Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Fond Farewell

There are occasions where a television show transcends mere entertainment. Each episode is something to be enjoyed and savored. Characters are more than two-dimensional flashes of light; they are people we come to care about. And, as in life, it is refreshing not to be able to predict the next move for each of those characters. Mr. Julian Fellowes created a community of people so many of us have come to genuinely care about. It will be hard to say goodbye. But I suppose the thing it's taught us is, "never say never"...
This blog post is being written before the airing of the final episode. So I am working off the premise of not knowing the direction of each character. I will leave my general impressions for each of the characters. Starting with the head of the family:
- Robert Grantham: from the time we see Robert in the first episode until the sixth season, Robert has undergone more change than any of the other characters. He has been forced to transition the height of Edwardian culture to the modern era -- both economically, culturally, and (most difficult) psychologically. In the end, however, he appears to be at peace with himself, and, if not pleased with the changes, he has nonetheless accepted them.
- Cora Grantham: Cora has changed slightly in our six years with her, which is in part due to her personality. Cora is not as flashy as her mother, Martha Levinson, or as domineering as her mother-in-law, the Dowager Countess. Cora has gracefully negotiated her way through all the picayune minutiae that comes with being Lady of the Abbey. She has been a faithful and devoted partner to Robert, and has earned the respect of everyone, despite being -- of all things! -- an American! Like Robert, Cora has embraced the changes modern life has brought to Downton Abbey.
- Lady Mary Crawley: Of all the characters upstairs, Mary has perhaps changed the least. She started out self-centered, with the myopic vision that Downton Abbey was her divine right; her personality may have softened during the course of her various male relationships, especially with Matthew, but ultimately, she is who she is -- an aristocrat unwilling to bend to modern convention. Her one redeeming quality is her undying loyalty to her maid-servant Anna. It is clear she would do anything to help Anna. It's a wonder if this loyalty would be so heartfelt if Anna had not paid her back tenfold in that same loyalty. Mary will likely be happy, if not at least content, only because she will not permit otherwise.
- Lady Edith: Lady Edith is difficult to read. On the one hand, you have to respect a person of such resilience bouncing back from one catastrophic event after another. Being jilted at the altar, having your lover killed, and losing a prospective husband to fear would test the psychological strength of anyone -- and for that, she deserves our respect. On the other hand, one can't help but think she has brought on many of her tribulations on her own; trying to marry a man who is far too old for her, trying to marry a man with an insane wife, and bearing his child unwed, and losing a marquis by failing to tell him the truth. Each incident showed a real lack of judgment. I do hope she and Marigold have a happy life together.
- Tom Branson: Tom gets second prize for changing the most from the first time we saw him. Coming to Downton as the chauffer, and a rabid socialist, to end up being the Abbey's trusted ranger, who basically oversees the running and the future of the estate. Tom has come to love the Crawley family and, in turn, they love him. Each is willing to agree to disagree in matters of politics, but in matters of family loyalty, they are rock-solid.
- The Dowager Countess: hands-down my favorite character in the entire series, her wit and wisdom are priceless. Let no one think her age impairs her in any way. If nothing else, her age gives her a pass into gathering information others may not have. She is always two steps ahead of everyone, and has the maddening ability to be right 99% of the time. Despite her aristocratic arrogance, she clearly has a moral core that is touching and endearing. Her refusal to allow William, a servant at the Abbey, to die miles from home, was moving; the grant of a job to a young village boy whose family desperately needed the money showed a real depth of character; finally, holding Mary's and Edith's secrets without betrayal to a society which would have shunned them for sure showed a grandmother's love.
- Isobel Crawley: Isobel has always been a strong woman with strong opinions. Little has changed in that regard over the past six years. Not even the death of her Matthew softened her zeal to help others. She has been the perfect foil to the Duchess, opposites in virtually every way imaginable -- and yet, they appear to have the strongest of friendships. I suspect Isobel will continue fighting for her causes.
- Mister Carson: Unlike Robert, and more like Lady Mary, Mister Carson has refused to accept the changes the modern world has brought to the Abbey. He has fought every attempt at modernization, from the telephone to the refrigerator. Despite his resistance, he was able to open his heart to love, and had the good sense to marry Mrs. Hughes, a very welcome change.
- Mrs. Hughes: Mrs. Hughes is unlike most of the characters in the Abbey, in that she was never tied to Edwardian demands. She has always had an eye towards the future, and behaved accordingly. When Ethel had her baby out of wedlock, it was Mrs. Hughes to the rescue. When Tom found himself in trouble with one of the maids, it was Mrs. Hughes who smoked out the evil plan and sent her packing. Although Mrs. Hughes looks tightened-up and buttoned-down, she's as savvy as they get.
- Mrs. Patmore: Mrs. Patmore has an exterior of stone, but has a soft, creamy center. She has proven time and again how she would do anything for the family. Of all the downstairs servants, it is undeniable that Mrs. Patmore works harder than anyone. Breakfasts, (countless) teas, lunch, dinner, soup and sandwiches on a moment's notice, have her chained to the stove nearly 24/7, and yet she rarely complains. Although Mrs. Patmore has bitten on the bridle of modernity, her future looks promising due to her bed and breakfast.
- Daisy: Daisy squarely fits in the column of significant change. When first we meet her, Daisy is a lowly scullery maid making up fires in the bedroom. Now, she has studied to the point where she has put herself in a position where she can earn a teaching  job if she wants one. Unfortunately, Daisy's rise in education has not been coupled with a rise in maturity. Hopefully, over time, Daisy will mature and realize that not everyone holds her opinion.
- Thomas: For me, Thomas was hateful from start to finish, despite glimpses of softening his personality. Every time we thought Thomas would turn his nasty ways around, he disproved us by doing something even nastier; the examples are legion to mention. True, it is sad he felt so desperate that he attempted to commit suicide. It will be interesting to see if this last desperate measure for attention will garner some understanding between him and the rest of the staff. For his sake, I hope so.
- Baxter: Despite being new to the cast, she certainly has left her imprint. She's kindled a spark in Mr. Molesley and has been a steadfast friend to Thomas. It is my hope she will be able to finally bury her past and find a future -- if not with Mr. Molesley, on her own, with peace of mind.
- Anna & Mr. Bates - The couple who has endured more pain, and who have deserved it least, than anyone in television history, finally deserves a break. I so hope the bundle of joy Anna is carrying will bring them their ultimate happiness. Thinking back on their road to this moment, it's hard to imagine any couple enduring as much. I hope Mr. Fellowes gives them, if not me, the satisfaction of knowing they will be happy.
These have been my random thoughts on each of the characters. I will have more to say after viewing the final episode. Ta for now!
- Lady Anne

