British television maven and blogger Deborah Gilbert keeps you in the know with entertaining recaps of each episode of Downton Abbey Season 2. Count down the top 5 moments of each episode, including the Dowager Countess’ best zingers.
Tonight is the Downton Abbey finale and as this season draws to a close, perhaps it would be best to draw strength, at this difficult time, from Sir Winston Churchill, who said, ‘Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the Season Two.’ Wise words. And what makes this night different from all other nights? The gloomy look of the opening credits, devoid the customary wagging doggie tail greeting. Isis was busy being locked in a shack in the woods, and being the method actor she is, she couldn’t just wag her tail in the air like she just don’t care. She had to stay in character (and by the way, her agent says that next season she wants a bigger trailer).
But it is a dreary holiday season at Downton. So dreary that most were hoping to get anti-depressants in their Christmas Crackers. And here is a little known fact: Back in 1920, before television, it was customary to celebrate New Year’s Eve by having Dick Clark go door to door. It was rather dull, but there you go. And speaking of dull, what shall we do with our Sunday evenings now, until Season Three? What shall we do in the off-season? I don’t know about you, but I’m having withdrawl symptoms already. Of course, we’ll be able to taper off slowly by watching the Downton Abbey reruns on WLIW, for a couple more weeks, but then we stare into the abyss. I blame Laura Linney. Now that PBS has gotten us hooked, how are they going to help us? Would offering Downton Abbey rehab as a pledge gift be to much to ask for? Maybe that could tide us over…
5. CSI Ripon: The Trial of Mr. Bates
Still so maddeningly obtuse, if the worst happens and he does have to spend life in prison, he could always occupy his time writing for fortune cookies. Then again, Bates’ cookie fortunes might just cause a spike in suicides at Chinese restaurants, so maybe that’s not such a good idea. What is the thing he thinks he cannot be forgiven for? It can’t be the death of Mrs. Bates because he has had this thing around his neck since day one. What is he not telling us? What? Is it just serious self-esteem issues, or is it real? Does it have something to do with Lord Grantham? From what was said at the trial, it sounded as if Bates gave them statements that were true to form: He told the Old Bill the incriminating stuff, but nothing in his own defense. And, of course, everyone who testified was tricked by the simple, direct questions. Even though this was a circumstantial case, the jury didn’t seem to take long. And then they all put on their silly hats to pronounce a sentence of death. Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I don’t think he killed Mrs. Bates. I think there is something else that we don’t know. Who went through her things? What happened to the correspondence between her and O’Brien? O’Brien regretted writing to her, but did she contact her again to try to get her to back off? Was there another run in with Rupert? Was this one of the bribes he put out or favors he called in to keep things quiet? I think there’s more there than meets the tabloid. Interestingly enough, Thomas and Cora actually had similar reactions to the tragic conviction: He was a little too quick on the ‘I guess they’ll need a new valet now’ remark, causing even bestie O’Brien to say, ‘I don’t often feel selfless, but when I listen to you, I do.’ That’s really saying something. And Cora was so upset at the verdict that she didn’t change for dinner, and without missing a beat, asked for it to be served twenty minutes after Lord Grantham got home. Was it me, or did it look like Mrs. Hughes wanted to slap her? But poor, poor Anna. She does have the support of Lady Mary though. While it looked like all the other female servants got tablecloths for Christmas, Mary gave Anna a special gift, a gold heart with a circle in it. This is a special relationship, even with the class issues of the day. Mary is so methodical about everything, I’m sure she chose that circle in a heart design as a symbol of how she feels. Anna seems to have been more of a sister to Mary than her own two, and has certainly been more faithful. But even so, when they were all at the pub after the trial, I couldn’t help but think that this was likely the first time that Anna had sat down with them at a table, as an equal. I was wondering if that’s why she just stood there until being asked to sit down.
