Fifth Season- Final Downton..sigh…..

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Even though Downton Abbey’s fifth season got off to a shaky start, it ended up being so eventful that the estate’s fearless leader suffered a cardiac scare tonight from all of the activity. Among the year’s high and lowlights inside our favorite Yorkshire household: Mary got a haircut, a weirdly inconsequential fire ravaged Edith’s room, Isis died, a creepy art critic preyed upon Cora, the Dowager toyed with the idea of running off with a long-haired Russian refugee, Daisy quit the kitchen George Costanza-style only to revoke her notice, the Bates family was subjected to a tired retread of that whole falsely-accused-of-murder-and-sent-to-prison plot, Lord Grantham took in an orphan only to realize it was Edith’s illegitimate child, and Rose married a Jewish fellow. And during tonight’s two-hour season finale—which aired in the U.K. as the show’s Christmas special—the gang joined the Sinderbys at Hogwarts for grouse hunting before ringing in the holidays at home. (We are serious about Hogwarts—Downton filmed the Brancaster Castle exteriors at Alnwick Castle, which doubled as Hogwarts in the Harry Pottermovies.)

Let’s Review:

Carson Makes It Official by Proposing to Hughes (Believability: 3)

We are not monsters—we all want Carson and Hughes, longtime work husband and wife, to continue their march to full-on coupledom. They are far better suited for each other than any other couple in the house. But if we did not love these characters so much, and already have their housewarming gift ordered (a lovely calendar to remind Carson on a daily basis that it is no longer 1890), we might be dubious about Carson’s decision to commit to Hughes after her red-flag filled confession. In the course of a two-minute scene, Hughes reveals that she has possibly psychotic family members whom she will need to support financially for the rest of her life . . . and no money. And somehow, Carson is still like, “‘Das cool. Here are the keys to the house I bought in both our names.”

While Suze Orman may not approve, Carson goes ahead with his plans and proposes to Hughes on Christmas Eve while she awkwardly holds two drinks in her hand. The moment is perfect though—who would have thought that last season’s hand holding would lead to this?—and our hearts swell when Carson tells Hughes, “I am not marrying anyone else.”

Anna Is Thrown in Jail Because One Man Thinks He Saw Her Throw a Serial Rapist Into Traffic (Believability: 0)

We know this happened last episode but we still can’t wrap our minds around this plot twist, even though we’ve spent five seasons systematically lowering our expectations for Downton Abbey storytelling logic. We’ve been through this whole a-Bates-family-member-is-falsely-imprisoned-for-murder plot before and it doesn’t make much of a difference to us that Anna is now goingOrange Is the New Black instead of Bates this time around. (We will say that Anna’s miserable-in-prison expressions are not much different than her everyday expressions and Bates’s worried-about-Anna faces aren’t any less creepy than normal.)

Mary Still Has Not Realized That Marigold Is Edith’s Daughter (Believability: 3)

It seems insane to us that Mary has not noticed that Edith, her blood sister and chief antagonist, has birthed a daughter who is now living in their household. She certainly notices the bizarre fixation that Edith has with Marigold, is annoyed by it, and puts Edith down on the subject whenever she has the chance. Mary’s most immortal line about parenting arrives tonight, and chills us to our core: “Why don’t you just shut [the children] up in a box in the attic and let them out when they are 21?” For once, Edith sees a way in which Mary’s cruelty can be used in her favor: “[Mary] is completely uninterested in me which should keep [my secret] safe.”

Barrow Manages to Uncover Sinderby’s Darkest Secrets, and Lure Them to Hogwarts Within Some 72 Hours of Being There (Believability: 6)

Barrow only uses his vengeful skill set for good these days, not evil. And in tonight’s episode, we see Barrow take up Lady Mary’s invitation to bring down Sinderby’s butler, and then go one step farther, raiding Sinderby’s own closet for the perfect skeleton that could completely undo him—and manages to find it, or “him” specifically: the illegitimate son he sired with another woman. Barrow lures both to Hogwarts during a party, but Rose thwarts his plan and saves the unsavory Sinderby. Why exactly? I suppose to forge a good relationship with her father-in-law on the foundation of his extramarital sins. But we would have loved to see how the episode would have played out Sliding Doors-style had Sinderby’s illegitimate son been discovered.

Lord Grantham Knows Exactly What to Say to Edith in a Tender Moment (Believability: 2)

Who is this new and improved Lord Grantham, who not only detects emotional nuance but is able to appropriately reciprocate it? Last week, we watched as Lord Grantham surprised everyone by going out of his way to do something thoughtful for Mrs. Patmore. And now, when he decides to tell Edith he’s learned of her secret, he does so with sympathy and understanding. “I’m sure I need your forgiveness just as much as you need mine,” he tells Edith after she apologizes. The line is so Oprah-level spot-on, that we half expected Lord Grantham to suddenly rip his face off, Mission Impossible mask-style, revealing that Dr. Phil had been there underneath the whole time. It will be interesting to see how Mary reacts to the news that her sister is Marigold’s mother, and see whether this news will finally soften their relationship as cartoonish enemies.

