Downton Abbey (here be spoilers)

7 November 2011

Well. What on earth was that all about then? Did you enjoy this season of Downton Abbey? I sort of did, even though I thought it veered between Sunset Beach levels of preposterousness and cloyingly nauseating mawkishness.

I seem to recall people expressing surprise during the first series that something so good could be shown on ITV – this time, however, there could be no doubt that this was ITV fodder albeit of the most glitzy and entertaining kind.

Where to start on the final episode? And how to discuss it without spoilers?

There was an Awkward Confrontation in the drawing room between Sybil and Branson (who isn’t so nice now that I’ve seen him a few more times) and, well, pretty much everyone else. Sybil and the Formerly Hot Chauffeur are completely lacking in any discernible chemistry although she does her best, poor thing, to compensate with lots of slack mouthed dewy eyed staring up into his square face. This is not really enough to convince me that they’d risk social death to be together. I really think that in this case they should take a hint from Upstairs, Downstairs and have a few bunk ups in the garage while getting all political before going their separate ways.

I was really quite shocked (not really) by Lord G giving in to his incomprehensible passion for that housemaid whose name I don’t recall and nor does he, probably. What was that all about? And while poor Cora appeared to be at death’s door as well. Most ungentlemanly. Anyone think that her son will turn out to be the result of a long ago dalliance with Lord G?

Meanwhile, poor old Lavinia finally decided that she’d had enough of being a pallid excuse for a plot device and made a timely exit from Spanish flu but not before she’d delivered a guilt tripping final little speech to Matthew in a wavering voice that I used to reserve for calling in sick for work.

Matthew, for his part, managed to keep up what appears to be the Crawley menfolk’s tradition of snogging other women while their wives and fiancées are on the verge of death. This is not an endearing personality trait. However, he also afforded plenty of amusement by looking increasingly like Carlisle Cullen from Twilight (movies not books) as the minutes ticked by. Sadly for Lavinia however, it was all clearly down to gothic heavy handedness in the make up department rather than any vampiric transformation.

Speaking of vampires, in the face of such merciless caddishness on the part of the Crawley men and the increasing milquetoast patheticness of the men on the other side of the green baize door, I am starting to warm to Sir Richard and am now all in favour of Lady Mary marrying him and vanishing forever into his gilded lair, while Lady Edith, who has also grown on me in this last series, marries Matthew or the alleged heir, Patrick, who had a weird fake transatlantic accent that would put Joss Stone to shame.

Meanwhile, downstairs, Anna and Bates finally got married before, thanks to Lady Mary, having a wedding night in a room upstairs. The nation recoiled en masse at the sight of semi naked Bates then sniggered as Anna insisted upon calling him ‘Mr Bates’ even when they are in bed together. I didn’t actually want to see that. I don’t know why but I felt the same hot flush of embarrassed misery as I did the time I heard my mother having sex one night. It’s just, well, it’s BATES and we don’t want to see that. Still, looks like we won’t have to see it again thanks to last night’s cliff hanger.

During the first season, I absolutely loathed Edith, O’Brien and the dastardly Thomas but they are now my joint second favourite characters after the Dowager, who is so perfect in every way that if they ever kill her off I am never watching this show ever again. I’m also convinced that she has her very own super sharp script writer to write her lines (‘Don’t be defeatist – it’s very middle class’) for her while the rest of the cast make do with a bunch of depressed goth sixth formers who’ve been locked in a room with some Nancy Mitford books and a gallon of GIN and told to get on with it.

I’m glad though that Ethel, who I dislike very much, didn’t go all Jude the Obscure with her baby and in the end turned down what appeared to be the offer of a lifetime from his grandparents. I expect they’ll be back to offer more over Christmas.

In summary, I enjoyed it very much but I was also frankly perplexed by the whole thing. I’ll definitely be watching at Christmas for what I presume will be wedding bells for Ladies Sybil and Mary and a slow descent into sherry induced melancholia for Matthew before he locks himself into his room with the complete works of the Fields of the Nephilim and a bottle of absinthe. Which is what I felt like doing after watching last night’s episode.

What did you think? What are your predictions for the Christmas special and next series?

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