Downton Abbey, S05E02: “Episode 2”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “a lively exchange of views.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure how much more my heart can take of the high-stakes storytelling going on right now in this show.  Seriously, Downton, how is a man supposed to keep his ticker pumping with all this talk of getting a “wireless” at the estate?  Allow me to translate for those of you who aren’t fluent in ridiculously archaic British colloquialisms–and you definitely should consider taking night classes to brush up tbh: a wireless is apparently a term for a radio.  A radio, people!  A radio at Downton.   Banish the thought!  What is this, a brothel?

While the saga of the radio admittedly jumped the tracks and headed on a collision course with silliness**, it presented yet another example of the inexorable forward march of progress.  Problem is, I’m not sure we needed this reiterated, but since this plot strand climaxed with the likes of Mrs. Padmore boogeying down, I’ll allow it because reasons.

**It certainly didn’t help that Rose, a character with whom I’m not dying to spend any additional time, stood at the epicenter of this narrative thread.  Turns out, when homegirl’s not handing out arbitrary awards at local schools, she’s straight up repeating herself until Robert gives in rather than murdering her and feeding her to Isis.  Families, am I right?

Robert dubs the radio a waste of time and then, out of nowhere, reveals a deep-seated anger when he snaps at Cora that she wouldn’t understand his feelings because she’s American. Whoa there, pally! Holster those hate pistols and count to ten, would you? Anyhow, Robert concedes to keep the radio around even after he gets one just to hear the king speak, so he is coming around, don’t you see?  It’s a metaphor.  And now I’ve wasted more time than I meant to talking about this plot.  Damn you, Downton, you win again.

Hey, is it hot in here, or is it just Mary’s love triangle kicking the temperature up to 180 degrees?  Ha!  #mathhumor Seriously, you didn’t actually think Downton would make it that easy for our plucky, sexually adventurous heroine, did you?  I mean, sure, last week ended with #Gillinghammer inviting Mary to join him in the no-pants cha-cha, but it was only a matter of time before #BlaketheSnake would burst back onto the scene.  And did he ever!  Faster than you can say plot contrivance, Blake’s slithering his way back to Downton in the company of one Mr. Bricker**, some dude writing a book about a painter whose work happens to be featured in the hallowed halls of our favorite estate.  Um, sure?

**What is it with our characters this year, friends?  I mean, Mr. Bricker’s got a serious case of the hornies, what with his rather obvious eye-humping of Cora from across the room.  I’m not sure what it tells us about Robert when he assumes Bricker’s flirting with Isis and not his wife.  Um…Robbie?  Do I need to be worried about you?  #animalscience

Turns out #BlaketheSnake’s arrival is rather fortuitous, as it occurs days before Mary is meant to depart on her “sketching” trip with “Annabelle Portsmith.”  And when she says sketching, she means “sexing” and when she says Annabelle Portsmith, she means “#Gillinghammer.”  That’s right kids, Mary’s getting straight up duplicitous, and it’s wonderful, though she needs to work on the fine art of the cover story, as this one has Mr. Bates’s suspicions raised as being an uncharacteristically bohemian excursion for her.

Regardless, homegirl has preparations to make, leading her to send Anna on the most awkward errand ever in a great scene that allowed Joanna Froggatt to show off her comedic acting chops**.  You have to give it to #BlaketheSnake (Mary’s not…hey yo!) because he accepts the terms of his defeat with dignity, but not before engaging in a randy fireside chat with Mary on the eve of her departure for Liverpool.  #BlaketheSnake, you rascal!

**Anna should have a subplot this year where she continues to have to purchase prophylactics because that would be life-affirming. Seriously, her quest to buy a diaphragm for Lady Mary, from her awkward body language in the shoppe (#bringingitback) to her hurried exit, played perfectly.  But it was her realization afterward, upon decrying the proprietor’s shaming of her, that the real feminist heft of this thread came into sharp focus.