Branson Says Goodbye to Downton (Believability: 4)

In what was surely the worst moment of the episode, Branson stares off in the children’s nursery and, when Edith asks why, he says because he “is taking pictures in his mind” so that he has memories of the home when he is in Boston. Later, he tops himself for stiff line readings when he tells Lord Grantham that he will not consider leaving Sybbie at Downton but adds this as some weird consolation: “I love the way you love her.” Farewell, Tom.

Lady Mary Essentially Informs a Stranger How Much He Has Unknowingly Inconvenienced Her Extended Family (Believability: 9)

Well what else should she do during the course of the episode? Break Anna out of prison? Mother her child? Forge a relationship with her last living sister? Ha! No, Mary played etiquette police on tonight’s episode, informing Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode) that he had rudely (if unknowingly) crashed their hunting party. Of course, Mary can segue any awkward introduction with a handsome man into a flirtation, and manages to do just that, showing us that she has better chemistry with him and his fancy car than she had with either Blake or Gillingham.

Spratt Challenges Denker to a Broth Off (Believability: 4)

May we never forget that this was actually a storyline in tonight’s Downton Abbey. Spratt nurtures his inner Barrow this episode, suggesting that Denka prove herself as a lady’s maid by making broth. Alas, the challenge only unites Denka and the Dowager and wastes valuable screen time that could have been spent on the surprisingly crafty Molesley.

The Dowager Sends Prince Kuragin Away with His Miserable Wife (Believability: 7)

“I will never again receive an immoral proposition from a man,” the Dowager tells Isobel after reuniting her suitor with his far flung wife. “Was I so wrong to savor it?” After getting a glimpse of the wholly unpleasant Princess Kuragin (who follows Larry Grey and Susan MacClare in this season’s procession of awful Downton guests), we understand why the prince was so eager to leave her. Later in the episode, the Dowager confides to Isobel that the princess once physically wrestled her out of running off with the prince. Asked if the Dowager’s husband realized, when she got home, that she had been ruffled up, the Dowager offers the best-timed retort of the evening: “Men notice nothing.”

Yes, the same man that dyed his hair shoe-polish black earlier this season finds a way to free Bates from his self-imposed Fugitive sentence. (Where were these two back when Bates was wrongly accused of murder the first time around?) While the rest of the house wrings their hands over the criminal drama-prone character—who foolishly confessed to a murder he did not commit to free Anna, and then ran away Dr. Richard Kimble-style—Molesley finds a photo of Bates and then recruits Baxter to travel to each and every pub in York until he finds a witness who can confirm Bates’s alibi. And it is a good thing too: I don’t know that any of us were as invested in this plot retread to purchase “Free Bates” T-shirts this time around. The episode ends with Bates sneaking into Downton Abbey on Christmas Eve and surprising Anna, which is nice for them. But of all the characters on the series, these two need a plot makeover most. Maybe next Christmas.

Julie Miller is a Hollywood writer for Vanity Fair‘s website.

Working on Downton

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The only thing that is good about this terrible period of time with no  new Downton is that more is coming in January 2015 and that they are working on the scenes as we speak….

When last we left Downton Abbey, the Crawley family was teaming up to rescue the Prince of Wales from a royal scandal, while Paul Giamatti was making his first appearance as Cara’s boorish brother.

From the looks of it, the British drama is about to enter its P.G. Wodehouse years, with the ornate finery of the pre-war era giving way to a more casual definition of elegance. (That means tweed. Lots and lots of tweed.)

To pass the time without smartphones, the cast relies on classic English parlor games to pass the time, just like the aristocracy of yore.

“Playing Wink Wink Murder – that helps at dining room table scenes,” revealed Michelle Dockery who plays Lady Mary.

Dockery was also keen to dispel reports that, as her TV husband Dan Stevens did, she’s about to leave Downton.

“I’m here ’till the end,” she told the magazine, “whenever that may be.”

Downtown Abbey‘s fifth season will premiere in America in January 2015, according to PBS Creator Julian Fellowes has said he hopes the show will be broadcast simultaneously in the U.S. and the U.K.

“It’s mind-boggling to me that now we have 16 million viewers in China,”  says Joanne Froggatt (who plays the maid Anna) at a panel discussion on the Paramount lot hosted by the TV Academy in May.