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Times They Are A-Changin'

 Cheers! It's hard to believe that FIVE seasons of Downton Abbey have passed. Each season has delighted and compelled us to watch every event in the lives of the Crawley family, their friends, and their servants. Love 'em (the Dowager Countess) or hate 'em (Thomas), there'll be a Highclere Castle-sized hole in our entertainment enjoying lives at the end of this season.

            So, in true Carson fashion, check to make sure all the necessities worthy of such an occasion are in place:

            Hair: coiffed
            Tiara: polished
            Elbow-length gloves: itchy
            Shirt collars: starched
            Dinner jacket: brushed
            Silver: gleaming
            The savory: warmed
            The children: in the nursery
            Upper lip: stiffened but quivering

            It appears that change will be the theme for our final season. Change is coming to the Abbey, whether we like it or not, and more to the point, whether the Crawleys like it or not.

            Our first change is a happy one, as we await the nuptials of Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson. Before the happy day, however, a fairly sizable obstacle occurred to Mrs. Hughes. Now, I consider myself a good friend. However, I cannot imagine being asked to perform the act of friendship Mr. Hughes asked Mrs. Patmore! How she ever managed to screw up the courage to ask Mr. Carson – so starch, prim, and proper – about “that side of things,” I’ll never know! It would be more than I could bear.

            Mrs. Patmore, intrepid as she is, carried out her mission (however awkward) and discovered the great romantics of our time, like Romeo, Valentino, & Gable, have nothing on the romantic prowess of Charlie Carson. His words of love about Mrs. Hughes would make anyone melt. A positive change indeed.

            Robert is coming to the realization the Abbey cannot continue to be run as it was in the Good Old Days. He sees a change in staffing on the horizon. Although it is painful, it appears inevitable.

            There is that old expression, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Lady Mary falls into this category. Her self-centered lifestyle continues to cause problems. Had Robert not nipped the demands of the chambermaid in the bud, who knows how long she would have haunted Mary? Mary refuses to believe the Abbey shoud change for anyone. She is determined to carry on as if nothing happened. We’ll see if she can pull it off.

            The Dowager Countess, delightfully, never changes! Her wit and intelligence are as sharp as ever. I fear, however, she will be faced with her first losing proposition. I fear she will ultimately lose control of the village hospital. And by the way – have any of you researched “almner?” Violet is the president of the hospital, but Isobel is the almner. No worries, I took the liberty of looking it up myself! An almner is like a modern-day social worker; they help patients with social and financial difficulties. I’m also pleased to see that Violet has not run out of quips targeted at Isobel. “I wonder… does it ever get cold on the moral high ground.”

