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?