Evaluating Mr. Molesley’s Time as Footman

Note: this article contains spoilers for the rest of season six. American viewers will want to wait a few weeks before reading this article. To jump directly to the spoiler-free section of the site, please click on “American recaps.”  

While many hearts broke for Lady Mary following Matthew’s tragic death, my sympathies belonged to his valet. I spent the break between series three and four fearful for the departure of Downton’s great cricket champion. Thankfully, this did not come to fruition though the solution was less than ideal. Since Mr. Molesley has moved on to bigger and Joseph Molesley and  John Bates in Downton Abbeybetter things in the Downton schoolhouse, I wanted to take a look at his time as England’s oldest footman.

I’ve long referred to the necessity for Molesley to be a footman as the “Molesley Dilemma.” It is ridiculous and rather implausible that a trained butler/valet would spend three years of his life working as a footman, unable to find any better job anywhere else. We the viewer know that Molesley is at Downton because the show can’t afford to lose the highly talented Kevin Doyle, but I don’t think that Julian Fellowes ever made much of an effort to explain why the character needed to be there.

The first problem came about in the first episode of series four. Unable to procure employment, the down and out Molesley returns to Crawley House to ask the grieving Isobel Crawley for his old job back. A job he lost mind you, because Lord Grantham decided that Alfred wasn’t good enough to be Matthew’s valet. Now, we can kind of accept that a grieving mother may not have any use for a butler. Except for one problem. She’d take in the down and out Charles Grigg in the same episode! Hypocrisy? At least a little bit, though Isobel did try to have Molesley killed at the start of series two. It’s not as if Molesley’s wages wouldn’t be paid by the big house anyway.

Which isn’t to say that I’m sad that Molesley didn’t return to Crawley House. He belongs in the big house, not as Ethel part two. There just isn’t a reason given why this solution to his character’s problem is cast away so flippantly.10920913_386667598161605_2445611695898046982_n-1

This problem surfaces again in series six. Barrow spends the entire series interviewing for jobs. Why isn’t Molesley looking for other work? It isn’t even mentioned once. We can accept that Molesley doesn’t want to leave and that he isn’t being pushed out. Molesley is also a fifty year old man with presumably zero savings. Once again the audience has a different lens to view the situation. There were hints that he would become a teacher in series five. That doesn’t excuse why he doesn’t once consider looking at other positions before he’s handed a job as a teacher.

This wouldn’t bug me if there wasn’t such as easy explanation. Molesley could’ve simply said that he wanted to stay at Downton to be close to his father. A solution could’ve been had in a few simple lines. It’s hard to look at this situation as anything other than lazy storytelling.

I’ve never been particularly appreciative of the humor surrounding Molesley’s position either, particularly from Carson. The butler forced Molesley and others to beg for a position clearly beneath his skillset. How stupid/insensitive is old Charlie anyway? This surfaced again in series five when Jimmy departed and we were treated to that “first footman” bit as if Molesley’s position should be a source of humor. As Patmore noted when Joseph was working as a delivery boy, “there’s no shame in hard work.” Seeing people take jobs that they’re overqualified for because they need to survive should be inspiring, not humorous.

Of course that can be seen as making a mountain out of a mole(sley) hill. I’m okay with that. Downton is a show about change. There were plenty of people in service who had to take plenty of undesirable jobs because their positions no longer existed. As a show, Downton only seemed concerned about that when it was convenient to the plot. Barrow cannot find other work in series two and throughout much of series six (and is also faced with the need to depart in series three), but Jimmy gets another job in two seconds after he’s caught in bed with Lady Anstruther. A little consistency would be nice.

Ultimately, it’s hard to argue that Molesley didn’t benefit from his fall from grace as a character. His relationship with Baxter would look quite different if he was still a valet with secure employment for the rest of his working days. My only problem is that it wouldn’t have taken much more to fully flesh out his predicament.

