Downton 5.1 Review

I’ve written before about how much I like routines. They keep me doing things I want to do, but wouldn’t do without that extra nudge to keep doing them. One unfortunate side effect of that? I have a really hard time letting go of things, even when it seems like most of the rest of the country has moved on.

Which brings me to Downton Abbey. Back in the day, it seemed like my Facebook feed was crawling with Downtonites. Everybody was posting about the show left and right. I started writing reviews of each episode because I couldn’t help it. I just wanted to talk about it with other people.

These days? It seem like a lot of that has worn off. Barely anything about Downton was mentioned when it aired Sunday, and for the most part, it seems to have gone unnoticed. Some of this is likely due to the fact that we Americans get it a half year after England, and many people in the states have discovered this thing called the internet, which lets them watch shows when they actually come out, as opposed to when our television stations deem fit to air them. Some of it is likely due to the fact that the newness of the show has worn off. It’s been five years now, after all–give or take.

In fact, I paused the show last night right at the beginning to tell Denisa I was actually worried about this season. So much of the energy of the show–the stuff that I really liked way back in the day–came from the natural two class system of the house itself. And then in later seasons, the creators seemed intent on looking elsewhere for conflict: World War I, the Jazz Age, random rape and murder investigations. It’s when the show veered away from its starting premise that it fell apart the most for me. (Well, that, and when actors let their careers get in the way of a great show. Tell me, Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley), how’s playing a bit part in Night at the Museum 3 working out for you? Still feeling good about that decision to ditch the show?)

But Denisa loves the show, and I’m still quite fond of it myself, and so here I am, ready and willing to write up another season’s worth of reviews. As I said, I was worried they’d screw up the season. So far, if I had to rank seasons from best to worst, I think I’d go with Season 1, Season 3, Season 4, Season 2–just off the top of my head. It would be interesting to watch them all back to back and see what I think then. How would Season 5 do?

My reactions, in no particular order:

  • Lord Gilligan continues to irritate me, though I’ll admit I couldn’t for the life of me remember for the first while whether he was the one I was rooting for (the one who worked with the pigs) or the one I couldn’t stand. When he traipsed into Mary’s bedroom and proposed they abscond for a week long sex orgy, it all came back to me. (Seriously. What’s with the sudden “Let’s make sure we’re good in bed together before we commit to a marriage” plot line? Am I just a complete and utter prude? Maybe, I guess. I know this was the roaring 20s and all, but I didn’t appreciate Mary going from the cold hearted woman Matthew had to coax affection out of and then becoming a woman who wants to try out the merchandise before she’s ready to really commit. That felt phony to me.)
  • Fire at Downton! Caused by Lady Edith being a complete and utter moron. So . . . just about par for the course when it comes to conflict at Downton. That said, it was interesting to see how they handled it, from an historical perspective. And it did provide for some interesting revelations: that Thomas can actually do heroic things, for one. And that Pretty Boy might get the pretty boot out of the Abbey, for another.
  • Speaking of Edith, her mopey-moping over her child and her still missing husband feels like a big spinning of the wheels. Time to fish or cut bait there, people. But maybe I just feel that way because Edith is such a doofus.
  • School Marm visits for dinner was an interesting diversion. It’s been long enough since Sybil died that I’m definitely ready for Tom to move on, and the teacher’s got some get up and go, so I’m in favor of that happening. I worry Tom will leave for America and make the show duller than it ought to be. Have him stick around, marry the teacher, and mix things up some more.
  • New maid is actually a thief, for mysterious reasons she refuses to detail–I like the fact that she just came out with it, but I’m less impressed with the insistence that she’s not going to say why she stole what she stole. That feels contrived. Seeing Thomas get a dressing down was appreciated, even if they then backtracked on him being on thin ice just minutes later. Ah well.
  • Daisy learns algebra is intriguing, and felt fine to me as far as plot lines go.
  • Molesley dies his hair–Man, does that guy get a beating by the writers of this show. That said, he does just enough to make me enjoy seeing him get that beating. I enjoyed this arc in this episode. Poor guy.
  • Isobel vs. Violet at least had some new machinations that were interesting to watch. Violet continues to get the best lines of the show, which is right and proper and as it should be.

Overall, I enjoyed the episode. There was nothing outrageous or lame in the writing. It was upstairs/downstairs shenanigans, informed by the times these people were living in. That’s the bread and butter of the success of Downton, and I would love to see more of the same. Then again, I seem to remember wanting that at this point last year, and then it all went wrong with that Mr. Green fellow . . .

How about you? Anyone out there still watching? Or should I hang up this Downton review business and focus on other things? Inquiring minds want to know . . .

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