4. Breaking Up Is (Not That) Hard To Do: The End of Mary & Rupert
Talk to the glove: Lady Mary has had it up to here with Sir Rupert, who in turn seethes whenever Matthew is in the vicinity. Yes, you can practically see steam coming out of his ears, and see the gears turning in his head; running through his options for Matthew’s elimination. When Mary’s distaste for Rupert becomes so impossible to hide that even clueless Robert wonders out loud, ‘why would Mary stay with him?’, Cora finally spills the beans. And Lord Grantham finally hears the Tales of Pamuk, learning that his daughter had sex, once, seven years ago. Shocking. In this culture, one brief tryst, years ago, is supposed to make her such ‘damaged goods’ that she thinks her only option is to spend the rest of her life with an abusive bore. Maybe people should remember that when politicians start shouting about how we should all go back in time, to so-called ‘traditional values’. These people are so sexually repressed it’s no wonder they think it’s entertaining to shoot little animals. But as for Lord Grantham, finally confronted with the knowledge that his eldest daughter has fallen and can’t get up, he actually does something noble: He throws her the life preserver she’s been desperately hoping for, to leave Rupert and ride out the storm. ‘Go to America. Find a cowboy in the middle west and bring him back to shake us up!’ (If you’re keeping score at home, that’s yes to cowboys, but chauffeurs are still a no-no.) But Lord Grantham may be confused there anyway. In the middle west, she’d be more likely to find a construction worker or a cop. She’d have to go farther west to meet a cowboy, or an Indian. But with Grandmama in New York she might meet a sailor. And then she could bring them all back to Ripon and they could live in the village, where they could have a good meal and do whatever they feel. But I digress… Once her decision is made, Mary wastes no time letting Rupert know it is over, and (predictably) he does not take it well. Then Matthew enters the room and it’s handbags at ten paces (maybe I was scarred, as a child, by too many Three Stooges movies, but I thought a pie fight would have fit well right there.) Rupert, of course, threatens to rain down scandal upon the House of Grantham. Given what we know about Sir Rupert, one has to wonder if he has (thus far) saved the House of Grantham from scandal because he really cared, or simply because he wanted to keep the exclusive for his own Fleet Street rags? I’d bet on the latter. But as he makes his exit he tells Mary that he really loved her, more than she knew. And she says, ‘I hope the next woman you love deserves you’, which (call me kooky) sounds rather like an insult to me. But he’s gone. Hallelujah! And now Lord Grantham knows about Pamuk, but here is what I would like to know: Does anyone but Mary know that the reason this secret got out in the first place was because of Edith? Because really, everything that has happened is Edith’s fault: The impending scandal, the murder and subsequent trial; all of it is Edith’s doing. Well, Edith and Thomas. And speaking of Edith and Thomas, when last seen, they were dancing together at the servant’s ball. Did this cause anyone else to sigh heavily and roll their eyes? Will this be another one of her wild goose chases? Because you know, Thomas actually would marry her. In a New York minute. Then of course there’s also Sir Anthony (and his man-servant, Mr. Tudball). Thomas and Sir Anthony: Two one-armed men. Wait a minute, Mr. Kimble! I think I’ve solved the murder of Mrs. Bates: It was the one-armed man!
3. Ouija, Ouija, Give Me Your Answer True: For the Love of Daisy
Our little Daisy grows up: It took her a while but she got there in the end. Up until now, her wishy-washiness and confusion over her feelings – or lack of them – for William, were confounding everyone, (even the Dowager Countess) and driving Mrs. Patmore to distraction as she tried to keep Daisy from doing something stupid: Breaking William’s Dad’s heart. But with the help of that Ouija board Mrs. Patmore was able to reach her. Here’s what I wonder: What must all those below stairs extras think? They hang around and hang around and the closest they get to a line is a giggle from the far end of the table. Then this Ouija Board comes along and gets pages of dialogue. If no one is pushing it, does the Ouija board get union scale and residuals? Anyway, in the end, it was William’s Dad who taught her her biggest lesson. Daisy realizes that she really did love William afterall. And in her conversation with William’s Dad we discovered why it took her so long to figure it out: She’s an orphan. It wasn’t uncommon for orphans to go into service in manor houses, essentially going from one institution to another, and Daisy is one example of this reality. This explains why she has had so much trouble deciphering her feelings. As she said, ‘I were never special to anyone but William. I never thought of it like that’. She hadn’t really experienced love, and so didn’t really know it when she had it. William, on the other hand, was raised by Keebler Elves, and now his Dad wants to adopt Daisy. It seems that William’s final act was to be a matchmaker of sorts; pairing his childless Father with his parentless love. And Mr. Keebler has already been a good influence on her in other ways, getting her to ignore instigator Miss Shaw and speak up for herself in a productive way. When resentful Daisy referred to herself as a ‘dogsbody’ I thought, lucky Thomas didn’t kidnap her. Then I googled the term and found its meaning: It’s a derogatory term for someone who gets stuck with drudge work. She wants more out of her job than she did when she arrived at Downton as a teenager, and with Mr. Keebler’s advice, she now knows how to ask Mrs. Patmore for it. Maybe there can be a kitchen built for two (cooks).