Molesley’s time as a footman was an unfortunate necessity for the show. Kevin Doyle ran with the opportunity and used to it further endear the character to the audience. I certainly wouldn’t have written this article if he hadn’t done such a marvelous job. Naturally, this affection leads one to want the best for Downton’s most versatile servant, a character who always offered kindness even when he knew he’d received none in return.


Downton Abbey Season 6 Recap: Episode 4

Henry Talbot returns and brings the old Downton with him. Tonight was the first night that Downton looked like anything other than a funeral home in far too long. The world is changing but that doesn’t mean we can’t have juicy upstairs drama along the way.

I think holding off on a return was a smart move. As Tony Gillingham and Charles Blake have shown us, a Mary romance is strongest when it favors brevity as opposed to the Mary/Tony/Charles failed love triangle over the past two series. Both of them were good characters, but they overstayed their welcome. I’m a huge Matthew Goode fan and I was very impressed with how well he meshed with the rest of the characters.Everything_you_need_to_know_about_Downton_Abbey_s_Henry_Talbot

The party was a big hit. Many ofDownton’s best scenes have come from the dining room, but this series’ dinners have been fairly depressing. Having a full boisterous table was one of many callbacks to the early days.

As was Gwen! Her reintroduction was handled quite well. I was skeptical considering how long it’s been when you consider how many people in the house never really knew her, which was also exacerbated by Carson and Hughes’ absence. I loved how Sybil was effectively woven into the narrative. It’s been a while since the characters actually reflected on her as a person rather than just bringing up how much they miss her and it was great to see her legacy factor into the Mr. Mason decision.

I was very conflicted about The Dowager’s behavior until the end of the episode. She delivered a few zingers throughout the episode, but her quest for power was very childish. I don’t love that Fellowes waited four episodes to divulge this fairly important detail. We’ve rarely seen the Dowager act without good intention and it was shocking to be lead to think that could be the case for this long.

Poor Barrow. His “outing” of Gwen was juvenile and quite frankly a little beneath him at this point. We don’t need nasty Barrow back, especially after his heart to heart with Baxter.

It was very interesting to see him as butler. Over the past three series, we haven’t seen much of what he actually does as underbutler other that serve things and open doors. The Barrow/Molesley dynamic has always been a bit awkward, but it worked here. I was sad to see Barrow tell Molesley he should save his pity for himself. How rude.

I see two possible outcomes for Barrow. I think he could kill himself once he’s finally forced out, but I do think that his lordship will die and Carson and Hughes will leave to start their Bed & Breakfast. The only thing that really complicates this is the Mary/Henry storyline, but I’m also not very convinced that they’ll actually end up together. A flirtatious subplot seems just as likely.

Molesley had a role in multiple storylines for a change. We don’t really know what his storyline is. There’s been hints of wanting to be a teacher and he is wooing Baxter, but he doesn’t have anything of substance of his own. It kind of undercuts Barrow’s search for a job since Molesley would presumably also want to find a more permanent position than as the oldest footman in England.

Andy showed some life for once. I imagine he might leave to help Mr. Mason and Daisy run the farm. I’m glad we got a little more screen time with him as it makes it easier to care that he exists.

Daisy’s outburst was a little over the top, but it kind of worked. If we assume that she’ll leave to help Mr. Mason, this does set up her exit. Seeing the whole downstairs staff try to talk Downton Abbey | Series Six We return to the sumptuous setting of Downton Abbey for the sixth and final season of this internationally acclaimed hit drama series. As our time with the Crawleys begins to draw to a close, we see what will finally become of them all. The family and the servants, who work for them, remain inseparably interlinked as they face new challenges and begin forging different paths in a rapidly changing world. Photographer: Nick Briggs ROSE LESLIE as Gwen Harding & SOPHIE MCSHERA as Daisy Masonher out of it felt too soapy, even for a show likeDownton.

 Edith didn’t get as much screen time, but her character continues to shine. I like that they’re balancing her career and personal life better than previous series. It was smart not to have her fret over the Drewe’s departure since let’s face it, Edith spends way too much time depressed.

As does Anna. Was the miscarriage drama really necessary? Can the Bates go a single episode without having cause to cry? Please Fellowes, either kill them or let them be happy. This suffering needs to end.

