Downton Abbey Series 6 Recap: Episode 5

I hate to say it, but I was definitely okay with the idea that Donk was going to die. As soon as he started erupting blood, I was reminded of Nate’s death from Six Feet Under (and no, that’s not a spoiler. The show is ten years old). Lord Grantham’s death makes a ton of logistical sense from a plotline perspective.3366

It seems unlikely that Mary could marry Henry Talbot with his Donkship still alive when he’d presumably need to move into Downton, especially after how Matthew objected to it at first even as the heir. It would also allow Carson to move on from Downton and pave the way for Thomas to become butler. Fellowes did say that not everyone was going to have a happy ending.

The blood spitting was completely comical, even for a show as soapy as Downton. How is anyone supposed to feel the emotion of losing a beloved character when he’s recreating a scene out of The Evil Dead? I expected something bad to happen to Lord Grantham, but I didn’t expect it to make me laugh out loud.tumblr_nwfsfxnQkU1swrlk9o3_500

The question is, will Donk join Isis and the Turkish Gentlemen up in Downton heaven? It’s certainly possible. I did think this episode would be a bit early, but he could certainly take a turn for the worse next week.

Counting the Christmas Special, there are four episodes left of Downton. If Donk dies sometime next episode, the characters could spend episode seven mourning the loss of one of the Canadian railway’s most ardent backers, which allows them two episodes to move on and wrap everything else up. With the time jump, it could be years later, making a happy ending possible.

The Mary/Henry romance is being handled wonderfully. Mary’s snobbery is expected and not exactly unjustified either. Even in today’s day and age, there are plenty of taboos associated with wealth and social class in marriages. This has also been a great opportunity to get Tom back into the narrative in a productive way.

We finally learned things about Andy! He likes pigs and he can’ t read, which is two more things we know about him than we’ve been told in the preceding six episodes. The whole “Andy is cold to Thomas” thing was getting a little old. He does seem destined for a pairing with either Daisy or Barrow, which should be interesting.

The farm stuff was good and served as a great way to get Andy and Mrs. Patmore involved. I don’t think a Mason/Patmore romance is going to happen, but I like that they’ve built a little group outside the main house. Mr. Mason’s arc this series has been pretty incredible for a longstanding minor character. The show has done an excellent job incorporating Downton’s earlier days into this series.tumblr_nwfsfxnQkU1swrlk9o2_500

Barrow’s storyline is the only one that didn’t move forward at all. That’s okay, especially if he ends up leaving Downton, but no mention of it at all was a little old. There wasn’t room in the episode for another awkward interview, but a passing mention would have been nice.

The Carson/Hughes scene was weird. I think we’re supposed to think that Carson is having trouble adjusting to an environment where his opinion isn’t the only one that matters, but he came across as too rude to really get behind him. I’d like to see a little more affection between the two.

While I enjoyed its resolution, the set up to the Denker/Spratt throw down was a complete unrealistic mess. Are we really supposed to believe that Denker would stand up for the Dowager like that? Or that Dr. Clarkson would dare write a letter criticizing a member of her staff? If it wasn’t unrealistic enough already, we’re then expected to think that the Dowager would actually fire her lady’s maid over that. Why wouldn’t she use that as ammunition to prove to Clarkson that the people of the village are against the takeover?

The Dowager has repeatedly noted that finding skilled staff is increasingly difficult and at her age, it might be difficult to find a good one who wouldn’t be able to find better job security somewhere else. Beyond that, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as Daisy’s outburst, which was barely even considered a fire able offense. I love watching Spratt and Denker feud, but Fellowes couldn’t come up with a far more believable buildup.

The Dowager is also back to being totally unrealistic and childish about the hospital. Her reasoning just doesn’t justify her behavior. Blackmailing Neville Chamberlain was mildly amusing, but seemed a little out of place with Exorcist Robert.

The same is sort of true for Mary’s Marigold revelation. I get why it happened because of timing and all, but I’m really not interested in seeing a Mary/Edith feud this late in the show. Given how quickly Donk and Tom processed the information, I don’t see why she couldn’t have found out later unless they’re going to make a big deal out of it. I’ll hold off fully judging this until we see more. I didn’t like how much focus there was on other plotlines after Donk’s bloody emissions.

I haven’t liked how little we’ve seen of Spratt this series. I hated him for most of series 4 after he sabotaged Molesley’s audition, but Jeremy Swift is an excellent actor who really endears the character to the audience. Spratt’s spats with Denker have consistently been among the highlights of the show since her introduction last year.

