Friday, March 7, 2014
Downton Abbey: So How'd I Do With My Predictions?
Predictions For Series Four
1. The Viewership Numbers Will Remain Strong. That was definitely the case. In the UK, the series viewership numbers slipped just the tiniest bit, from 11.7 million for Series Three to 11.5 million. The Series Four premiere broke viewership records in the U.S. and the show did better against the Super Bowl than last year.
2. Mary and Branson Probably Won't Get Together in Series Four, But in Series Five... Another one on the nose. Truth be told, it was a bit of a no-brainer. It would have been wrong for Mary and Branson to become passionate in Series Four after each lost the love of their life in Series Three. I'm actually surprised that Mary had as much romance going on as she did -- I guess Fellowes thinks that she just can't be interesting without men hanging on her. So she and Branson were nothing more than friends and allies... this year.
3. Edith Will Be Gregson's Mistress? Yes, though sadly, there were far fewer highs to this storyline than lows. One reason is because the actor who played Gregson went off to star in a play with Angela Lansbury, necessitating that he be written off of the show in the slightly absurd German citizenship plot. That left Edith without the high of being with the man she loved, damn society's disapproval, and with the low of being pregnant with his child after her first sexual encounter. It wasn't completely hopeless, as Edith now has one of the more compelling storylines -- secret bastard child that will be raised near Downton. Still, it would have been nice if Edith had gone one full Series without being the family ne'er do well.
4. What Will Become of Mary and Isobel's Relationship? Okay, that wasn't really a prediction. But I did note that neither Mary nor Matthew interacted much with Isobel in Series Three, and that sadly continued to be the case in Series Four. Oh, it would have been nice if Mary and Isobel could have clashed, as it would have meant Mary acknowledging the other's existence, but so far, that has not been the case.
5. The Servants' Lives Will Continue to Be Frustratingly Inert. Ohhhh yes. It's true that there were bright spots -- O'Brien got the hell of out Dodge, and there was the surprise friendship/romance between perpetual sad-sack Molesley and the mysterious Baxter. However, the rest of the servant interactions were dominated by the Love Quadrangle That Would Not Die. Daisy loves Alfred! But Alfred loves Ivy! But Ivy loves Jimmy! But Jimmy loves... himself. And so on and so forth. The other servants were so desperate to end it that they even pretended everyone had the flu when Alfred came to visit from cooking school. That storyline finally ended in the last episode, but it took far too long.
Even when you had a challenging storyline like Anna being raped by Green, it became a retread of previous series ("Oh no, Mr. Bates can't be allowed to murder him, or he'll go to prison... again!"). And meanwhile, Thomas continued to be a glowering jerk who couldn't count his blessings for still having a job -- and a promotion at that -- while Carson continued to disapprove of everything. There were hints of a little amour between him and Mrs. Hughes, but nooooo... that's the one area where I would rather nothing changed.
6. Rose Will Serve as an Audience Surrogate. Only if the audience is filled with idiots. This was my biggest prediction miss -- I really hoped to see a different (improved) Rose from the spoiled party girl she was in Series Three. Nope. Rose had an interesting interracial storyline, but it turned out her dalliance with Jack Ross was partially about getting back at her mother. There was no snipping at Mary or support of Edith. Quite the contrary: Rose, like everyone else, never gave a fig about Edith, but seemed to respect Alpha Female Mary.
7. Lord Grantham Will Continue to Be Stupid. Right-o. Fortunately, thanks to Mary and Branson, he had a far smaller canvas on which to work his destruction. I will never forgive Harold Levinson for getting involved in the Teapot Dome scandal, as it gave Lord Pompous an opportunity to preen and act superior.
And yes, Cora continued to be boring and useless.
So with that out of the way, onto predictions for Series Five.