            Another unchangeable is Edith. Will the cloud of gloom which has shrouded her for five seasons continue? It’s a well-fitting garment that I’m not sure she can shake. Already, she’s running into problems at the newspaper, and we can’t believe the Drew family will go quietly into the night.
           Daisy has morphed from a mousy kitchen maid to a political revolutionary. Ms. Buntings’ teachings certainly stuck, to the downfall of poor Mr. Mason. By not being able to control her temper, she sealed Mr. Mason’s fate. Hopefully, she won’t do any more damage. Mr. Mason can’t bear it!

            As for the Dowager’s household, Mrs. Danker is sneaking up on Mrs. O’Brien for most contemptible. She managed to get both households in a dither about their future employment. No worries, though; now that the Dowager knows what Danker’s been up to, she’ll be the worm wriggling at the end of a hook.
            Finally, we come to Anna and Bates. Of all the characters, I wish them the most change. If anyone is due for a good break, it’s they. Anna appears unable to have a baby. Will that be this season’s crisis? Time will tell!

On to week two!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Full Circle

         Watching the final episode of Downton Abbey Season 5 was like enjoying an excellent meal: it was extremely satisfying and yet it left me looking forward to more. So many loose ends were tied up, yet at the same time bread crumbs were laid down for future plot lines. Thankfully the cliff hangers we were left with were pleasant this time. Going into next season, there does not appear to be an imminent threat of imprisonment or peril.

         So many stories came full circle in the season finale. Rose started the season as a flighty self-centered girl. She finished the season as a much more mature married woman. She loves Atticus for all the right reasons, and despite her father-in-law’s prejudice against her, she proved to be a loyal member of the Sindeby family, deserving of their trust. Off she goes to America, to turn New York on its head.

         Thomas started the season off much as he has been for the past four seasons, as a conniving backstabbing schemer. Despite trying to undermine Baxter, her steadfast friendship pulled him out of a very dark place emotionally. Baxter’s kindness and friendship started the thawing process of his heart. Thomas ended the season as a team player, showing kindness to members of the staff. He still has a conniving streak, however, he’s begun to scheme against more worthy victims. Lord Sindeby and his prudish butler Stolle found out what happens when you tick off Thomas (both deserved a measure of discomfort).

         Violet, Isobel and Mrs. Hughes all received proposals of marriage and in Violet’s case elopement, despite their mature years. Who says love is just for the young?? Although all three were delighted by, and even flattered by the attention, only Mrs. Hughes appears to be headed down the aisle. Violet turned away Prince Kuragan’s advances because he was married to the Princess who was still alive. She acknowledged that however much she disliked the Princess (who was no Sally Sunshine, I can’t blame the Prince for wanting to get away from her) the Princess saved her from “a life in the shadows.”  Her debt had been repaid.

         Isobel’s impediment was of an entirely different nature. Dickie Merton’s horrid sons ruined their chance of happiness. I have never approved of the adage that children should be seen but not heard, however, the Gray boys are far too vocal for me. In the end, Isobel was correct in refusing Lord Merton. Who wants to spend the holidays scowling at each other over the savory for the rest of your life? And what if Dickie dies first? Isobel would be alone with the gold dust twins, Not an appealing prospect.

         Now for Mrs. Hughes, there have been hints all season that a proposal from Mr. Carson was coming. Mr. Carson confessed early on in the season that he didn’t like being on the opposite side of an issue from Mrs. Hughes. Mr. Carson’s determination to show Mrs. Hughes that he was open to the modern world by giving Mrs. Patmore financial advice was sweet. Finally, wanting to invest in a property with Mrs. Hughes for their retirement indicated that he was looking into his future and he wanted her there with him. I was happier than I have been at any point in the entire history of the series when Mrs. Hughes said , “Of course I’ll marry you, you boobie.” Please, please, nothing will go wrong for them.

         Tom has come full circle as well. He started out as the chauffer winning fair Sybil’s heart. Through his perseverance he worked his way into the hearts of Cora, Mary, and Edith, then finally Robert. Robert’s tribute to Tom at the Christmas party was heartfelt. Tom helped to turn the estate around when the family needed him the most. I know it’s the Pollyanna streak in me, but I’m still hoping he and Sibbie will stay. I’m not sure what it will take for him to stay, I just feel that he’s made such progress at Downton both with the family and for the economic benefit of the estate he should stay. Sibbie would also get to grow up in that adorable nursery with George and Marigold. Don’t go Tom!!

         Mary was swimming with suitors as the season began. She decided against Tony, but only after sleeping with him. Charles is off in pre-WWII Poland (hopefully he’ll be back before the political fireworks start over there), his feelings for Mary seemed to me to be unclear. We didn’t see or hear from Evelyn Napier all season. Then at the eleventh hour Harry Talbott made his entrance. Mary is definitely interested in him, you can tell because she tried to make him feel uncomfortable. I have a feeling that Mr. Talbott is no one’s fool though. I do think it ironic that his sport is cars, when Mary lost her husband in a car accident. We’ll see if they meet up in Yorkshire next season.

