Sunday, January 12, 2014

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

Downton is in full entertaining mode. Varied noble guests are staying with the Crawleys as are a pair of rather dubious ones. Edith tries to get her beau face time with Lord Grantham. Card games lurk behind every corner. Mary makes nice with Lord Gillingham. And the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone in Downton happens to someone we all know and love. As always, the titular episode is listed as it aired in the UK, which means this was the second Downton Abbey episode that aired in the US, as the first week saw us treated to a two-in-one special of sorts.

Old Man Duggan: So this is the episode that stopped me dead in my tracks when I was still going through the rigmarole of watching the show as it was airing in the UK. It is not without a large degree of trepidation that I both rewatch this episode and press on in the coming weeks. It seems impossible that Fellowes will not get excruciatingly entrenched in the story line that this week's development would seem destined to unfurl. Yet press on we must.

Wordy Ginters: No more raping. Is that too much to ask?

OMD: Through the up-turned nose of good ol' Charlie Carson and the good-hearted Mrs. Hughes, we get a glimmer of what's going on in the noble class in the UK post-war. Lady Raven, set on hard times. The British aristocracy didn't fare well in the early part of the 20th Century, and I'm guessing the Lord Grantham is supposed to be representative of the precise reasons why. Is Lady Raven's plight his future? Will he be reduced to *gasp* living north of the park?

If only everyone's worst day was immortalized in a mugshot
WG: Short answer: Yes. I fully expect Grantham to look like Nick Nolte's mug shot by the end of the season.

OMD: Fuck Edna. Lunch at the pub. I hope she drowns in the tub. Also, if Hughes tells you to do something, Edna, hop fucking to it. Every time she opens her mouth in Branson's presence I want him to roundhouse her into the wall. And getting him drunk only to take advantage of him later? She is so fucking loathsome.

WG: Not much nuance with Edna is there? She's got the face and upturned nose of a naughty little pixie, or Rebecca De Mornay's evil little sister. She'll have Branson in the sack in no time. Who is hornier, Edna, Rose, or Alfred?

OMD: I'm assuming I can't say fucking Ethel? If we're talking who is the most likely to give their life over to lust, it's Rose without a doubt.

Eight minutes in and we finally come to the first laugh of the episode. The Dowager Countess bringing it with: "Lord no, but if I were to search for logic, I should not look for it among the English upper class."

WG: The Dowager and Molesley are the go-to actors when it's time for chuckles. Benny Hill music should be playing under Molesley, and a slide whistle after every Dowager bon mot.

OMD: Oh shit. Mary's going to go riding with Lord Gillingham? We all know what riding with visiting young men leads to. Going Turkish. F2FA is in Mary and Gillingham's future. "I haven't been in the saddle for ages. I'll be stiff as a board the next day." What Gillingham doesn't know is that Mary's nether regions have killed more British aristocracy than the Crusades. We can only assume that Mary was riding side-saddle as a preparation or reaction to the analizing from Gillingham. She's an old pro. I don't know about you, but when the door to Mary's room opened post-Gramophone fiasco, my first thought shot straight to Mary's deadly anus. Honest question: do you think that Mary makes Anna give her rectal stimulation and that's what leads to Anna's horrifying ordeal at the end of the episode? Only Mary's asshole can unleash such horrid traumas upon the world.

WG: The same damn thought crept into my heathen mind when we were taken back to the den of F2FA death. Hilarious. Anna may lead Mary through a rigorous daily regimen off ass kegels. Mary's anus is like Pandora's Box, or maybe The Box. If you choose to press upon it, untold pleasures await, but a stranger dies.

Lady Mary's anus

OMD: The latest turn in Molesley's march toward pauperdom: delivery boy for Bakewells. And then he plays second to Alfred's first footman.

WG: The glory from the Grantham Cricket triumph is dust in the wind. Tears in the rain. Gone. Faded. Forgotten. Those same skilled hands that led to many drives, double hat-tricks, centuries, helicopter shots and hip flips are now sadly cloaked in shameful white gloves. The ignominy of the gloves was far worse then seeing Molesley tonk hot cinder into the streets of Ripon.

