DOWNTON ABBEY: “Episode 405”

Secrets are revealed! New suitors are introduced! And the intrigue continues this week on Downton Abbey.

It is no secret the distaste I harbor for the horrors the writers have inflicted on long-suffering Anna this season, but when her secret was finally revealed to Bates, the magnificent forlorn exchange between the two was a reminder of why I want both to be rescued from this season intact. Together. Their love is true and palpable, undeniable. Unfortunately, this scene that could have been the turning point was just the opposite. Bates is determined to find the culprit and looks downright scary when he presses Mrs. Hughes for the information he already knows. Bates looks set to spiral out of control, and out of our hearts, if the writers are determined to negate any honor the character has harbored for the past four years. Yes, when pain is inflicted on our most precious of loved ones, one might react in insanity, but is it possible that he could harbor less obvious secrets that could land him back in the clink?

Lady Mary writes Lord Gillingham with congratulations on the announcement of his engagement to the honorable Mabel Lane Fox, and seals the card with tears. Are we really to believe that Mary has fallen in love so soon after the death of her soul mate? Was she just projecting onto Tony all of those dormant feelings? Or is it possible that she hides herself so deeply in British stoicism that any pull at her heartstrings sends her plummeting toward depression? Whatever the true motive of those tears, Michelle Dockery delivers another solid performance among middling material.

Evelyn Napier arrives at the Abbey, convenient now that Tony Gillingham is out of the running for Mary’s affections, to assess the standing of area estates — not to mention the status of Mary’s “estate”. She offers Evelyn and his companion Charles Blake refuge from staying locally by way of opening the Abbey’s doors to them. And so, the love triangle…er rectangle?…begins.

Lord Grantham aides the son of a former tenant by allowing him to remain on the land and farm the fields, though the tenancy had been in severe arrears. This act is less for charity and more to keep the ways of the old, and Lord Grantham’s grip on the reins of Downton, intact. At least the writers find no need to change Lord Grantham in the current season of revolution; he’s as pigheaded as always. Mary attributes this act as kindness, though he made this deal in secret without consulting her or Tom, but I find it more interesting to believe that he just wanted to make the decision himself.

Can we all agree that the stories relegated to “B” status this season are the most interesting and well executed?

With the departure of Becky Sharp-like Lady’s Maid Edna, and that absurd storyline, a breath of fresh air blows in this week at the introduction of Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) a mysterious acquaintance of Barrow. She is quick to interweave herself into the affairs of her downstairs neighbors and carry favor with Cora. Her motives (and true allegiances) are not yet revealed, finally supplying a slow-burning narrative to this quick-succession season. We only know that she reports to Barrow, but what could he have over her? She is certainly not his type, so what could be her intentions? Will she be deliciously wicked like O’Brien, or more of a selfish social climber like Edna? Time will tell, but I have enjoyed this discovery.

Alfred continues to look beyond Downton for a career as a chef, as he is tested by the Ritz. As Daisy heart-wrenchingly aides him in his quest to leave her forever, he comes very close, but is ultimately passed over for more seasoned cooks. When Mr. Carson sees an opening for Mr. Moseley if Alfred leaves, he is shocked when the long-suffering Butler Valet unemployed man will not lower himself to be a Footman, at least not right away. Moseley requests time to consider the offer; however, once he decides to accept the position, Alfred has already come back. And sad Mr. Moseley bumbles on down the lane, dejected as usual.

And finally, Isobel continues her Lady Nightingale routine by securing the position of the Dowager Countess’s new gardener for a local youngster Pegg. Not without her share of vocal insults, Violet agrees to take the young man on until her social prejudices are soon flexed when she accuses Pegg of thievery. Quick to his defense are Isobel and Dr. Clarkson, pointing out the weakness in Violet’s case. The latter relents, allowing the gardner to stay for now. We get more of these shenanigans in the coming weeks, and I for one, look forward to the battle of wits between the elder Crawley women. Let the games commence!

THIS WEEK IN I DON’T GIVE A CRAP ABOUT EDITH

After being bedded by Michael Gregson last week, Edith hasn’t heard from her beloved. If only we were getting the Gregson part of this story, we’d have the ability to tune her out as well. Can’t we all just move to Germany?

 

Final Thoughts:

It’s difficult to hate-watch a show that for three seasons was counted among the best writing and performing on television. All I can tell you is that seeds were planted for something better. The few episodes remaining offer glimmers of hope for next season, albeit hidden within even more intolerable rabbit-holes for its most beloved characters. The road will be rocky for the Bateses, Mary, the young Lady Rose, Daisy, and the insufferable Edith, but I have to trust Fellowes and Co. have greater things in store for us in the future. If the penultimate and final episode of the fourth series are any indication of what is to come, hold fast. There is light on the horizon. If not, Sherlock is back. And Doctor Who returns in the autumn.

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