Downton Abbey: Enter, Ozymandias!

In Zack Snyder’s 2009 film Watchmen, based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Matthew Goode played Adrian Veidt, the world’s smartest man, someone who had honed his mind and body through sheer willpower and discipline to absolute perfection and operated, for a time, as the super-hero Ozymandias.

I bring this up, in an article on Downton Abbey, because Goode returned last night as Henry Talbot, a race car driver who Lady Mary Crawley met in last year’s Christmas special. Just as I thought of Richard E. Grant’s art historian last year as Withnail (from the cult classic film Withnail & I), I will inevitably think of Goode as…

And where Ozymandias goes, can Dr. Manhattan and his enormous glowing blue CGI thingamabob be far behind? 🙂

It’s just as well that Ozymandias returned this week; last week, we saw the return of Bertie Pelham, Lady Edith’s potential suitor who was also introduced in the same Christmas special.

Last night’s episode was just sort of… there.

The major plot threads — the continuing drama of Daisy and Mr. Mason; while Mr. Carson was away on his honeymoon, Thomas was Downton Abbey’s acting butler; Mary reconnects with Ozymandias… err, I mean Henry Talbot; Tom Branson tries to figure out what he should do with his life; the trustee of a college for underprivileged women and his wife pay a visit to Downton, and his wife is none other than Gwen, a house maid way back in season 1 who left because she wanted to be a secretary; Anna’s latest pregnancy reaches a critical stage, and she and Mary race to London in an effort to save it; Baxter’s criminal past return to haunt her as she’s asked to testify against a man suspected in her long-ago jewel theft; and the Dowager Countess finds her allies in the fight over the hospital are all abandoning her.

There isn’t much to discuss about a few of these.

Let’s start with Tom Branson. It’s great to have Tom back; I like the character, and I like what Allan Leach does with him. That said, this episode sees him do pretty much nothing except talk about Sybil and how he doesn’t know what to do with his life, and it smacks of a contractual obligation. I want to see the series find something meaningful to do with Tom before the end.

The visit of Gwen to Downton Abbey, over a decade after she left, had some moments. The fact that no one upstairs except Tom recognized her was a nice touch; it pointed out how the staff are really seen — or rather, not seen — by those who employ and rely upon them. The scene where Thomas deliberately reveals who she is produces some interesting reactions.

What could have gone in an uncomfortable direction then turns into a charming scene where everyone sits around talking about how awesome the departed Sybil was. But it also revealed that Thomas has some real issues about class roles and social status.

Thomas, as the temporary butler, seemed to do an adequate job.

Anna’s latest pregnancy, as I mentioned, takes a dangerous turn as she comes close to losing the baby. Mary, lying to her entire family and the staff, takes Anna to London so the doctor could perform the necessary surgery for Anna to carry the baby. After several scenes of Mr. Bates gurning as he believes that Anna is keeping secrets from him, we end with, for Downton, a very surprising scene — Anna and Bates are happy, at the same time.

After years and years of angst, finally we have a scene of happy Anna and happy Bates.

No more fucking angst, Sir Julian! No more!

This is all I have to say about the hospital…

There’s really nothing to say about Baxter. For me, that character is just sorta there. I like her rapport with Molesley, and I’m really curious about why she’s as fond of Thomas as she is. (I half expect a reveal not unlike Gosford Park, where Thomas is her child whom she gave up for adoption.) But I really don’t care about her criminal background.

Mary and Ozymandias…

They go on a date, while Mary is in London with Anna, and Mary borrows one of her aunt Rosamond’s dresses.

The reason I keep thinking of Henry Talbot as Ozymandias is that, to this point, there isn’t anything there to Henry Talbot. He’s the nephew of Lady Shackleton (who?) and races cars. Imagining him as Ozymandias adds depth to a character that, after two episodes, is still as thick as cardboard.

I may have mentioned this before. Last season, when we had all of that crap with the super-clingy Lord Gillingham, I realized that the person Mary should marry is Charles Blake, because they’re both manipulative, self-centered jerks.

Now, let’s talk about Daisy.

To recap, Daisy’s father-in-law, Mr. Mason, is being evicted from his tenant farm. The Drewes have given up their tenancy at Yew Tree Farm. Daisy, upon finding out that Yew Tree Farm was now empty, put two and two together, came up with eight and a half, and made the assumption that the Crawleys would offer Yew Tree Farm to Mr. Mason. Not only did she make that assumption, she told everyone around her that that was what was happening, even though no one said any such thing.

This week, Daisy found out that the Crawleys intend to do something else with Yew Tree Farm — they’ll manage the farm themselves, and rent out the residence on the farm separately — and she went ballistic.

Daisy throws a tantrum and decides she’s going to have it out with Cora. She’s going to tell Cora that she’s a liar and a cheat and ungrateful and all sorts of other, nasty things.

However, in the interim, while Mary and Anna are away, Tom and Robert have decided to let Mr. Mason have the tenancy at Yew Tree Farm. It’s “what Sybil would want.”

Crisis averted.

I cannot believe the amount of time Downton has devoted to this storyline. It’s bewildering nonsense. At this point, Daisy is in her late twenties and should know better. I realize she’s spent half her life in the kitchen at Downton Abbey, but that’s not an excuse for her naiveté bleeding over into abject stupidity. I recognize that Julian Fellowes keeps writing Daisy like we’re still in the first season and she’s still sixteen or so, but she’s not, not anymore.

I hope there’s not another Daisy scene between now and the end of the series. Because I can’t take any more of Daisy.

I was more annoyed with the episode than anything. Yes, pieces are moving — and it occurs to me that I haven’t talked about Robert’s ulcer — but they weren’t moving in especially interesting directions. The season’s meta-plot — the hospital — was a minor element; our focus was on the individual strands, like the interminable Daisy nonsense, that are there to give the ensemble cast something to do.

That does it for this week.

Next week, Ozymandias shows off his prowess behind the wheel of a race car. The end is nigh.

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

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