Edith's Plot Will Blow Up in Her Face Because... Edith. It might have been nice if, similar to Ethel from Series Three, Edith could have just observed her daughter from afar while the latter was raised by a kind tenant farmer and his family. But that can't happen because it's Edith we're talking about, a veritable black hole for happiness. The Crawleys will learn everything and Edith will face possible scandal and be left with at least one heartbreaking decision. Mary's response will be interesting: will she finally be a real sister to Edith, or just snigger about Edith's misfortunes the way she did about Gregson going missing?
But That's Okay, Because Things Will Finally Start Going Her Way. ... I hope? Maybe Gregson will return. Maybe Evelyn Napier, the Jan of Mary's men, will realize he'll never get the Alpha Female and turn his attention to Edith. Then, what starts as a consolation prize turns into true love, complete with Napier proposing to Edith after the big scandal about her bastard child comes out. Hey, I can hope, right?
Mary Will Start Series Five Having to Choose Between Two Boring Men. At least that's how it appeared from the Series Four Christmas Special. Sorry Fellowes, but you're not going to generate one tenth of the chemistry that existed in Series One/Two between Mary and Matthew. Lord Gillingham is a hot cipher and not much more. Mr. Blake has the potential for more friction, but I really don't care about him, either. Stop trying to make them happen, Fellowes! You tried to make the Love Quadrangle happen, and look where that got you!
But Midway Through, Mary Will Develop a Thing For Branson. ... I hope? I can't imagine that the audience is supposed to root for an end game where Branson gets together with Sarah Bunting. I think she's probably the in-between romance before the Big One. And since Branson needs a reason to stay at Downton... why not pair him with one of the Crawley sisters? Some have suggested he pair with Edith, and I could see that happening, since they are both third wheels and have a nice rapport. However, if Fellowes wants anything close to the Mary/Matthew spark, he would do well to pair Mary with perpetual fish-out-of-water Branson and then dive for cover.
Rose Will Continue to Make Me Miss Sybil. And Sybil wasn't even a favorite of mine. Still, she was a far better soul than the person who took her place, and I can only imagine what she'd say if confronted with Rose.
Daisy Will... Finally... Do Something? Daisy showed a lot of emotional growth toward the end of Series Four. Now let's see her push forward with a real plot line. Will she join Mr. Mason at his farm? Stand up to Mary and Branson when they push collective farming? Will she meet a manservant whom she likes, and who likes her in return? I would love to see her get a happy ending.
Thomas Will Continue to Be a Jerk For No Reason. Thomas will have a good job and resent every minute of it. Yet he will do nothing to change his lot, such as seek a position in a new household or buy one-way passage to America. Instead, he will channel his resentment into terrible acts toward Molesley and Baxter, whose secret we will finally learn and be underwhelmed by. And no one will remember or care that Thomas is hiding a big secret of his own, or that Baxter only entered the household thanks to Thomas's recommendation. The best thing that could happen in a "Thomas torments Baxter and Molesley" storyline is that Thomas ends up getting fired when the Crawleys' patience finally runs out, and we spend the rest of the series watching Thomas scheme and manipulate to survive in the harsh outside world.
Anna and Bates Will Be Dull and Long-Suffering Together. I suppose there might be the lingering mystery of whether Bates really killed Mr. Green. But if not, I'm sure Fellowes will find something to make them miserable.
The rest of my predictions are premised on how predictable this show has become. Isobel will get righteous about something. Violet will be witty and aware of everything that goes on everywhere. Whereas Cora will continue to simper and be aware of nothing. (Really, Cora? Your daughter goes away to Switzerland for eight months to learn French?) And Lord Grantham will continue to be self righteous and clueless, though occasionally he will show glimmers of awareness.
Which is my way of saying: it's fine for the show to have one slow series to serve as a bridge between two that are more intense, but multiple dull series could spell death. Downton Abbey needs a real spark, and at the moment, the only way I can think to do it would be to pair Mary with Branson. Or Edith with Branson. Or, failing that, have Edith raise her bastard child in Downton Abbey. Just something big, something risky. If Series Five is another series of Mary's Men, I may just turn off the show for good.