Kill The Beast

Memorial Day weekend is here. This is a time for remembering those who have died, a somber way to start the summer. Our town has a Memorial Day parade and ceremonies — one at the cemetery and another at the wharf, where those who have died at sea are honored. Memorial Day in Rockport is sorrowful, and momentous, and sometimes even funny — like that time a kid who was marching with the Middle School Band accidentally dropped his flute in the ocean.

After Monday, the summer truly begins, even if the academic year has developed the awful rhythm of extending into June — a miserable change in custom if there ever was one (won’t someone consider the poor teachers!). In our household, we pretend school is over the Friday before Memorial Day, even if truancy laws demand that in practice, the oldest kid still go every day until it is mercifully over and he is released into summer.

Continue reading

Downton Abbey, Season 6, Episode 9: The End of Everything

2016 is a year in which, sadly, so many good things are coming to an end. America as a shining example of pluralism and democracy, for one. And the show Downton Abbey, for another.

I’m not sure which one I’ll mourn more: the end of America or the end of Downton Abbey. While viewers of the show can’t do much to stop our fellow knuckleheads from electing a nasty orange Oompa Loompa as our President, we can take time from the madness to stop and watch the finale of Downton Abbey, a lovefest that might prove to be an antidote to the hatefest that is going on in this election cycle.

And what a lovefest it was! Two weddings, no funerals, and enough foreshadowing of future match-ups to make the folks at The Bachelor look like the amateurs they are when it comes to trying to find two compatible people to bring together in wedded bliss. Continue reading

Downton Abbey, Season 6, Episode 8: Mary Has it Coming

It’s been a rough week here at my house, with bouts of flu for all five members of the family leading to pneumonia, ear infections and assorted other maladies. All of which adds up to the fact that I’ve been preoccupied and am only able to turn in a short(ish) late recap of the penultimate episode. But if any episode deserves a short and sweet recap, it is this one.

Season 6, Episode 8 was so generally awesome there is not much to say, except that it was almost (almost) like Season 1 all over again. Solid writing, substantive dialogue, more or less believable action, characters that you care about, scenes that make you cry — at least if you’re like me. Yes, indeed. I wept like a fool this week, pretty much from the middle of the episode until it ended. I even clapped a few times. And laughed. So basically, between the laughing, clapping and crying I looked like a lunatic.

Continue reading

Downton Abbey, Season 6, Episode 7: The Circle of Life

In this episode Lord Grantham is out of bed and ready to tear the world a new one. In all my years of watching Downton Abbey, I’ve never seen him so lively. Maybe all of us should experience the benefits of an exploding ulcer and gain a new lease on life.

Along with Lord G finding a pep in his step, this episode offered other high points: namely, we discovered that Mary is indeed a human being. As readers of this blog will know, I have long suspected her of being an android, or a granite slab polished to high gleam, or a mannequin ingeniously fitted out with tiny mechanical parts that allowed her to move freely about the room and turn her head toward someone when he was speaking. Also she was able to glare at Edith with cunning mechanical hatred. But it turns out that she is a real person. In this episode viewers saw Mary weep actual tears while great, gasping sobs escaped her narrow frame. It was very moving. Even Tom was touched, letting her know that it is okay to feel pain. It is okay to feel at all, actually. It was a big moment, the one in which Mary might just have converted into someone relatable and even likable, which would be a wonderful way to end the series.

Continue reading

Downton Abbey, Season 6, Episode 6: Local Wretches Visit Downton

After last episode’s blood bath, this one offered a much calmer prospect. We see Lord G right away, still alive and propped up bed, reading letters and refraining from strong drink. He looked a little pale, but generally none the worse for the wear in spite of his ulcer exploding, a process in which he lost gallons and gallons of blood in projectile fashion, all while ruining his white dress bib and a very expensive set of table linens. On the upside, this incident gave his guest Neville Chamberlain something to talk about at dinner parties forever after, at least up until the advent of World War II. which was only marginally more dramatic.

While Lord G recovered in bed, lots of to-ing and fro-ing took place among the aristocratic set, with Mary going down to London and Bertie coming up from London and Cora walking from room to room, busy with this or that. Granny G. was busy too, visiting her son and sitting at his bedside, reveling in the fact that his exploding ulcer and subsequent need for immediate treatment meant that everyone would now have to see the value of the village hospital. A hospital with patients that Granny feels a deep, abiding, overwhelming obligation toward, since she is their “representative on earth”, as she put it. God represents them in heaven, Granny represents them on earth, and Skulking Barrow represents them in hell, where he goes regularly to consort with the devil himself. That is, when Barrow’s not giving piggyback rides to Master George and chucking li’l Sybbie under the chin in the hallways of Downton.

Continue reading

Downton Abbey, Season 6, Episode 5: Night of the Living Dead

Wow.

I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but Episode 5 of the The Final Season contained so much verbal and visual juice it was hard to contain myself. I’m not even sure how to begin to dig into this one, exactly, but I think I’ll take my cue from Julian Fellowes himself in this regard. When in doubt, start with the pigs.

We Need to Talk about the Pigs

Or so Mary says, referring to a talk she simply must have with Farmer Mason. The pigs were mentioned right away in the episode, much to my delight, as I have resigned myself to the importance of pigs.

The show opens with Mary and Tom chatting while tromping through a field with a lovely view of Downton. Tom tells Mary he hopes she is alright with the decision to move Farmer Mason into her esteemed former Pigman’s house. Mary reassures Tom that she’s basically okay with it, especially since “pigs are Mr. Mason’s speciality”. This is news to all of us, and perhaps, even, to Farmer Mason. But it is crucial to determine his skill level in pigmanship, as Downton’s flock of 15 pigs rank just below Daisy’s educational pursuits and well above Edith’s happiness in securing Downton’s future, and should be treated accordingly.

Continue reading