Sunday, February 22, 2015

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

Rose and Atticus are wed. Anna gets taken away. Daisy gets drunk on London. Denker gets drunk.

Old Man Duggan: Well at least some stuff happened this week. Sure, one of the things was the most predictable and tedious development of the season, but the pre-Christmas Special [for those of you not privy to Downton Abbey's airing schedule on ITV in the UK, this was the season finale that aired in the fall, and then next week's installment will be the special that aired on Christmas Day] season finale wrapped up things and kept an eye toward the future on the cast members who may or may not be moving on to greener/different pastures. I will say that Julian Fellowes did a better job dealing with the possible departures of actors this season than he did in the past. He threw out some red herrings and built both Daisy and Branson up for possible exits. Better than Matthew's absurd run-in with the lorry.

Wordy Ginters: As Downton finales go, this was definitely one of the better versions. Which is odd, because as a whole, this may be the weakest season ever.

OMD: Agreed on both counts.

"Don't call me 'Donk.'" Pretty sure that one's set in stone there, Robbie boy.

WG: Donk, forevermore. It fits so nicely.

OMD: I haven't seen the Christmas Special yet, but it does seem that Fellowes has left the door open to possibly having Branson stay because the dynamic of his relationship with Mary could suddenly change. I doubt it does, but it wouldn't surprise me if it happened, as they've quietly become partners in crime/confidants. If for no other reason, she may attempt to reel him in to avoid the eventual sororicide charge that she'll face when she murders Edith.

WG: Mary and Tom, eh? I'd be surprised if Mary could do that to Sybbie, but we've already established she doesn't respect the sacred bonds of sisterhood like most human females. I'm glad to see her lonely at the end of the season. I'm petty like that. Just a few episodes ago she was gallivanting around the beautiful English countryside, riding sidesaddle like a boss, with a devil's haircut, leaving a trail of boners in her wake. Sweet comeuppance!

OMD: Is it just me or did young George look like they were grooming him to be the model for Cracker Jack? Clearly his wardrobe was inspired by Sailor Jack's. Now all they need is a dog named Bingo. Oddly, the real-life Bingo, a stray named Russell--who the hell names their dog Russell?--outlived Robert Rueckheim, the boy who Sailor Jack was modeled after. Little Robert died from pneumonia at the age of eight shortly after he became the face of Cracker Jack in 1921. Russell lived until 1930, twelve years after being introduced to the world as Bingo.

WG: A spittin' image. It's weird to see Fellowes throw the kids in the random scene from time to time. Speaking of which, what the hell happened to Isis?? I could hardly sleep all week, laying awake at night wondering what happened to that damn dog, and Fellowes leaves me hanging.

OMD: I think we're to assume that when Robert said it would be Isis's last night, it was her last night. Or at least that's what the pet memorial stonemason would have me believe.

Molesley, the appreciator of the arts. Loves all small museums. Especially if he's not been to them. Or even to the country in which they reside. Still, you can't help but root for the dope to find happiness with Baxter.

WG: Molesley waxing poetic about museums he'd never been to was hilarious. There's a true renaissance man buried somewhere inside that guy. He just needs some guidance to bust him out.

OMD: Prince Kuragin yearns to be inside the Dowager Countess with such boldness that it is nearly impossible to not admire the fortitude behind his courtship. At this point, I think he would batter down my defenses and leave me helpless against his advances.

WG: I would have curled up with Kuragin about four episodes ago. And I'd still be there to this very day. It's been a cold winter where I'm living. Dude's got bad-ass hair for an old man.

OMD: While Denker is a shifty old bat who I wouldn't trust to polish the hood ornament on my Rolls-Royce, I like that she and Violet ferreted out Spratt's sabotage in a mere moment. I like when Thomas can show a bit of humanity and compassion, and Denker provided that opportunity in this chapter. His complete screw job on Denker at the casino was delightful.

WG: I'm resentful that Denker ends up making Pratt look sympathetic. I was hoping Thomas had found true love. That he recouped some cash and dignity from small-time grifters was almost as satisfying.

OMD: What wasn't delightful was any moment that poisonous bitch Susan MacClare. Lady Flincher is wholly repulsive. The tart set-up. The divorce announcement. One almost wishes for Shrimpy to have her offed rather than suffer the ignominy of divorce. "Do you have any English blood?" What a shrew.

WG: She's what my Grandmother used to call "the shits." Alienating her daughter might be the most appropriate punishment though. How do you come back from that one?

OMD: I like that Violet has become more supportive of Isobel and Lord Merton's relationship. Obviously her hesitancy arises from her fear of losing her closest friend, but the public show of support is nice. Strangely, I find myself much more drawn to the romances surrounding the septuagenarians than I do any of the young ones--with the exception of Branson, of course, who seems nowhere near embarking upon a second whirlwind romance. Maybe Fellowes should dump the rest of the cast and just focus on the olds.

WG: I would be wholly in favor of more olds and less everything else. Seeing the possibility of autumn romance between Isobel and Merton has surely pushed Violet into "why not me?" territory. Plus, Kuragin has the look of a man who can light a match in anyone's crotch.

