Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Downton Abbey Series 4, Part 2

GUYS. I just don't have the heart to really blog about this episode...and I KNEW WHAT WAS COMING.

Dammit, Julian Fellowes. :-/

I've adored Downton Abbey in all of its soap opera glory since the first season...and I realize I'm admitting to something of a double standard here when I say that I can deal with shenanigans of all stripes, from romantic flings to murders (or accusations thereof), but personal, physical attacks like rape...well, there's a reason I don't watch crime shows of Law & Order: SVU's ilk. And that doesn't even touch on STUPID EDNA getting Branson drunk and doing God knows what behind closed doors. Whether or not she actually succeeds in sleeping with him in his state is left to question, but if she did -- well, as other bloggers have pointed out, whether female OR male, the inability to give consent does not imply its presence.

This new storyline for Anna feels out of step with the history of the show -- without spoilers, I would've expected there to be some conflict over a mistaken flirtation with Green, not an outright attack. But maybe that's just me. I will say this -- Joanne Froggatt, you broke my heart -- and you're an even better actress than I ever dreamed. It KILLED me to see a character defined by her unflagging positive outlook and constancy suffer this. I can only hope that the aftermath and recovery is handled in a sensitive manner that respects the seriousness of this plot "twist."

So, rather than my usual gushing, which feels particularly inappropriate given the gravitas of the subject matter introduced here, I'm just going to quickly highlight a few points relevant to the other characters' storylines going forward:
  • The first of Lady Mary's (Michelle Dockery) new suitors arrives for Downton's house party -- childhood friend Lord Gillingham, Anthony Foyle (Tom Cullen). He is adorbs, and also apparently "nearly engaged," whatever that means, but oh-so-into Mary (of course). (The Masterpiece geek in me can't get over that there is an Anthony Foyle character here, when later in the season Suitor Option #2 shows up -- Charles Blake, played by Julian Ovenden, who played Andrew Foyle in Foyle's War.)
  • Fellowes masterfully finds reasons to keep Molesley (Kevin Doyle) on this show by having him substitute as a footman when Jimmy's (Ed Speleers) penchant for showing off lands him with a sprained wrist. Poor Molesley isn't dealing well with his come-down in the world...
  • Carson (Jim Carter) has no understanding of the celebrity culture boom destined blossom during the twentieth-century's ensuing decades as the thought of a world-famous singer, Dame Nellie Melba (Kiri Te Kanawa), conversing with the family leaves him absolutely scandalized. This would be hilarious enough on its own except Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) makes her frustration with this view known by proclaiming that she's the most progressive, modern resident of Downton. HA.
  • Robert (Hugh Bonneville) has gambling issues, losing a substantial sum that he can ill afford to Sampson (Patrick Kennedy), some random frenemy from his club. Anyone recognize Kennedy from Bleak House, where he played Richard Carstone? 
  • Robert's aforementioned gambling issues are resolved when Gregson (Charles Edwards) OF ALL PEOPLE finally manages to ingratiate himself with his dream father-in-law by revealing Sampson to be a card shark in need of a come-down, winning back everyone's I.O.U.'s. This makes Edith (Laura Carmichael) stupid happy, furthering the train wreck I feel sure is coming. I mean separating Gregson from his crazy wife for the moment, I really do think he and Edith share some nice chemistry...but they are so hilariously awkward sometimes it just cracks me up. 
  • Robert's big objection to Gregson is that he's essentially "in trade" as a newspaperman, right? Neither parent knows of his marriage? And who exactly does he think is supposed to be a better option, especially if he's ignorant of point #2? I mean NO ONE IS AROUND, Robert. Yeesh. 
  • Violet (Maggie Smith) is overflowing with her requisite wit, but pauses in her non-stop sarcasm to once again reveal her compassionate side, reaching out to Isobel (Penelope Wilton) and encouraging her to start giving herself permission to enjoy life post-Matthew. 
  • Branson (Allen Leech) needs a hug. It was SO hard seeing him bumble through the house party while trying SO HARD and get progressively more and more depressed. Obviously it was beyond stupid to talk to Edna (MyAnna Buring), but he certainly wasn't reaching out to her for the kind of comfort she so obviously wants to give. :P I cannot WAIT for her to disappear, preferably forever. (Side note: I loved seeing Joanna David as the Duchess of Yeovil that manages to corner Branson at every opportunity -- if she seems familiar, that's because she played Mrs. Gardiner in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice.)
  • Bates's (Brendan Coyle) look at Anna's obvious distress at the end of this installment BROKE MY HEART. 
I suppose that about covers it. There were a few other enjoyable downstairs developments, like learning Alfred (Matt Milne) wants to win Top Chef 1922 or something, and as per the norm  Mrs. Patmore, Daisy, and Mrs. Hughes were all in fine form. But it's just the nature of this episode, for me at any rate, that the attack on Anna colors what would otherwise be vintage Fellowes in the vein of Gosford Park, making any other character's more light-hearted moments tragic because they just don't KNOW what happened.