Speaking of rascals, it’s time for #MoseleyWatch!  Although there wasn’t so much as a drop of hair dye in sight in this second episode, he still remains my favorite sad sack on television.  Carson completely shutting down his inquiry about becoming first footman, all the while Moseley dared to balance pudding and sauce on the same tray, had me chuckling.  However, it was Mrs. Hughes interjecting that footmen weren’t likely long for this new world that sent me into full-on paroxysms of laughter.  Upon hearing her prediction, Moseley’s face contorts in a way not dissimilar to the distortion of features that would result from attempting to pass a whole, uncooked ham through one’s small intestine.  Discomfort is my point.

On top of that truthbomb, Moseley knows that Baxter is keeping secrets from him, and he struggles to keep his frustration tamped down until she reveals her thieving ways to him as he aggressively scrubs shoes for strictly symbolic purposes because those puppies were clean enough to eat off of.  I’m not sure about you, but I’m boarding the USS MosBax because I’m ‘shipping these two hard!

Meanwhile, the dynamo of local politics that is Mr. Carson commences the process of finding a place to build the Great War memorial.  Much to Robert’s incredulity, Carson suggests building it on a cricket pitch, and Robert gets all, “You do realize that if we do this, the terrorists win” which strikes me as ironic given the dog nipping at his heels.  You see, Robert thinks it better to build the memorial not in a place for silent reflection (as Carson says) but in the centre (#Britishspelling) of town where more people can appreciate it.

Enter Mrs. Hughes to break the tie, and she sides with…Robert!  Mr. Carson does not feel warm and fuzzy at the thought of what he initially perceives as betrayal from his favorite hand-holding beach buddy.  A coincidental run-in with a local widow, however, convinces him otherwise, and (ugh) Robert emerges victor of this no-stakes contest.  Finally we can put one in the win column for a white male one percenter.  Phew!

Speaking of percentages, Mrs. Padmore continues to be an utter delight when she arranges to have Ms. Sarah Bunting tutor Daisy with her maths problems.  To top it all off, she even insists on paying Bunting’s modest stipend out of her own pocket.  And how great was Mrs. Padmore’s response to Mrs. Hughes’s compliment about her generosity, wherein she essentially complains about making more work for herself?  Ha!  Classic Padmore.

Elsewhere, Jimmy’s sexcapade with Lady Anstruther leads to his termination from Downton (fare thee well, I guess?), Mr. Drewe asks #SadEdith to be be Marigold’s “sort of godmother” (whatever the hell that means) despite Mrs. Drewe’s palpable displeasure, Isobel discusses diabetes with Dr. Clarkson over tea because Wilford Brimley and then turns around to demand, rather forwardly, a stroll through Dicky Merton’s garden, and emo Thomas wonders why nobody loves him.

With one Mr. Willis arriving at Downton with news of a witness stepping forward to provide fresh insight into Mr. Green’s murder, this episode might as well have ended with a “dum dum dum…” before its fade to black.  Still, episode three will no doubt carry on with the high quality entertainment provided by these first two installments.

Until next time, Downtonites!


Snippets of Intrigue

– Jimmy [to Thomas]: “I’m sad to see the back of you.”

– Carson: “Since you are the only footman, you are first, second, third, and last.  Make what you will of it.”

– Bates: “I know you mean to lead me into further inquiry, but I couldn’t care less what you think, Thomas.  On that subject or any other.”

– Mrs. Hughes: “That’s a nice thing you’re doing.”

Mrs. Padmore: “Is it?  I think I’ve been a damn fool and doubled my workload.”  #padmorewisdom #padmore4president

– Carson: “I don’t like it when we’re not on the same side.”

Mrs. Hughes: “We’re different people, Mr. Carson.  We can’t always agree.”

Carson: “I know, but I don’t like it.”

– Mrs. Padmore [listening to the King on the radio]: “I suppose he can’t hear us.”  She’s a treasure, folks!  A treasure!

Top 10 Shows of 2014

Hey, remember last year when I listed my top ten shows of 2013?  Well, time is one cruel (flat-chested, if Rust Cohle is to be believed) mistress, so I must now expound on the best shows of 2014.  It was a pretty quick year, wouldn’t you reckon?  I mean, television assaulted us from so many angles that I’m surprised I managed to find the time to, you know, engage in human contact with others.

