We had already watched half of Downton Abbey’s fifth season which, so far, has had its ups and downs. The first five episodes unnecessarily dragged the development of some story lines, which had the apex of its slowness in the fourth episode. This one seemed exists just to fill in a gap (except by the adorable “surprising-not-so-surprising” marriage proposal of Lord Merton to Mrs. Crawley, which I intend to talk about in a different post). The exaggerated slowness of this season may have been somewhat disappointing for the most ardent fans who expected great twists and heated romances, as the good first episode and the inevitable scattered spoilers around the web had suggested. But since we’re not in the roller coaster which we had expected, what do we know so far?
Let’s start with Lord and Lady Grantham’s perfect staff (and we will talk about the adventures and misadventures of the upstairs gang in another post, right?) So, what’s going on through the flames that slowly burn between Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes (too slowly, especially after the epic scene of holding hands on the beach), the favorite housekeeper of the all aristocratic families who has its hairy secrets to hide?
Daisy became the most revolutionary cook assistant of all England (or so thinks Mr. Carson). The young woman, who until very recently was subtly influenced by the wisdom of the cook Mrs. Patmore (the Dowager Countess of downstairs with her own witty and sassy remarks), is now studying algebra and history and pursues the chance of securing a better future for herself. The aspiring Rose of Luxemburg influences Mrs. Patmore to defy the rules and send a letter to the war council to challenge its determination of not allowing her nephew’s name to be included in any war memorial. And she doesn’t stop here. Challenging Mr. Carson’s rigid rules, she questions the actions of a family member (can you hear Mr. Carson widening his eyes and raising his thick brows?). Fortunately for Daisy, this family member is no one else than the now Mr. Branson, who doesn’t feel offended when Daisy challenges him for not defending her mentor, the very opinionated teacher Miss Bunting, against his own father-in-law. Contributing to Tom’s identity crisis, she gives him her two cents of wisdom: “You are not a Crawley! You are one of us!” Curiously, Daisy seems to be the character that has more evolved since last season. But I won’t never be tired of asking what has happened to the gentle Mr. Mason. After the two of them had developed a good friendship last season, it’s a shame that he has simply disappeared.
While Daisy doesn’t think about burn the house down (which would be completely unnecessary since Lady Edith has already done it, or sort of it), the Machiavellian plans of the “evil-not-so-evil-under-butler” Thomas Barrow hasn’t had much success. After Baxter had revealed her secret, which by chance wasn’t as lurid as had been thought, and the always kind and almost naive Lady Grantham decides to keep as the keeper of her jewelry an ex-convicted for theft, Thomas needs to point his guns to someone else. And, surprise of the surprises, he targets it to… the Bateses… again. By the way, Thomas’ story line, which promised to be one of the most interesting, is one of those that has suffered from the slowness that has taken place this season. But it seems that there will be some progress in the next episodes, now that Baxter, who seems to have the same good heart than her mistress, and, despite had been threatened and blackmailed by Thomas, seems determined to help him with his problems. As an old family friend, she probably knows Thomas is gay and since she had read that mysterious magazine’s article, she must’ve figured out that the kind of treatment Thomas is imposing to himself is not an attempt to become a “post-war-vampire-zombie“, doesn’t matter how much his appearance tells us the contrary.
Talking about Baxter makes me remember Mr. Molesley. Baxter and Molesley could beeasily turned into series 5’s Anna and Bates backwards, only that Molesley is not as sweet (nor as strong) as Anna, and Baxter is not nearly as dark and mysterious as Mr. Bates. Now, that Baxter’s past is past, at least for Lady Grantham and Molesley himself, who despite being the most clumsy footman in all Downton history, is a generous and wise person (in his own lovely way), we can only hope that Baxter can forgive herself and sees in their relationship a chance for redemption and cure.
Which brings me back to Bates and Anna. The couple, who had quickly became a favorite of the fans after they had endured all sorts of setbacks, like to overcome a psycho ex-wife, an arrest and indictment for murder and a cruel and horrible rape, again makes us concern with the evolution of their story (which can be as much a relief as a possible future nightmare, it only depends on how much Lord Fellowes admires the blood lust of George R.R. Martin). By the way, the Bateses, in the very few moments they had shared the scene this season, had gifted us with sweet moments, talking about children, exchanging smiles and subtle caresses that surely had warmed the most romantic hearts (for the most fanatic shippers I recommend watch the forth and the fifth episodes). So let’s remember what now threatens the happiness of these two wonderful characters. A Scotland Yard’s detective (finally) arrived at Downton and interrogated not only Anna but also Lady Mary, trying to set up the ladies maid’s steps in London at the day of the alleged murder. And his ended his participation in the fifth episode with a warning that can only leave us concerned about Anna’s future: “Do not go away, Mrs. Bates.” Furthermore, the always loyal Anna not only had helped Lady Mary with her plans for wild sex in Liverpool, but has had to hide the evidences of her mistress’ week of lust in her cottage. With all this talk about children, it is pretty obvious that Mr. Bates will find the contraceptives (or whatever they are) in any time soon and will put two and two together to deduce what we have heard him saying in the next episode’s scenes: “You think I am a murderer.” So, apparently, Anna will move from the victim of a horrendous crime to a murder suspect and moreover, will run the risk to live a marital crisis due to Lady Mary’s sexual curiosity. Then, although I think that Lord Fellowes has an ominous pleasure in causing in his viewers excruciating pain, (if you don’t know what I’m talking about is because you didn’t watch or had completely erased from you memory the third season) I really doubt that he will be repetitive to the point of putting Anna behind the bars for a crime she didn’t commit. It would be the re-launching of the “Free Bates” campaign. Unless she has committed it, which then would be the biggest plot twist ever. But it would need a really good back story to sustain it, because, despite the brutality she had endured, I can’t see Anna coldly killing Green. I have already made up my mind about the identity of Green’s killer .If he was really murdered, Lord Gillingham is the man to be investigated.
To finish this extremely long post, I can’t avoid talking about the “downstairs-trio-of-power“: Carson-Hughes-Patmore. First, Mrs. Patmore, whose only story line this season seems to be stopping any possible romantic moment between Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes or, through her girls pact with Mrs. Hughes, influence or dissuade Mr. Carson about something. Despite all the lovely moments between this adorable trio, I truly think that Mrs. Patmore deserves more. Of course she has all that thing about putting her nephew’s name on the monument, but it is still very little, anyway. And, finally, Carson-Hughes. For me, it has always been pretty obvious that, despite glimpses here and there of what they feel for each other, their romance would only engage in two situations: in the last season of the series, when they all would live happily ever after, or in a situation which one of them (if not both) would resolve to retire, creating an independent life to our beloved butler and housekeeper, which apparently isn’t going to happen this season. So until then, we’ll have to settle for these little happy moments.