wed 20/11/2019

Downton Abbey, Series 4 Finale, ITV | reviews, news & interviews

Downton Abbey, Series 4 Finale, ITV

Downton Abbey, Series 4 Finale, ITV

Dingle-dangle episode leaves no one dead, at least on screen

Lady Edith contemplates several months of cheese fondue

So, another series down and what do we know? First up, until this final episode no one had died either by contractual agreement or Fellowesian godlike decree. We’ve had a rape, an unwanted pregnancy, a near abortion, a mysterious disappearance and a spot of senile dementia. Plus not one but two uppity colonial singers have drifted upstairs. If it weren’t for the vowels and the coat-tails, this could be Emmerdale, tackling urgent social issues in a Yorkshire accent and congratulating itself on the column inches the morning after. Why else all the animal husbandry?

And still nothing much seems to happen, or at least change. There is no escape from Downton's escapism, for the cast any more than for the audience. Actors are trapped like hamsters on a wheel, obliged by attractive working conditions to keep the show on the road so that the revenues from advertising may flow into the accounts of Carnival Films, ITV and Lord Fellowes of Bankashire. You can only assume that in their private moments the better actors dream of doing a runner, like Cousin Matthew and Lady Sybil.

In Downton it’s no sex please, we’re also on American primetime

Hugh Bonneville and Michelle Dockery are both splendid talents confined within the narrowest of ring-fences by Julian Fellowes’ blue-blood, green-sward, white-tie gulag. Bonneville embodies the old order with two dangling arms and a tendency to look off to the left when talking. You can bet he loved his sabbatical as his Lordship sloped off to America on some nebulous family crisis. Meanwhile Dockery as a grief-stricken widow sizing up a duplicate of suitors has been asked to prove once again that Downton time is a miraculous healer. No comedienne in the snarkiest American sitcom has ever come surgically fitted with quite such a pair of inverted commas for all occasions. She stretched her legs a bit more in this episode, to be fair, seeing off a mixed-race marriage, batting off two suitors, interfering in a rape case and suppressing evidence of a murder.

Meanwhile downstairs, Joanne Froggatt as Anna took all the acting awards. She seemed to be in a different drama, one where characters carry their inner trauma from one moment to the next rather than drop it like a stone if required to smile in a scene that's not about them. (Lady Edith does an awful lot of this.) Thomas the footman, having lost his nemesis/partner-in-malice O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran becoming the first servant to do a runner) has had to soldier on like the tattiest pantomime villain, condemned to a gruelling perpetuity of moustachio-twirls. Others have fussed and bickered and barely had to learn their lines. And now all of a sudden Daisy’s promised farm loomed back after a season on the cutting-room floor.

Aside from her tearjerking farewell to Alfred the aspiring masterchef, as usual much else was left dangling in the series-ender preceding the traditional Christmas births/marriages/deaths episode. Even the murders happen off screen in Downton, Bates having shoved his wife’s assailant under a bus without any witnesses including the viewer, which is scarcely satisfying. Nor have we once been allowed into the bedroom. Lady Edith, now bound for parturition in Switzerland, incautiously surrendered her virginity off screen. MyAnna Buring’s scheming lady’s maid became the latest servant unable to unbutton a master’s flies. Even the hot-to-trot Lady Rose seems incapable of getting herself scripted into a decent bed scene. In Downton it’s no sex please, we’re also on American primetime.

Where will it end? Not to mention when? Before the Twenties are out we’ve got the General Strike to get through and the Depression, and then we’re into the Red menace and those beastly Germans. Everyone will be in prosthetics by then, including Dame Maggie. If you’re doing requests, Lord Fellowes, why not embrace the soap thing and arrange for the now monotonous Bates to hang by the neck before the rest of us expire of ennui? And why not give Molesley a spin-off sitcom? He’s the funny one.

Hugh Bonneville and Michelle Dockery are confined within the narrowest of ring-fences by Julian Fellowes’ blue-blood, green-sward, white-tie gulag

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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