This is a bit of side note, but I found it odd that Rosamund has a footman. Shouldn’t Mead (who hasn’t been seen on camera since series one) be able to run Belgrave on his own? IT just seemed awkward when Mary was there and earlier this series when Edith was visitng. I initially rolled my eyes when Rosamund was featured in yet another episode, but she was okay this time. She is a supporting character best appreciated in small doses.

Unlike Spratt, who should be every episode. Why was he missing? Unacceptable.

Cora continues to be fairly unlikable, though she earned points for supporting the farm. I didn’t like how she assumed Molesley was gossiping about Baxter, but she also admitted that she didn’t say a word to Gwen for the two years she lived there. I wish we could’ve seen Daisy ream her out. I’m sure she deserves it for one thing or another.

The Baxter storyline isn’t that interesting. Neither is she. I don’t think the show necessarily needs filler so I’m not a huge fan of the storyline.

Not a fan of the Carson/Hughes reception. Would calling her Mrs. Carson have truly been the end of the world? Sure it was slightly amusing, but they took it too far.

That’s it for this week. Another strong episode. We’re halfway through the regular series. So far, I’ve been impressed with the way the show’s balanced entertainment and wrapping things up.

US Downton Abbey Season 6 Recap: Episode 3

Two thoughts crossed my mind as Tom Branson entered the schoolhouse. What was the point of his departure and does it matter? While I can’t answer the first question, the answer to the second is rather obvious. It’s good to see old Tom back.

Given that Branson’s return and not his departure was the true resolution to this multi-series long storyline, it essentially mirrors the closure of the Greene murder. It feels odd that they’re both being resolved at the beginning of a new series when they should have been dealt with at the end of last year.downton-branson-1--z

I was critical of Hughes’ rationale last week and was happy to see a logical reason provided. Hughes doesn’t want Downton as a physical entity to encroach on her day. Considering how reverently Carson upholds the integrity of the house, I can’t say that I blame her one bit.

That said, the wedding was very underwhelming. The bride and groom showed very little in the way of actual love throughout the episode. Carson saying he was the happiest and luckiest of men considering he was usurped from that role a minute later by Lord Grantham when Mr. Branson and Sybbie walked in. Three cheers for Donk!

Do Carson and Hughes truly love each other? I’m not sure there’s ever been a point besides the last scene of the series 5 Christmas special where that’s actually been apparent. Their match is logical, but it isn’t as emotional as I would like.

Let’s talk about Carson’s ushers. Would it have really killed him to be nice to a single one of the male servants? His bride is being showered with affection and he names Andy as an usher before either Bates or Barrow.

Coatgate was a bit odd and put a damper tone on the episode. I’m not really sure what purpose it served other than to drive a further wedge between Hughes and Downton. When you look at how Barrow’s job search is going, I think there’s a good possibility that Charlie and Elsa’s Bed & Breakfast is going to be open for business sooner rather than later.

Barrow’s job interview fell flat once Barrow started sabotaging himself once again, this time going after the house rather than the occupation. Baxter and Bates hinted that he might have stronger feelings for the area than he’d ever care to let on, which could foreshadowing his rise to butler. I’m hesitant to say that definitively as the show wouldn’t want to lose Barrow this early anyway.

The dinner scene did look a tad ridiculous as there were as many servants as there were diners and Carson and his Lordship both discussed the Barrow situation. The pacing on this plotline is odd.

Speaking of odd, Andy. I’ve said before that I don’t care that he doesn’t get much screentime. While that’s still true, it does suck all the life out of the Barrow/Andy story. The audience just doesn’t know enough about him to really connect with his attitude toward Barrow.

What is Lord Merton doing in Downton? I forgot to bring this up last week and it’s been bugging me. Why should he get to go to the hospital meetings? I know his presence likely points to a renewed relationship with Isobel, but Fellowes could do a better job weaving the (eventual) romance.

