Sunday, January 25, 2015

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Season Five, Episode Four

In this week's episode of Downton Abbey, Robert pitches fits while ignoring the value of the women around him. Sarah Bunting enrages Lord Grantham with her thorny persistence toward forwarding her agenda. Lady Mary rather unsuccessfully tries to refuse Lord Gillingham's proposal. Lord Merton asks for Isobel's hand in marriage. Shrimpy and Bricker play the part of house guests of the week. News of Gregson's presumed demise draws near.

Old Man Duggan: So Thomas looks like shit. That no one--other than Carson, whose wide-eyed silent registration of horrified indignation at Thomas's appearance undermining the decorum of lunch spoke volumes--was shocked at the ghastly pallor of his skin and the fiery bags 'neath his eyes speaks volumes to the degree to which everyone else in the house is indifferent at best to Barrow's well-being. There is of one thing that we can be sure: Thomas's attempts to rid himself of the burden of homosexuality through tinctures and elixirs will be about as successful as praying the gay away.

Wordy Ginters: Those colors don't run.

OMD: It's a damn shame that Thomas wasn't just a bit more sympathetic, so that this story line could resonate a bit more deeply. As it is, we feel bad for Thomas, but he's such a conniving prick 80% of the time that the modest steps made toward his redemption that Fellowes has taken from time to time probably won't be enough to draw the emotional blood from the viewer that it would have if, say, William or Alfred were the one who was gay in a time in which that was not an option. I guess Thomas would be little more than an evil caricature without the homosexuality as a partial explanation for his devious nature, and concocting a suitable alternative explanation that would conjure feelings of sympathy for such a bastard would be difficult, but still, it's a shame that the horrors of being gay in the early 20th Century couldn't have been explored with a character who doesn't simultaneously fit the bill of the classic heel.

WG: It's shitty that Fellowes makes Thomas the gay character. Look at The Wire. David Simon made the most interesting character (Omar) gay. Fellowes on the other hand, makes the gay guy a sneaky cheating back-stabber. The progressive female teacher is a thorny blowhard. He's working from his 1920s stereotype handbook. It's a dusty fucking tome. His politics suck. To be fair, he's been more enlightened with other choices, but he fumbles badly with Bunting and Thomas.

OMD: It seems like the theme of this episode lies in the evolving notion of the non-permanent nature of marriage in 20th Century society. Shrimpy wanting a divorce from his insufferable shrew of a wife, Susan. Widower Lord Merton proposing to widow Isobel. Mary thinking better of being wed to Lord Gillingham after having been dissatisfied with how they fit together (please, read that however you'd like). The traveling salesman trying to worm his way into Cora's heart/pants with adulation over her appreciation for art. The revelation that Kuragin begged Violet to abscond to some upper crust love nest on the shores of the Black Sea. Is Julian Fellowes having some marital woes?

WG: Apparently so. I need more Kuragin. I'd pay to hear that guy read the Austin phone book. Speaking of pro-fem pop culture, did you realize that Hall and Oates sizzling chart topper, "Adult Education," is written from a female point of view? I knew Daryl Hall had more facets than you'd guess from his choice in music, from his smash home renovation show Daryl's House, and from his bold hair style, but I didn't know he had more nuance than Julian Fellowes. Don't actually read the lyrics to that song.

OMD: I had no idea, but between the gender-bent perspective on "Adult Education" and the anti-anal dance anthem "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)," Hall and Oates are nothing if not ready to venture into challenging territory for a songwriting team.

Violet's recounting of Kuragin's attempt to lure her away from the deceased Lord Grantham was quite nice. "Like all Englishmen of his type, he hid his qualities beneath a thick blanket of convention, so I didn't see who he really was at first."

WG: An elegant way to get that sentiment across. Fellowes, you complicated fucker.

OMD: I wanted to make a joke about how nothing gets me randier than [near] septuagenarian widow/widower courtship, but Lord Merton's proposal sincerely brought a tear to my eye. Damn you, Fellowes.

WG: I'm looking forward to the honeymoon montage, a la Bates and Anna. Tangled sheets. Tasteful cleavage. Meaty thighs. Merton cross-eyed. I was hoping when he left, his heart and head buzzing, that he would have put on Isobel's gardening hat.

Gregson's killers
OMD: Would've been perfect.

It surely looks like Gregson was killed in the Beer Hall Putsch of November of 1923 that landed Hitler in jail for treason after the Brown Shirts failed in their march to set up an oppositional government to the Weimar Republic in Munich. The ensuing trial of Hitler gave way to the rise to prominence of the Nazi Party as he was given a public platform from which to espouse the tenets of National Socialism, so Fellowes has done a fine job of incorporating the Crawleys into the periphery of the fabric of world history once again.

WG: I've got a twenty against your ten that Carson spouts some shit that shows him sympathetic to Hitler at some point.

OMD: As long as he can find a way to qualify Hitler's changes to Europe as attempting to honor the tired old class system, that could happen.