         Second to Mrs. Hughes’s’ and Mr. Carson’s news, I was so relieved to hear Edith say she was happy. If anyone deserved a moment of happiness it is Edith. Thanks to Robert who told her there was nothing for which she needs to be forgiven and that Edith and Marigold must absolutely stay at Downton. Lord Hexham’s land agent seems to be interested in her and she in him. He is not quite what she’s used to, she went from a Lord (Anthony Strallon), to a newspaper publisher, to a land agent who admits he has no ambition. Oh well, if it makes her happy. Perhaps, he’ll be Downton’s new land agent when Tom leaves.

         Dear Daisy has grown so much over the course of the season. She went from being “rubbish with numbers” to sitting for her matriculation exams. She’s gained an interest in politics, and art. Who knows where these new interests will take her.

         I hope Miss Baxter and Mr. Molesely will continue with their friendship. Who knows, next season we may have a double wedding downstairs. Mr. Spratt and Mrs. Danker have already lost their appeal for me. I don’t particularly like either one of them. She’s a lush, who got poor Andy the footman in financial trouble. He’s an annoying tattletale who likes everything his own way.

         Robert and Cora are back on solid footing. Their relationship was tested and they have come out stronger for it. We’ll have to see if Robert’s “tummy” ache is only an ulcer. Will that be a source of drama, is it actually more serious?

         Finally we come to Anna and Bates. We learned that Anna was abused by her step-father, making her even more sympathetic (I didn’t think that was possible). At the end of the day, despite all the dodgey police practices, Anna and Bates were reunited for Christmas. Here’s hoping there will be the pitter patter of little Batlette feet next season.

         These are the characters I think we’ve said good-bye to: Sarah Bunting, Tony Gillingham, Mable Lane Fox, Prince Kuragan, Princess Kuragan, Susan Flintshire, Shrimpie Flintshire, Jimmy the footman, Tim Drew, Margie Drew, Dickie Merton, and his monster sons, and (sniff) Isis the dog.

         These are the characters who I think will have a limited appearance next season: Rose, Atticus, Lord and Lady Sindeby, Tom and Sibbie, and Charles Blake.

         These are the characters who I think we’ll be seeing more of: Harry Talbott, Lord Hexham’s land agent and Andy the footman.

         I can’t stand the fact we’ll have to wait a full ten months before we go back to Downton. What will I do?

Monday, February 23, 2015

The B**** Is Back!

         Nooo!! Just when things have become the most compelling they’ve been all season, the season is coming to an end. The penultimate episode to season 5 left us panting for the final episode which will have, no doubt, tantalizing cliff hangers.

         Episode 6 showcased Cora at her best. Episode 7 belongs to Robert. All is forgiven, Robert, you are no longer exiled to the land of the boob.  He navigated so many emotional minefields and he did so masterfully. The way he treated Mrs. Patmore’s feelings about the war memorial was touching. I would like to think all Lords appreciated their dedicated staff and treated them with such respect. Ordering a memorial for her nephew was commendable.

         Ignoring the prejudice of the day, regarding the Sindeby’s faith, Robert showed his open-mindedness. Granted Cora’s father was Jewish so his acceptance is not newly founded. He bristled at Susan Flincher’s question about the Sindeby’s British heritage, and laughed out loud at the awkward moment at Rose’s blessing ceremony when one of the guests told Robert and Cora she thought they were brave for putting a brave face on what is an unfortunate alliance. Likewise he didn’t mind putting Lord Sindeby in his place when Shrimpy (I find it odd calling a grown man “Shrimpy”) was discussing Indian politics.

         I love the way Robert is with the children. It was delightful seeing him on the floor playing a board game with Sibbie. He also figured out for himself Edith’s secret that Marigold is her daughter with Michael Gregson. Not only did he not object, he was delighted he has another granddaughter.

         Finally, selling the Della Francesca was the tell-tale sign that Robert is catching up with the modern world. The selling of the painting showed Cora that the Bricker incident taught Robert the priceless lesson that he was taking Cora for granted. It also showed that he is willing to let go of the past in order to improve matters for the future. Well done Robert!!

         Thomas is another character whose ways seem to have changed for the better. In the last two episodes, he’s been positively helpful. He’s using his powers for good rather than evil. Saving Andy the footman from Danker’s scheme was kind. Imagine saying Thomas was kind!! Hopefully this pattern will continue. He’ll always have an edge to his personality, but if he could continue to direct his talents against more worthy targets he’ll begin to acquire the friendships he’s always wanted.

