Feb 082016

Downton Abbey, Season 6, Episode 6, Edith leading the house tour

He was more of a philosopher than a thief.

Somewhere in the course of watching Downton Abbey Season 6, Episode 6, I was asking myself what was the point of it all. Lady Mary romance, Daisy bitch, Anna pregnant, blah blah blah, it seemed, in some sense, to be playing by numbers, hitting each point in an almost perfunctory manner. Setting aside, of course, Maggie Smith’s magnificent meltdown, which played in no way how I expected it to play. Hang on, I’ll get back to that. What I really want to say is that I slept on it, and woke up this morning realizing that this episode of Downton Abbey was as virulent an indictment of the upper classes as Julian Fellowes has ever indulged in. It was vicious. 

I am speaking, of course, of the house tour. In the course of this event, the Crawleys were shown to be ignorant, incurious, dull, and completely lacking in self-awareness. “How the other half lives”, indeed! Robert, sitting in bed, blue circles under his eyes, has the decency to realize that they don’t come off all that well to the gawkers. Meanwhile, Edith, Mary, Cora–the lot of them–have no idea about anything. Yes, I’ve lived here all my life, and I don’t have a job, or all that much to keep me busy, but I’ve never actually wondered who’s depicted in the enormous and magnificent paintings on every wall of my home. I’ve never actually noticed the architecture. I’ve never actually asked a fucking questionIt’s genuinely appalling. The Crawleys just sit around, surrounded by magnificence, occupying their hours with gossip and backbiting and stealing children from the working class. They don’t use any of that freedom to be interested in their own surroundings.

Nor are they particularly aware that their surroundings are magnificent. “That’s a table”, Violet says, as if it’s not a more ornate and beautiful table than most people have ever seen. As if the finest workmanship is not a thing to be admired. It’s enough to turn anyone into Daisy and say, they don’t deserve what they have, because they are utterly blind to it. They don’t even know they have it.

But Daisy persists in being an asshole. Mostly, in the meanness with which she tries to keep Mr. Mason and Mrs. Pattmore apart; two people who have been nothing but nice to her, and welcoming, and treated her like a treasured daughter, and all she can do is make sure that everyone stays exactly as miserable as she is. But also, she’s an asshole in her radicalism. Of all the things one might say in regard to the privileged and their enormous homes, why shouldn’t they be open to the public is simply not one of them. I’m pretty damn socialist in my views, but I believe that even the rich have the right to lock their doors. You know, so they can get some sleep and scratch their asses in privacy.

Clearly the reason that Edith and Mary know nothing about their own home is because they have been mentally and emotionally consumed with being bitchy to each other, especially in regards to men. I sort of like Edith being bitchy, because in earlier seasons, she was more pathetic and sad and self-pitying than bitchy, so at least it’s a step up. But Mary partakes of such casual meanness that even her confession that Matthew died in a car crash comes off more as a pronouncement from on high than a confession of pain. Still, she does manage to engineer the most romantic settings, right? That kiss in the rain was attractive, if rather brief and dry and very, very English.

I shall be magnanimous in victory.

Another theme of this episode is the expectation that we should feel sorry for people who have consistently behaved badly. The Dowager Countess has been a crazed war-mongering bitch about the hospital issue, and now we’re, what? Supposed to pity her? The histrionic anger is fun, even more fun is her clueless confidence in her own supremacy, as if being president of a small-town hospital association is the Queenship itself. Of all the ways I thought that Robert’s illness would play out, creating a delusion in Violet’s self-important mind and nowhere else was not on my list.

We are also meant, apparently, to feel sorry for Barrow. And I am so sorry to be a broken record here, but every week this season he’s seen to be adorable and sad and then mopey about how nobody loves him. Except he’s NOT adorable and never has been. He’s mean and conniving and smug, and the fact that we now add self-pitying to the list doesn’t make my heart open wide. It appears Mary will save him, because Mary has never had a lick of sense.

Clearly what will happen is this: Moseley will quit to work at the school, reducing the staff to a sufficient degree to allow Mary to sweep in and keep Barrow so that Little Sir George can have his pony rides.


  2 Responses to “Downton Abbey Season 6, Episode 6: How the Other Half Lives”

  1. I agree. The ignorance on display during the tours felt a tad forced.

    I thought of THE GRASS IS GREENER (1960). It depicted Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr as the estate owners in the same boat forced to resort to guided tours to make ends meet in a much more convincing manner. Yes. The good ole days were long gone but they were going to keep the flame burning as long as they could BECAUSE of their home’s history (in which both were fully versed).

  2. “He collected women and horses”
    Love the Dowager!

    Clearly, she was the one who should have been giving the tours! Could she be put in that role? Would she do it for future tours?

    Is there a suicide coming up for downstairs? Sad ending.

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