Robert's continued marginalization of his wife and her opinions cannot possibly be to his long-term benefit. His childish petulance in this episode is dialed up to eleven until the closing seconds of the installment. It does at times become tedious, though his protestations at Bricker's transparent attempts to sweet-talk Cora's Interwar undergarments to the floorboards are not without their merits.

WG: I laughed when he blew out dinner. I'd rather see him in pissing contest with Bricker than Bunting. What was with the public show of interrogating Daisy and Patmore? That was horseshit. He should have just asked them to flash their tits. Or maybe asked Daisy if she knew what 2+3 was.

OMD: To be fair, Daisy may not know the answer to that question, and I don't think it has any relation to Lord Grantham trying to keep the serfs in their place.

Lady Rose's assertion that she'll only marry a man to whom she's enamored can only be followed by one thing: enter Suitor Number One. At least her unhappily married father will not be the one to block her from a union borne of happiness.

WG: She's been significantly less horny and more prone to social services this season, she's do for a romp. I say pair her up with Tom.

OMD: Tony[!], Toni[!], Tone[!], whenever will you learn that women don't like being told that they love you and will come to their senses while disabusing them of the notion that they get to choose such feelings after having been jabbed about Liverpool by your dick? I just re-watched the episode of Black Mirror featuring Tom Cullen, and I'll admit to having had a bit of a hard time divorcing Tony Gillingham from the shitbird ("Jonas") he played in that episode. Perhaps there was a statue better suited to dumping? Could he have really challenged her assertion at Trafalgar Square in front of the raised, majestic visage of the virile Lord Nelson atop a phallic Corinthian column?

WG: How emasculating to flunk your fuck test with a potential fiance, get dumped in a garden. I think Gillingham's secret is that he's loud in bed. Lots of high-pitched squealing and wheezing. I've only seen one episode of Black Mirror, and it was sadly Cullen-less. Does he have a spit curl?

OMD: "Here, look at these plants growing in the fertile soil. You certainly won't be planting your seeds in mine." Keep going on Black Mirror. It's good shit.

Anna done gummed up the works with that trip to Piccadilly. Bad Mrs. Bates!

WG: So she is a suspect now? That would be hilarious and potentially interesting to me. And hot.

OMD: Some Caged Heat circa 1924 action would be cool and fitting. Of course, they'll probably just be walking in circles in the prison yard, doing calisthenics, and getting their letters withheld by the guards.

On a separate but related note, the green screen/soundstage work on a few of the London scenes looked pretty bad this week, though I understand that it's be damn near impossible to shoot at Piccadilly on a British TV budget and have everything look like it was March of 1924--Hitler's trial transpired between February 26th and April 1st of 1924.

Sarah Bunting strikes again, this time leading to Robert storming out and Branson looking the part of someone who sharted thrice in quick succession at the dinner table. Holy shit is she unable to bite down upon her tongue at opportune times. It must be exceedingly tedious to be her co-worker, as every sentence she utters is in the service of a cause.

WG: She's brutal.

OMD: Someone with more fine art chops than I possess could surely assign an importance to the shot framing of the painted maiden in the stairs outlined by the Jacobethan balusters of Highclere Castle as Mary ascends the stairs to console Tom before heading off to bed.

WG: Nice catch. Tis not I. I'm more at home with Rance Mulliniks.

OMD: Less than a month of proper book learnin' can't possibly make Daisy's letter on behalf of dear Archie a readable one. I'd be terrified to read it.

WG: Cuz fore he got his head rattled on a count of the horors of warz.

OMD: The Dowager Countess owes Princess Kuragin the debt of reuniting wife with husband? Do spill the lurid beans, Violet.

WG: Anything is possible. Speaking of historical guide posts, is the whole Russian/Kuragin story somehow related to the Anastasia story?

OMD: And the episode closes with Robert pledging to build his field of dreams. Or tasteful housing developments. Perhaps there will be a home for the fallen Shoeless Joe amongst the homes. He would surely be a fine ringer for the village cricket squad.

WG: Now there's a proper ending to Eight Men Out. Shoeless Joe smacking belters all over the pitch in Ripon. Molesley polishing silver in the stands, leaning over in a knowing whisper to the guy in front of him, that guy used to play for the White Sox.

1 comment:

jaclyn said...

i really enjoyed the whole first footman bit with Molesley...
i cant understand why Tom's lady friend Bunting can't keep her trap shut at a dinner party. i understand that she has some thoughts up in her pretty little head but good lord, you are a guest and you are intentionally poking the bear. i do like that they all see that and can have a good laugh about it...
i like how Mary's trying to break up with her fuck buddy and he's having none of it...
Edith just needs to stop. good lord, stalking much. if you want your kid then you need to own up to the fucking out of wedlock. you're not the first person to do the deed out of wedlock and you wont be the last. and now that you are coming close to some kind of closure with your man's death i would think you would want his child close, and i don't mean at the neighbors...
Thomas' sad story is boring. like y'all said if he was likeable just a little then maybe i would care, but i don't. i'm assuming that this will make Baxter care about him more and then the two of them can become gal pals and then she can be his O'Brien. i'm sure this is his master plan...

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