Speaking of Molesley, he continues to shine in his supporting capacity. I am concerned that we’re more than halfway through the series and he hasn’t been given a plotline beyond being Baxter’s support system, but Kevin Doyle is always a treat to watch. The end of the Baxter plotline was a little anti-climatic, but that’s okay. It’s not a storyline that needs to last the whole series.

The Bates finally got to have a not so depressing scene! No harvest! No sadness!

That’s it for this week. Despite the Donk theatrics, it was a very strong episode. I hope next episode brings something good for Molesley to do, possibly another cricket match.

To end with a bit of self-promotion, the ebook editions for two of my books are on sale for .99 cents this week. If you enjoy these recaps and my writing, you may want to check out Five College Dialogues and Five More College Dialogues. Thank you for your support.

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I Hate Mr. Bates

I recently rewatched most of Downton Abbey in preparation for season six, which starts a week from today. Being known for its soap operatic value, one shouldn’t step into Highclere Castle expecting plots that make sense or robust character development. Julian Fellowes doesn’t hit his mark every time, but there’s certainly a reason why the recent trailer tugs at many people’s heartstrings and it’s not just because of the music. It’s because we’ve grown to love these characters.

There’s one man I used to love (as one loves a fictional character) once upon a time, but that affection has vanished. Like many, I started to feel it in season four and that continued as questions regarding his morality surfaced yet again. As you probably gathered from the title of this article, I am, of course, referring to Mr. Bates.

At first glance, he’s a tough guy to hate. Misery seems to follow him everywhere, tracking him by the sound of his cane thumping on Downton’s creaky floors and yet, he’s a pretty decent guy. He gave Molesley some money and saved Barrow from ruin at the hands of O’Brien/Jimmy. So why hate his Lordship’s valet?

The Mr. Green plotline has been almost universally panned. Many articles have been penned about how Fellowes has no ideas what to do with either Bates. I’ve found that the problem goes even beyond Mr. Green. To put it simply, Mr. Bates is terrible.

I’ve gotten into several arguments regarding the Bates/Barrow feud. People say I’m terrible for taking Thomas’ side, usually because they forget what’s important. It’s not about who’s the most morally altruistic person. It’s about who’s fun to watch.

There’s a scene in season five where Barrow acknowledges the simple fact that the two do not like each other. This gave me a bit of an “aha” moment as I too realized that I don’t like Mr. Bates either. In season three, I was firmly on team #freeBates. Now when I watch season three, I usually skip his scenes (along with Edith’s, which makes it easier for me to keep watching the same show over and over).

Think about how many episodes of the show feature a happy Mr. Bates. He’s sad when he first gets there because no one likes him. He spends the rest of season one feuding with the O’Brien/Barrow dream team and sad about his leg. We also find out he was in trouble for being a thief, which was the first red flag.

Season two brings even more bad news. We find out he has a wife who he doesn’t like. He has a brief moment of happiness when he marries Anna, but then he goes to jail, where he spends most of season three.

He’s happy for a little bit at the end of season three and the beginning of season four, though we find out that he’s also a forger in addition to being a thief. What a standup guy. No one can blame him for being moody after Anna’s horrifically unnecessary rape, but he pretty much spends the rest of the show moping around.

The reason for this sadness is simple. He has nothing else to do. Fellowes never tried to give him any storyline that didn’t involve horrible things happening to him. It got boring. I left the #freeBates team in favor of #killBates. At least then, Molesley could take his place as valet.

Downton Abbey is a drama. We expect characters to endure hardships. It’s generally considered reasonable to expect to be given a reason to like the character as well.

Bates and Barrow contrast well in this regard. Both are generally pretty moody and we know why. Bates is a crippled creep and Barrow is gay at a time when that was not only completely unacceptable, it was criminal.

Their unpleasantness manifests itself in different ways. Barrow takes his anger out on others while Bates is just a grump. We can probably assume that Bates is the better person (unless he actually killed Mr. Green or more gruesome details about his past turn up), but what does that really matter?

As a character, Bates lacks depth. Even his romance with Anna seemed a bit rushed. More importantly, he doesn’t make for good television.

Reports for season six suggest that not everyone will have a happy ending. It’s hard to tell where Bates will fit into this. One would think Fellowes would throw a curveball and let him limp off into the sunset with Anna on his arm. Problem is, I don’t care.