Edith was enjoyable once again. I loved the magazine storyline and am happy that she found a match that isn’t a blatant disaster. Though I wouldn’t be disappointed if Sir Anthony reappeared.

I rarely mention Cora, usually because she does nothing of significance. She was oddly active in this episode, playing an active role in the majority of the plots. Her outburst at Mrs. Hughes and co. seemed forced, but I like where the Daisy farm plot is going.

The hospital continues to be fairly interesting. Violet delivered some first rate stingers this episode and Clarkson had some of his finest moments. It’s a plot we all knew the ending to already, but an entertaining one nonetheless.

We also saw a glimpse of a Molesley plotline. Personally, I hope he goes to help Mr. Mason and Daisy on the farm, but a Professor Molesley is fine by me. I do hope his future isn’t treated as a gag as it’s time Molesley got a win. The show missed a golden opportunity for a Molesley father/son heart to heart by having some stranger deliver the flowers. Hearing him say he’d missed out on everything brought a tear to my eye.

Very little of either Bates. That’s a good thing. I did enjoy Anna’s excitement over the wedding.

As much as I enjoy watching Spratt and Denker go at it, I don’t love the current power dynamic. We already saw corrupt Denker with Andy last series. Having Spratt as putty in her palm feels like familiar territory. I’m okay with him suffering considering what he did to Molesley back in series 4, but he’s at his best when he has some leg to stand on.

Overall this was a solid episode. It wasn’t as good as last week, but plots are all progressing quite well. I’m looking forward to seeing Gwen next week. I hope she brought her typewriter.

US Downton Abbey Season 6 Recap: Episode 2

I’m not entirely comfortable saying that this episode might be the best of the post Matthew era just yet, but I think there’s a good chance it might be. After last week’s mediocrity, I would have laughed if that thought had been presented before. Downton Abbey has always been a show about change and it’s been at its best when it embraces it. Part of the reason why the reception for series four and five has been lukewarm is that the most of the characters were kept in an awkward holding pattern with no clear direction.

The reason for this high praise is simple. We all know the end is coming. With only nine episodes in a series, the show does need to establish where it’s going, but t12042667_10206763092509513_6897481636038711571_nhat doesn’t mean it needs to be the only thing that matters. I initially rolled my eyes at the Drewe subplot as I thought it was harmful to Edith’s bigger picture storyline at the newspaper, which I highlighted as the strongest aspect of last episode. Once again, the Edith plot was the best part of the show.

It worked so well because it didn’t try to shy away from the fact that the Crawley’s have completely screwed over the Drewe family. I was prepared to slam the whole episode until Lord Grantham addressed the rather large elephant in the room. The Drewe’s did Edith a huge favor last season and they’ve been repaid by having their whole lives completely uprooted. This kind of aristocratic injustice has been quite rare over the course. It took guts not to sugarcoat the terrible situation.

The Daisy storyline also progressed well. It’s clear that Daisy is going to go work with Mr. Mason and the show can’t afford to lose her this early on, so there’s no need to rush. Mrs. Patmore once again served no other purpose than to be involved with other people’s sexual affairs, this time hinting that Barrow should avoid another Jimmy incident.

One thing that really bothered me was Carson’s coldness to Barrow over his interview. He treated him with pure contempt that made no sense whatsoever. We’ve seen little over the course of the show to suggest that Carson likes him, but Barrow has been under butler for five years now. There’s no way he would stay at Downton if his boss treated him like that on a daily basis.

Barrow’s interview was a little clunky as well. He knows the world is changing. Vocally expressing disdain for the workload involved with being an “assistant butler” was foolish. I wasn’t a huge fan of the homophobic butler and didn’t really see the need to make him dislike Thomas for that reason. We know Barrow’s entitled and the butler could simply dislike him for his words rather than his sexuality.

Why isn’t Molesley looking at these jobs? Surely he’d rather be an “assistant butler” than a footman. It’s a point that the show should address even if he doesn’t end up going anywhere because the show needs Kevin Doyle. I shall christen this the “Molesley Dilemma.”

