As Downton Abbey kicks off its final season, the first episode finds Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes fretting over their approaching nuptials with Mrs. Patmore as their go-between while Lady Mary faces a ghost from her sexual past. The family Bates awaits their fate regarding the untimely but deserved demise of the odious Mr. Green. The fate of the noble class appears to be endangered as a neighboring estate is being sold to a moneyed commoner and its belongings are auctioned.
Old Man Duggan: It's 1925, and the more things change, the more they stay the same. We open on a fox hunt, and in a sly nod to the past Lady Mary gets all muddied up whilst jumping the brook, no doubt an Interwar euphemism of some sort. Where first it both shrewdly and lewdly portended an escapade of the anal variety with the Kemal Pamuk, the circle is closed with her forays into the arena of premarital sex coming back to potentially bite her in that murderous ass. Of course, now Lady Mary can not only ride her horse astride--the sexual undertones not lost on this dirty mind--but she can vote and perform the job previously reserved for a man. While the riding astride query from Lord Grantham serves as the quick feminism status check for the show, true to form it doesn't take Robert long to move beyond his regressive inclinations and embrace the fact that his daughter is not entirely encumbered on account of her inward-oriented genitalia.
Can we presume that George begging to lick the bowl is a harbinger of what's to come for the moneyed nobility? The next generation of gentryfolk will be reduced to begging for uncooked table scraps before mistaking the devious underbutler for a horse. Of course this all occurs while the old proles slave away, still chained to the ten-square-foot patch of tiled floor in the bowels of a building from whence they're allowed to leave only long enough to get them enough vitamin D to ward off the rickets.
Wordy Ginters: I'm more comfortable with Li'l Georgie's bowl licking foreshadowing a crumbling class structure than I am in reading into what his incessant horsey back riding on Thomas might mean in Fellowes's ghoulish hands.
OMD: There's little chance Thomas isn't implicated in something untoward with those children. It's not like Fellowes hasn't taken a mostly Old World route in making the only gay character in the principle cast the underhanded villain. Fellowes surely sets head to pillow every night and with the last pre-slumber, quasi-subconscious thought slipping through being, "But Thomas is a gay. I can't let him be too human."
Where Lady Mary's concerns are turned to sex of the premarital variety, Mrs. Hughes's are turned to the marital. So late to get on the horse that she entrusts Mrs. Patmore to serve as her sexual consigliere in a sitdown with Mr. Carson. My first thought was that there may not be a person less suited for such a task amongst the servants, but the pickings are so slim as to have only Anna as a more desirable prenuptial dotter of 'i's and crosser of 't's than Patmore, and she's got her B-story plate full with the still quite dead Mr. Green and the prospect of an uncooperative womb. Clearly the poor dolt Daisy cannot be trusted to handle any situation that doesn't arise within the confines of a kitchen. That leaves Baxter, who is simply too busy planning the next time in which her foot will furtively brush against Molesley's under the table. Patmore it is.
WG: If Patmore is the right answer, what the fuck is the question?
OMD: Who best to fashion a dildo from a gourd?
WG: Both Carson and Hughes are so sexually cloistered, you know regressive kink is on the horizon once they become the least bit comfortable with the missionary position. How many episodes until Hughes is asking Patmore to ask Carson if he wants to wear a diaper and a bonnet and to drink from a bottle? I was glad Carson committed to a full red-blooded marriage and all of the carnal goodness that implies. On the same hand, exploring the sexual tension of two repressed 60-year-olds did strike me as perfect fodder for the PBS crowd.
OMD: The tote holders clutch their Mr. Selfridge bags close to their chest, upper lips trembling and dowsed with sweat.
I, for one, am shocked that Patmore's first conversation with Carson wasn't completely disastrous. Sure, it was as awkward a conversation--what the hell does "Do you expect to share your way of life?" even mean?--but there were so many different ways in which this conversation could have been singly responsible for the fall of the British Empire, that it was a relief to have come out on the other side without shrapnel embedded in every person from Ripon to Thirsk. Patmore downs Carson's proffered port and retreats with no one maimed.
WG: The idea of Patmore and Carson talking sex was so batshit crazy it made for a strangely tense scene. It wasn't Christoph Waltz turning the crank in a Tarantino movie, but I quivered like a bunny just the same. It was sweet release when the convoluted three-cushion bank shot that Patmore set up finally hit the pocket, and that flicker of understanding dawned across Carson's face.
OMD: The sheer prospect of having been indelicate would surely result in soiled drawers for our dear Mr. Carson.
"I'm completely whacked. Don't tell your mother." Can this mean Robert is unwell, or is this just an existential malaise set upon all of the marginal Lords of the Interwar Period?
WG: I think it means he's just finished masturbating.
OMD: Is Rita Bevan the most Fellowesian of all of the wretched rogues who have slithered through the halls of Downton? He barging through the halls with little concern for manners makes me long for a different time. The time I'm wishing for, of course, would have seen Bevan's head on a pike.
WG: Reminded me of a shittier Sarah Bunting. I kind of admired her ballsy contempt for normal boundaries.
OMD: That was the single quality of Miss Bevan's that was anything less than loathsome. And Mary still told her that just because the worker bees would have their day, didn't mean that she would.
