Monday, January 18, 2016

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Season Six, Episode Three

The denizens of the Abbey prepare for the wedding of the century while Lady Edith is away becoming an editor.

Old Man Duggan: After a particularly dismal second episode to the sixth run of Downton Abbey, at least this one was better.

Wordy Ginters: This season has been across the map. A strong opener. A dud. Tonight's episode somewhere between. At this point, Downton Abbey is a yappy dinner guest who catches second wind and obliviously sails into an anecdote they have already shared twice. Are you overstaying your welcome? Hahahaha. Don't be silly Downton. I'm riveted. Still, Fellowes can occasionally bring the tingles. In his hammy hands, issues of class have the not so faint whiff of aristocratic dick waving. It was nice to peer through the fog and see the proles win a battle or two, namely Hughes at the helm of her own wedding.

OMD: Indeed. He still does succeed when it comes to delivering a small, meaningful moment for a character whose life isn't otherwise filled with meaning.

I still can't believe Fellowes wants the audience to care about this fight over the control of the hospital. Maybe there's some historical context that I'm completely missing here that makes this more meaningful, but I did cursory searches to see if there was some larger development in the practice of medicine in the UK in the mid-to-late 1920s, and there didn't seem to be. The NHS didn't launch until 1948, so it's not tying into that at all. In other words, it's just another way for Fellowes to show the tired, aged hand of privilege trying to cling to something, only here it seems only so negligibly relevant as to render the whole to-do pointless.

WG: The hospital kerfuffle is a flaccid attempt to wire up some tension for Isobel and the Dowager. They need some reason to trade bon mots. It serves the dual purpose of further emasculating Sir Dick Grey and Doc Clarkson, a trick Fellowes uses as a shield so that he doesn't end up looking like Archie Bunker. I wish they'd all just end up in the sack together already. Regardless, the faux hospital angst can't be as portentous as Lord Grantham's scene stealing indigestion?

OMD: There are at least two moments every season where Robert expresses discomfort and I become certain that he's going to croak in the next episode.

So fuck it, I don't want to wait for it. At least the Ghost of Branson looming over the first three episodes emerged from the shadows.

WG: That was fast, eh? Do you think he caught wind of the Catholic priest abuse scandal and moved back to England for Sybbie's protection? If Spotlight teaches us anything, it's that nowhere is safe from the pervy hand of the Catholic Church. Welcome back to Downton, Branson, but you can't hide. The sun never sets on the Papal empire.

OMD: If Fellowes is using this pregnancy as yet another way to pull the rug out from under Anna and Bates, I'm going to flip my shit.

WG: Prepare accordingly.

OMD: This Daisy bullshit with the farms has got to stop. Take her out back and put us out of our misery, Fellowes.

WG: Another empty-headed Fellowes prole. No amount of tutoring from Professor Molesley can compensate for that unfortunate breeding. Lack of social grace allows her to cause problems, and she doubles down on the error by wishcasting a solution that may or may not exist. Will the benevolent aristocracy bail her out?

OMD: That the goings-on downstairs at Downton have rendered the ground for story so fallow that we have to suffer through these little exchanges between Denker and Spratt speaks to the depths to which the show has fallen. Holy shit, it's like I'm having to sit through Seasons Two and Three of Game of Thrones all over again. Every moment they're on screen I keep wishing that there was something going on that I cared about at all.

WG: I bristle at all attempts to humanize Denker or Spratt. I prefer viewing them as a physical manifestation of the tradition-laden, shitty, snide, snobbish aspects of the upper class.

OMD: It is becoming abundantly clear that Thomas's skillset is one that will have been learned just a bit too late. These job interviews are not going so well for Mr. Barrow. If he wasn't such a shitheel, I'd feel bad for him.

WG: That formerly grand house was jarring. Bear skins and animal heads. I thought Downton was heading into some exciting territory. A little Killer Bob action might liven things up.

OMD: If only.

Thank Jesus Edith fired that toolbag Skinner. I couldn't tell if he was sweating out his liquid lunch or in dire need of air-conditioning. Still, while this development could have happened last episode and made me happy, at least Edith is finally getting to realize her potential outside of the stricter bounds of what's expected of women in polite society circa 1925 to make no mention of the fact that she's clearly got a mate lined up now, though I doubt she knows this quite yet.

WG: It made me nostalgic for my high school yearbook days. Who knew putting magazine layouts together would make such great TV? Like watching a documentary about Ken Burns making a documentary.

OMD: Is it just me, or is it insane that Sergeant Willis is the officer dealing with every police inquiry in the show? Is he the only cop in Yorkshire? Wasn't he also dealing with the death of the odious Mr. Green which happened in London? What the hell is his jurisdiction? Is he the only cop in the UK from 1924 on?

WG: The show badly needs a laugh track. Every time Sergeant Schultz/Willis enters a scene, he should look at the camera palms up, shrug his shoulders, cue laugh track.

OMD: Has there ever been a scene less in character in the show's run than when Cora flipped on Anna, Patmore, and Hughes? Honestly, I can't remember a single situation in which Cora reacted to anything anywhere close to that angrily and I don't recall when it was ever misdirected like that. It was so uncharacteristic that when she proffered the overcoat as a gift the gesture was lost in the ham-handed manipulation that showed a complete deafness to character.

WG: Right? Everything seems compressed. They aren't creating enough space between some events and reactions to make them seem remotely believable. Anachronistic soundtrack suggestion for the unauthorized dress up with Cora's overcoats: "Fashion" by David Bowie.

OMD: The wedding was nice. I'm sure the wedding night was debauched. I hated seeing that old shit Reverend Travis. Screw that guy.

WG: I had a bet with my wife that Hughes would utter the line "we've waited long enough Carson, get your cock out." I think you can plausibly infer that it happened off screen.

OMD: Molesley's lamentation that he'd "missed everything" was probably the saddest moment in the show's recent memory. Why he wants to help that simple fool Daisy is beyond me, but Molesley's quietly the show's hero.

WG: He's filled the yawning void left by whatever happened to the husk of Bates's character. From class clown to hero. Anachronistic soundtrack suggestion #2: "Heroes" by David Bowie, played over montage of Moseley alternately tamping tar into potholes, dropping tea service, smashing rounders on the cricket pitch, and learning Daisy her comparative history.

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