I'm definitely curious to hear your thoughts on this episode, so please share! And if you've seen season four in its entirety please try to keep comments relatively spoiler-free, thanks. :)

EDIT: A friend shared this link on Facebook, where a survivor of rape talks about her reaction to this installment of Downton Abbey. It is a heartbreaking and thought-provoking read. http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2014/january/lets-talk-about-what-happened-on-downton-abbey.html

14 comments:

Edie C said...

My heart was also broken. I felt the same way at the end of Season 3 and wonder why I continue to subject myself. However I loathe Edna and can't wait for her to be gone again. Other than that I don't remember much from this episode as I was reeling through most of it.

Rissi said...

The topic you are referring to in the opening paragraphs of your analysis was the ONE issue in series four that I thought was a terrible overstep on Fellowes part. Everything else I loved, admired or understood. It was awful though I do applaud the filming of it - how they filmed it was much more terrifying than actually seeing it. Moving beyond this, I think the rest of the series handles things well. It is tragic but it's also realistic in the aftermath and for that, I respect writers.

Onto happier matters - SQUEE! You picked up on the last name word play too!? My mom and I giggled over Tony (he IS a kind/adorbs suitor) being named "Foyle" and then Julian also appearing who had previously played Andrew Foyle. That was cool. ;) Also, I LOVE Molesley. I kept saying aloud, "poor Molesley." The guy just seemed so desolate yet we constantly wanted him to succeed.

...cannot wait to know what you think of the rest of S4, Ruth. Always love your reviews. :)

Kaye Dacus said...

I like MyAnna Buring SO MUCH MORE in Ripper Street than here---really, it's hard to believe it's the same actress!

I'm glad I'd read ahead and been spoiled on this plot "twist." It's feeling a lot like a jump-the-shark type of storyline---as if JF is running out of good ideas so he's falling back on soap opera tropes and stereotypes for the scandal/sensationalism but not necessarily to serve the plot or the characters.

Ruth A. said...

@Kaye - I'm glad I heard about this prior to the episode airing as well. I could care less about characters dying on this show, but violence of this type really does not sit well with me. It seems SO out of step with all of the soap opera tendencies the show has exhibited -- and reveled in -- in the past.

Ruth A. said...

@Edie - It's funny but S3 didn't bother me nearly as much as this...but that's my own personal double standard at work, I guess. ;)

@Rissi - I'm thankful for the relative restraint they showed in the filming of this sequence as well. I'm also glad to hear you think everything is resolved fairly well. And YES!! Of course I latch onto a name like Foyle any time it's brought up! LOL

@Kaye - Forgot to mention...yeah MyAnna is a heckuvalot more palatable as Long Susan than Edna...which is VERY weird given LS's profession. Ha!!

Kristin said...

I had no idea this was coming, so I was super shocked. (Though I did know to expect something after that ominous "mature content" warning at the beginning of the episode.) Poor Anna. And Bates.

