Thursday, January 30, 2014

Lady Edith, It Doesn't Pass the Stupid Test

We are well into Downton Abbey Season 4, and I've written nary a word about it.

Sunday night was the first episode I've really enjoyed. My reviews tend to be so nit-pickingly negative, everyone must scratch their heads that I watch the show at all. This week I actually have good things to say. So here it is:

- Anna and Bates -- United once again! Gosh, that Brendan Coyle can act. Carson has the eyebrows, but Bates has the rest of the eyes -- the crinkling laugh lines, the steely glare. Of course, the whole story line is disturbing and doesn't bode well for the Bates family. It's not over. It's not over. As Mrs. Hughes might say, "Oh my."

- Robert at his best -- Being honorable, seeing the potential in someone and going out on a limb for him. Better still was Mary recognizing that her father has wisdom and decency and isn't quite the colossal dolt he's been made out to be for two seasons or so.

- Daisy -- A person at least. I love the warmth between Mrs. Pattmore and Daisy. A nice change from the haranguing cook and the browbeaten scullery maid.

- Mrs. Crawley -- Doing good but in simple, humble ways, her holier-than-thou persona mostly gone (but not so far gone that Violet can't let fly a few gentle zingers). I am totally rooting for a match between Isobel and Dr. Clarkson.

Of course there's bad news:

- Cora -- I think every other season poor Cora gets stuck with just a handful of lines -- Where's Robert? I'll watch the children. Let's plan a birthday party. She's a bit player this season, at least so far.

- Edith - Seen entering a doctor's office. Could she be pregnant? Could she be double-checking Gregson's wife's diagnosis? I watched the episode a second time on (yes, you can do this free if you've got time to waste) and paused at the doctor's office sign. Definitely says Dr. and then there's a string of letters I don't recognize.


I keep thinking about the words of the late Mathew Crawley: Every estranged wife is awful, and every philandering man is just about to divorce her. Or something like that. Edith, Edith, Edith, this just doesn't pass the stupid test (or the decency test).

It's fascinating to think of so many individuals sharing a house, yet wholly ignorant of  the sufferings of the other. Think : Mary and Anna. When Mary faced her scandal in Season 1, she turned first to Anna, the maid, not Cora, her mother, for help and her father was left wholly in the dark for years. Interesting. And fairly true to life even today, I would guess. Anna is positively cracking, but doesn't confide in anyone but Mrs. Hughes. And Lady Mary doesn't press. Hmmmm.

Many of you have probably seen Gosford Park, a film by Downton creator Julian Fellowes that deals with many of the same themes, but on a slightly darker level. Police investigate a local aristocrat who is found murdered during a weekend house party. After investigators question everyone upstairs, someone makes an off-hand comment about interviewing the staff. The inspector makes a flippant comment about the servants having nothing to do with the family. It's all bosh, of course. In fact, the entire story behind the story revolves around the staff and their all-too-intimate relations with the upstairs folk.

What a unique world it was.

Maggie Smith steals the show in Gosford Park as well. When dining conversation turns to an American movie maker and the plot of his current film, Maggie assures the producer that spilling the beans at Gosford won't make any difference because, "We won't be watching that film anyway." Or something equally as acidic.


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