Downton Abbey Christmas 2012
I don’t think I’ve felt so manipulated since Bobby Ewing stepped out of the shower. It was all in the Telegraph online on the 26th December … Daniel Stevens (Matthew Crawley) writes for the Telegraph, and gave an interview a month ago in New York, held back until after the screening. He wants to avoid the typecasting and told them last February at the start of Series 3 that he wanted to be written out. It quotes Benedict Cumberbatch on Series 2: “Fucking atrocious” and that may have swayed him, though he insists how enjoyable it was and how dramatic and upsetting plot twists are Julian Fellowes forte. I’m sure Stevens is right to jump. It didn’t work for Patrick Duffy, that move out of typecasting as Bobby Ewing, but he had waited a series or three longer than Stevens, hence his “it’s all been a dream” return in Dallas, eradicating the entire previous season’s plot, though keeping its new characters. Stevens is a stronger prospect for stardom than Duffy was. He’s in theatre on Broadway, he writes, he edits, and a major film career beckons. I would guess he envisages a Jude Law future … a major blockbuster film a year, a major artistic success in a smaller film a year, and a couple of months on stage for pleasure. Sounds better than grinding out Downton to me. (See review of his first post-Downton film, Summer in February).
So I’m not going to “review” that December 25th episode, but before the Levenson laws bite, I have used phone hacking and a crystal ball to see the scripts by Sir Julian Fellowes (as he will then be) for Downton Abbey Series Ten.
DOWNTON ABBEY SERIES 10: THE CURSE OF THE CRAWLEYS
It’s January 1942, and the US Air Force have requisitioned Downton Abbey as a command headquarters. But trouble looms. Matthew and Mary’s son, the heir to Downton and aged 21, is refused admission through the front door by the US guard and sent round to the “coloureds” entrance at the back. The Crawleys had always thought his swarthy complexion a result of too much huntin’ and fishin,’ darkened a shade or two as a consequence of that explosion in the chemistry laboratory at Eton which saw him on a life support machine for much of Series Eight, and on crutches for half of Series Nine. However, the family begin to wonder about Mary’s shopping trip to London in 1920, and whether Matthew’s private parts could really have survived that First World War blast intact. It turns out that the father of her best friend was a pioneer of artificial insemination, who in a spirit of fun, used his Nigerian servant as a donor many times in an attempt to “blacken the aristocracy” (in his words). So who will inherit?
There is Sybil and Tom’s daughter, confusingly named Sybil, who is now living with Tom and Rose (Rose is Shrimpy’s daughter, who Tom married in Series Four final episode). They are in Dublin in Tom’s role as President of the Irish Free State. But Sybil Jnr dies during childbirth brought about prematurely by a torpedo strike on her ship in the Irish Sea while crossing to attend kitchen maid Daisy’s funeral. Daisy died of tetanus after cutting herself on a garden fork while frolicking with both footmen in the garden shed. Fortunately her unborn child was saved when Mrs Patmore performed an emergency Caesarean with a kitchen knife. Rose and Tom survive the torpedo strike, as does Tom’s new grandson, Eamon, but as Rose is seven months pregnant herself, no one gives much for her chances in Series Eleven (and her agent is busily looking for new roles) The grandson is bapitised a Catholic in a lifeboat on stormy seas by Tom’s brother who has renounced alcohol and is now Cardinal Archbishop of Ireland.
Then there is Lady Edith’s son, born out of wedlock after her affair with her editor, on the day that the Great Thirsk Earthquake of 1924 destroyed the cottage hospital, taking Edith into the rubble and to her death (Series Five). The child survived in a cot teetering at the edge of the abyss in the penultimate episode. The final episode in Series Five was where Dr Clarkson dragged Mrs Crawley from the rubble and gave her the kiss of life which turned into a passionate embrace.
The Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) is infuriated at her 105th birthday celebrations being ruined by the arrival of the USAF, though General Wayne Washington III, who is in charge turns out to be Cora’s first beau, who still carries a torch for her. He is a widower as his much younger wife died just after giving birth during the attack on Pearl Harbour.
The Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) is still devastated by the death of the housemaid, Gertrude, in childbirth (series nine) and wonders whether to recognize her son as his heir, not knowing of her secret affair with Thomas, who was trying to discover if heterosexuality was an option after his rejection by male footmen in every other series. Bates is the Earl’s confidente, not having recovered himself from Anna’s death in Series Six. She had just delivered their daughter when a Flying Boat crashed onto their cottage in the grounds of Downton Abbey, having mistaken the ornamental lake for the River Humber on a foggy night.
However, Bates is arrested on suspicion of being a serial killer. He is charged with the murder of Turkish diplomat Kemal Pamuk in Lady Mary’s bedroom in 1912. Pamuk had ingested a heart stimulant in his evening cocoa (served by Bates) and excitement did the rest. Then it seems that Lavinia died from Spanish Flu in 1919 after infected handkerchiefs had been placed in her handbag. As Anna had won the football pools earlier in Series 6, suspicion for luring the Flying Boat to Downton falls on Bates when landing lights are discovered buried in a line across the lawn. He admits in a tearful conversation with Thomas that he killed Vera after all, but not any of the others.
O’Brien meanwhile wonders what to do after catching Carson and Mrs Hughes stark naked in the ballroom while the family were away during the Christmas Episode between series seven and series eight. She decides to blackmail them, a reaction on her part that is a surprise to many viewers. She threatens to tell the Dowager Countess, and on being told to go ahead, does so. The Dowager sniffs and informs her that Carson and Mrs Hughes have been going at it like rabbits since 1911 and everyone knows. We see her knowing smile after O’Brien leaves the room. Her story is not true, but it has stopped O’Brien and saved the faithful retainers.
There is a cliffhanger late in the series, when Mrs Crawley apparently goes into labour following her clandestine affair (Series Five to Ten) with Dr Clarkson. As she is now seventy, it is declared a wonder of medical science, but in the biggest surprise in the entire ten seasons, she survives the labour ward as it turns out to be a case of indigestion, not pregnancy. The Dowager Countess in an acerbic speech, recalls incidents when excess wind changed the course of history.
The last episode is resolved when Matthew appears in the doorway. His death in the 2012 Christmas Special had been faked by MI5, and he has spent the last twenty years as a special agent, trying to prevent the rise of Hitler in Germany, a task more important to the world than his own happiness. He is after all, that sort of guy. Mary rushes to meet him, there is a warm embrace. We cut to the USAF personnel who are line dancing vigorously in the upstairs hall. The chandelier drops from the ceiling, obliterating Mary in a sea of glass. Matthews sobs and looks aghast … cut to Mrs Crawley who has a heart attack from the shock and dies at his feet … the titles roll.