I wasn't expecting to care for any of Mary's suitors, but this first one is actually pretty nice and likeable. I like that even though it's obvious he likes her, he's not being pushy (maybe because he's supposedly practically engaged, huh?)

I knew I recognized the Sampson guy from somewhere! And no wonder I automatically had a negative feeling toward him- Richard in Bleak House drove me crazy because he was so lazy and entitled and frustrating.

Rissi said...

PS: forgot to mention that MyAnna shows up in one of the newest Marple episodes, too. She isn't very likable in that either. ;)

Ruth A. said...

@Rissi - Seriously? Okay now I don't feel quite so bad that PBS is behind in airing those...ha!! ;)

Anne Mateer said...

I, too, had no idea that was coming for Anna. None. And it was so much harder to deal with than even Matthew's death--which was also a complete shock to me as I had avoided all spoilers. I was literally sick. And yes, I thought it took to the whole thing to a different place than the other hard story lines. (Oh, and I HATE Edna--have since her first go around!) I don't watch those crime shows either, Ruth. Too close to reality and we have to live in that every day. (I can do detective/mystery stories, but those are different from cop/crime shows.) Anyway, it's made me kind of cringe at thinking about watching the coming season. Every episode will be so very painful and frustrating! Somehow Call the Midwife has been able to deal with some hard issues without this level of gut-wrenching pain--or maybe it's just that we see the redemption sooner than I know we will in this case!

Debra E. Marvin said...

I knew the attack was coming. I'm not as upset about the choice of 'new material' (it was the only fresh part of the plot) because I think I was so busy being annoyed, I couldn't react as I should have. Instead, I kept thinking, why did Matthew have to die? They should have ended the show on a high note with Baby George's birth.

Normally I watch the show 2-3x in the week to catch everything I missed (yes, I'm admitting that publicly - it's the only show I watch so I have time...) but I have no interest in the 2nd or third show. Very disappointed.
I've heard promises that things get much better and it might be a really great season by the end. I hope so or Season Five is going to to see a dramatic reduction in fans.

Ruth A. said...

@Anne - Oh I feel for you on that score! I am so glad I am not completely averse to spoilers...it helps me cope. :P I am so with you on avoiding the types of crime shows that depict this type of violent crime.

If it helps, I know a few people who've seen the entire season, and it seems that the overall consensus has been that S4 has really worked for them...so I'm cautiously optimistic, I guess...??

@Debra - Well...continuing the show post-Matthew has never bothered me, because 1) Dan Stevens wanted out and 2) it makes no sense from a business standpoint for ITV to kill their lucrative and buzzworthy cash "cow" after only three seasons, just because a lead wanted out. And honestly...as much as Matthew and Mary had some wonderful moments, he was REALLY getting on my nerves last season (I know, I know, I'm ruthless lol!). ;)

I don't blame you at all for wanting to watch an episode more than once...in years past of blogging this I've done the same thing. :)

Like I told Anne above, I've heard a generally positive consensus about S4, so I'm conservatively hopeful. So far I'm really enjoying watching Mary find her way back to the land of the living, as it were, so I'm curious how that plays out.

Debra E. Marvin said...

Yes I still cry when Mary and Matthew sing together but I am really ready for two new bucks in Mary's life! Believe me, I would have been very sad to hear they were done in 3 seasons so this should be a temporary malaise...

They certainly have a lot of conflict to work with. Just not sure who to slap first, Tom or Edna. I mean, Mrs. Hughes gave him a lecture on the subject. She is going to be some-kind-a-mad when she finds out how stupid he's been.

I think I was having a 'Patrick Returns without an English Accent' moment... :)

Tasha Brandstatter said...

Yeah, I agree. This episode was going swimmingly until the rape scene. I thought it was handled badly, especially the scene previous with Bates scolding Anna for hanging out with Green, which came across as "If you'd only listened to your husband..."

Ruth A. said...

@Tasha - Forgot to respond to your last comment, just wanted to say I agree. Bates was SO needy/controlling here...it was weird.