The best moments are the quiet ones: characters walking and talking, so here are Mr and Mrs Bates off to work (Brendan Coyle and Joanne Froggart)
Mr Moseley in the village square self-reflexively selling tickets to come see ….
Friends and remarkably patient readers,
Despite outbreaks physiological and psychological of intense distress, surely you’ve noticed all the thudding hints in your crystal ball: we are on our way to as happily ever after as human beings ever know:
Our princess Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) is going to marry the self-indulgent drone Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode) and run Downton Abbey efficiently as a cross between a tourist attraction and generous farm rental site; Barrow will become head butler and spend his declining years indulging all Lady Mary’s children; our secondary heroine Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) will marry Bertie Pelham (Henry Haddon-Patton, a double-moniker there) despite Lady Mary’s final spiteful attempt to use her knowledge that Marigold is an illegimate child. Pelham is not a prince in disguise, but he is not the total shit Lady Mary had hoped. Mr and Mrs Bates (the one truly aggressive man in the series and his very long-suffering wife) will have that baby, which will be healthy and retire to their property to become prosperous landlords. Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan) will show yet more extraordinary patience as she endures married life with that self-indulged prig of the patriarchy, Mr Carson (Jim Carter) who is not capable of going to bed without looking to see if the sheet corners are expertly done nor eat if his dinner is not eternally hot and as exquisitely cooked as if he were a Shah of Saudi Arabia. Mrs Patmore (Lesley Nicol) will marry Mr Mason (Paul Copley), bringing to his tenant farm her dowry of her property, and their eternal live-in adopted children helps, highly educated Daisy (Sophie McShea) and Andy (now reading and writing too as the best of them, certainly no one knows pig theory better) to spell them. Lord Grantham will not die young because Cora, Lady Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern) is just too soothing and complacent a presence to allow an early death once Violet Lady Grantham (Maggie Smith) despite her Methuselah-like great age settles down to supporting Miss Dencker (Sue Johnston)’s matching spite and Spratt’s stamp-collecting habits (Jeremy Swift).
Kitchen life goes on
Have I left anyone out? Tom Bransom (Allen Leech)’s fate is as yet obscure. Isabel Crawley (Penelope Wilton) and Lord Merton (Douglas Reith) have been granted an intermediary in the person of an astonishingly kind prospective daughter-in-law (what I can’t figure out is how she can marry that vicious son of his?). While I just know in the longer run Miss Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) will marry Mr Moseley (Kevin Doyle) who will become a teacher in a school (he takes a test next to Daisy in Episode 6), there is another bit of a twist and turn down the road as it seems after all she had some feelings for the crook who arranged his theft in such a way as she went to prison. Both such good souls, they will work it out.
How easy some of them have it? Lady Edith’s interviews of prospective women employees are without tension. How is it that newspapers are so easy to run? As to Talbot, are there no aggressive males left on the planet?
So why are we carrying on? in this excruciating slow motion? (For recaps see Anibundel: 5, Who would have thought the old man had so much blood?, 6: Downton Abbey as Antiques Roadshow lacks information). Because the ratings were so high and potential audience and money from advertisers were too tempting.
Mr Moseley helps Miss Baxter put on her coat after she has learned her ex-lover has pled guilty thus sparing her a confession of her complicity on the stand
On Episode 5: I admit to being a viewer whose emotions have at times been deeply engaged with these characters, so when the hospital debate came a crisis with Violet’s coercing Neville Chamberlain himself to come to luncheon in the hope he will not permit the local hospital to be amalgamated to a county-wide organization and yet another of these tension-filled meals became too much for Lord Grantham, I was upset. I found myself distressed to see this man coughing up huge goblets of blood.
Lord Grantham’s ulcer bursts — he has clearly had enough (Hugh Bonneville enters fully into the role assigned every time, DA 6, Episode 5)
The first time I watched, I was started into shock, and my emotions rose strongly and I felt strongly upset; but if a movie has real depth in it and has earned belief, adherence, the second time through should be stronger as you notice more. Well the second time through I felt indifference; the contrived nature of the scene once the shock wore off and especially since Fellowes had relied on this melodrama. I could see how it neatly ties up with the hospital debate in such a way as the Dowager must lose, but a sensitive fine actor who let himself go into the part was degraded by this circus use of him.
Carson: “Do other butlers have to contend with the police arriving every 10 minutes?”
Answer: No, but most are not part of moribund mini-series.
What saves this series is that continually as an undercurrent and some times rising to the surface (in coughed up blood?) are tensions, strains, disappointment, conflicted desires beneath the tranquil surface of life for these privileged lucky characters.
On Episode 6: One of my favorite PBS shows has long been the Antiques Road Show as done in Britain; there is an American version, but for me not as much fun as these visits to large country houses and estates. And I have come to expect as a matter of course, that detailed knowledge of the most obscure objects will be forthcoming. As a gentle satire on the usual display of conjectured (they are careful to say it’s conjectured) information with prices that make the sellers unexpectedly happy, Episode 6 was worth a watch. Lady Edith couldn’t say who was in the picture; Cora, Lady Grantham did not know why one set of imitation shields over a fireplace had not been carved with any letters but over there was a bona fide Reynolds.
Robert: “What on Earth can we show them to make it worth their money? Lady Grantham knitting? Lady Mary in the bath?”
There was a mild pleasure to be had in seeing how people really don’t know these facts. I found the dialogue where a child of the tourists stumbles into Lord Grantham’s room to ask why he doesn’t get someone much more comfortable to live in heavy-handed and improbable.
What was registered was Fellowes’s disdain of those people who come to gawk; and his quiet sneer that to keep such places going you have to let people in who envy a style of life they have misapprehended as exciting but who are really endlessly thinking of whether their egos have been assauged. In the scene above the people on line are beginning to think somehow one group waiting has been favored over another, and Mr Moseley is doing all he can to push out such thinking.
Miss Dencker comes near to be fired for too much loyalty. What? did she think she had a right to be loyal? On the spot, the Dowager will fire her.
Thomas Barrow contemplates suicide as his utterly selfless teaching of Andrew Parker is sleazily misread (Rob James-Collier and Michael Fox, DA 6, Episode 6
Thomas is beginning to have had it. After all these years of faithful service and self-control on his part, he is still not trusted enough so that if he strikes up a friendship with a footman the first thought all have is he’s buggering him. And he is continually nagged to find a job where he might have something useful to do. Had this been imitative of life either he or Andy would have said he was teaching Andy to read.
Lady Edith and her suitor stroll through St James Park — or is it Kensington Gardens we are to suppose we are entering into (Episode 5)
I did remember this poem while watching some of the quietly strained moments amid the engineered systematic indifference of most to most between characters who pass through much splendor and have who at times have something to me:
Musee de Beaux Arts
About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on. \
— W. H. Auden