OMD: Daisy's turn to being amongst the enlightened continues down its improbably--nay, illogical path. It was touching when Patmore was crying by herself for the loss she was expecting to endure. Of course, dim Daisy failed to pick up on why Patmore was going to miss her. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially in the head of a dullard like Daisy.

WG: I was thinking back to your comments from a few weeks ago, incredulous at Daisy's turn from simpering, drooling, dolt to budding socialist philosopher. It is a radical whipsaw turn for her character that borders on the hilarious. I've heard that she unveils her new invention, the Microwave Oven, during the Christmas Special.

OMD: Atticus's stag party was a bit disappointing. Where was the donkey (and I don't mean Robert)? That originated in London, not Tijuana, right? How the hell did Atticus not pick up on the fact that there were people taking photos of the plant and himself in vaguely compromising positions? It's not like they were taking them through peep holes or anything.

WG: The idea of stag parties has always seemed like meathead juvenalia to me, from the same place that generates "man caves" and other misguided efforts at extended adolescence. But fuck yeah, if you're going to do it, do it with the proper debauchery and danger. Atticus is a swell guy, but with his brow-beating old man hammering his self-worth all these years, I don't blame him for being a beat slow on the drop.

OMD: The disapproving parents angle was predictably tedious. Making a true villain of Susan wasn't objectionable, but the high society prejudice gets a bit dull, even if it surely exists/existed. Susan reminds me of Bebe Glazer, Frasier Crane's dubious agent, but only if Bebe were slightly more depressive. They're certainly equals when it comes to connivery and scheming.

WG: I felt silly that I instinctively went for Atticus's old man as the likely blackmailer. Rose's character arc has generally been confined to exploring choices that pissed off her elders. Early on she was caught smoking behind the convenience store in Ripon. There were several episodes where she debated getting a tattoo. She's still breaking all the rules. I've never seen one episode of Frasier, but I have enjoyed a YouTube clip of Kelsey Grammer falling off a stage dozens of times.

OMD: I shit you not, Frasier's really good. People like to conflate the status of its lead character and his brother with a wholesale endorsement of rich dipshittery. It's not that at all. And it's really funny. I swear.

When Denker was singing and dancing in the servants' dining quarters, I thought for sure she was going to break into "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll." Just once, I want Fellowes to throw us an anachronistic curveball with a knowing wink.

WG: Hilarious. Maybe the only move that could bring back the show from the brink. How about a little Andrew WK? Bringing up The Stooges tender paen to love and devotion, "I Wanna Be Your Dog," underneath Gillingham's shameful pleading with Mary a few weeks ago would have been a nice jolt. Give things a different hue.

OMD: Lady Sinderby laid down the law with an emphatic stomp of the foot and clenching of balls in fist. Sit down and shut up, Lord Sinderby, your wife is running the show and knows what's good for you.

WG: The men on Downton are more or less buffoons. Tom gets a pass. Bates, of course. Other than that, the buffoon vibe is strong.

OMD: Anna gets arrested. Of course. Is this the biggest fucking eye-roll of the series's five-year run? There have been many, but this may be the worst. It's probably even more insulting than her being raped last season, and that was almost unanimously considered Fellowes's biggest misstep thus far. It's like he has no idea what to do if he's not fingering Bates and Anna's wounds. How fucking boring will it be to watch Bates visit Anna in the clink? Will she also have to walk in circles in a 12-by-12 "courtyard" for her daily constitutional?

WG: It's ridiculous. I want to view it as bad ass pro-Fem Death Wish-type justice. The whole Scotland Yard noodling around thread has been a yawner. Fellowes didn't even give the detectives oversized magnifying glasses.

OMD: Big misstep on the lack of magnifying glasses. Ya dun fucked up, Fellowes.

I loved Cora putting that old racist broad in her place by reminding her that her father was Jewish.

WG: The post-bon mot chuckle she shared with Donk was even better.

OMD: When Carson tells Lady Mary that Tony wasn't good enough for her, one cannot help but wonder what he'd think of a Branson/Mary pairing. The obvious match-up is between her and Blake when he returns from Poland, but the hints have certainly been there, and Mary seemed awfully distraught at the notion of Tom's departure.

WG: Tom and Mary would put Carson in a tough spot. Can Carson overlook Tom's humble origins as a grease monkey? Or, furthermore, as an Irishman?

OMD: Robert's memorial to Archie was a nice if obvious touch. The show is at its best when it gives the proles a little ray of sunshine in their otherwise limited lives.

WG: Fellowes gets a tingle in his thighs when he showcases the benevolence of the swells.

OMD: Marigold looks more like the alien in Mac and Me than Gregson. Wouldn't that make for a better show, anyway?

WG: Holy shit. That is spot on. I was thinking the little Gregson was a bit off physically. Perhaps like the baby picture that elicited a shriek of agony from Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice. But the alien in Mac and Me is obviously the same actor playing Marigold. Put that alien in a pub, knocking back pints as fast as Spratt can set em up, is a show I'd look forward to seeing.

OMD: That shriek would have been perfect.

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