Among their fans you can count Julia Roberts, who hugged Julian Fellowes at a party (“it’s the highlight of my life so far,” he joked); Mick Jagger, who told Laura Carmichael he loves the show, per Robert James-Collier (under-butler Thomas Barrow); and Jon Hamm, who thrilled Phyllis Logan (housekeeper Mrs. Hughes) by giving her a kiss.

Among the common folk, Fellowes related how a woman followed him at a Barnes and Noble and begged, “please make Lady Edith happy.”

-excerpts from Variety and The Hollywood Reporter

 

Historical Accuracy in Downton

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I found this article and thought I would pass it along-very interesting!

Historical accuracy can be tricky to discuss in terms of a period drama, so perhaps “credibility” is a better word. But semantics aside, there are a few aspects of “Downton Abbey” Season 4, that raise some questions, as the period drama attempts to tackle such issues as rape and unwanted childbirth. Huff Post TV spoke to a few historians to get an idea how closely the plot resembles Britain in the 1920s. Here’s what we found:

Lady Mary’s excessive period of mourning was at least unusual.
University of Leeds historian Dr. Jessica Meyer noted that Mary’s behavior was definitely anachronistic, “harking back to Victorian practices which had gone out of style in the years preceding the First World War.” Her drawn out impression of a wayward ghost would have been more realistic prior to “criticism of Victoria whose prolonged withdrawal from public life following Albert’s death was seen as harmful to British international prestige and influence,” says Meyer. Dr. Peter Mandler of the University of Cambridge agreed that “Victorian mourning practices [were] in this period being dumped overboard,” adding that, “Remarriage was always acceptable, and quite common.”

And she would have had more power over the estate than Lord Grantham lets on.
Although the laws of guardianship were in flux at the time, Meyer notes that Mary would “wield more power as mother of the heir, with legal rights of guardianship, than daughter to Lord Grantham, with the estate entailed away from her.” It all depends upon the way in which the estate is entailed. As for Matthew’s will, “if his entail provided for an allowance for Mary, she would probably lose it on remarriage.”

Anna would have been at much greater risk of being assaulted by the upstairs folk.
When the now-infamous rape episode aired in the U.K., it sparked discussion of whether the scene was necessary, to which creator Julian Fellowes responded it was a historical reality. He’s not entirely wrong, but Anna would have been in much more danger of being violated by one of her superiors. Julia Laite, an historian from Birkbeck, University of London, explained that the concept of the “ruined maid” was quite pervasive at the time. Perhaps the most common version of sexual harassment involved “women who were seduced by their masters, convinced into have consensual sex.”

And she would have had a solid case, if she chose to go to the police.
To be fair, it seems that Anna primarily chooses to avoid police involvement because she is fearful of Bates’ reaction. It is interesting to note that if the rape were to be taken to a court of law, she would have a fantastic case. According to Laite, many rape cases were judged based on behavior. Anna would face no scrutiny in this regard, because her beloved position in the Crawley estate would lend her many character witnesses.

Edith and Michael’s marriage scheme makes sense, though she’d be required to become a German citizen.
Men could not divorce women for reason of incurable insanity and women could only divorce their husbands, if they were able to prove they had been excessively beaten. Laite said that it would not have been until the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1937 that things like adultery would be grounds for divorce. Unlike British civil code, German law did allow for divorce on the grounds of incurable insanity, however, it would have required both Michael and Edith to become German citizens, which is a important issue considering the prominence of nationalism at the time.

 

Although the London train ticket wouldn’t be enough to convict Bates, it could have potentially raised a case against him.
Lady and Mrs. Hughes spend quite a bit of time deliberating what they ought to do with the London train ticket found in Bates’ coat pocket, and their reactions are not overly dramatized. They suspect that he is lying about his trip to London because he is responsible for Mr. Green’s mysterious death — he was pushed into the street. Mandler says the key point is that “Bates denied he had been in London that day. So the ticket is prima facie evidence that he is lying — and then this does raise further suspicion.” Laite notes that thought it might not have been enough to convict him, it would have been enough to raise him as a suspect.

Generally speaking, servants are far too close with the folks upstairs.
”The relationship they have with their employers is totally wrong,” historian Jennifer Newby told The Telegraph. “There was one butler who said that even if in a moment of weakness an employer could ask for advice they wouldn’t give it because it could be held against them” — an observation which paints a far different picture from the cavorting we’ve seen across the series.

Also, in real life, they would have been, like, really dirty.
”The servants in the program are far too clean,” Newby said. “The reality would have been a lot more grubby, I don’t think people realize that the servants stank.”

Leave Anna alone!!!

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Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary, and Joanne Froggatt as Anna Bates Photograph: Nick Briggs/PBS
I was upset after last night’s episode-it left me chilled! Here is something I found I thought was interesting and funny.

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.”