OMD: Indeed it was. Ignominious to say the least.

Are we to determine by Jimmy's fall trying to toss the jar up in the air to himself that Brits can't catch anything without falling over? British readers, is this a thing? What a dink. "Clever clogs" indeed, Mrs. Patmore.

Proto Clever Clogs
WG: That jar opening would have been too obvious for Chevy Chase. Patmore whipping out the "Mr. Clever Clogs" only partially redeems her for silently mouthing the words in the recipe book she was reading. Best shorthand for dolt: mouth-breathing or moving lips while reading?

OMD: All right, wait just a goddamn minute. Mr. Pattinson? They have a librarian, and no one can find a book without him. I've never seen him once. Are the Crawleys actually literate?

WG: Grantham is a drip. Sure, he'll rise to the occasion now and again, out of happenstance and a basic tendency towards goodness, but he's still pure douche at his core.

OMD: I fucking loved when Cora flipped shit on Robert for not having Dame Nellie Melba dining with the dinner guests. "Am I the only member of this family living in the 20th Century?" I think you might be, Cora. The fact that he didn't even give it a second thought was pretty damned telling.

WG: One of the reasons I enjoy Downton is that it's fairly radical in how it places power with female characters, Ultimately, women make most of the important decisions, and in most of the relationships in the series, the women are the power brokers.

OMD: I agree for the most part. It definitely has a markedly pro-female if not quite feminist streak running thick through its veins.

My favorite part of the episode is the gambling arc. Mr. Sampson runs through his marks like a buzzsaw through plywood, stringing them along with hope despite the fact that he's stacking the deck. Then Gregson takes him to school. Brilliant stuff, letting Sampson have it and then getting everyone's money back from him with the threat of blackballing looming if he doesn't. "I've revived a dubious talent from my misspent youth."

WG: You know some newspaper guy isn't going to get clowned by a dandy card-sharp. Gregson is pretty damn likable for being a Nazi-sympathizing scandal sheet printing adulterer.

OMD: I just can't believe Edith is going to be Lady Edith Goebbels when all is said and done.

And finally, from the get-go, it was clear that Mr. Green/Gillingham was a bit forward. I think if we are to trust Bates's judgment--and he definitely ferrets out the shitbirds and dickholes pretty accurately--it was pretty clear early on that Mr. Green was a no-goodnik. His card game in the pantry looked to be asinine and utter horseshit. Bates's derisive sneer from his fireside rocker toward the dipshittery was justified. After only a few shots, his deficiency was obvious. I think it was the raper's eyes that gave him away. Still, fuck me. Brutal shit. The first thing that shot into my mind as it was happening was, "Well, Bates is going back to prison." I really have no idea how Green doesn't end up strung up in some gruesome position, dickless, with his face stuck in a petrified scream.

WG: Viewer expectations DENIED once again. That smug fuck Gillingham saying goodnight down the hallway when Bates was sussing out the aftermath, just to test whether or not anything was going to get said was brutal. I understand that future episodes deal with racism as well. Nothing says upstairs/downstairs like racism and raping. Tread carefully Fellowes.

OMD: Honestly, I'm not looking forward to where this season heads on the Anna/Bates arc. Nothing good can come of it. He will eventually find out (again, I've not seen past this episode), and there will be hell to pay. Unless, of course, Mrs. Hughes puts a bullet in the fucker's head. Regardless, with Lord Gillingham seeming to be the next in line to be Mary's love-interest, his rapey manservant will surely be back far too often for my liking. I hope Bates fucking curb-stomps the piece of shit and dumps his body in the Thames.

WG: Bates throwing Gillinghams severed leg into a bog would be a nice echo of the time he chucked his leg brace. We've joked about the crude misery that Fellowes seemingly has in endless supply for Anna and Bates, but you are right, this arc seems too dark and discordant.

OMD: It definitely seems like it is impossible to come back from this point.

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