Downton Abbey: Explosively Meh

The trouble with Sunday night’s Downton Abbey is that virtually nothing happened — until a scene that one will never forget.

Downton is like that. I couldn’t tell you anything else about the episode were Sybil dies. Or the episode where Lavinia Swire dies. Or the episode where Matthew dies. Of course, those were years in the past. This episode was only Sunday, and I’ve listened to two podcasts about it since then. You’d think it would be fresh in my mind.

Thankfully, no one died this time around.

But the image of Robert Crawley projectile vomiting blood on his family and future prime minister Neville Chamberlain is an image that eclipses everything else.

We knew Robert had an ulcer, and for the last few weeks it’s been bothering him. A twinge of pain here, the inability to stomach port there. As the ongoing hospital plot drags on at dinner, Robert makes a pained plea for civility, and then…

His ulcer explodes.

Blood spews everywhere.

Have no fear, Downtonians; Robert survives the surgery, and I’m sure we’ll see him hale and hearty in no time.

As for the rest of the episode…

The revelation that Mr. Carson is as much of a stuffy asshole outside of the servants hall as he is in it shouldn’t have been a surprise. His marital life with Elsie Hughes gets off on the wrong foot when he’s hyper-critical about her cooking skills and her menu planning. It’s totally in character for Mr. Carson, and the episode plays it for laughs, but it’s also a sad moment for Mrs. Hughes as she realizes that their marriage isn’t quite as equal as she thought.

Mr. Mason takes over Yew Tree Farm, which leads to scenes of Daisy fretting and being pissy because many people are concerned about Mr. Mason’s age and ability to handle the pigs. Can we stop this Daisy fretting already? It’s tiresome. She’s in her mid-ish-twenties by now. She should know better.

Something happened with Spratt and Denker that sapped my will to live.

Neville Chamberlain was a surprisingly jovial figure. After the explosive ulcer, he had a charming — or, maybe, completely random — conversation with Tom Branson about a college prank he pulled.

After all the sturm und drang over Baxter being called as a witness in a trial for the man who put her up to stealing jewels, that plot up and evaporates at the courthouse doors. Why did we waste time on this plot, if nothing is going to come of it?

Ozymandias (in other words, Henry Talbot) is back in town, this time to buy a racing car. After some witty repartee between Mary and Ozymandias, Tom cuts through the bullshit and tells these two crazy kids that they should date. I’ve made my preferences known — Mary’s ideal match is Charles Blake — but I suppose she can’t go wrong with a world-dominating megalomaniac masquerading as an upper-crust race car driver.

And Edith had a date! Edith, in London to hire a new editor for her magazine, meets Bertie Pelham and they go for a walk in a park, she shows him her London flat, he takes her to dinner and dancing, and they kiss! Okay, it’s not my dream romance for Edith…

…but I think he’ll do.

The episode showed the stark difference between the Crawley sisters. Mary feels like there’s no one available who has the financial assets to win her, while Edith tells Bertie that she’s not out of his league just because he has “nothing to offer.” I wish Edith nothing but happiness and Mary nothing but misery.

Seriously, though, Robert’s explosive ulcer attack leads to one of the stupidest Downton Abbey scenes ever — Cora and the Dowager Countess talk openly about Marigold for no reason whatsoever in earshot of Mary. While they didn’t say who Marigold was, they said enough that Mary knows there’s a secret in the house that she doesn’t know, and she’ll move heaven and earth to find out what it is. And, knowing Mary, she’ll use it at the worst possible moment, because that’s the kind of person she is.

I’m surprised I found that much to say about an episode that was generally bland and left me feeling disengaged throughout. Things escaped from the shadow of the exploding ulcer, after all.

On a related note, the DVD set of season six arrived from Amazon yesterday. Were it not for deadlines at the office, I’d probably mainline the remaining episodes in the next day or two. But I won’t. Patience, young padawan. Patience. 🙂

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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