Jan 062016


The Season 6 premiere of Downton Abbey was certainly action-packed, in the Downton sense of “action”, which involves large quantities of verbal sniping and meaningful looks. Yet this one episode had blackmail! miscarriage! sex talk! CORPORATE TAKEOVER ATTEMPTS! Denker shenanigans! Daisy tantrums! weird Spratt eyes! LETTER READING! Oh my, I’m all aflutter.

Somewhere in Downton Abbey Season 2, Bates and Anna exceeded their sell-by date–a fact which creator Julian Fellowes has yet to notice–but Carson and Mrs. Hughes are the most romantic thing on television. I cried. I cried in that moopy way that makes Professor Spouse look up and grin at me because she thinks it’s cute when I get moopy about television. I cried earlier in the episode, when Carson explained to Mrs. Pattmore how deeply he loves Mrs. Hughes, but the Professor didn’t catch me at it. But then, when he kissed her, I cried all over the place.

This did not prevent the episode from being laugh out loud funny. Call me an easy mark, but I laughed every single time one of the aforementioned three people tried to obliquely discuss sex. As Mrs. Pattmore, Lesley Nicol deserves enormous kudos here. “I think we’re there now” was hilarious, and it was all about the right combination of embarrassment and firm resolution to move forward despite the obvious awfulness of the whole thing. I mean, the very idea that Mrs. Hughes, or any other human being, would send an intermediary to have this particular conversation, is funny and sad and funny and tender and tragic and unthinkable and FUNNY. And from there forward, this particular subplot did not disappoint.

And then it turns beautiful. It turns beautiful when Carson explains to Mrs. Pattmore that no, he must have a full marriage, because he loves Mrs. Hughes that much. It is exquisitely beautiful when Carson starts planning how they will explain to the staff that the marriage is off, sorrow and dignity and longing and resignation all mixed together in a delicate turn that makes me understand why Jim Carter was nominated for an Emmy. And then he kissed her and I cried.

None of which makes me care very much about Anna’s miscarriages or the real killer stepping forward or any of that. Because Anna and Bates. Oy.

I thought the blackmail plot was handled very well. The evil chambermaid had superpowers that included making Lady Mary fall from her horse, but she could not conquer the unconquerable Lord Grantham. Downton Abbey tends to do this sort of thing: Introduce a new character out of nowhere, have everyone jump to attention around this character’s plot point, drag it out forever, and then disappear it without having much of anything happen. By contrast, this was (or appears to have been) handled succinctly in a single episode, so the “drag it out” part was bypassed. As well, this subplot was tied into the other Lady Mary subplot–having her become the estate manager, or whatever it’s called. Although let’s be honest here. Mary panicked and did nothing when confronted twice with blackmail, her father handled it easily, firmly, and way better than Mary had even thought of, and then Lord Grantham…praised her for her maturity and business acumen? Really? She handled the situation like a big ol’ baby.

Why do the upper class on Downton refuse to fire misbehaving staff? Seriously! I kind of understand Daisy keeping her job. I mean, they’re all sad and nostalgic about estates being auctioned off, so Lord and Lady Grantham had a tiny bit of sympathy with Daisy going off. Besides, she needs her job now that she’s destroyed her father-in-law’s livelihood. But add to that the Dowager’s consistent refusal to do anything about Denker! You say “say nothing”, you say it TWICE, then when she says something, spreads it far and wide, you content yourself with fucking with her head a little? WHY? I want her fired so badly it makes my teeth hurt.

Lady Edith is totally going to have sex in her new London digs.

Did everyone watch? What do you all think?


  16 Responses to “Downton Abbey Season 6 Premiere: All Aflutter”

  1. It was good. I liked it. I had to step away at the very beginning and missed the start of the opening credits, but I have been informed that they still show Isis in the credits. I’m glad. Aww, Isis *sniff*

    Can you please remind me of the context of Mrs. Pattmore saying, “I think we’re there now”? I watched and I know that she was trying to talk to Carson about Mrs. Hughes and find out what his intentions were, with regard to sex, but I don’t remember this exact line. What exactly did he say that preceded it?

    I hope Julian Fellowes has gotten the message that fans are sick of doom-and-gloom with regard to Mr. and Mrs. Bates. I really felt he just about ruined (Mr.) Bates after the first season or two. I loved his charm & fire in Season 1. Seeing him smile, seeing him stand up to Thomas, etc., etc. After that it got to a point where it was all bad news & legal trouble & martyrdom. So, I’m very glad that in the first episode of this final season, they got some happy news. (And I actually got to see his charming smile a few times during the episode)

    • Mad Chick, I may have misquoted the line. I forgot to write it down. It’s when Mrs. P. and Carson have the second conversation, and he says OH! and she realizes he’s so uncomfortable that indeed, they’re now on the same page.

  2. Would “British justice, the envy of the world” recognize the evil chambermaid’s signed confession without a witness signature (like a notary)? I’m just asking.

    • The chambermaid wouldn’t think of that detail. He’s leveraging his better education against her.