2. A Dog’s Tail: Thomas Changes His Name to Miss Gulch
As Lord Grantham is commiserating with Carson about how having someone dress and undress you is intimate business and he can’t have just anyone help him, I thought, here’s an idea: Ask your Mommy buy you some Garanimals so you can dress yourself, just like a big boy. But Garanimals or not, Thomas has a plan to get Bates’ job, thanks to O’Brien, and true to form, the ever-gullible Lord Grantham falls for it hook, line and sinker. If only Isis could talk. She was trying, wasn’t she? Unfortunately, it wasn’t until Lassie that the dog bark was translated into english. Had Lord Grantham the intellect of Timmy, the conversation on the gravel path might have gone something like this:
Isis: Arf! Arf! Arf!
Robert: What’s that girl?
Isis: Arf, ruff, ruff, ruff!
Robert: Thomas? He did what?
Isis: Ruff, ruff, ruff, arf, ruff.
Robert: He kidnapped you and locked you in the shed?
Isis: Arf, arf, arf, ruff, ruff!
Robert: And he did what with the Duke of Crowborough?!?
Isis: Ruff, ruff, arf.
Robert: What ridiculous hat? Why, you impertinent thing. Did Cora tell you to say that?
Robert: Bloody hell.
But Isis can’t talk. And Thomas’ reward confirmed what I have long suspected: After a nuclear holocaust, the only survivors would be cockroaches – and Thomas. And poor Carson, his neck must be sore from all the spinning around. For her part, O’Brien remains as much an enigma now as she was the day the Titanic sank. One doesn’t really know what to read into that lemon-sucking expression on her face. She spent all of Season One, evilly, all but twirling her moustache and gleefully plotting the downfall of anyone who dared to cross her. This season she has been so consumed by guilt that she, at times, seems almost human. But is it guilt over her actions or is it just fear of discovery that has caused this change? And which O’Brien will return for Season Three? Only the Ouija knows – which leads us to Lord Hepworth and his maid, Miss Shaw. In this scheming house, they were rank amateurs. If they want to compete, they need to hang out with Thomas and O’Brien to see how it’s really done. But Hepworth’s arrival did show us a glimmer of what Violet was like back in the days of her wild youth, in the late 60’s, (1860’s) when she was apparently known as Lady Marmalade. Having such fond memories of his father, she was practically giddy to meet Lord Hepworth and reminisce about happy times at Hepworth House. I couldn’t quite catch what she said, though it sounded something like, ‘Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?’ But the formidable Dowager Nutcracker could show the CIA a thing or two and between her and Anna, Hepworth’s plan was rumbled rather quickly. In fact, Anna saves the day so often, the Crawleys should have given her a red cape for Christmas, instead of that blouse.