I do wish Molesley could have more of a plotline. His humor won him a regular role on the show, but his sincerity was what won him the viewers’ hearts. There can never be enough Molesley and he should be awarded a spinoff.

Not a big Andy fan. He’s essentially a blander Alfred, which I didn’t think was even possible. I like that he’s at Downton, since the show benefits from having a young person in the house, but I never feel like I need to see more of him. I suspect that he’s gay and will eventually have some fun with Thomas so I’m okay with him doing absolutely nothing until then.

No Spratt or Denker. It took me a series to forgive Spratt for sabotaging Molesley’s shot at a dignified job, but he’s grown on me. He was probably in the kitchen critiquing Denker’s broth.

I criticized the hospital plotline last week because I thought it was too repetitive. It worked in this episode because the show was able to convey Violet and Dr. Clarkson’s passion without making them sound like power hungry elitists (though Clarkson is middle class). People don’t like to give up control and they’re not necessarily at fault for being reluctant here. The ability to control one’s healthcare is still an issue in the year 2015. This isn’t necessarily an instance where Isobel and modernity are completely in the right.

The Carson/Hughes wedding reception debacle was quite strong and showed a different side to Carson’s reverent idolization of the Crawley’s. Mrs. Hughes and Lord Grantham were essentially on the same page in acknowledging that while Carson/Hughes belong at the house, that’s not how they belong.

My only real complaint is that there wasn’t enough time spent justifying Mrs. Hughes position. We can accept that she feels out of place, but the schoolhouse simply wasn’t a good alternative. Like the hospital, it’s a case where the battle lines are a bit murky, but in this case, but Hughes just doesn’t look like she’s trying hard enough to express her feelings to Carson.

The low point of the episode is unsurprising. I hate the Bates so much I don’t even want to write about them. They makes frequent mentions of their suffering and do nothing about it. Why can’t they do anything besides be depressed? I wish Bates would drown in the pond he threw his leg brace into so Molesley could have his job.

Despite some criticisms, this was a very strong episode. The show felt more alive than it has in years. As long as they stay away from the Bates and murder, this should turn out to be quite a good final series.

US Downton Abbey Season 6 Recap: Episode 1

Between the Mr. Green murder resolution and the Carson/Hughes/Patmore game of sexual telephone, I couldn’t help but wonder if Fellowes was trying too hard to appease the masses. The Green saga has been frequently singled out as the show’s worst storyline and fans have been clamoring for a Carson/Hughes romance for years now. I can’t say I’m disappointed that Fellowes has decided to give the people what they want, but his writing left a lot to be desired.

The celebration over the revelation of Green’s killer felt like it was more for the audience than the characters themselves. Did that news really call for a party? Wasn’t Anna in the clear already? A woman’s arrest seemed like an inappropriate thing to celebrate, but then again this did mark the end of an “error.”

I’m not completely surprised that someone like Mrs. Hughes would be uncomfortable discussing coitus with a man, even if it was her future husband, but Fellowes took it too far by actually having Mrs. Patmore talk to Carson. The whole thing went from an awkward joke to an equally clumsy attempt at sincerity. It felt sort of like an excuse to give Patmore something to do as involving her felt both forced and ridiculous and it robbed the story of much of its emotional impact.12037880_10207693413522917_1481630557_o

Unsurprisingly, much of the episode revolved around change. Barrow’s plotline was my second favorite of the night. He’s in a pretty rough position. He’s not old enough to retire like Carson and not exactly young enough to completely switch professions either like Andy. As an under butler, he would also be at a disadvantage competing for job opportunities against trained butlers who might find themselves in the situation Spratt almost believed he was in.

I liked how Thomas didn’t immediately resort to malicious scheming after he learned his job was in jeopardy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this happen in the next few episodes, but it’s nice to see Barrow evolving as a character. He certainly deserves more after all these years.

