Alisande Watches Downton Abbey, Episode Four

This week, Julian Fellowes manages to make terrorism, prostitution and feminism bland. Good show, old chap.

Oct 8, 2012 at 12:14pm | Leave a comment

Before the show even started, ITV’s voice over warned that this week “loose talk of politics” had turned the intensity of Downton’s themes up a notch.

I’ve already made it clear that I’m not particularly impressed with the quality of Julian Fellowes’ writing this season, but last night forced me to reconsider.

Julian Fellowes must indeed be as gifted as all those awards imply, he’s managed to make subjects as intense as a destitute sex worker giving up her child, the political awakening of a jilted aristo, corruption in the British prison system, and the burgeoning IRA campaigns against British rule in Ireland completely bloody bland.

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Yep, I'm still wearing it but in a much less smiley way.

Seriously, if it wasn’t for brand new footman Jimmy Kent turning up halfway through this episode looking FINE, I may have switched off altogether and recapped my cousin’s wedding, which also happened over this weekend, instead (it was beautiful, thank you. And yes, the groom did manage his vows).

First up, we have a new member of staff! Lady Mary has never uttered a more right-on command than when she told Carson to hire Jimmy K to “cheer us all up a bit.”

Like most of the female staff, Evil Thomas and I both have a new crush. Here’s hoping the series will now proceed to go as Queer as Folk as is polite for a family show set in 1920.

The least I’m hoping for is some really seedy online fan fiction. Link to some good stuff in the comments section and you’ll win my undying devotion. I’ll even throw in one of the step-kids.

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New footman Jimmy Kent. Thomas and I definitely would

On to more serious subject matter. Let’s start with former housemaid Ethel’s descent into society’s dark side: she‘s been turning tricks.

This episode saw her spiral ever lower when finally giving up her son to his paternal grandparents (his father, you may recall, was killed during the war that took up most of series 2).

She cried, people on Twitter cried. Mrs. Hughes acknowledged that it was probably all for the best, before going home to play with her new electric toaster.

I personally felt more of a need for something hot and buttered with marmite than a good sob after it, but I’ve always been an emotional eater.

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Ethel says goodbye to her son.

In other news, the Duchess finally said what the rest of us were thinking when she told poor-jilted-entitled-to-neither-the-vote-nor-breakfast-in-bed-Edith, "You're a woman with a brain and reasonable ability. Stop whining and find something to do."

This promptly awoke a political sensibility in her mardyship ladyship that isn’t entirely similar to Daisy’s in that it’s so completely out of character that it could be mistaken for a massively convoluted plot device.

Hence, Edith wrote to The Times about suffrage, prompted a minor breakfast table outrage when the paper turned her letter into a feature, and will next week be helping to lead the movement when she becomes a columnist (this is really happening. Even I can’t work up a mood that facetious).

It’s yet to be revealed whether she’ll use this new platform to address corruption in the British prison system, or the newly fired up “Irish problem” but let’s hope for Bates and Anna, and Sybil and Branson that she does not. Can you imagine all that whining? I would be enough to make them all line up for the firing squad before the police even arrive.

Lets not forget Bates and Anna’s Storyline Of The Week ™. The pair spent the whole episode moping because their post had been stopped.

So Bates stitched up his prison cell-mate with the help of some corrupt wardens and a mysterious package (does anyone know what’s in them yet? Is it snuff? I really want it to be snuff) [I have some snuff at home, it’s really not very exciting – was snuff contraband in 1920s fictional prisons? ] and all was well with this May-September love affair.

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Bates reading Anna's love letters. Aw.

Less healthy was the state of rebellious Lady Sybil’s marriage to Irish rebel Tom, who fled after watching his old IRA friends set fire to the home of an aristo family in Ireland.

Plus one for the mention of some of my fave female Fenians - Maud Gonne, Lady Gregory and Countess Markievicz.

Minus one to Lord Grantham for simply sending Tom to bed without supper for colluding with his old IRA friends, and for abandoning his pregnant wife in Dublin.

Was Lord G really not even angry enough to throw a punch at this particular “Johnny Foreigner”? Sybil could have been shot.

I’m deducting further points from Lord G because the very idea that this young couple would take any notice at all of him telling them not to leave Downton for Ireland ever again is hilarious.

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Tom and Sybil versus the world.

Tom’s a freedom fighter, for fuck’s sake. At least three-quarters of the point of committing all these acts of political violence is so he can move back to his newly-free homeland.

So... I hated it. Too harsh? How did you all feel? I think I might want Mrs. Hughes to be my auntie. Which member of the Downton cast would you like to be a member of your family? 

@AlisandeF