Monday, January 26, 2015

Downton Secrets

The most refreshing moment in the 4th episode of Downton Abbey's 5th season came when Lord Grantham finally said to the incorrigibly obnoxious Sarah Bunting (whom the rest of the family for some inexplicable reason keep inviting to dinner despite her obvious inability to be even minimally polite), “Only one thing I would like, and that I would like passionately! It is to see you leave this house and never come back!” Unfortunately, it was Lord Grantham who then left the room, leaving the unpleasant Miss Bunting still seated at the table! In so many respects, son-in-law Tom Branson has made a productive and sensible life for himself at Downton, but he seems somehow unable to resist Bunting's putative charms. In the real world, of course, Tom would presumably be able to charm any number of pretty village girls, without constantly having to reenact the French (or Russian) Revolution! 

Other than Tom's mesalliance with Sarah, almost everyone at Downton seems presently imprisoned in some secret or other that threatens to destabilize things even further. Lady cora's secret is not that she indulges the ridiculous art historian who is flirting with her, which her husband can clearly see, but her underlying unhappiness, of which Lord Grantham appears completely clueless!

But the secret that dominates our attention is, of course, Mary's secret week with Tony. The society Mary and Tony inhabited in 1924 was not quite today's casual hook-up culture. Tony rightly expects Mary to act according to the seriousness of what she has done - as does the Dowager Countess, the only other person who knows their secret. So mesmerized has the series made us to Mary's holding out for whatever she feels totally entitled to that it is almost a refreshing surprise to see Tony talk back when she finally tries to dump him. Of course, I've always wanted Charles to win this competition, and perhaps now he still has a chance!

Then there is the perpetually tragic Edith and her sad secret. It was obvious from the first, when she entrusted he daughter to Mr. Drew, that this subterfuge was not likely to last. Clearly, her aunt, Lady Rosamund, is on the verge of figuring out what is going on, which means the Dowager cannot be far behind. Of course, the ideal solution would be for Michael somehow to return from Germany safe and sound and for his wife meanwhile to have died, so that he and Edith can marry and somehow "adopt" Marigold. For that, too many incredibly good things would have to happen in a narrative that has clearly been going in the other direction and that seems determined on a life-long punishment for Edith for not being the favored daughter.

Downstairs has its secrets too. Thomas Barrow's new secret is not his sexual orientation, which everyone obviously knows about, but whatever self-administered therapy he is trying, which so far only the repentant, recently forgiven, and now forgiving in turn Baxter has so far even a hint of. 

And, of course, there is Anna's secret - the strange sword of Damocles that has hung over her and her husband and that continues to threaten whatever shred of happiness they might otherwise have been able to snatch from life. 

All these secrets cannot possibly stay secret. So we can expect even more turbulence to come - given the show' underlying ideology that the world downton represents is doomed by its own internal contradictions which cannot face the light of the modern day. 


  1. Fascinating....they are not real people, you know...

  2. Fascinating! Itis a good thing they aren't real people.