Alisande Watches Downton Abbey, Episode 7

It's the penultimate episode of the season, which would explain all the convenient plot devices. There was a disappointing lack of Halloween theming though...

Oct 29, 2012 at 11:01am | Leave a comment

Sorry darlings, there’s no themed pic of me this week cos I’m in the process of moving house, and all my fancy dress gear is in packing boxes.

Here’s one of Sophie McShera who plays Daisy dressed as a goth, instead:

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Sophie McShera by Ziggy Cohen taken from Company Magazine's November 2012 issue.

How great would a Downton Halloween special featuring all the ghosts from the house be? There must be dozens in a gaffe like that. They could all introduce themselves and do some kind of commentary over the episode events, like those commentaries you get on DVDs? Amaze.

Alas, there was nothing even remotely Halloween-themed about this episode. Massive fail, Julian Fellowes.

The show opened with Bates finally getting out of prison and into Anna’s arms. They returned to Downton, had a bit of a goss, walked round the cottages they’ll probably (definitely) be moving to by next week and, uh, that was it. Welcome home, Bates. I haven’t missed you but at least that bloody prison storyline is finally done with.

Above stairs, Lady Edith spent at least half the episode talking about how she wants to accept that job as a columnist, but not actually writing anything. Common mistake amongst newbies, I find.

Thankfully by part 4, she’d met her Editor on the basis that it would be “rude not to” and announced to the Crawleys that they now had a “journalist in the family.” [FYI, in the past three years I have not met a single one of my Editors. It’s probably for the best. Like Edith, people seem to prefer it when I’m not actually in the room…].

One wonders what Edith will write about: the dangers of childbirth? Marriage across the class system? being a singleton in an era when being unmarried at 24 made you an “old maid”? That time Mary shagged someone to death? So many IHTM or IHT My Sister worthy pieces.

Also, her new Editor is reminiscent of Lord Strallan, no? [He reminded me more of an older Branson, but that might just be wishful thinking on my part. Oooh Branson sandwich. Erm, sorry, ignore that. ]

Are they going to get ogether? Not sure she should have mentioned being jilted at the alter right off the bat, though. I’ve never read The Rules but I’m pretty sure that’s frowned upon.

Much worse than having a journalist for a daughter is the fact that Lord Grantham, now has a totally adorable Catholic granddaughter in the form of baby Sybil.

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Lord G and the Duchess being made uncomfortable by a Catholic priest at Baby Sybil's baptism.

He even went to her Baptism after Tom and Lady Grantham emotionally blackmailed him by playing the dead Sybil card [Sybil could totally be one of the ghosts doing the voiceover for the Halloween special that I’ve imagined and definitely-absolutely-have-not-started-writing…].

As this series progresses, I am increasingly wont to agree with xoJane commenter Caitlin McGrane who recently posited that Lord G is “becoming the most insufferable arse.”

It’s true. Between killing Sybil (sort of), his pronounciation of the word “mass” as “maaaaaaaaass”, and complete refusal to let Matthew run the estate properly, I am just about ready to drown him in his own teacup.

Although this week’s Matthew versus Lord G drama did provide us with this gem from Estate Manager Mr. Jarvis, so it can’t be all bad: “I am the old broom, Mr. Crawley. You are the new. Good luck with your sweeping.”

That’s old-fashioned for, “I believe in the class system, me. You new middle class types can hop it.”

In case you were confused. Mr. Jarvis did not appreciate Matthew’s attempts at spring cleaning the estate, and promptly resigned, clearing the way for…

[Insert dramatic-and-also-what-a-convenient-plot-device music here]

Branson to take over as Estate Manager! He gets to stay and baby Sybil gets to grow up in luxury, instead of above her drunk uncle Kieran’s garage in Liverpool- Yay!

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Matthew and Lord G surveying their estate, which they're still fighting over like bastards.

Tom’s granddad was a sheep farmer so, in spite of the fact that Tom’s meant to be a Dubliner (read: city boy) he already knows how to farm! Double yay!! And a bit more convenient-plot-device music, please.

That sorted, let us return to the woes of former sex worker Ethel. She may have gotten off the game and learnt how to cook but it’s gonna take a sight more than that for the villagers of Downton, not to mention the Duchess to accept her.

Not only are shopkeepers in the village refusing to serve the poor mite, Maggie Smith’s so pissed off that she’s gone and placed an ad in The Lady hoping to find her new employment.

For the uninitiated, the classified section of The Lady is still a hive for anyone who might be looking for domestic help/ a job as domestic help. It’s where Sarah Ferguson found that PA who went on to murder someone.

[Having been to The Lady offices before to interview Rachel Johnson, I can confirm that they are still THE VERY SAME COVENT GARDEN OFFICES EDITH GOES TO VISIT IN LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE!!! I’m not convinced the plumbing’s changed since then, either… ]

The last storyline tonight’s episode dealt with the relationship between Lord Grantham’s valet, Thomas, and the new footman, Jimmy.

Regular viewers have known Thomas was gay since the show’s premiere. The only member of Downton’s staff that was aware was Miss. O’Brien, who until recently was Thomas’ ally in the below stairs forces of darkness.

Because she’s now got a cob on with him, she set him up, encouraging him to crack on to footman Jimmy, despite the fact that he a) has expressly said he isn’t interested in Thomas and b) he doesn’t appear to be gay and/or out.

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Miss O'Brien. Very much on my naughty list.

Part of Thomas’ tragedy as a character stems from his loneliness. Imagine living in an era when a gay man could not even kiss another man lest he be imprisoned.

The show is set roughly thirty years after Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for homosexuality. When the unnatural acts Wilde had committed reported in newspapers, they apparently caused grown men to be sick in the street.

It’s possible that in the real world, Thomas would have been killed for his actions. Even if he weren’t arrested, he’d almost certainly have been fired and left destitute.

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Thomas visits Jimmy in his bedroom, and all hell breaks loose.

Well done to Rob James Collier, for his portrayal of Thomas as an outwardly confident but ultimately frightened man. The shaky pallor he employed at the end of the episode, when Thomas knew he’d been discovered and was obviously terrified of what was to come, should see him on a few Best Actor Nominee lists come award season.

Does Evil Thomas deserve his just deserts? What could possibly happen to Bates and Anna in the final episode to make them a bit more interesting? Anyone else think Cousin Violet and drunken mechanic Kieran should get their own spin-off? 

@AlisandeF