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.

Advertisements

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.”

Downton Abbey Series 6 Recap: Episode 8

This episode had an unusual job to play. Past penultimate Downton episodes have wrapped up their series quite well as the Christmas Special tends to have more of a “field trip” type setting. Tasked with wrapping up the entire show, this episode had to figure out the balance between story and finale, knowing that the special wouldn’t be able to wrap it all up.

While the resolution to the Mary/Henry romance was overshadowed by her cruelty with Edith, the episode navigated through that mess admirably. The Mary/Edith feud has been trivial since series one, popping up sporadically to remind the viewers that the two still dislike each other, even though they continue to live under the same roof. I never cared much about Mary learning about Marigold’s past and don’t think it was completely necessary here.stream_img

Did Bertie need to be a Marquis? If the Marigold nonsense had been settled already and it was merely the cherry on the top of Edith and Lord Hexam, I’d be okay with it. We’ve seen the “I’m actually nobility” card played already with Charles Blake and a similar twist with Matthew inheriting the Swire fortune. Here, it seemed kind of unnecessary.

As did Mary’s involvement in their falling out. It was almost anti-climatic after Donk, Cora, and Rosamund all argued about whether or not she should tell for several scenes. She should have just told him herself and been done with it.

Edith’s plotlines have (surprisingly) been among the best of the show this year and it does make some sense that her resolution would be held over until the Christmas Special. If the show is committed to weddings for both Mary and Edith, it makes sense that they’re in separate episodes. Edith’s wedding would take her away from Downton itself while Mary’s would not. It wouldn’t make much sense for the finale of Downton not to primarily take place at Downton.

Initially, I was annoyed that the show was spending time with Edith’s magazine since so few characters have ever had two major plots progress in the same episode, but Spratt was priceless. Or should I say, Miss Cassandra Jones. Spratt hasn’t received much screen time this season, but Jeremy Swift has made the most of every opportunity he’s been given.

I see why Mary is Carson’s favorite. They’re the two most selfish people on the whole show. Why on earth would Carson give Molesley a hard time about trying out teaching or object to Donk, Cora, and Rosamund wanting to bail out poor Mrs. Patmore? Doesn’t he realize that these people have futures to look out for and won’t be his to boss around for the rest of eternity? Carson has easily become the least likable character on the show.

Barrow lives! His suicide attempt was way too predictable to carry much of an emotional impact, but the scene with him, Mary, and Master George was one of the highlights of the whole series. Mary and Barrow have always lived by similar philosophies toward others and it’s a shame that they haven’t had more scenes together.

Given what Mary had done in the episode, it might be easy to agree with Donk in saying that her criticisms of him getting rid of Barrow were below the belt, but she was completely on point. It’s important that Donk and Carson felt remorse over their handling of the situation as it reaffirms the value of Downton to everyone who lives there, not just the upstairs residents. The show has to address the changing world, but it doesn’t have to send Barrow away before the show ends. I still hope he takes over for Carson as butler though it seems possible that he’ll go work for either the Dowager or the Marquis of Hexam

Mr. Molesley the teacher was perfect. Beyond that, it was dignified. Unlike Carson, most of us want to see Molesley live up to his full potential. For once, Bates said something I agree with. Molesley is a kind man indeed.

The Patmore and the “house of ill repute” saga was mostly well handled. I hated how much the characters laughed about it for the first half of the episode as the situation was one that could ruin Patmore’s entire retirement, but it all worked out in the end. Beryl’s House of Ill Repute has a nice ring to it!

Not enough Dowager this episode. While her presence would’ve naturally affected the Edith/Bertie situation, sending her away until the final part of the show wasn’t a great solution. She’s too good of a character and too important to Downton as a show to leave her out of so much of the penultimate episode.

I’m not sure I’d ever complain about not having enough Isobel in this episode, but her scenes were all excellent. The show has done a great job dealing with the potential awkwardness between Isobel and Mary and their meeting in the graveyard was a great way to honor Matthew and solidify the case for Henry. I’ll be very upset if Larry Grey isn’t in the Christmas Special.

It’s hard to argue that there was too much Rosamund in this particular episode since she had a role to play, but there’s been too much of her this series in general. Assuming she’s in the Special, Rosamund will have been in six episodes this series. Her episode breakdown for the other five is one, three, one, four, and three episodes. She isn’t a terrible character, but this has been too much of a fairly okay thing.

