Sunday, February 21, 2016

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

As one suspects in a Downton Abbey season finale or Christmas special, there are scrapes with death and the prospect of nuptials. And Patmore's House of Ill Repute.

Old Man Duggan: Bertie Pelham, Marquess of Hexum. Couldn't happen to a nicer fellow. Stand-up chap, that one. Of course, everything can't happen smoothly when it comes to Edith's happiness, and Marigold and Mary must gum up the works before all is said and done. That said, Edith's blow-up, while lacking the "see you next Tuesday" that seemed to be brewing, felt mic-droppingly cathartic even if it did come from behind a veil of tears.

Wordy Ginters: Boil lanced. Shame is a powerful thing, it was nice to see Edith crawl out from underneath Marigold's horrific shadow. I kid, I kid. I get the scandalous possibilities, especially considering the time, and the family. But it still seemed to carry much more weight than it should have.

OMD: Everyone having a good laugh at Mrs. Patmore's temporary misfortune is a nice respite from family drama. One philandering fake doctor getting some extramarital strange at a B&B shouldn't be that odd in 1925. What B&Bs are for if not for stepping out?

WG: Stepping out so un-strange that the incessant knee-slapping howls from virtually the entire cast seemed out of place to me. It ain't that funny you rubes.

OMD: Carson's horror at the prospect of the family supping at the very same table that the ignominious Mr. McKitt and Mrs. Dorrit guzzled tea was predictably absurd. That said, it may not have been as ridiculous as the rousing ovation that Robert, Cora, and Rosamund received at shoveling scones into their maws.

WG: PBS is missing a golden merch opportunity, "Patmore's Scones" would fly off the cyber shelves. Speaking of merch, I've been saving up for some Downton Abbey figurines. I'll need something to fill the void after next week.

OMD: Speaking of Carson, it seemed like Fellowes used him this episode as a vehicle for showing how small a place the pomp and circumstance of this old way of life had in this changing world. His handling of Thomas showed he couldn't read a person right in front of him. His squeamishness at the thought of the family lending Beryl Patmore a helping hand with their presence at tea was, as mentioned, absurd. His not understanding the point of Molesley wanting to teach showed his real limitations though. It seems his fate will likely be that of a senile old coot wandering around the streets of Thirsk in a threadbare suit and a nightcap hunched over but speaking gibberish in a commanding tone tending to a highborn dinner guest dead since the 1880s. It was a nice moment to have Lord Grantham rebuff Carson's stodginess in an act of reciprocal loyalty to Patmore. One of those nice moments in which the help gets one of those tear-jerking little victories.

WG: It was a solid episode, in large part because Fellowes allowed a partial tear-down of the reverence he's spent years building to honor the culture of the lordly upstairs inhabitants of the castle. Carson seems like the go-to character for underlining the buffoonery and tin-eared tropes of the gilded class. There is justice in seeing Carson painting himself into a smaller and smaller corner. I'm guessing Fellowes sees himself as Lord Grantham, but he's more likely to be Carson.

OMD: Speaking of tear-jerking wins, Molesley got a big one. First the second go at teaching where the kids were eating out of his hand, then Daisy and Bates praising him and speaking so kindly of him, punctuated with a round of applause at the dinner table. The only thing left to go well for Molesley would be to get Baxter's hand in marriage. Regardless, it's about fucking time shit went Molesley's way.

WG: I got a kick out of Moleseley's first day teaching. My family is packed with teachers. The idea that someone with zero training would get turned loose in a classroom of middle school kids is just cruel. I'm Molesley's biggest fan. His figurine is the one that I'll play with the most. I can see Molesley figurine, Big Jim, and G.I. Joe kicking much ass.

OMD: After that first classroom scene, I was seriously worried that he'd fail as he'd had no classroom experience. Things must have been more expedient back then.

How many lives could Mary have ruined if she went without a serious shtupping from her handsome mechanic? I'm guessing WWII would have started ten years early.