Speaking of Andy, his introduction is mildly puzzling. Given the shortage of background servants, it makes sense that they introduced him if for any other reason than to occupy space. I don’t really care that he wasn’t given much to do. I didn’t love the “don’t trust Thomas” retread, but it wasn’t a major plot point either.Downton Abbey | Series Six We return to the sumptuous setting of Downton Abbey for the sixth and final season of this internationally acclaimed hit drama series. As our time with the Crawleys begins to draw to a close, we see what will finally become of them all. The family and the servants, who work for them, remain inseparably interlinked as they face new challenges and begin forging different paths in a rapidly changing world. Photographer: Nick Briggs MICHELLE DOCKERY as Lady Mary Crawley with HUGH BONNEVILLE as Robert, Earl of Grantham

Downsizing is inevitable, though I’m glad it’s not doing it under the pretense of “Downton is failing.” The Dowager was also right to bring up the issue of people losing their livelihoods, especially considering how the characters justified the necessity for Downton’s survival as a place of employment back in series three. It’s a case where you see both sides of the equation.

My favorite storyline belongs to one of my least favorite characters. I thought Edith’s scenes were all perfectly done and I like the direction they’re going in with her character. Her romantic storylines have been far less interesting than her professional ones and it does make sense that she should move on from Downton, unless they want to replace Isis with 100 cats.

I wasn’t too impressed with the Violet/Isobel hospital feud. It’s already been done before and with an episode that heavily dealt with change already, I found it hard to care. Very little of it felt organic.

Which is explained by the scene where the Dowager lays down the law with Denker in front of Isobel. The hospital fight felt very reminiscent of series one. Even though the two have always been on opposite ends of the change spectrum, it still felt like a weird fight for them to have.

The Daisy storyline was mostly good, though I wish they didn’t waste any time trying to get anyone to believe that Daisy would actually get fired. I suspect she will leave by the end of the series, but it seemed out of character for Carson to strongly suggest that she’d committed a “dismissible offense.” Carson may be a stickler, but he’s never fired anyone. The two who have been fired from Downton, Ethel and Jimmy, were sacked by Mrs. Hughes and Lord Grantham respectively (he did advocate for Thomas’ firing in series one, though he and his Lordship were on the same page. Edna technically left on her own accord).

The blackmail was a bit of a shock. Mary’s affair with Lord Gillingham wasn’t exactly something I expected to see surface again, but it was handled well. I was disappointed not to see Matthew Goode’s Henry Talbot in the episode. I suspect that Mary’s romantic endeavors will take a backseat to her managing the estate for the next few episodes.

What to say about Molesley, the greatest character of them all? He wasn’t given much to do. I wonder how much he gets paid. He wasn’t mentioned as being a luxury when Lord Grantham mentioned Barrow’s position, which suggests that he’s paid like a footman. That’s pretty messed up given his age, training, and tenure in service to the Crawley’s.

I’m really tired of the “Molesley as footman” joke. I understand that it’s necessary to keep him at Downton, but it’s not entertaining to watch how Carson treats him. He’s a grown man working a job meant for teenagers. The humor in that wore off a long time ago.

Tom and Lady Rose’s absences were felt. Rose had plenty of crap storylines and Branson’s departure was a bit drawn out, but the house feels empty without them and the kitchen maids, even if the children are allowed downstairs now. We didn’t even see the single hall boy!

All in all, I didn’t love this episode. It did what it needed to do, but the dialogue was a little rough around the edges and some of the storylines didn’t click as well as they should have. I do think it’s headed in the right direction, which is what really matters.

A Note For the American Recaps

While Downton’s finale has come and gone for much of the world, the fun is just beginning in America. Since Downton World has followed the British schedule, we’ve done all our recaps for series six already. After careful consideration, we’ve figured out the best way to provide our American fans with a spoiler free recap experience.downton401b

For the duration of Downton’s American run, past recaps will be labeled as “UK Recaps” and can be found in their entirety in their own section at the top of the page. Each week, a recap will be added to the section “American Recaps,” which can be found of the main page. These recaps are the same as the British ones, but as they were done week to week, there will be no spoilers other than what had already aired up to that point.

Note: The “Articles” section is also free of series six spoilers for the duration of the American run. The series six review can be found in “UK Recaps.”