Tom might be the MVP of this episode. He’s shined this series despite being given little to do. I’m glad the show chose to acknowledge that Tom was the best man at both of Mary’s weddings as that was exactly what I was thinking when he stepped inside the car. I was also glad he acknowledged how much he’d meddled in the Mary/Henry romance. Transparency is certainly rare at Downton.

This was a pretty good episode that mixed story and finale quite well.  I am excited to see Rose in the Special and to see how it all wraps up!

Just a programming note for the site, I will post a review of series 6 as a whole and some character analysis articles in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading! Just as a side note, my books Five College Dialogues and Five More College Dialogues are still .99 cents on amazon if you’d like to check them out here.

Mr. Molesley: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

From his first appearance in episode two, it would be hard to tell that Joseph Molesley would become one of Downton Abbey’s most endearing characters. From butler to valet to laborer to footman, Molesley has a list of occupations rivaled only by Thomas. The backwards progression of these jobs naturally lead to a consistent suffering matched only by Lady Edith. Yet as season five comes to a close, Molesley goes on, earning both the adoration and respect of his fellow workers and viewers alike.

Molesley begins his time on Downton as the butler to Mrs. Crawley, a job that appears to have been organized by either Robert or Violet as Molesley was away from the area at the start of the show. He continued to be a minor character and occasional comic relief throughout the first season. His standout moment was perhaps when Matthew struggled to embrace his services, creating a unique moment where the lavish excess of the upper class is countered by the pride that a person like Molesley takes in his duties.

We see this evolve in season two as Molesley finds himself with little to do in Mrs. Crawley’s absence. Rather than sit around twiddling his thumbs, Molesley makes himself useful at the big house. This is overshadowed by his accidental drunkenness brought on by wine tasting and his failed romantic overtures directed at Anna. Season two establishes Molesley as the good-natured Mr. Bean like klutz destined to be Julian Fellows’ whipping boy.

This “Molesley must suffer” mentality continues in season three. With Matthew engaged to Lady Mary, it makes sense that Molesley would be destined for the big house as the valet to the heir of Downton. Problem is that Matthew doesn’t want a valet. But then he gets one for some strange reason, only it’s not Molesley. It’s Alfred. Without the interference by a jealous Thomas, who insisted that Alfred was not ready for such duties, Molesley might still be in the service of Mrs. Crawley.

Molesley’s high status as Matthew’s valet was short lived. While Mary and Mrs. Crawley could recover their statuses following Matthew’s death, there was no one for Molesley to valet for. Season four showed Fellows’ love of making Molesley suffer as convenient landing destinations for his services were foiled using spotty logic. Mrs. Crawley could’ve easily taken him back as butler and Spratt could have been kicked to the curb following his sabotage of Molesley’s audition. So poor Joesph had to settle for the lowly job of second footman.

The problem is that the positive outcomes would’ve taken him away from the big house, which at this point is where he belongs. The staff has taken quite a beating over the past two years, seeing O’Brien, Alfred, Jimmy, and Ivy all leave. The latter three weren’t exactly replaced by new characters, making Molesley even more important.

There are two distinct versions of Molesley that the viewer gets to see. There’s the drunken bumblehead who loses at cricket and can’t seem to catch a break. But then there’s the man who shows a genuine desire to help others like Baxter and Daisy and of course, the strong man victory in the season three Christmas special.

Mrs. Patmore’s scolding of Daisy for her treatment of Molesley was what prompted me to write this article. In telling Daisy to be nice to people who are kind, Patmore reminds us why people like Molesley are special. They’re rare.

Molesley has had his fair shares of ups and downs, but besides his reluctance to accept the footman position, which received a rather rude response from Carson, he takes his fortunes in stride (even his strong man carnival victory). How many of us can say the same?

Through five seasons, Molesley has grown from a background comic relief figure to the heart and soul of Downton Abbey. He’s an older worker facing uncertain times without the capital of Carson, Hughes, Patmore, and the Bates, who can all invest in retirement options. But you wouldn’t know that just by looking at him. He’s neither the best looking nor the most interesting person on the show, but his consistent good nature sets him apart from the rest of the cast and earns him a place in the viewer’s hearts.