October 25, 2013
Poor Edith, one night of pre-marital fun and it looks like it’s curtains for her reputation. Perhaps that camel-maiming straw of misfortune will be enough to muster up some amity between the Crawley sisters (though seeing as a dead sibling, an altar-jilting, and a dead husband weren’t enough to stem the tide of Lady Mary’s snark, it’s unlikely).
How episode five’s other limp adventures will translate into more captivating fare is less easy to predict. The case of Young Pegg and the Dowager Countess’ missing paper knife (a sequel to that episode of Father Ted with the stolen whistle) doesn’t hold a great deal of initial promise. Nor does the imminent arrival of a refrigerator, or Barrow’s latest attempt to do… what exactly? Be an unspecific baddy in otherwise quiet episodes, presumably.
Least riveting of all is the continuation of Tom, Mary and Robert’s adventures in foreclosures, leases and arrears. This week we met Mr Drewe, whose family had been tenants of the Crawleys since the reign of George the Third. His story pulled a Downton Tory double-whammy, by not only serving to remind us what gentle patricians aristocrats are, but how important it is to maintain the status quo.
Though ambition in Downton Abbey’s lower classes is permissible only when accompanied by a donkey’s work ethic and the proper humility of their station (unlike the ‘baddies’ below stairs, our Alfred’s a striver, not a skiver), the drama happily legitimises the status of those who do nothing to earn their positions save emerge wriggling from the right, privileged orifice. Its upper classes are - the odd boorish drunk aside - munificent patriarchs and matriarchs, marshalling their means to ensure the livelihoods of the hard-working people who depend on them. Lord Grantham’s dealings with Mr Drewe - whose family has been farming Crawley land since the the days of Chaucer, remember - illustrate just this world view. “If we don’t respect our past, we’ll find it harder to build our future”, the Earl declared, as well might a man who’s just seen his Russian counterparts set on fire by Bolsheviks.
You can sort of see his point though. Traditions are nice, aren’t they? Like mince pies at Christmas, bunnies at Easter, and a social system that prioritises the privilege of the few over the well-being of the many. After all, the Drewe family have been tenants of the Crawleys since all life on Earth was primordial soup (served chilled, Alfred, in case you were wondering).
The real drama of course, was left to the much-discussed rape storyline. Joanne Froggatt and Brendan Coyle’s reunion scene was - as ever - beautifully played, though for me, the plot has yet to justify itself as anything more than a cynical ratings-grab.