      • She may not understand the fine points of law, but that was a great hat she had, and where can I find one just like it?

      • I don’t disagree. The “unwitnessed signature” trope is just a pet peeve of mine (among the thousands) that could have been addressed with two lines of dialogue (not that anyone asked me):

        “Papa, without a legal witness, that piece of paper carries no weight.”

        “Yes. But she doesn’t know that.” (victorious upper-class grin)

  3. I now call Mr & Mrs Bates, Job and his wife. Huge eye-roll. And I was like, lady, you are on bail and still being considered as a suspect (this was before the bobby’s second visit and the fancy grapes were broken out) not being able to have kids really isn’t the biggest problem in your life. Did she want to have a kid in jail?

    Except for a few scenes, including when Mr. Carson finally realized what Mrs. Pattmore was getting at, which made me bark with laughter, I felt like it didn’t have the same zip as in previous years. Usually I use alternate means to see it when it airs in the UK, but I just wasn’t as excited for this season. It is time for it to end but I will enjoy the final moments.

    Total side note, I had a dream the other day about Mad Men and woke up thinking, “I miss Don!”

  4. I had a dream and Don was there and it was GREAT!

    He was all mine.

    Now about Carson…I was suprised he wanted Elsie to perform wifely duties!

    He will not call her by her first name at work but he wants a full marriage. Gotta love that horn dog.

    And why is she called Mrs. Hughes? Was Elsie married before? I feel like those 2 could have a series of their own. Very cute.

    • As explained long ago on UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS, GOSFORD PARK and countless books, in those days all head cooks and housekeepers were given the courtesy title of “Mrs.”

      I loved the line in which Elsie Hughes mentioned that when young she was a beauty. Years ago the same actress played the beautiful “Lady Jane” on the hit series LOVEJOY which introduced Ian McShane to USA audiences.

    • She actually addressed the “Mrs.” in an early season, the episode where she had a suitor from her past come to call. She said she’d never married, but it was time to be called “Mrs.” and have that respect, and silence any questions.

  5. Personally I totally disagree with anyone who did not adore the AB Series 6 premiere. I will miss all these AB characters, although I am sure we will be seeing most of those performers in fine work in the future. Just thing of everything Lilly James has done since being introduced as “Lady Rose”?

    By the way, although I was thrilled the way Robert took care of the horrid hotel maid, I though the actress was just swell. I cannot wait to see her in other projects.

    As for the signed confession, should it come to it Lord Robert can establish its authenticity. Earlier in the series it was established that he is some sort of local magistrate, meaning he would have the powers of a notary public.

    My immediate reaction when Robert told Cora that a son of their friends selling their estate was moving to Kenya was “No! That was called British East Africa or BEA before 1955.” However, my sister reminded me in such movies as “Out of Africa” the place is called Kenya. Perhaps J. Fellows wanted to be sure viewers knew the place, or he did not wish to offend views in other former Brit colonies.

    • Dr. Adams, I just checked that noteworthy authority, Wikipedia, which tells me:

      “In 1920 the East Africa Protectorate* was turned into a colony and renamed Kenya, for its highest mountain.”

      *or ” British East Africa (as the Protectorate was generally known)”

      So in 1925, yes, “Kenya” would have been correct.

  6. I was glad to see Lord Grantham use the blackmailer’s fear of prosecution and continuing fear of prison to extinguish the threat for a relative pittance. Ponzi may have fleeced him but he much better knows the local mores and law.

    I thought he gave Mary her due as an able and motivated estate manager – not for how she mishandled the blackmailer.

    I agree that Fellows had milked the Anna and Bates legal troubles dry last season and am happy to see that finally resolved.

    As for Lady Edith: in London she will spread her wings in ways not merely amorous. One hopes she will make new friends and kick some butt as a publisher. She could hire a proxy to do the kicking, but we’d all like to see her do it herself.

  7. I wonder if Cora and Lord Robert will ever travel to America? She has roots with her mother, and Sibby is in Boston…would it make sense for them to expand their homestead? Lady Mary can keep the estate going and as Mama and Papa age they could live like royalty in America. Is it likely?

    • It won’t happen, but ‘d love to see Shirley MacLaine again as Cora’s mother. She was second only to the Dowager as a scene stealer. Or Giamatti as Cora’s brother – that won’t happen either.

      I’d settle for Mary getting hitched (with suitable “modern” protections on her property) to a worthy suitor.

      • If the estate is, what is that word?, legal only able to be inherited by the direct male line, then George, Lady Mary’s son, is the title bearer or heir apparent. The estate is his when the Earl dies. I suppose Lady Mary could run the place if her father dies before George comes of age, but her husband would only have influence through Lady Mary, and given her personality, I don’t see that happening easily. It is not nor will it ever be her property although I suppose her father could leave her money or jewelry,,,Cora’s jewels, unless her own personal property, will go to George’s wife, as will Violets, unless they are her own personal property. I am not sure when the UK changed its laws regarding a wife’s money, etc being her own. But until fairly recently, when a woman married, all her property/ money became her husbands. Remember Cora brought in a considerable amount but had no control over it.

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