Downton Abbey: Loose Change

Posted on January 11, 2016

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It’s a busy day of judging and memorializing here at T Lo Maudlin and Judgmental Entertainment, LLC, so we’re just going to plunge right in.

Lady Mary is a cluelessly pushy asshole, running roughshod over Carson and Hughes’ wedding and not paying the slightest attention to any point of view that doesn’t exactly line up with her own (i.e., everyone else on the planet). It’s what allows her to still be clueless about the truth of Marigold; a truth it seems the entire Village of Grantham is aware of – with the sole exception of Lady Mary. Also: feminism. Because she’s the new estate agent and spends her days saying over and over again “No, really. I’m the new estate agent.” Oh, and she’s crowned the Queen of Pigs by the village. Or something.

Meanwhile, Daisy thinks that if she continues to berate aristocrats, she will eventually get what she wants out of them, which is to somehow reverse Mr. Mason’s unfortunate housing situation. It appears to work, as Cora’s brain fires off its first synapse in years when she seems to realize they have a tenant farmer they need to evict because the Crawleys essentially destroyed his life. Although credit where it’s due: she’s also showing some neurological activity in her perceptive comments about Mrs. Hughes and her wedding and shocking the hell out of Isobel by rattling off a bunch of reason why she supports the hospital merger.

Edith keeps sitting around and talking about how she wants to do something with her life, while she raises a child, runs a magazine and considers moving permanently into her fabulous London apartment. Edith, honey. You DO have a life. A pretty good one, all things considered. Also: refusing to tell Mary the truth about Marigold is clearly going to bite her in the ass. Not that we blame her for her reticence. Hell, even her parents think Mary would use the information as a weapon, even though everyone in the house knows all the details about the eldest daughter’s sexual scandals, which go back a decade-plus at this point. The hypocrisy and excuse-making for Mary’s nastiness is jaw-dropping sometimes. Thank God Mrs. Hughes seems to enjoy going on about how little she thinks of her. Someone in that house has to have the nerve to say it.

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Anna only cries twice this episode, which should allow her to replenish her fluid stores and stave off the dehydration that always lurks around the corner due to her expelling roughly two gallons of saltwater out her eyes every 24 hours. The good news is, she’s not suspected of murdering anyone, nor is her husband. The bad news is, she’s had several miscarriages. But this is Downton Abbey, where seemingly insurmountable problems are introduced and then either solved or forgotten about within an episode or two. Mary takes her to the doctor who once performed a “tiny operation” (with miniature scalpels and sutures, we imagine) that allowed her to conceive. Turns out, this doctor specializes in tiny operations that solve minor plot contrivances, and it looks like Anna will be free to raise the next generation of murderous-but-not-really Bateses.

And Everyone Hates Thomas. Except the supernaturally patient Miss Baxter, however. Not that we don’t think the devious Under Butler hasn’t earned every bit of emnity his co-workers throw at him, but Carson was being quite cruel to him. And even if every member of the downstairs staff keeps cockblocking him from cute footmen for the best of reasons, it’s starting to get a little annoying. At this point, we’re starting to hope Andy turns out to be gay and the two of them have a grand love affair right under everyone’s smug noses.

If there’s a theme underlying all these stories it would appear to be “Moving on.” Virtually everyone on the household staff is making the attempt to move on with their lives in some way, a slightly unsubtle way of tying into the theme of change and the likelihood that very few of them will be in service for all that much longer. Daisy is trying to secure housing for the only family she’s got while furthering her education and becoming more and more politically aware. The Bateses want to move on from all their problems, including their seeming inability to have children, in order to secure the happiest life possible. Anna, however wants to see if she can take that even further and actually correct their current problem. Thomas is trying to find a place for himself outside of Downton – and finding that he has been luckier than he ever realized to live in such a forgiving and forward-thinking household. Carson and Hughes are building a life together and tussling over exactly what that means in relation to their employment. Even Molesley is trying to better himself through education.

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The war over the hospital is clearly a war of ego rather than practicality, as the Dowager refuses to cede tradition (and the power that comes with it) to the notion of progress. She will lose this battle not only because history says so, but because she’s struggling against all the themes of the series up to this point. Downton Abbey is a show about change and The Dowager is a character whose entire purpose is to fight change. In a way, we respect Julian Fellowes for writing her this way, because she’s as wrong as any person can be on the matter and it’s clear she’s fighting for the wrong reasons. Someone in the family has to play the part of the stubborn aristocrat who refuses to change and while Violet is admirably open-minded about a lot of modern things (like the sexual escapades of her granddaughters), it makes sense that this would appear to be the line in the sand for her. Of course Isobel is relishing the coming fight, not just because she loves being morally superior to Violet but because she loves winning, as she knows she must in this case.

Because did you hear? Times are changing.

[Photo Credit: Courtesy of Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE]

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