OPEN MIC SESSION: Downton Abbey

With the second season of Downton Abbey nearing a close in the US, I had to say my bit. However, I wasn’t sure how I’d go about it, for I don’t want to ruin the drama for those that haven’t seen it but I wanted to comment on a few key things that I love and hate about the show. Therefore, I decided just to open mic this past episode which aired this past Sunday, February 5, 2012.

*This episode is actually episode 6 in the British airing of the drama.

Downton Abbey Season 2 Episode 5- The Canadian Patient

Episode Synopsis: Set in November 1918. A Canadian officer, badly disfigured by burns, asks to be brought to Downton, stating a relation to the family. Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) agrees, assuming he is some distant relation, sharing common ancestry but he stuns everyone by declaring that he is Patrick Crawley, the supposedly deceased heir. His story is that he survived the Titanic but suffered from amnesia so he was unable to identify himself and lived as a Canadian until a wartime experience restored his memory. Most of the others vehemently deny the possibility even though he remembers many details that only Patrick is likely to have known. However Edith (Laura Carmichael) believes him, growing attached to him as he claims that he was always in love with her. Then, Lord Grantham’s investigation casts doubt on the Canadian officer’s claim, revealing that Patrick Crawley had a friend who emigrated to Canada, leading to his sudden departure, leaving behind a note for Edith that is deliberately ambiguous as to his identity.

Meanwhile Matthew (Dan Stevens) is getting used to his condition, constantly cared for by Mary (Michelle Dockery) but Sir Richard Carlisle (Iain Glen) is strongly displeased by her continued interest in Matthew. He and Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) conspire, to Lord Grantham’s disgust, to bring Lavinia (Zoe Boyle) back who then resolves that she will never leave Matthew. Ethel (Amy Nuttall) hears the distressing news that Major Bryant has been killed. Carson(Jim Carter) debates whether to accept Sir Richard’s tempting offer to be their butler after his marriage to Lady Mary. Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay) receives an ultimatum from Branson (Allen Leech) regarding his love for her or staying at Downton Abbey. Bates (Brendan Coyle) is shocked to find his divorce threatened by Vera (Maria Doyle Kennedy) revealing that he paid her to leave him and he goes to London to make another attempt to settle matters with her. However, upon his return, he receives the news that she is dead. The war ends with Armistice not long after.

Reactions, Rambling, and Remarks

This episode definitely feels like we’re winding down. Everything seems to either be tying up of coming to a head and in most cases it’s high time. I have to admit I felt the drama dipped a little low in caliber with the turn events in this episode, with the Bates situation and the deformed soldier claims. DA seems to be teetering with the outlandish and predictable but no hard feelings– yet.

Personally, DA has gotten to a point where almost every character is irritating me. Not because I hate them (all) but because I care about the actions and decisions of each one. Most certainly, my greatest disappointment this episode was Edith Crawley, for her gulibity is astounding, if not surprising. She’s a character that needs love and acceptance and pretty much looks for it in anyone. That being the case, she also gives it rather freely, which I was greatly concerned would be her downfall this episode.

I must admit that I am not in the least convinced that the badly burned P. Gordon, is in fact, Patrick Crawley but one can never be sure. Traumatic event, after traumatic event has befallen that young man and he very well could be the rightful heir. What I will say, however, is there are a few things that leave me determined not to believe him. The first being his accent (which he immediately makes an excuse, instead of an apology for). It’s true that accents come and go and there are those that pick them up effortlessly but this didn’t sit right with me at all. It’s a small notion and there are plenty of ways to excuse and explain away the issue, assimilation through mimicry being the greatest. However, there was no hint of Britain, even being back amongst his own and that’s just odd, not impossible, just odd.

Then, there’s the signature on the note he left. For someone who wants to be thought of and remembered as Patrick Crawley and not Peter Gordon, one would think reiteration is paramount. I’m not saying he should have signed Patrick Crawley but rather at least limit speculation and sign simply Patrick. Also his last conversation with Edith could be taken two ways; as a man tired and dejected or lonely and rejected. For a time, I’m sure he believed he would be accepted due to Edith’s warmth and compassion but if Patrick knew his family at all he should know every other member of the family is far from evoking that type of blind empathy. Therefore, I’m more inclined to believe he was man seeking love and family, not a family member searching for re-acquaintance. Another issue is his approach and broach of Edith over anyone else in the family. It’s true that Edith’s work is mainly in accompanying the patients, therefore she’s easily accessible but one can help but motive was intentional over opportunistic, for lest we forget, Sybil is a nurse. Edith was either his target because he’d heard tale of her feelings for her cousin Patrick or by simple deduction that she’s the weakest link. A man of honor seeking his rightful place would more certainly have asked for a chance to speak with Lord Grantham over weaseling through the comity of his daughter. His disappearance in the end is of course glaring but predictable and has little bearing on whether what he claimed is true. Lastly, his insistence on position rather than envelopment was unsettling. Again, someone who was away from his family for six long years would want acceptance and love over claim to the kingdom.