In addition to the standard networks pumping out the goods, reliable cable and streaming providers, like HBO, Showtime, FX, AMC, and Netflix, found themselves engaged in veritable fisticuffs with the likes of Amazon Prime, Starz, and Cinemax, all three of whom made their presences known as equally capable of delivering outstanding programming.  That all adds up to excellent news for consumers–inundated as we’ve been with brilliant television–but also comprises an overwhelming crop of shows from which to select.

There’s no way to watch everything out there these days, so any list therefore feels incomplete.  For instance, I never got around to shows like Broad City or Review, though they’re very much on my radar and might even have landed in my top ten.  But even when it comes to the shows I do watch, ten hardly seems like enough slots to fill in this era of television excellence.  And yet, I tried my best to do just that after much deliberation and reflection.

Top 10 Television Shows of 2014:

1) Fargo (FX)

2) Transparent (Amazon)

3) Game of Thrones (HBO)

4) The Americans (FX)

5) True Detective (HBO)

6) The Good Wife (CBS)

7) Silicon Valley (HBO)

8) Louie (FX)

9) Veep (HBO)

10) Shameless (Showtime)

Honorable Mentions: The Comeback, Hello Ladies, Southcliffe, Orange is the New Black, Parks and Recreation, Parenthood, Person of Interest, Boardwalk Empire, You’re the Worst, Nurse Jackie, Masters of Sex, Homeland, Banshee, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, In the Flesh, The Affair, Sherlock, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Enlisted, Penny Dreadful, Outlander, The Mindy Project, and Serial


Spotlight – Transparent

The spiritual successor to the all-time great Six Feet Under, creator and SFU alumna Jill Soloway’s Transparent is an achingly beautiful and bitingly funny dramedy that also happens to be Amazon’s first taste of prestige television.  For a show grounded in topics of gender and sexual identity, Transparent is a brilliantly universal series plumbing the depths of melancholy and uncertainty that plague us all.  Jeffrey Tambor (recent Golden Globe winner) is a revelation as the show’s centerpiece, Maura Pfefferman, the one-time patriarch who bravely comes out to her trio of children as trans.  To say anything else about this series would be to spoil its myriad delights, but suffice it to say that if you stream one series in the course of your viewing, it had better be this one.


Did I miss the mark or omit your favorite show?  Let me know! #accidentalrhyme

Downton Abbey, S05E01: “Episode 1”

an episode reminding us all the importance of “not having the brain of a kipper.”

How have you been, fellow Downtonites? Have you used the hiatus between seasons to rinse the taste of disappointment in your mouth left behind by last year’s middling effort?  Feeling minty fresh?  Well, I hope so because there’s something wonderfully comforting about starting  a new year off with a fresh installment of television’s best soapy satire of British exceptionalism, regardless of last season’s spotty track record.  Besides, it seems like showrunner Julian Fellowes used his time off to commune with the devil or sacrifice virgins or something because holy cow, you guys, I think he might have righted the ship?  I mean, this episode flew by, and I loved every minute of it.

A sense of liberation pervaded this opening hour and imbued the characters we’ve grown to love with a renewed sense of purpose.  Downton has been beating the drums of change for years now, but after seasons of thematic musings on tradition versus modernity, it seems like payoffs are afoot.  If Robert Crawley is to be believed, the bandleader is none other than Labor Party Prime Minister MacDonald, whose shakeup of Britain’s government has trickled down to the humble Downton estate on the eve of Cora and Robert’s thirty-fourth wedding anniversary.  And, while my hopes of an extended montage featuring Mrs. Padmore, dusted in flour, baking an epic cake to the tune of  “Everybody’s Working For the Weekend” were dashed, I still loved this episode’s insistence on change.  Go figure!

I mean, take Lady Mary, for instance.  Girl, you makin’ me clutch my pearls and blush like a hot-house tomato with your dirty mind!***  Turns out, in light of her recent love triangle she’s been sharing with #BlaketheSnake and #Gillinghammer, the little lady’s been turning to Lady Cunnard for tips.  Like no pants dance tips that induced near fainting.  After a pleasant stroll through the Downton estate during which Mary admits to loving #Gillinghammer in her own cold, unfeeling way (her words, not mine, but preach!), he flouts with convention, busts up into her room after hours and straight up proposes fireside sexin’ like the horn dog he is, and Mary’s all, “Gillinghammer my nails, Bob Villa!”  Girl, you bad!

