Yep, it’s week four and we still don’t care about the Bates-in-prison subplot. Largely because it’s about as entertaining as actually being in prison. But at least not hearing from her ex valet husband for weeks gave Anna a chance to practice her stiff upper lip, something she hasn’t had the opportunity to do for about half an episode: “I’d like to be upset, but I’m just far too noble, self-sacrificing, trusting and brave.”
And boring. Please don’t forget boring.
Talking of ex-Downton employees who have fallen on hard times, maid-turned-lady-of-the-night Ethel Parks finally decided to hand over her improbably large toddler this week after- well- not that much agonising at all. In fact, Isobel and Mrs Hughes tried quite hard to talk her out of it and her in-laws even offered her money, but Ethel seemed quite keen to do the ‘right thing’.
It’s ok Ethel, we understand. You were clearly sick of having to spend all your time watching the same episode of In The (Edwardian) Night Garden on the zoetrope.
As scenes go, the moment she watched little Charlie being driven away by her pantomime villain in-laws (well, one is a villain. The other is a nice lady in a hat- but you get the idea) was about as heart wrenching as watching Great British Bake Off. This was partly due to the fact it seemed like a foregone conclusion, and partly because Charlie seemed utterly happy to be driven away from his weeping mother by two complete strangers.
Well, they say never work with children. I’d add in an ‘or animals’ bit, but Lord Grantham’s dog Isis is the only animal that regularly appears in the show, and she’s a fine, fine actress. In fact, I’m pretty sure she’s up against Dame Maggie for a BAFTA.
Of course, we can’t talk about this week’s Downton without mentioning Arsongate, aka Branson’s involvement in the destruction of Dromgoole Castle and the eviction of its weeping Anglo-Irish residents. Well done Lady Sybil: you didn’t just marry the chauffeur, you married a posho-hating Irish republican ‘freedom fighter’ who enjoys burning down ancestral homes. It’s like a balloon falling in love with a hedgehog.
Tom’s thunderous arrival (dripping wet, on the lam, interrupting a fancy dinner with a Church of England bishop) was almost as thunderous as Lord Grantham’s towering rage when he found out his son-in-law had abandoned his pregnant wife in Dublin in order to do a runner. And that in turn was nothing compared to Lord G’s even more rage filled rant about having to go to London to talk to the home secretary to see if he could get the charges against Tom dropped.
The danger to his pregnant daughter was one thing, but a trip to London is quite beyond the pale. He hasn’t topped up his Oyster card for ages, he hates travelling by rail after the Canadian trunk line stole all his money: not to mention the fact that the entire tube system was subject to constant delays at that time due to the women’s suffrage movement chaining themselves to all the drivers.
Lord Grantham really doesn’t have any luck with either son-in-laws or daughters. If Edith isn’t getting jilted at the altar, she’s writing articles to The Times demanding the vote. And Matthew’s not that much better either. He might have saved Downton from rack and ruin by donating a big sack of guilt money, but is he just going to sit back and carry on- er- sitting back?
No. He thinks Downton is being mismanaged and wants to do something about it. The cheek!
Speaking of doing something- and getting a job- whatever happened to Matthew’s? Didn’t he used to be a lawyer? When was the last time you saw him in a robe with one of those silk wigs on? Seems he decided the simple life wasn’t for him after all: it’s much more fun laughing at servants and chomping on a cigar.
Oh yes. Servants. There’s not much news from the kitchens this week as it’s all a lot less exciting below stairs. The Crawleys have burning castles and Irish revolutionaries to contend with, while the underlings only talking point is the new valet who looks like an early 20th century Justin Bieber. Not to mention Mrs Hughes and her daring ‘electric toaster’.
What’s next? – Carson’s eyebrows seem to say- an oven that runs on gas and doesn’t break down every five minutes meaning we have to invent the cold meat buffet several decades early?
Progress is hard.
Racist moment of the week: ‘I’ve never trusted Catholics, there’s always been something of the ‘Johnny foreigner’ about them.’ – Lord Grantham finally shows his true colours
Careers advisor of the week: The Dowager countess. ‘Find something to do, Edith. But not gardening . You can’t be as desperate as that.’
And this week’s UN award for diffusing national tensions goes to: The Dowager Countess again, for her comments about Dromgoole Castle. “What a tragedy!” “Well, yes and no. That house was hideous… although of course that’s no excuse.”