Monday, January 30, 2012

Downton Abbey 2.5: Sticky wickets

In this mid-season episode, what's up is down and what's downstairs is now up. This hour finds Lady Mary in uniform carrying a bowl of "sick" and William ensconced in one of the nicest bedrooms in the manor. Again I quote Thomas the Snake: "War changes things," and this war has produced many an ethical dilemma in the Abbey. Spoilers aplenty follow.

The hour opens with the location stamp of Amiens, 1918.

Matthew is rallying the troops and William is rallying Matthew for one of the greatest British advances of the war. They both end up be-ditched and bloody. Meanwhile, both Daisy and Mary have a little psychic frisson when their respective faux-beaux are wounded. I could have done without that.

The news of the severity of Matthew's and William's condition reaches DA early in the morning, resulting in a delightful upstairs/downstairs pajama-d face-off. A neat encapsulation of the way the barriers between the classes are being erased by the sheer enormity of the conflict and casualties.

The Dowager Countess, whom I want to be when I grow up, heads to the village hospital to arrange for William's transfer, since his father can't afford to head to Leeds to visit him. Matthew is already on the way. Though her attempts to bully the Major into accepting William into his "officer's only" hospital fail--which leads to my favorite Violet quote of the night, "When you give these little people power it goes to their heads like strong drink."--she isn't beat just yet. Vi braves the garish telephone to call in a favor in Leeds,

The avatar of technological loathing.

and she and Lady Edith head off to collect William, surprisingly with nemesis Thomas's blessing. He expresses a "rise of the proles" solidarity with William. By the by, a Thomas/Branson pinko alliance would fill me with pleasure.

 It's a match made in slash-fic heaven.

As Bates and Anna head to the church to pray for Matthew and William (the former a little reluctantly, if you ask me), he lets loose with not one but two fate-tempting statements re: the once and not-future Mrs. Bates: "The divorce decree is only a formality." and "She's gone now." What are you thinking, Batesie? Of course she shows up at Downton Abbey not fifteen seconds later, having been summoned by the odious O'Brien.

One woman scorned, coming right up.

I must say, I've grown tired of Mrs. Bates. I don't get why she's such a shit. Odious O'Brien clearly feels disenfranchised, unliked, and unlovable, so she lashes out. Mrs. Bates is just a diabolus ex machina, who is still threatening to peddle the true story of the unfortunate Mr. Pamouk,

Remember him?

who is still hanging around this show like the ghost of Hamlet's father. Mary asks Sir Richard to bury the story, which he does in nifty Godfather-esque style using his newspaper powers, but only in the name of solidifying his engagement to Mary.

If Mrs. Bates had a phone, he would have hacked it.

You also get the sense that he'll be using this as leverage against Mary's social superiority for the rest of their lives. What a gentleman.

Speaking of gentlemen, Mrs. Hughes goes to visit the fallen maid Ethel and her illegitimate child.

Ethel and her baby daddy in happier times.

Ethel begs Mrs. H to pass along a letter to the deadbeat dad. Guess what? Doesn't work. The new maid, blue-eyed Jane, is a widowed mother . . . or so she says. When his Lordship mentions her sacrifice, there's a strange response I can't quite read.

Meanwhile, Daisy and Mrs. Patmore have been engaged in a pretty interesting moral argument. Should Daisy continue to lie to William about her feelings for him? Or is it kinder to allow him to believe that she cares until he recovers? That issue gets even more complicated with the arrival of the not-walking wounded in Downton. Violet and Edith have been informed by the doctor in Leeds that William has suffered a fatal injury to his lungs and won't be getting better. Ever.

Breaking up with him now better or worse than over Facebook? Discuss.
Mary, who has met Matthew at the village hospital, finds out that he won't be walking again. Ever.

When Mary was warned to hang back, I was expecting something truly grotesque. He just sort of looks like a post-basement Tyler Durden.

These diagnoses result in a sticky wicket.

Wheezy William (too soon?), being informed of his imminent demise, proposes to Daisy so she will have a widow's pension. She is conflicted about accepting, since he is operating under the assumption that they would have wanted to be together anyway. Daisy agrees, but is clearly uneasy with the arrangement.

You can't really see, but they did the deathbed up quite nice.

The best part about this whole subplot is when they send the smug and self-righteous vicar to the Dowager Countess who gives him quite a few reasons to "overcome your scruples." This was also like The Godfather.

Matthew, being informed of his lasting paralysis and inability to have sex (euphemisms for this abound in the episode), tries to send Lavinia packing, not wanting to doom her to a sexless marriage. How I wished that Lavinia would be relieved, but alas, she seems like a good person.


So an engaged Mary is left trying to talk them both into staying together. Not hot.

And of course it would be crass for him to mention it, but Lord Grantham is more than a little concerned that the line now will end with Matthew. Which just highlights how ridiculous this whole entailment law is. It argues that Matthew's sperm is magic--but not even all his sperm, just the sperm that carries a Y-chromosome, resulting in a male child. Adoption? Doesn't count. Daughter? Doesn't count.

We leave with Matthew expiring (sad).

Who I liked during this episode: Lady Edith has become quite the stand-up sister this series. I kind of miss her ruthlessness, but she seems to be adapting well to the post-war world.

Who annoyed me during this episode: Cora! She was a bit haughty with the whole "they should have checked out the widowed maid with me" speech. Also, and it pains me to say it, Branson. He actually compared the Bolsheviks' execution of the Tsar and his family to Lady Sybil deciding to run away with him. Faulty analogy, red.

I can't stay mad at Branson.

1 comment:

  1. I am delighted by this; your reviews always be-please me. And I'm just going to say it: the slash-fic "alliance" should really be a three way with the dead Turk.