Sybil and Branson were fairly quiet this week which I am immensely glad over, but the news of Mary’s impending marriage and relocation only acres away was rather interesting. Carlisle’s insistence on moving to the country is surprising but being that he is older and does want to make his relationship with Mary work, I suppose I shouldn’t be that shocked. He does threaten her in this episode, which is followed by a kiss, that  was rather sickening. I don’t hate Carlisle and given other circumstances, I truly believe a union between he and Mary could be successful. However, given the reality of Mary’s feelings and overall personal convictions, marrying him just isn’t in her best interest. My disdain for Mary is unceasing, but I won’t deny the truth or ignore my inference of her as a character. She’s a spiteful wench, but she’s also someone who wants more than Carlisle can give her.  He’s a very cunning man and with each episode it becomes more and more slimy than sexy. No matter how much I love Iain Glen. His request of Carson accompanying them to the new house was a prime example of his sneaky, though I do want to believe that he made the move for the ease of Mary’s transition as much as a point of acquiescence. Carson’s acceptance was pretty much written in stone but the gem of the decision came with Mrs. Hughes concession that he would be greatly missed (understatement!).

Cora and Richard’s “Lavinia scheme” just proves how much Cora never ceases to dance on my nerves. Looking out for the best interests of your daughter is one thing but to have no regard for human decency is another. Her continuous inability to make any valid decisions that don’t perpetuate monetary gain or positional security, boggles my mind and inflames my insides. She’s so vacuously insipid, not to mention insensitive and short-sighted, it’s a wonder all her children didn’t turn out as spoiled and snooty as Mary. Perhaps, I could stomach her actions more if she had no inkling that she was out of line but this is rarely the case. Though she may not always know why, she always has a niggling feeling that her course is wrong, yet still chooses the course anyway.

The action downstairs wasn’t nearly as booming this week, until that last few moments of the drama, which dealt with the deaths of two loathsome characters. I can’t say that I’m sad about either, though I am gravely concerned about the mystery shrouding Vera Bates death. She was absolute evil but as soon as Bates’ telegram is relayed, my thoughts sauntered back to O’Brien eavesdropping or commenting on every move Bates and Anna made this episode. Also O’Brien has felt guilty on more than one occasion this season and followed suit by acting outside of her diabolically dubious character.

Ethel and the Major, is a curious tale, for there was never any hope of him returning to her or their child after the war. His not returning at all doesn’t chafe my skin but her attitude about her situation surely does. I’ve been more than grateful to Mrs. Hughes for her constant and consistent role as Mother Bubble Burster because Ethel blows hers beyond proportion with every breath. In this time period, there is nothing at all acceptable about a woman laying down with a man unmarried, let alone getting pregnant, and yet, she refuses to acknowledge reality. Instead, she puffs and bellows about her unfair situation using Mrs. Hughes and waiting, impatiently to pounce on her baby daddy at any cost. Of course, I find it repulsive that the Major ate and ran and therefore regard him as the lowest scum of mankind but I deem Ethel equally responsible. She decided to disregard sound counsel and basic reason when she began her escapades and has nothing to excuse her. For to make such a rash and negligent decision and then still expect coddling and have such air of entitlement is beyond naivete, it’s unadulterated stupidity and leaves me mystified. She lives so wildly audacious that I can’t help but cringe whenever I see her. Ultimately, I have to agree with Carson when he said, “I feel sorry for Ethel but I cannot condone her inability to pronounce a simple two letter word: ‘No!'”

Future Predictions (based solely on this episode): Trying to suss out the direction of a drama can be harder than the drama’s credit but I will venture to say that Bates will be cornered as a suspect in his wife’s death. I seriously doubt it was suicide, though if it was, it was a masterful plan by the Mrs. to sully his dreams of a future with Anna forever.

Of course I’ve never believed that Matthew nor Mary would marry their partners but I’ll tear down Downton myself if they try to marry each other. And being that DA is like a fairytale dreamland in many respects, Matthew will get some use of his legs back if not full. I personally hope this is last we hear of Ethel but I’m positive it won’t be the end of Mr. P. Gordon. Either he will return or Edith will go in search of him and well, that’s just what we need.

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