third Series. The first shot of the second episode was Mary and Matthew in the death trap convertible talking about how shocked they Grantham household would be. More importantly, though, Mary sealed Matthew's fate when they were making up through the door the night before their wedding. When they kissed, she opened her eyes to look upon him. She fucking cursed their marriage and cemented Matthew's future in the form of a tombstone.

WG: I knew from the moment I (repeatedly) saw dark clouds hovering over the impossibly beautiful fields of Scottish heather that something dark was going down. When Matthew seemed so ridiculously and over the top happy and care free in his car, my suspicions were further affirmed. Reminded me of Ben Gazzarra swerving from side of the highway and nearly picking off the Swayze in Road House. Too much too soon. I like that Fellowes is shaking things up, and willing to kill off favorites. But too melodramatic. Would you be surprised if Season 4 opened and Young Mr. Sybil is 5 years old (they are naming the boy Sybil, right?), and Matthew's death was just a dream that he was having?

OMD: Yeah. Stevens has a life outside of acting. He publishes a literary journal and has been on the judge on the Man Booker Prize panel. Stevens's was apparently not going to come back for a fourth season from the onset of the series. He was out so it just was down to how he was leaving.

So Mary and Matthew had to have dabbled in F2FA, right? I've said it once, and I'll say it again: Lady Mary Crawley's anus is a deathtrap.

WG: Even light can't escape it.


Sarah said...

No matter how tragic Matthew's death, Fellowes did a nice job contrasting the happiness of Mary with the new baby, oblivious to the fact that the worst thing in the world had just happened to her husband. Dramatic, yes, but I blame "Matthew" for wanting off of the show. It is what it is.

Sarah said...

And fuck the internet. I wish I hadn't heard that Matthew's character was going to die. Dammit! It would have been a great shocker otherwise.

Josh Duggan said...

Indeed. Fuck the Internet.

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