         The B**** is back. That cloud that enveloped England was the shadow of Lady Flincher returning to its shores. She is appropriately named, I flinch every time she opens her mouth. How not to make a good first impression: tell the person you are meeting that their name is odd then ask your host if they have trouble finding help, Later pronouncing to all that she and Lord Flincher were getting a divorce, hoping it would be the straw to break Lord Sindeby’s back with respect to the wedding. Lady Sindeby to the rescue, saving the wedding despite Lady Flincher’s best efforts to scuttle it. Susan Flincher is so bitter, she’ll be alone for the rest of her unhappy life.

         Rose is adorable. The way she embraces life is infectious. She knows Lord Sindeby doesn’t care for her has a daughter-in-law, but she is determined to make Atticus happy. She has her priorities in the right order. She is naïve but she will be a good wife because she loves Atticus too much to let anything get in their way.

         Prince Kuragan isn’t wasting any time (probably because he has little to waste), swooping in and asking Violet to go away with him. I almost fell off the sofa when he said they could be lovers. Talk about 50 shades of grey!! Pardon my prudish ways but-ICK!! To Violet’s credit, the fact that the Princess is still alive makes a difference to her. She may not like the Princess but she respects her position enough not to go off with Kuragan like a teenager. I don’t see Violet going off with him.

         The conversation with Kuragan did have its purpose though. It reminded Violet that life is short and it should be lived to its fullest. Despite her personal objections, she is encouraging Isobel to be happy and to let Lord Merton’s sons to take a long walk off a short pier. I want Isobel to be happy and I’m not sure she will be happy knowing the sons disapprove of her. She won’t want to break up the family albeit a dysfunctional family.

         What would Mary do without Carson? Despite seeming so confident with everyone, and positively hateful to Edith (“You’d think she invented motherhood.”), she really is a bundle of insecurities. She needs reassuring that her choices are the right ones.

         Daisy has grown the most this season. Watching her develop has been like watching the birth of the middle class in England in microcosm. She’s excited by the idea that she has choices in her life and that she’s young enough to take the opportunity to explore them. Yet, she’s tied to an older generation who has shown her more love and support than she has ever known. She needs to carve out a life for herself that is fulfilling but connected to her roots. It won’t be as a cook in someone else’s kitchen. Perhaps she’ll be the first female land agent at Downton. That may be overreaching a bit.

         The more Tom talks about leaving, the more I think he’ll stay. He’s just such a snug fit at Downton now. He and Robert have reached a détente in their political sparring. Sibbie is thriving. Why move? However, Mr. Fellowes may have introduced Marigold into the nursery to make up for Sibbie’s loss. Is it possible that the relationship I never thought feasible would come to be: Could Mary and Tom be the couple for next season thus, keeping Tom at Downton? Have we seen the last of Charles Blake?

         Alas Anna and Bates, the couple gives me ulcers. All they want to do is live a happy quiet life, but it just doesn’t appear to be in the cards for them. Do we have another season of prison visits only this time with Anna behind bars? She’s the sweetest person on Earth, and so horribly treated by Mr. Green, how can this be happening to her? Will Bates take the blame, only to have Miss Baxter say she saw the unripped ticket? This is getting increasingly more complicated. Will Anna admit what Green did to her? If she does doesn’t that cement her motive? Does she have an alibi? I know one thing, England didn’t fuss too much about civil liberties back in the day. Being thrown into a line-up without any warning doesn’t seem quite cricket to me. I’m sure Anna and Bates will be our biggest cliffhanger for next season. I can’t stand it!!


