Tag Archives: Lord Grantham

Downton Abbey Christmas Special – A Review

Downton Abbey has upped its game, thank God. Fellowes must have been reading my blog after all, then. I’ve long suspected it. The crafty fellow(es). One wonders where else those nocturnal prowlings take him…

The latest instalment of Downton Abbey proved the age old dictum that there are no problems that can confront fictional characters, which cannot be solved with an extra length special episode. It was neat, it was smart (in places) – everything was wrapped up nicely with a pretty little ribbon tied on top. But there was still a sense that something wasn’t quite right, wasn’t there? Perhaps it was too clean. I don’t know.

Let’s start with what went right because, insignificant gripes aside, there is no doubting that the DA Christmas special was immensely superior to the smoking disaster that was the second series.

I think a major reason for the return to form was the abandonment of ridiculous and unimaginative story lines. Branson and Sybil did not feature, and were mentioned only in passing, and there was no more nonsense from Lord Grantham, although where Fellowes decides to go on that score is far from clear. Indeed even Bates and Anna did not turn my stomach as they used too, probably because their circumstances finally warranted their pathetic, simpering exchanges. I even caught myself almost feeling sorry for Bates – the poor fellow, never really a happy-go-lucky sort of guy, found guilty by evidence so circumstantial it makes the Jeremy Kyle show look fair. I suppose we can look forward to a third series dominated by a monotonous struggle for justice. But that’s tomorrow. Today I was pleasantly surprised.

In some ways it was as if the entire second season had never taken place. I cannot stress how important that is. We must all try to put the nightmare behind us, once and for all. Matthew and Mary, who for reasons beyond my comprehension could not be together when last we saw them, decided all of a sudden that they could. Buoyed by festive cheer, they threw caution to the winds and set sail across the face of the deep into each others arms. May Poseidon bless their voyage. At least there’s some good news for the future. One can’t help but feel a tad sorry for the ex-Mr. Mary to be (name escapes me). Fair enough he threatened her and all that, and he revealed himself to be something of a cad with some of his dark mutterings regarding the servants, but the poor bloke was pretty screwed over in the end. Oh and his fight with Matthew was hilarious. It could have been a scene straight out of Eastenders.

Romances aside, Miss. O’Brien continued her slow but steady trudge towards redemption and Thomas reverted to his usual capers. In general the episode had glimpses of that old Downton Abbey feel about it, but I can’t help but think that the beautiful magic of the show has been shattered, at least for me. It was good, but it was not that good. That being said, there is nothing wrong with good, and I look forward to more of the same.

One final thing to mention – the woefully unsubtle random asides, made by the characters in an uncomfortable attempt to reflect the ways of the time.  ‘Curiouser and curiouser,’ Lord Grantham espouses, apparently for no reason other than to inform us that Fellowes is aware that Alice and Wonderland might have been read, and indeed quoted, by the upper class in the early C20th. Little details like that can do wonders for the weight of a historical show, but they do need to pass almost unnoticed, or else they might seem clumsy and designed, rather than organic. And that, my dears, is bad.

PS: If it felt awkward watching the family playing Charades, at least Fellowes and co had done their research. If you are interested, Charades dates back to 16th century France – a time when the French made parlour games famous. I suppose we had to let them have something after Agincourt…

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Downton Abbey Series 2, Episode 7 – A review

Once there was a tingling – a fretful shivering like the onset of some orgasmic thrill. Sunday night in front of Downton Abbey – a wild ecstasy of unlimited possibility. At least that’s how things used to be. My loyal readers will recall my last post on this subject as being a rather happy affair. I am afraid this post is not in the same vein at all.

I can’t be the only one thinking it; last night’s episode was rubbish. The script, in places, was truly awful; every Branson and Sybil scene was exactly the same (although to be fair this is not that surprising, given that they have been the same since the start of the series); Matthew’s great rise was so woefully dealt with that I spent much of the remainder of the episode cowering behind the sofa, unable to watch the undignified demise of a show I once held so dear in my heart.

"I have dreamed a dream but now that dream has gone from me." Morpheus, figurehead of the resistance and an ardent Downton Abbey fan, makes known his disgust with the show's direction.

The main source of my discontent was the ridiculous exchange between Lord Grantham and that random housemaid. Although deep down we all knew it was coming, I, for one, was reluctant to believe that Fellowes would actually go through with it.  After all, I muttered to myself in the shower on Saturday night, he couldn’t be that desperate, could he? Apparently he could.

Rather disturbingly I have found several sources eulogising about the fateful kiss as if it were an outstanding move on the part of Fellowes. They described him, (translating their dialogue into my own words) as a slippery genius; a mastermind whose skill for manipulation admits to no bounds. To these people, who seem to regard surprise in itself as clever writing, I say this: surprise is a good thing, nonsensical surprise is not.

The simple fact of the matter is that, as far as I am concerned, Lord Grantham is not the kind of man to take his marital responsibilities lightly. Plot should come from character, you cannot play God with your world and pair people off at your command. Making Grantham act erroneously to himself in order to cause a surprise ruins the reality of the whole thing and turns what used to be a fine programme into nothing more than a soap, best aired at 7.30pm so that it might be watched with microwaved meal on lap, instead of at a later, more dignified, hour, with hounds at feet and large glass of red wine in hand, in front of crackling fire.

Aha! – you say – haven’t you been paying attention? Lord Grantham has not been himself lately you idiot. There’s a war on, in case you hadn’t noticed, and he’s changed. Well it is difficult to argue with this, especially when Grantham himself voices a similar view, hitting his thoroughly unsuspecting wife with this little truth: “Before the war I felt my life had value, I wish to feel that again.”

So this is what I’m supposed to take as the reason for his less than honourable antics. But wait, I’m still confused. Don’t get me wrong it is an epic line, of that there’s no doubt, but I still have no idea what on earth he is talking about. Nothing I have witnessed has happened to him in order to render that statement in any way meaningful. You tell me he has changed, and I see that, but I am still unsure of why. I thought that Grantham was the kind of man who would never do anything untoward to his wife, whatever the reason, and now you say that something so drastic has happened to him that he doesn’t give a fig for any of that anymore, but plays away from home like a drunken frat boy on Spring Break. Well, all I can say is that it’s a good thing he didn’t get to fight, because if he’s capable of slipping into an existential crisis over nothing at all, imagine what might have happened to him in the mire of the trenches!

I can see why they wanted to do something with Grantham. He was getting stale – reduced, as he was, to a few remarks clearly seen by the writers as typical of his class, e.g. ‘my dear fellow” & “my good man” – but given how carefully his character has been constructed, Fellowes really needed to take the time to deconstruct him, if his interaction with his housemaid was to be convincing. Sadly he did not and so our jaws did not drop with surprise, but rather clenched with bitter disappointment.

My girlfriend asked me whether Fellowes measures his success in terms of the amount of couples he can get together. I do not know the answer to that question, but what I do know is that he has run out of ideas. I would expect an episode of this poor quality to pop up near the end of season 12, at a time when everything else has been covered. To find it in season 2 is deeply upsetting. I hope, for Fellow’s sake, he gets out now, or else I’m afraid that all his good work might be forgotten altogether. I will watch next week’s episode, of course I will, but I shall do so with a heavy heart, for I fear now that all that was good about life at Downton has been entirely lost upon the wind.

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