Spoiler alert: This blog is for people watching Downton Abbey season four. Don’t read on if you haven’t seen episode two.
Our enjoyment of Downton Abbey aspires to lightheartedness, but there was nothing lighthearted about the way the new episode ended. What befalls Anna is more brutal, as presented, than anything the series has yet seen, and that includes literal trench warfare.
Did they have to? Isn’t there something cheap about taking a two-dimensional character of methodical virtue – Anna is so saintly she can be boring – and then, in one violent scene, leveling her? And intercutting the attack with an opera performance, in another lazy recycling of The Godfather?
Bother. Maybe this was supposed to provide the jolt that season four was widely thought to be looking for, the hard twist that would return the Abbey to its edgy early days, back when Lady Mary and Mr Barrow were fornicating (in parallel, not ensemble) and Lady Edith was such a ghastly little snitch. After 27 episodes, it’s understandable that creator Julian Fellowes and company are seeking new vigor. But this?
It begins with a fleet of cars arriving for a house party meant to capture the estate’s old glory. In attendance are a duchess, a couple lords, Lady Edith’s publisher boyfriend and a chap from the club nobody really knows but who seems nice enough. He’s not, but the real snake of the bunch is one Mr Green, valet to Anthony Foyle. Bates, in his hard-won wisdom, distrusts Green from the start.
The star attraction of the party is Dame Nellie Melba, the famed Australian soprano. In the episode’s most entertaining moment, Lord Grantham and Carson get into trouble with Lady Cora for arranging to serve the singer dinner in her room, instead of seating her with the party. “Am I the only member of this family who lives in the 20th century?” asks Cora. At which Robert expertly passes the buck, telling Carson curtly: “I blame you.”
Braithwaite makes her move on Tom, who’s feeling vulnerable; Sir John Bullock charms Lady Rose, who seems receptive; Lady Mary and Cousin Isobel begin to get past their grief; Michael Gregson finally gets on Lord Grantham’s good side; and Mrs Patmore has a near-heart-attack, which allows Alfred a chance to prove himself in the kitchen.
It’s a perfectly fine Downton outing, until the end, when we get made-for-TV Francis Ford Coppola. Did it have to go down like this?
Here’s a brainstorm: seven Downton Abbey plot twists we would rather have seen than the rape of St Anna, in no particular order:
1) Lady Mary admits she never really loved Matthew. How could a woman so rigid fall in love with a man so floppy? It’s a question the audience has had to mentally run past ever since that night at the village fair. “Sometimes I don’t know who I’m most in mourning for – Matthew, or the person I used to be when I was with him,” Mary says in the latest episode. It’s a small hop from there to, “Settled it: although he did have great hair, I now realize that I was more in love with myself, the whole entire time. Also, he was a terrible driver.”
2) Lady Cora has an affair. Lord Grantham is entertainingly clueless. This would require a lot of bemused frowning from Hugh Bonneville, which seems doable. The tryst probably happens with one of Lady Mary’s suitors. The brown-haired one. Cora doesn’t need an excuse. She’s beautiful, bored, and hasn’t been herself since the tragic death of her youngest daughter. Lady Mary is first to figure it out. “Mumma,” she says, smiling sweetly. “You look refreshed today.”
3) Ivy starts getting ideas in her head after Lady Rose whimsically gives her a tube of lipstick. Made up properly, isn’t she, Ivy, every bit as pretty as Rose – as Lady Mary, even, if only she had the advantage of all that finery? Daisy tells her she’s crazy but, determined to improve her lot, Ivy decides to put herself forward as a replacement for Nanny West. “You, a nanny?” says Thomas. “And I’m the Earl of Sandwich.”
4) Baby Sibby says her first word, and it’s “orange.”
5) Lord Grantham decides to take up golf, a sport that has caught fire in England after a long gestation in the north. “I can’t escape the sense,” he tells Bates, who is, with not inconsiderable difficulty, acting as caddy, “that I could be so much better, if only I had the time to play.” The dowager countess, of course, is scandalized. “In my day,” she says, “if someone handed you a stick and a ball, you put them away in a closet and kept them there.” Then she arches an eyebrow, purses her lips and looks at something off yonder, and wins an Emmy (offscreen).
6) Lady Mary finally hits on a scheme for saving the estate, inspired by the release of the Rolleston Committee report endorsing prescription heroin for Britain. Mary’s ingenious plan: grow drugs. She converts her share of the tenant plots to poppies. Lord Grantham thinks it’s a bad idea – “Downton is not some sordid stop on the Silk Road” – but Branson is all for it. He gets a Tommy gun and an armored Packard.
7) Isis the dog has a litter of puppies. Puppies. Everybody likes puppies.
-taken from The Guardian
I also loved this:
When Lady Mary tries to get out of dancing with Anthony Foyle:
LM: “I thought I’d keep Granny company.”
DC: “Don’t use me as an excuse. If you don’t want to dance, tell him.”