Monday, February 16, 2015

Cora, Cora, Cora

         Now we’re talking! Things are really heating up at the Abbey. So what’s going to happen is we’ll be left with the biggest cliff hanger we’ve ever experienced and we’ll have to wait a year to find out what will happen. That’s why we’re hooked!!
         Episode 7 belongs to Cora. She was fantastic, firm when she needed to be and compassionate when necessary. Ultimately, she was very strong for the family, more strong than the family gave her credit.
         Cora was understandably crushed by not being told about Marigold. The feeling of betrayal was so devastating for her. It is obvious that Rosamond has never been a mother. Her black and white view of the world showcases a person who does not appreciate that children are often raised in the grey areas of life. It is also not easy to put Violet in her place, but boy did Cora manage to do it, in such ladylike fashion. “How can you imagine I’ll ever trust you again?” Ouch.
         Cora then mustered the strength to face Edith at her place of work. She wasn’t about to be turned aside by Edith and threatened to discuss their business in front of everyone there. Shocking! Edith buckled and a private tea followed. Cora was the one who came up with the plan to keep Edith at Downton, as well as able to oversee Michael’s paper, and be mother to Marigold. Cora: Mother and problem-solver to the rescue.
         Cora handled the stuffy Lord Sindeby beautifully. Sindeby’s conversation bordered on insulting when he was asking Cora about being raised in a mixed faith home, and whether she was ashamed of her Jewish heritage. Cora shot back by saying, unlike Lord Sindeby, her family never changed their name to gain social acceptance. To quote Violet, “put that in your pipe and smoke it.”
         Finally, Cora’s compassion for Isis was so endearing. She was the first to spot Isis wasn’t well. Cora was so sympathetic to Robert’s feelings. Robert finally came out from under the ether and realized the wonderful wife he has in Cora.
         Violet has definitely revealed a softer side this season. We’ve learned about her affair with Prince Kuragan and her choice to return to the fold for the good of the family, she felt the sting of Cora’s admonition, and the reason behind her apparent disapproval of Isobel’s marriage to Lord Merton. It was in part because of Isobel’s rise in social rank, but more than that, it was her fear that she was going to lose her friend. How very childlike and uncharacteristic of her. She showed a depth of feeling she didn’t know she could have for another person. It’ll be interesting, if not very entertaining, to see how she’ll get involved in the civil, or not so civil, war between Sprat and Danker. I’m sure her mastermind will come up with a solution suitable to both.
         It looks like Tom is off to Boston, but wait, I’m not sure he’s going to go. His conversation with Sibbie made him realize he does not have a good enough reason to take her away from Downton and the whole family. I think he’ll make preparations to leave but I just don’t think he’ll go. By the way, how incredibly cute is Sibbie?!?!
         Now we come to Mary and her cast of characters. Mary is becoming less appealing by the episode. She strings people along like toys. Her treatment of Edith is unwarranted. The only one who seems to know how to handle her is Charles. He initiates and cuts off communication not allowing her the time to dangle him on the end of a string. I do like Charles, his pronunciation of cinema was odd (hard “c” instead of soft “c”) but I’m only an aristocrat by marriage so what do I know?? In any event, good bye Tony, he’s off to the arms of Mable Lane Fox where he belongs. Tony wasn’t at all heart-broken, his marriage to Mable Lane Fox was inevitable. My only question is did that kiss from Charles mean anything? Has Charles, the ultimate planner, figured out a way to capture Mary’s heart? Does he really want Mary’s heart? I think he does, and he’s a man who gets results.
         Now for the wow moment I’ve been waiting for, the dinner party for Lord Merton and Isobel. The dinner table certainly has been a battle ground this whole season. Lord Merton’s boys are such insufferable snobs!! Their treatment of Isobel at dinner was reprehensible. “Inevitable failure” and “did you really think we would welcome you with open arms?” How horribly embarrassing for Isobel, and yet she told Lord Merton not to be cross with Larry. How could he get in the car with those two monsters is beyond me. Oh well, Isobel is better off without him. Love Tom for standing up for himself, Atticus and the family. Violet provided the requisite comic relief when Tom called him the “B” word, “and suddenly we’ve slipped into a foreign tongue.”
         Gear up for the next uncomfortable dinner when Lord Sindeby meets Rose’s mother, the heart of stone, Susan Felcher. Will we see O’Brien return to Downton? I hope not. Perhaps Rose’s wedding will be the wedding of the season.
         Not to neglect downstairs, we’ve had a brief reprieve from the Bates/Green drama. That won’t last. Mr. Mason should be called the Oracle of Yorkshire County. His advice to Daisy is always so wise. I love how he can cut to the heart of a problem without offending her, rather he builds her up to make her see how deserving she is. He’s the family she never had. Baxter sees how wonderful he is and what an opportunity the farm is for her.
         Do I detect a pattern downstairs? They are thinking toward the future and a life away from the Abbey. Mrs. Patmore bought an investment property, Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes are looking into an investment property, Mr. Bates and Anna are doing the same, Daisy is pursuing her education and has the farm. What about Baxter, Molsely and Thomas? Thomas tried that painful attempt to change his life, he is showing signs of coming around though actually offering helpful advice twice!! Will Mr. Molesly go into teaching? I’m still hoping he and Miss Baxter will become a couple. Time will tell.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Steel Magnolias

          The ladies of Downton Abbey both upstairs and down are really steel magnolias. Although the men of the era had all the financial, political and physical power, the women clearly had the emotional power which buoyed all the men’s efforts in whatever they were doing. The women at Downton (and dare I say everywhere else?) are the power behind the throne.

          So let’s begin with my first steel magnolia, Anna. For such a tiny, frail-looking person Anna is truly made of tough stuff. She doesn’t back down to anyone and is so incredibly kind to everyone. Thomas is so mean-spirited and has tried to undermine her so many times, yet Anna is still so concerned about his health. Anna keeps Lady Mary’s secrets even at the expense of real tension with her husband. When Bates found the book and the contraception, I almost choked. The questioning he put Anna through was like a courtroom drama, yet she wouldn’t crack and continued to hold on to Mary’s secret. She was also so relieved to know definitively that Bates did not kill Mr. Green. Although he would have liked to, for Anna’s sake he refrained from doing it. Now, will the police see things his way? We have to hope the railway ticket clerk has a short memory.