***To be fair, Mary alone cannot shoulder the burden of randiness.  Mr. Bates, ever the saucy rascal, just comes out and tells Anna he wouldn’t mind making kids the old-fashioned way.  Meanwhile, Jimmy takes an express train to Cougar Town, next stop Lady Anstruther, caving into his carnal needs in a move that seems like it will spell his exit from the show, but more on that later.  My goodness, is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?  Oh, no, never mind–Moseley just set a tablecloth on fire.  Classic Moseley!

Meanwhile, everyone’s favorite curmudgeonly traditionalist, Mr. Carson, finds himself unwittingly caught up in the tidal wave of change when a committee planning to construct a memorial to local soldiers killed in the Great War elects him as chairman.  Flummoxed, the head butler cannot fathom a world in which he would be selected over Robert Crawley (Or should I call him Donk?), but even the Earl concedes that change is coming whether they like it or not, and the answer for both is not.  Definitely not.  For Robert, it’s enough tumult to make a man wax poetic about the simpler times when people relied on and needed Grandpappy Crawley***; still it’s tough toenails for the two, and Carson uses his new authority to manipulate the committee into giving Robert a position as patron.  You learn quickly, Mr. Carson.  Next stop Parliament?  (Oh God, please let that be Carson’s arc next season…)

***For a brief, awkward moment, I swore Mary’s sex-addled brain had caused irreversible damage when she leaned in to comfort Robert and said, “I want you.” *Insert record scratch.* Um, girl?  You and I need to have a quick li’l chat on the importance of phrasing, okay? 

If there’s one character free to do whatever the hell she wants, then it’s Violet Crawley, and she was a hoot this episode, and not just because she throws what is, without hyperbole, the GREATEST. LUNCHEON. EVER.  Dicky Merton still has the hots for Isobel Crawley, though she refuses to pay him any mind.  Enter the Dowager, who invites the eternally-on-the-prowl Lady Shackleton and Dr. Clarkson, the erstwhile unrequited love puppet of Isobel, to shake things up because she’s jealous of Isobel’s possible happiness?  Threatened?  Bored?   Regardless, there ain’t no party like a Crawley tea party, and things get off to a spicy start when Lady Shackleton walks up to Merton to ask him how his lovely garden is doing, which I frankly found a bit forward.  But maybe Violet’s machinations are backfiring because, though pleased with the social smoke bomb at first, didn’t I detect a whiff of jealousy baking off Isobel later on?

Okay, okay.  Enough is enough.  I’ve managed to contain my excitement, but I no longer can.  Grab your hair dye because it’s time for #MoseleyWatch.  You guys, I loved this plot so much my heart feels like it’s going to explode.  Seriously, has anything greater happened in your life than watching Moseley dye his hair black and strut around to see how many people would notice?  (Though, if we’re being honest with each other, I think the only person he hopes will notice is Ms. Baxter.)  From Robert insisting Moseley is looking “very Latin all of a sudden” to Carson’s put-upon look of disdain as he stares at Moseley’s dome, this was Downton at its comedic best, featuring an all-time classic punchline: Robert demanding Moseley be stripped of his serving duties and kept downstairs until his hair stops turning blue.  I laughed, I cried, I thanked all the deities in the heavens for bestowing the gloriousness of this plotline upon us.  More of this always forever.

Speaking of the inability to outrun the person you truly are, Branson is still around apparently and doing his Branson thing of talking to Robert about how much life at Downton has changed him and making us yawn and check our watches (do people still wear watches?) in the meantime.  Seriously, this plot hasn’t advanced since Sybil’s death, and I’m growing tired of it.  Fortunately, hope seems to have appeared on the narrative horizon!  After Rose conspires to invite his #hotforteacher crush, Sarah Bunting, to Cora and Robert’s anniversary celebration, the teacher’s presence at dinner makes for an epic clashing of belief systems.***

***Fortunately, before dinner, #Gillinghammer, atwitter with incomprehensible excitement, inquires Mary and Branson about the status of the pigs.  Seriously, Downton? Is this bizarre fetishizing of pig farming just never going to disappear from this show?  Because I’m starting to feel like we’re in it for the long haul with this one…

Following Robert’s unexpectedly genuine toast of Cora, Sarah, uncomfortable with the opulence of Downton and not shy about expressing it, climbs atop her soapbox and begins spouting off about the pointlessness of war.  You know, perfect getting-to-know you conversation starters.  Well, this really chaps Robert’s rump, but Isobel intervenes and gets all crunchy-granola about the conviction of youth, which just further pickles Robert’s onions, and let’s just say things got…weird.  Salud!  Family dinners, am I right?

