February 16, 2013
The Mysteries of Downton Abbey: Part Two

My prediction:  Jimmy and Thomas will fall in love, though Thomas will tire of him because all those cute little things that were once so endearing—monkeying with the lobster spoons, threatening to call the police—will soon become quite tiresome.  But I will leave that for another season.

In the meantime, I’d like to sort out the upstairs mysteries of Downton Abbey.

Money & the Lord

For me, Lord Grantham has been a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a dinner jacket, then wrapped in his old military uniform when he believed he was being called into service during the Great War, only be embarrassed back into the real world, and so returned to being rewrapped in a dinner jacket.  But I now think I may know what Lord Grantham is about:  He is lazy.  Not just lazy, but full-on, lard-ass move-it-mister lazy.  

He thinks his financial advisor/lawyer/whatever is some sort of pest and tells Matthew not to let this man “bother him,” as if he’s someone’s funny uncle that must be tolerated.  He spends like someone on a bender, What?  An investment in railroads?  Oh, because of the war and the destruction and the reality they will need to rebuild?  And, let me see if I understand, you want ALL my cash?  Canada?  Well, what can I say except put me down for one hundred percent of everything I own, in a country without a single battleground!  No, no.  All of it!  Baby needs new shoes!

Did he go into the study that he never leaves, inside the house that he never leaves, spin the globe near his desk and invest in the place where his finger landed? Lord Grantham didn’t even need to mention Charles Ponzi in the last episode for us to know that he is eighty years and one Internet friending from sending funds to a Nigerian prince.

Is it possible to be too lazy to even pick up a newspaper?  Just how indolent is indolent? 

Case in point:  Lord Grantham’s quasi-affair with the new housemaid last season.  He lives in a castle the size of a castle yet insists that she come to his room, the one separated from his wife’s by one of those connecting motel doors, because it would be asking too much that they meet in one of the other 425 chambers of Downton.  He would rather risk his marriage than walk down the hall or a flight of stairs.  One can only imagine who would be doing all the heavy lifting had that relationship ever progressed; I’m guessing it would be a lot more take and very little give, if you get my drift.

The servants of Downton are really like Lord Grantham’s sloth beard.  Bates dresses him, listens to him prattle on until he’s incarcerated (hey, maybe that’s why Bates was such a hair trigger in the gaol?), then Thomas takes over. Everyone else brings him food and information (unless it’s financial information and then even listening becomes too much work). There’s nothing like a phalanx of servants treating you like a veal to mask your lazy ass self.

He even has beard friends—Dr. Clarkson, the vicar, Tom Branson’s brother who, unfortunately, recalls nothing so much as a pedophile with anger issues—but no real friends because the effort required just to pick up the phone is simply too much.  In short, Lord Grantham is that guy who comes  to spend a weekend on your couch in San Francisco with no plans and an open plane ticket. 

His utter lack of ambition does explain his entire 3-point financial strategy of:

1.  Be born into wealth.

2.  Marry wealth.

3.  Accept gifts of wealth.

A program, I should say, I am totally down with.

The Trials of Lady Edith

The narrative of Lady Edith in Downton Abbey is eerily reminiscent of Zero Dark Thirty: the torture scenes.  My confusion here is, when they finally break her, what is it they want her to say?  Hey, thanks for making me the plain, resentful sister when being the plain sister would’ve been sufficient?  Are you not familiar with the term “overkill?”

That Downton never stops torturing Poor Lady Edith is impressive. It’s like she’s a heroine in one of those Victorian novels that involves a kidnapping and a snuggery. First, she rats out her own sister (evidence of her bitterness, which is an admission of her lack of desirability and popularity, you know, in case we missed the point).  Then she’s helping out on some farm where she ends up kissing a farmer who, I’m pretty sure, has never been into anything dentally related.  Then she tells her ancient fiancé that not only does she want to take care of him, but that he will be her “life’s work” as if she’s suddenly Vincent Price, while he smiles wanly, his eyes darting around for a door as he happens to mention some recently widowed duchess that he dated back in the 19th century.

Let’s see, Lady Edith…the plain one (check); overlooked daughter (check); left at the altar (check); spinsterhood (check); no meals in bed (check)—What fresh hell is left?  What can possibly continue her pattern of humiliation, rejection and heartbreak? What profession (a word that makes her father retire to his study and imitate the vocalizations of a howler monkey) would provide all that and more?  Could it be…a writer?

A Final Musing

What is with that pathetic Grapes of Wrath farm Matthew and company keep visiting?  And why is it every time the conversation turns to the vast holdings of Downton and how to make them work efficiently enough to preserve the estate for future generations, all roads lead back to that sad little Dorothea Lange farm?  We’ve never seen a single person living there yet all Matthew talks about is raising the rent, which, if I’m not mistaken, requires renters to put into effect.  And why is it that when the Crawley’s are considering a place for Tom Branson and Baby Sybil to live the only thing they can come up with is that same sad little farm instead of, say, the swanky manse that the Crawleys keep empty in case they lose everything (again)?  Why can’t Tom and Baby Sybil live there?  Why are Tom’s choices the sad little Dust Bowl farm or his pedophile-with-anger-issues brother’s garage apartment?  And, if Tom does move into the sad little farm wouldn’t they be raising his rent?  As part of the family, wouldn’t they be paying him to pay them, thus creating the sort of lazy ass financial scheme that only Lord Grantham could love?

Till the Christmas special, Downton!