          My next steel magnolia is Daisy. I love Daisy’s new found ambition. She is certain not to stay a cook forever. Perhaps she will take over Mr. Mason’s farm and become a true business woman. Mr. Molsley remains a sad sack. His respect for Daisy’s ambition only highlights how life has not turned out the way he expected. Perhaps good things are yet in store for him.

          Miss Baxter is a steel magnolia very much like Anna. She keeps herself to herself as they say, however, she obviously has a deeply caring nature. She has taken on Molsley and Thomas as her reclamation projects and has made tremendous progress with both. Thomas finally realizes he needs someone’s help and turns to her. She has the fortitude to put the past damage he tried to do aside and get him the help he so desperately needed. My heart did go out to Thomas when he explained why he submitted himself to such torture. There was Baxter to put a silver lining to the situation telling him how brave she thought he was. Has the worm turned? Hopefully, he’s FINALLY learned his lesson and will play nice from now on.

          Rose is not quite a steel magnolia, not yet. I’ll call her a pewter magnolia. She is no doubt falling in love with Atticus Aldridge. It will be interesting to see how she handles his faith difference. My guess is her parents will have an issue and she’ll tell them they can go pound sand.

          Isobel is definitely a steel magnolia. To date, we’ve only seen the steel part of her nature. She’s a tough lady free with her own opinions irrespective of whether they are asked for or not. Lately we’ve seen more of the magnolia side. Stodgy Lord Merton has brought out a softer side of her nature. It would appear that they bring out the best in each other.

          Cora has finally become a steel magnolia. She finally stood up to Robert and let him know Bricker’s advances were not invited. When she asked him whether he could honestly say he never had a flirtation that got out of hand (which was like asking him if he’s stopped beating his wife in that no matter how he answers that question he’s condemning himself) remember the maid from two seasons ago, she expected him back in her room. She was also involved in looking at the plans for the new homes being built on the estate. Hopefully Robert has learned his lesson. Hopefully the littlest steel magnolia, Isis will be alright.

          Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore are definitely steel magnolias. Mrs. Patmore invested her money in a way that will give her income while she’s working and will provide her with a home when she retires. Her insight got Mr. Carson thinking about his own retirement. He’s finally moving out of the past and moving into the future. By asking Mrs. Hughes to invest with him in a retirement property, perhaps he’s thinking about more than just having a place to live when he retires. Maybe he’s thinking of sharing his future with Mrs. Hughes. Cute!!

          Mary is the epitome of a steel magnolia. Lately, there has been very little magnolia about her. By changing her hairstyle so the men know what they’re missing is more steel than magnolia. In fact, for me, it’s actually very unattractive. Tony didn’t look heartbroken at the horse race. He paid all his attention to Mable. Charles’s plan is working. Hopefully his plans go more smoothly than any of the Crawley’s plans. I’m still hoping he and Mary will become a couple.

          Violet is a titanium magnolia. She’s been through so much in her lifetime she’s as tough as they get, yet she is extremely feminine. She knows her place and will not do anything to shirk her duty as Lady Grantham no matter what her heart may want. Prince Kuragan was brutally honest by saying he would have run away with her anywhere any time. She wouldn’t because she couldn’t not because she didn’t want to but because it would have meant failing to do her duty, utterly unthinkable. Kuragan and Violet may remain friends but she will not carry their relationship further.

          Finally, the magnolia who’s strength has been tested in the most intense fire, Edith.  Edith’s tensile strength would withstand a nuclear explosion. With the news of Michael’s death, Edith has made the decision to go it alone. Mary was particularly cruel to Edith helping Edith make her decision. Edith claimed her child and thereby her own life. It was heartbreaking watching Edith take Marigold from the Drews, but it had to be done. Edith will hopefully take over Michael’s magazine and make it a huge success. She’ll raise her child as she wants to and for the first time in her life, she will only be accountable to herself. She will be the master of her own future. Go get ‘em Edith.


Patiently Waiting

I’m not sure it’s because I was so enraptured with last season and its breathtaking pace and spellbinding plot-lines, but this season seems smaller to me and somewhat more depressing. The action has taken nearly entirely in the Abbey. There have been few visits outside of the Abbey with the exception of a few quick trips into London or Liverpool. And with the exception of Edith lighting her room afire there have been very few “wow” moments.  Even the weather has been considerably drearier than it was last season. True, we cannot have the pageantry of Rose’s presentation at Court every season, however, things seem to be more plodding along than whistling along this season. In any event, I do love the show and there is more than enough going on to keep my interest.