1. He Went to Jared: It’s About Bloody Time!
‘What about it?’ If press reports are to be believed, that was Camilla Parker-Bowles’ pickup line to Prince Charles when they first met. And it worked on Lady Mary tonight as well. So all you singletons out there – take note and remember it! But that was only a dance that Matthew was asking about. He can’t go farther because he’s too busy beating himself up. ‘I deserve to be unhappy and so does Mary.’ Oh, shut up. Shut up. Shut. Up. You’re starting to sound like Bates! For her part, Mary’s fear of telling Matthew about Pamuk was another stumbling block. And then there’s the ghost of Lavinia. Whoever said Lavinia never caused a moment’s sorrow was forgetting about the Marconi scandal, but she does manage to show up, via the Ouija board, to have her say, blessing the union. At least we think it was Lavinia. It might have been Pamuk. Or who knows how many other people have died in that house? And Mary better get moving soon anyway. Little sister Sybil is already pregnant which poses the question: If Sybil and Branson have a son, but Mary & Matthew don’t, will Sybil’s son inherit the title from Matthew? I’m thinking Lord Grantham should thank his lucky stars for that Finian grandchild: Little does his Lordship know, but he is less than nine years away from the stock market crash and the great depression, so that pot of gold at the end of Finian’s rainbow will come in quite handy. Enough about that though, the topic at hand is Mary and Matthew and when are they going to see what is so obvious to everyone else in the tri-state area? Luckily, after his initial shock, the Pamuk thing just might have been a turn on for Matthew. And despite her protests of unsuitability, Mary still had the wherewithal to ask Matthew to go down on one knee to propose. Thankfully, this time, no one was around to give her bad advice so she just said ‘yes!’ (If she hadn’t, that loud crashing sound you heard would have been a million people tossing their tellys through their windows.) But, everyone exhale. Such a feel good moment…wait! Black screen? It’s over??? That’s it? You’re going to leave us hanging like this for God knows how long? I know the old show biz adage ‘leave them wanting more’, but this is ridiculous! So what’s going to happen between now and when our story picks up again in Season Three? You know how we worry! Of course, Matthew and Lady Mary (or Julian Fellowes) haven’t asked for my advice, but I’m going to give it to them anyway: ELOPE TO GRETNA GREEN BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE GOES WRONG!!!!
Henny Grantham goes out with a bang, not a whimper:
5. ‘Perhaps he’s had enough banging for one life.’
4. ‘It was a wedding present from a frightful aunt. I have hated it for half a century.’
3. ‘Sir Richard, life is a game in which the player must appear ridiculous.’
2. ‘No fortune? He’s lucky not to be playing the violin in Leichester Square.’
1. ‘Do you promise?’
As mentioned before, the toughest job every week has got to be to work opposite Dame Maggie Smith while keeping a straight face. And this week, with that last line (probably the best and most anticipated of the season) it was Michelle Dockery and Dan Stevens who were given the task. I know I’ve watched this finale four times already and laughed out loud each time I heard Violet say it, so I wonder how many takes it took them to get it. Of course, I didn’t have her intimidating presence standing inches away from me when she said it.
And now we must depart from Downton for now: I don’t know about you, but I shall miss our British cousins. They have become like family. And they are certainly much more entertaining than the family I have to have over for Seder. I’ll miss everything about Downton Abbey: I’ll miss the romantic longing, I’ll miss the cockamamie plot twists, and I’ll miss the hats. I’m hoping to tide myself over by hiring Carson and Mrs. Hughes to run my house during the off-season (my ‘house’ being a studio apartment but still I could really use their services), but my life could use some organizing and I think they are the ones to do it.
And what will happen in Season 3? Will we find out that Clarkson was not really a doctor; just an escaped mental patient? Will Edith fall for Thomas? Will it be discovered that Sir Rupert was behind the death of Mrs. Bates? Will the mummy return? Will we (finally) find out how it is they always know when to be waiting, lined up outside the front door, to greet an arriving car when guests had no cell phones to signal when they’d be arriving?
What shall we all do in the off-season as we await our Downton’s return? What shall we do? (And don’t say charades!) Sigh…
Downton Dish is written by Deborah Gilbert, a British television maven and editor of the E20 Chronicles, a free, weekly Eastenders e-newsletter, and an Eastenders column in the Union Jack Newspaper.
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