Last year, my recap of Downton Abbey thus far was one of my most popular posts. Sorry, but there are no guarantees this year, peeps.
Downton Abbey (for those of you who are behind) revolves around the escapades of the Crawley family. (Above are the three daughters in happier days. Happier because Edith--in the middle--was getting married and Sybil--on the left--was still alive. Neither of these things is still true. Edith was left at the altar, literally, and Sybil died in childbirth because the men in the house didn't think a hospital was necessary. So mainly their lives were effed up by men, which can still be a thing in 2016, if you do not choose wisely.)
So the story starts out, as so many of them do, with the sinking of the Titanic. The cousin who is supposed to eventually inherit the Crawley estate (and marry the oldest daughter of the earl, Lady Mary) is on said luxury liner, but we all know what happened to him...he clung desperately to a piece of flotsam, turning bluer by the moment, until he slips wordlessly below the surface, just like Leo.
Meanwhile, back at the estate, there are servants. These servants have their own storylines, which is an improvement upon the past, when servants were not allowed lives. Carson (the head servant) doesn't like that they are now allowed to have their own lives and stories, and he goes about harrumphing because times are changing and now servants are actually people, and it JUST ISN'T DONE!! But if you are indeed paying attention, then you know that he is really just an old softie, and he loves Lady Mary as if she were his own daughter (the look on his face as she came down the staircase in her wedding dress said it all), and he also loves Mrs. Hughes, the head housekeeper, even though it takes him years to figure it out.
Also "below stairs," which is a weird term for talking about the hired help, but there's a lot of weird stuff going on here at Downton, are the prerequisite evil servants. Evil servants are always fun. There's Evil O'Brien, who hates everyone, and Evil Thomas, who's blind ambition has made him evil. Together, they scheme and plot to make miserable anyone who stands in their way. (Although I'm not sure what made O'Brien so evil. Maybe, like Lady Gaga, she was born that way.) These two schemers are always finding ways to blackmail folks, or cause injury to people, or sneak into other people's rooms. (Or sneak the Turkish guy into Mary's bedroom, which is how she got her reputation.)
But for every evil servant, there are three who are wonderful (and a half-dozen we don't learn the names of, more's the pity) and--just like in schools--there's a revolving door of underservants. One of those (though his door revolves more slowly) is Tom Branson, the chauffeur.
Tom Branson is Irish. Now, as an English major, I am supposed to understand that Tom should be either (a) a drunk, like James Joyce, or (b) a guy who likes to fight, like the Notre Dame leprechaun. In fact, Tom likes (a) cars and (b) Sybil, the youngest daughter. But he is a rabble-rouser, who believes in votes for women and opportunities for the working class, and you have to love a guy who wants equality. (Plus he has that Irish accent that drives the girlies mad.) Anyway, he becomes the land agent of the Abbey and then Sybil dies in childbirth and then he feels bad and takes his little girl, leaves for America, land of opportunity, unless you're Irish.
Other fun servants are Mrs. Patmore, the cook, and her right-hand helper, Daisy. Daisy is learning stuff (math and history and whatnot) so that she has choices later on. Mrs. Patmore was going blind, but the Lord paid for an operation and now she can see again.
Anna and Mr. Bates are servants who are married. They have had a boatload of trouble with the police because Bates is always being suspected of murder. All. The. Time.
One of the servants who became my favorite last season was Molesley. He's someone who deserves a second act. (As do we all, peeps.)
The sister on the left is Lady Edith. She is like Eeyore. Nothing ever goes right for her (ie. her sister gets all the guys, the guy she gets leaves for Germany right after she gets pregnant, she gives the baby to the Pigman, whose wife won't give the baby back, etc.) but in a turn of events, she inherits a magazine and a flat in London and maybe--just maybe--she'll get a life!
Cora is the mom. She's an American. Her family has money, and so she was invited to marry Lord Grantham because she could help defray the costs of keeping a castle, which is incredibly expensive, believe you me. I have a house built in the 1940s, and it's all we can afford just to keep it from falling to the ground. And the MICE! Lawd have mercy! But I digress. Anyway, Cora is very nice...too nice, really...and stuff happens to her, but like so many of us middle-aged women, she's on the periphery of life, which stinks. I am hoping that last year's story about the art dealer who falls for her (even though he was gross) will set her up to get a life, as well. After all...nothing is impossible as long as you're still breathing, right?
The Dowager has a perfect foil and friend in Mrs. Crawley. Mrs. Crawley is the mother of Lady Mary's late husband, Matthew. The banter between these two is so true-to-life, and their timing is impeccable. They trade zingers the way I trade money for crap I don't need at Target. Both these ladies have had some love interests in the last few seasons, but they have been thwarted--
(PS: these are not the hydrangeas you're looking for.)
(PPS: I love some Star Wars, peeps.)
The Dowager has two servants--Spratt and Denker. They are hilarious. Watch for them.
Anyway, I know I've left out some folks (Mr. Mason, Baby George) but this is getting long-winded and it's best to leave readers wanting more...
Here are my predictions for the final season of Downton. I will admit that I am really good at predicting outcomes of stories. I majored in "Figuring Out What's Going to Happen in a Story Before it Happens" in college. It used to drive DL crazy, but now he thinks it's cool. It's like a stupid pet trick, only with a wife.