        Rose is turning out to be such a pleasant surprise. Perhaps being presented at court and nearly toppling the future king of England brought her to her senses. and thus she is acting somewhat more responsibly.  She is still naïve but this time her youthful innocence is comes off more endearing than insolent.  She takes people how she finds them (whether a man is handsome or not). She is oblivious to race, religion and politics. She is sweet and it appears her relationship with Atticus Aldridge will blossom.  We’ll see if his being Jewish will be an impediment to a relationship. My guess is she won’t allow it to be.

        As one relationship begins, another ends. We waived goodbye to Sarah Bunting.  I can’t say that I’m sorry to see her go. I didn’t mind her politics, it was her manner that was so offensive.  She was as rigid in her way of thinking as the “aristos” she despised. She did reawaken Tom’s political side which will no doubt have its significance in the future, but she cannot be truly surprised Tom didn’t fall for her.  He told her several times that although he didn’t agree with much of the family’s politics, he loved them. They were good to him and to Sibbie. So, if she was listening to him, how could she have asked him “Don’t you despise them?” Of course not!! She just doesn’t understand his relationship with the family nor did she seem to try very hard. Tom will be better off without her. The question is what does he plan to do now? I’m still not sure if he’s staying at the Abbey. Can he pursue a socialistic lifestyle and continue to live with the family?

        Alas Edith is being blocked by the Drews from ever seeing Marigold again.  Violet and Rosamond talk about taking Marigold away to some school in France like it was picking up a package and bringing it to the post office.  Margie Drew has a talon grip on Marigold and isn’t likely to give her up freely. How do they think they are going to get her away from them? Money won’t do the trick. Margie is not the type who can be bought off. So how do they intend to remove Marigold from their home? Who does Edith know in London who needs to be called from Carson’s office in the middle of the night? If it’s another of Edith’s ideas, with her track record, it won’t be agood one!!

        Thomas is a mess. The drugs he’s taking are clearly harming him. As soon as we start to feel a little sympathy for him, he feels the need to stir the pot up downstairs. Anna is one of the few people at the Abbey who has ever attempted to show him friendship and he’s eager to cause her discomfort. It’s so hard, if not impossible, to like him despite what he’s dealing with. Evil.

        Violent unsuccessfully scuttled Isobel’s relationship with Lord Merton. If anything she only galvanized it. His keen interest in medicine matches Isobel’s showing they have more in common than Violet thought. The true telling moment was Violet’s conversation with Dr. Clarkson. She told Clarskson that she didn’t want Isobel to become a drudge with no interests to keep her occupied while living with a boring husband in a drafty house.  Was she describing Isobel’s fate or her own?” Is this why she found Prince Kuragan so interesting all those years ago?

        Bricker finally made his move on Cora, he is as subtle as a bee sting. True to form, Robert walked in at the exact wrong moment, assumed the worst and a pretty pathetic fight ensued. Robert really shouldn’t fight in his uniform it’s not very flattering to his regiment!!  So now he’s upset with Cora, which he has no right to be. I think this is a case of the truth hurting. Bricker paid Cora the kind of attention Robert hasn’t lately. She may not have minded his advances when they were innocent flirtations, but she drew the line when she had to. Again Robert is angry with Cora for something he really should be blaming himself for.

        Here comes Charles Blake to save the day. His plan to get Tony and Mable back together again is the obvious choice of getting Tony away from Mary. He knows it’s not going to be easy but there is a certain inevitability about it. The only question is how ugly is this going to get for Mary before everyone comes to their senses? Will Charles come out on top for being Mary’s champion?

        There is an interesting parallel being drawn between Violet and Mary. Violet understands Mary’s predicament with Tony better than she lets on because she went through a similar affair. In the previous episode at the dinner Robert and Sarah had their donnybrook Mary and Violet sipped their wine at the same time glaring at Sarah. In this episode, each is picking up on the tension between Cora and Robert. Mary is the next generation of Violet, sharp witted, sharp tongued and fiercely loyal to the family and their way of life.

        It’s hard to tell about the Bates’ conundrum.  It would appear that the police are closing the net, but what evidence do they have? The witness did not see Bates and no one can refute his testimony about where he was that day. So do they have more information than we know? I think the inspector will find a steel ring around Mary, Anna and Mrs. Hughes protecting each other and Mr. Bates. They’re stronger than he knows.

        Finally, Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes continue their sparring between the modern age and the past. Mr. Carson doesn’t like to think of himself as being left behind. Mrs. Hughes has no problem pointing out to him that he is a fixture of the past. Will her little nudges bring him into the modern age? Perhaps, and she’ll be there waiting for him?