Monday, 7 November 2011

Downton: It's all over bar the Christmas episode

**Warning - contains SPOILERS and a little bit of SNEERING**

The first morning of winter here today; frost on the cobwebs, mist over the fields and a feeling of deep sorrow in my heart as I contemplate Sunday nights devoid of Downton. OK, so this series really failed to live up to expectations on a serious drama level, but blimey it's been fun. Even in parts when 'fun' might not have been entirely appropriate - like last night when half the cast went down with Spanish Flu at the exact same moment over dinner, leaving everyone else to rush around, bursting into rooms and saying 'you'd better come quickly!' Notably the only people not rushing and bursting were Matthew and Lord G, who foolishly saw the incapacitation of their partners as a convenient moment to indulge in a swift bit of almost-philandering, little realising they were setting themselves up for a dose of guilt and self-loathing that's going to last well into Series Three.

The plot devices have been about as subtle as Matthew's graveside makeup and the time-frame frankly bewildering; galloping at a cracking pace through historical events while the characters and their relationships remain curiously static. Branson the Upstart Chauffeur first exchanged meaningful glances with Lady Sybil in 1912, declared his feelings for her in 1916, touched her waist at some point in 1918 and kissed her for the first time in 1919. If Mary and Matthew's on-off romance has frustrated us viewers over eight weeks, imagine how it must feel to them to be still unresolved after almost eight years. At least Mary's character has developed, although it's a shame she's gone from feisty and fabulous to martyred and moany. The reason I want her to get it on with Matthew in the Christmas episode is simply because they deserve each other; wicked Sir Richard might not be as posh as her but he's certainly far more charismatic and interesting these days. He'd be well advised not to set a date for the wedding just yet and wait for a Bright Young Thing to come along in the next season.

Anyway, I loved every minute, which perhaps shows that 'worldbuilding' (I might just have made that word up) is one of the most important things in creating any kind of fiction. Because the house and the characters and the historical period are brought to life so richly (if not always entirely authentically) it carries you along and makes you willing to ignore the cynical voice inside your head sneering 'that would never happen'. The only really awful jarring note for me this series was Matthew's miraculous recovery, which stretched credibility about a million miles too far. No doubt there are useful lessons to be learnt from it all. Don't put plaster dust in your wedding cake, for example, and go easy on the make-up at funerals, chaps, if you don't want to find yourself shunted over to the cast of The Vampire Diaries. I'll probably have to watch all the episodes again to work out what it has to teach us in writing terms though.

(In the meantime, I'd probably better just get on with doing some...)


Heidi Rice said...

Hmmm, I suddenly see Downton in a whole new light! Not pompous and dull at all but actually more like Dallas with chandeliers and bustles instead of oil and stetsons! Does that make Dame Maggie Suellen I wonder?

Sharon Kendrick said...

Yes, I thought that Matthew had inadvertently strayed across from the set of the new Twilight film and agree that Mary is absolutely AWFUL now - vile to her sisters and inexplicably kind towards the servants!

And did we really need to see the naked torso of Bates in the honeymoon bed?

Can't wait for the Christmas special!

Kristy Price said...

I only started watching Downton three weeks ago whilst visiting my parents' house at half term (a PROPER holiday - I got five lie-ins in a row, till 9am! Unheard of. Love my parents :) My Mum really likes the show -despite the rather dubious historical accuracy, not to mention the "ACTING". I have to say, it sucked me in. I'm going to have to go back and watch the first series and the beginning of the second now.

Btw, I'm loving your two-parter. I'm half-way through In Bed with a Stranger - what fantastic characters.

DId you say your next book is set in the early 1900s? I would LOVE to read a story by you set then.

x Kristy x

India said...

Ha - yes, think Maggie is the character Miss Ellie would have been if Jock had married a Brit instead of a soft Southern Belle! It's verrry Dallas actually, now you come to mention it. And hilarious too, though I'm not sure that's intentional.

Sharon, if I were Cora I'd sack the lot of them at the start of the next series and hire some servants who know their place. Honestly, not only has that Jane one been snogging her ladyship's husband but Anna seemed to regard Cora's near-fatal dose of Spanish Flu as an almighty inconvenience to her own plans for Friday afternoon. (Which culminated in getting naked with Mr Bates... <>) As Maggie Smith would have it, it's democracy gone mad.

India said...

Sorry Kristy, cross posted with you!

I love your parents too if they let you have lie-ins and introduced you to Downton! Stick the box set on your Christmas list and insist that you're left in absolute solitude to indulge in an episode every now and then. So glad to hear you're enjoying the two parter. I didn't realise the second one was out already so I must do a blog post.

(Will be sure to let everyone know if the Edwardian book ever gets finished - am loving writing it, but that's not always any guide to how good it is!)

Kristy Price said...

It's only out on the Mills & Boon site at the moment (as far as I know). I'm reading it on my laptop because I'm too impatient to wait for it to be available on my Kindle :)

I meant to send a commiserations message when you posted about your London-bike-accident-incident but my mushy brain let me down. Hope you're healing okay.

x K

ros said...

It's not only out, it's in the headline slot on the M&B site, with an interesting picture of the London Eye in the background. Must read it again because I obviously missed that scene in amongst all the chocolate spread and Moroccan souks. Did I tell you I loved it? I did. A lot. Especially the end in her mother's bus.

India said...

Ah, thanks Kristy - that's true dedication as reading on a laptop is horrible (and you can't do it in the bath.) Shall I send you a copy or is it too late? Head is mostly better now thanks, apart from curious Y-shaped scar - probably meaning 'Y did you throw yourself in front of a cyclist?'

Wow Ros - so it is!! How thrilling. So glad you enjoyed it. Must blog about the souks etc soon - and heard some music on the radio today that reminded me of The South Wind and the fact I should probably put a link up to that. This week...!

Kristy Price said...

It's never too late to send me a book :) I would love one if it's not too much trouble.

Scars are cool. At least I think so. They add character.

x K

Morton S Gray said...

As everyone else seems to have been, I was enthralled by Downton despite its faults. For me the highlight was Dame Maggie Smith's lines every week. Felt awful when I cheered "hurray" when Matthew's fiancee died. We shall be bereft until Series 3. Need more good period dramas on tv.

India said...

OK Kristy - consider it done (as soon as I've discovered the safe place where I have your address stashed.)

Morton, you hard-hearted woman you, rejoicing over the demise of simpering Lavvy - and after that touching, selfless speech too! ('Be happy - I want you to be happy') Dame Maggie was a highlight for me too, so from now until Christmas I'm going to amuse myself by uttering acid asides about commoners. My favourite character was the spectacularly incompetent Dr Clarkson, who managed to misdiagnose a severed spinal cord and proclaimed Lavinia's condition to be 'not too serious' moments before she died. Hope we'll be seeing more of him in the next series (when one of the girls gets pregnant? Gulp... that can only end one way!)

Kristy Price said...

Thanks India, that's really kind.
x Kristy

Michelle Styles said...

Yes there is the Christmas special.
My fave line was Don't be defeatist dear, it is so middle class.

World building is not a new word btw but a very in buzz word.

India said...

No worries Kristy - will post this weekend.

Michelle, it got me wondering whether defeatism really is a bit of a bourgeois trait and I had to conclude that JF just makes Dame Maggie relate everything to social class whether it's relevant or not! Amusing though.