With news of the killer of The Rapey Mister Green coming forward, Officer Krupke--er, Sergeant Willis stated that "she saw(r) him standing there," which hilariously repainted Tiffany's gender-reversed Beatles cover "I Saw Him Standing There" in my head. I thought of young Tiffany pushing rapists into oncoming traffic and a smile swept across my face. Of course, that led me down the path to tracking down the song, listening to something that I had remembered rather differently, vomiting, reading the lyrics to find that the link between Willis's description and the Tiffany tune ended at its title, and regretting that the connection was ever made. Then I came back to a time-traveling Tiffany shoving rapists under the wheels of trolleys and lorries across Interwar Britain and reconciled the conflicting emotions with a smile. I will not listen to that song again, though. Never again.
WG: Christ. That sounds like some kind of hellish Lakota vision quest. Or maybe the time Erlich went off to the desert with a bag of mushrooms trying to come up with a better name than Pied Piper on Silicon Valley. What other gender-reversed song covers would you like to see? How about Joanna Newsom covering the Rupert Holmes classic "Him," or more precisely "Her" for our purposes?
OMD: Maybe Linda Ronstadt doing Nick Cave's incarnation of "Stagger Lee."
While I'd be more than happy to see Hughes and Carson marry, a big part of me wants him to only call her Mrs. Hughes while engaging in sexagenarian humping. It'd be a shame for him to lose his grip on tradition while in the throes of passion.
WG: Mrs. Hughes, beg your pardon, I'm going to cum.
OMD: Carson and Patmore's second conversation was sweet. While Carson's love for Elsie--start swishing it around in your mouth for taste, Carson--was touching, the real person to feel for here was Patmore, whose closest brush with love was with that boorish milkman (or whatever the fuck he was) who was groping everyone in sight at the fair when Mrs. Patmore's attentions were turned elsewhere. To be closing in on present-day retirement age without being able to say you've loved another while giving your life to the service of a family who knows little about you past your surname and your dead nephew Archie is really quite sad.
WG: I had the same feeling. Patmore recognizing the loneliness inside herself, perhaps highlighted and revealed by Carson's earnest love for Hughes, made for a sweet and sour scene.
OMD: Since it happened, we probably have to talk about Denker's shit-stirring amongst the servant-class at Grantham House and Downton Abbey, but this should not take precedent over the fact that I just learned that Joel Murray long-lost once-identical cousin Mr. Spratt possesses the most excellent first name of all time: Septimus. Septimus Spratt. Holy shit. Judging by his name, he'd be just as likely to be a stodgy, British Transformer hellbent on invading Hogwarts to dispatch of Slytherin House.
WG: The new Defence against the Dark Arts professor is Freddy Rumsen.
OMD: As for Denker, while I expect the show's final scene to be something with Bates and Anna finally finding happiness after more than a dozen years of false hope and interminable misery because Julian Fellowes is a sadist, I'd be just as happy if it was the Dowager Countess hitting Denker over the head with a fucking shovel and gesturing to Spratt--positively beaming with a shit-eating grin--to tend to the mess. Violet turning the table on the conniving Denker was delightful. That Denker is so foul as to make one root for Spratt in every situation speaks to the malodorous air left in her wake in each scene.
WG: Denker and Spratt perfectly represent the dark side of the Dowager's remorselessly privileged soul. Spratt's lips should have their own show. I'd watch 30 minutes of him purring and saying words and phrases like "plum" and "plume" and "droll poltroon."
OMD: If the Bateses cannot, in fact, conceive, there have to be even odds that one of the Crawley girls' predilection toward sexual impropriety will yield another child, right? If not that, then surely Anna will stumble across a child in a basket floating down the very brook through which Lady Mary's sexual dalliances come to bear in a cyclical fashion. Then after raising the child as their own for years, John and Anna Bates will be charged with kidnapping, and their lives will be torn apart once more by a crime that they didn't commit because Fellowes hates when the proles get even a morsel of happiness.
WG: The celebratory champagne flowed. As soon as the needle dropped on that gramophone (admit it, just like me, you were expecting to hear "Close your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)" by Run the Jewels come blasting out of that tin ear horn), I knew that Bates and Anna would be back in the shit soon enough.
Lady Edith seems likely to butt heads with William Randolph Hearst, right? He buys a castle in the UK in 1925. I'm guessing she makes an enemy of him and eventually hires Orson Welles to take him down a peg only to have him blow up his own career and never again have final cut.
WG: If it means we see Gerald McRaney on Downton this season, I'm all for it.
OMD: Playing son to his previous father. Let's hope.
Robert's handling of the churlish Miss Bevan was nice. Handed her ass to her without dirtying his hands much.
WG: Yosting. I didn't think he had the skills to pull a move like that. And I'm a little skeptical that little bulldog Bevan would be satisfied with a paltry 50 pounds.
OMD: That or jail time? She'd never be able to handle the rigors of the laps 'round the courtyard.
With the demise of Mallerton Hall and the impending doom about to descend upon the United Kingdom on the whole, the future of Downton Abbey would certainly seem to be less than bright. Can we expect Carson to be wandering the halls in tatters, wits left a decade in the past, muttering to himself about servants long since kicked to the curb to fend for themselves as typists and sock-darners on High Street? The future sure seems like it's writ large across this episode.
WG: Fucking Nazis.