All this talk of freedom makes me think of the one character still confined by the societal norms of the time.  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, cue the sad trombone because it’s time to catch up with #SadEdith.  We first meet up with the saddest sack of Crawley pedaling over to the Drewe’s house to go creeping on her daughter, Marigold.  Apparently, she’s been coming around a hell of a lot lately to spread her sad-sack misery all over, leading Mrs. Drewe to suspect Edith has designs on her husband.  Mr. Drewe wants to assuage his wife’s suspicions while also allowing Edith to see Marigold regularly, so he devises a plan, the particulars of which, it seems (if the Next On segment proves an indication), we’ll learn next week.

But the trials and tribulations of #SadEdith do not end there.  Early on in the episode, Edith receives a copy of a book from the possibly-beaten-to-death-by-a-group-of-Nazis Mr. Gregson.  In a fit of despondency that even has Mary telling Edith to cheer up (thanks, girl!), she does what any rational person would do: toss the book into a fireplace and send the place up in flames.  Ha!  Typical Edith…

Thomas, skulking around to serve as Jimmy’s lookout while he’s doing naked cha-cha with Lady Anstruther, rushes in to save Edith from the conflagration.***  Robert rushes from room to room, barging in on Jimmy, who should be, ya know, helping his employers in this time of crisis, mid-thrust at other business.  The confluence of the episode’s many overlapping plotlines during this well staged sequence was a great button on the end of the episode, replete with #sillyfiremen in ridiculous hats, and I don’t just mean any old ridiculous hats but THE most ridiculous hats.  You’ll be in awe of them is my point. #hatpuns

***A fortunate turning of events for our beloved lecherous footman, as his threatening of Baxter backfires (he’s still trying to get to the bottom of the Bates/Anna situation, just ugh) when she confesses to her crime of stealing to Lady Cora, who directs her rage more at Thomas than Baxter for his recommendation to hire her.  However, nothing helps clear up a kerfuffle in the workplace like saving one’s daughter from burning to death in a fire, so live and let live, sayeth Lady Cora!

But wait, the surprises don’t end there!  Turns out Mr. Drewe ain’t just your average farmer but a jack-of-all-trades; yup, that’s him lurking under one of those majestic hats, and he has news for Edith: an idea to secure her place in Marigold’s life while not upsetting his marriage.  But before he can reveal the deets, Mrs. Hughes, keeper of all Downton’s secrets, stumbles into the conversation.  Oh snap! Looks like when homegirl’s not sipping sherry with Mr. Carson and the person on the planet I most want to get drunk with, Mrs. Padmore, she’s blowing up truthbombs all over the Downton estate.

Elsewhere, Daisy explores her options post-Downton by sneaking maths problems at the kitchen table, Bates prods #Gillinghammer, who still needs a new not-dead valet, about the late Mr. Green, Rose hands out awards at a school assembly because reasons, and Isis continues to have the most unfortunate name of any pet on television.

Until next time, Downtonites!


Snippets of Intrigue

– Violet: “There’s nothing simpler than avoiding people you don’t like.  It’s avoiding one’s friends that’s the true test.”

– Carson: “If you can both tear yourselves away from your smutty deliberations, you’re needed upstairs.”

– Carson: “I feel a shaking of the ground I stand on.”

– Carson: “The nature of life is not permanence but flux.”

– Robert: “Moseley, you’re looking very Latin all of a sudden.”

– Violet: “Principles are like prayers: noble, of course, but awkward at a party.”

– Carson: “Is everything all right, my lord?”

Robert: “No, it certainly isn’t.  And can you please keep Moseley in the kitchen until his hair stops turning blue?”