Feb 032015

Downton Abbey: Edith, Aunt Rosamund, and their hats

Lady Rosamund: So, we have a situation of infinite danger to your reputation, with no emotional reward to compensate.

Downton Abbey Season 5 is just killing me with the fun. I am captivated when I watch. I think the show started, in Season 1, as a gorgeous social commentary, and then lost its way with a series of tragic yet meaningless deaths. Downton struggles when it is trying to remain relevant, as in its endless yammering about change, but is glorious when it just lets its witty soap opera run loose. Instead of social justice, about which the show is fumbling and inarticulate, let’s have crazed romantic longings and quiet bitchiness with great hats. Just look at that hat!

I tend to think that Lord Grantham is something of a stand-in for Julian Fellowes himself; that he expresses the opinions of the creator. How else to explain the self-serving and convoluted opinion that Tom is a better person for being able to side with the idle rich as well as favor socialism? Oh, Grantham, you are a putz. A dialogue like that certainly points out what I’m saying about the awkwardness of Downton Abbey‘s social statements.

Speaking of Tom, his whole romance story really dribbled out into nothing, didn’t it? All that drama as he makes “a decision,” leaps from his chair, and runs to Miss Bunting…to tell her goodbye, nice to know you? Really?

Isobel Crawley: You’re as infirm as Windsor castle.

Since I’ve been mad at Lord Grantham for weeks, it is maddening when he is right, as when Bricker, hereinafter to be called “Withnail” saunters uninvited into Cora’s boudoir. How scandalous! Grantham’s magical ability to show up unannounced and early whenever Withnail is about does Cora no favors here. Fight! Fight! Violence among the upper classes! Of course, Grantham has to undermine his own rightness by giving Cora the silent treatment. What did she do? Say no?

Isobel Crawley: Well, I think I should tell him before I tell you, wouldn’t you agree?

The little battles of wit and wisdom between Violet Grantham and Isobel Crawley remain my favorite part of the show. I laughed out loud more than once. I loved the doctor and the Dowager Countess plotting together, and delightfully concluding that Merton and Isobel are suited after all. I love that the ladies do a jigsaw puzzle while matching wits!

Mrs. Patmore: I’d love to think I had a secret that was too indelicate for a lady’s ear, but I haven’t.

Downstairs wasn’t a lot of fun this week. Mrs. Patmore’s investment woes are a snore. I think it’s ridiculous for Baxter to be so 21st Century about Thomas’s efforts to drug the gay away, but I like that Thomas, in his consumptive-looking despair, has returned to full-on meanness. Anna as the suspect in Green’s murder is interesting, but they’re dragging it out far too long.

Rose gets her meet-cute, and now that she’s done scandalizing the family with a black man, she can try a Jew on for size. I like that they are honest about the depth of the anti-Semitism of the Russian aristocracy.

Lady Rosamund: I’m afraid you’ve read somewhere that rudeness in old age is amusing.

Rosamund is a magnificent match for her mother (just as she was a match for James Bond). Her dry wit and air of self-satisfaction are delightful. Also hats. She is a good ally for her niece, Lady Edith, who seems to leave every meal in tears. The level of depression is at DEFCON 4. That her family isn’t hovering around her, desperate to find out what’s wrong, indicates they’re either the least observant people in England, or they just don’t give a fuck about sad sack Edith. So, it’s nice she has Rosamund, and then Granny Violet joins the brigade.

But their solution is sadistic. Edith gave up her baby for adoption and then stole her back, breaking the heart of one Mrs. Schroder. Mrs. S. adopted another baby, which is great, because they’re interchangeable. But Marigold is now a toddler, and the wonderful, satisfying solution that Rosamund and Granny come up with is to take her away from the only mother and life she knows, and send her to a boarding school, with no mother, because…why? Because CLASS! Because the school would raise her in the loveless, motherless arms of the upper classes, instead of the loving, attentive arms of farmers. And that’s clearly a solution. Edith wants only one thing: To be near her daughter, making the “solution” no solution at all. But no one seems remotely interested in the effect on the poor child, except for Mrs. Drew.

Tom Branson: You know you’re much nicer than a lot of people realize.
Lady Mary: Not always.

Mary’s romantic switcheroo is not yet fascinating, but the bitchfest luncheon was fun. I still think the goal of this whole triangle is to see Mary sleep with as many people as possible while still being a “lady.”


  One Response to “Downton Abbey Season 5, Episode 5: Crazed Romantic Longings and Quiet Bitchiness”

  1. I never felt that Tom was into the lovely Miss Bunting as she was into him. Had he abandoned his duty to son and in-laws (someone has to resist Lord Grantham’s egrigious financial skills), we could accuse Fellowes of even more soapiness than Series Two (WWI, etc).

    Bricker is no gentleman. Cora warned him to behave, with a kindly smile (which the smitten Bricker may have interpreted as more than kind). Well, he blasted that bridge to smithereens. I would have been sorely disappointed (along with Cora) if Lord Grantham hadn’t taken Bricker down. As it was, Bricker escaped lightly (at least he honored Cora’s reputation).

    (thanks, BTW, for the nod to the wonderful Withnail and Me)

    I think Rosamund is great. What an pillar of good sense and tact (would we all have such aunts, mothers, and daughters) – and her backbone vis-a-vis the Dowager is most admirable as well.

    Mary had no obligation to have anything to do with the jilted financee never mind to tell her that her former groom was still in play – just goes to show that no good deed goes unpunished.

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