WG: It was kind of fun seeing her cut a swath of bile through every scene she wandered through. If Molesley is the character I was rooting for the most, Mary is the one who I wished to see squashed by a random falling anvil, like something from a Road Runner cartoon.

OMD: Given Fellowes's occasional heavy-handedness, I'm surprised Branson did slap the sense into Mary. His patience and perseverance may make him eligible for sainthood. If Downton Abbey operated under the same set of laws that Caligula did, Branson would be buttering up at episode's end, and Henry would be conceding first entry to Emperor Branson, as none of this would have been possible without him.

WG: Kind of hard to fathom Branson's tenacity on that one. He's the moral anchor pulling the family from bat-shit tradition to modern realities and common sense, but Mary was such a pain in the ass, I'm surprised he stuck with it. Probably had more to do with his love of cars. He fucking LOVES cars.

OMD: Mary's revelation at breakfast was without a doubt the shittiest thing she's done in the series's run, at least if you don't credit her asshole's murderous intent happening with her conscience's blessing. Given that, her lack of remorse, and the guilt trip she laid on Robert after Thomas's clothed bath, it made the later tearful acknowledgment that her fear of marrying Henry Talbot sprung from Matthew having widowed her ring hollow. Given the six seasons the audience invested in her, it seems like a little more breathing room was probably necessary if we were to join in the waterworks. Instead, Fellowes loaded that scene so close to Mary deservedly being called a "bitch" either literally or figuratively that the acrid taste of her churlishness was fresh in our mouths.

WG: Bloodshed. Bitch. Two things I never expected from Downton. An emotional hairpin turn to ask the audience to travel happily along from Mary coldly and gleefully fucking over her sister, to being happy for her marriage in what seemed like a few scant minutes later. Maybe more surprising for me was the Dowager acting as the voice of reason to ultimately set Mary straight. The Dowager was basically feeding Mary the same advice as Tom, but of course, Tom is really just a dolled up mechanic masquerading as a swell. Mary needed to hear that advice from a blue-blood in order for it to have any heft.

OMD: The counterpoint to this is Thomas's suicide attempt. Fellowes spent the greater part of this season trying to rebuild Barrow's humanity. Despite having once been seemingly irredeemable, Thomas reaching the end of his rope and later admitting regret to the ways in which he's interacted with the staff in his past cashes in the pity card better than Mary's petulance throughout the episode.

WG: Maybe this is the main reason I dislike Fellowes, for making me care about Thomas.

OMD: Septimus Motherfucking Spratt. Who'd have thunk that he was Cassandra Jones? I knew instantly when they spoke of "Miss Jones's" secrecy that this advice columnist was a man, but Spratt? If Molesley didn't get such a big win in this episode, that reveal would have been the episode's high point for me. Even with the "where the fuck is Spratt?" tip-off from Violet, I was caught completely off-guard. I'm sure all of his columns are thinly veiled takedowns of Denker.

WG: I laughed out loud. It was a beautiful touch. You know everyone at Downton went back to their laptops and scoured through old columns to ferret out thinly veiled references to their own trials and tribs.

OMD: With all the time wasted this season on the completely uninteresting hospital board storyline and the positively awful second episode, it seems like this season could have spaced out the nuptials a bit more judiciously. Instead, Mary gets married four seconds after she destroys any goodwill the audience might have had for her, and the only one at her wedding that anyone is happy for is Mr. Talbot largely because it means we don't have to watch him bang his head into a brick wall any longer.

WG: I'm thinking everything post-Matthew has failed to live up to the promise this series had pre-Matthew. Absolutely they could have focused on some of the relationships more, and shit-canned the silly hospital board kerfuffle. Same goes with the silly police interludes.

OMD: With just the special remaining, it looks like there will be two weddings thrown together haphazardly, with an outside shot at three, if Molesley gets his gal. While wedded bliss seems such a limiting means by which characters can achieve happiness, if these are the rules we're given in this world, may Molesley enjoy it, too.

WG: I hope all the characters get married. Thems that are already bonded by holy matrimony should get their vows refreshed. Pair them all up. In for a penny, in for a pound.

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