In honor of tomorrow’s premiere, we are delighted to feature a sampling of artwork from Molesley, a Kevin Doyle Fan Page. To see dozens of other images of Downton’s cricket master, we encourage you to like their Facebook page.
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 that 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.
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.