What’s a dowager to do?

I don’t know whether “Downton Abbey” is anything like as popular back home as it is here in the U.S., but it must be hell to perform in — because actor after actor, given the choice between taping even one more episode and departing, in some painful way, has chosen the latter. And these were people in major roles: Lady Sybil, then Matthew Crawley. Even the evil Miss O’Brien is gone. Can it really be that bad?

And who, pray tell, will be next?

Will the Dowager Countess of Grantham put strychnine in her own consommé as she faces the possible loss of the estate, now that Matthew’s death is going to mean a murderous tax levy? Or will she instead open a shop in the village (as she once suggested, in jest) where she can sell millinery, or something. And, to make ends meet, will she let out the flat above the shop to some respectable woman who’s been forced, through no fault of her own, into reduced circumstances?

And will this respectable woman become Isobel Crawley’s next rescue project? Is Isobel planning to take in any more strays? And will she finally drop that single facial expression of hers – her mask of sturdy reserve in the conviction that the next unpleasantness is almost certainly right around the corner — and try something else instead? Will she buy a motorcar and go for wild rides at night, secretly hoping to join her son in the next world? And will she ever warm to Dr. Clarkson?

As for the good doctor, will he resign himself to a daily regimen of businesslike but not unpleasant interactions with Isobel — even though what he wants is so much more and his nights are tortured by passionate, even lurid dreams about her?

For that matter, will the Earl continue to demonstrate how entirely useless only an upper-class English twit can be, or will he come to his senses at last? Will he, perhaps, even learn to dress himself?

Will Anna, the maid, drown herself out of misplaced shame over what happened during the recital by that dame from Australia?

Will Bates, tragically befuddled by Anna’s behavior, turn to crime and wind up back in jail — even though we know he’s a saint and has never put a foot wrong in his life and only did time before because of that lying ex-wife of his?

Will Carson, the butler, use his show-business connections, of which he used to be ashamed, to get the family a gig on the Music Hall circuit (what in the U.S. would have been called vaudeville) so they can make some money and save the big house — even as it goes to rack and ruin for lack of maintenance because most of the staff will have been let go? Will he and Mrs. Hughes, the housekeeper, along with the Earl, the Countess and perhaps the plain daughter, tour the country for a good part of each year, playing a family of aristocratic parasites (that is, themselves) in artistically staged tableaux vivants?

As for Lady Edith (the plain daughter), will she be stood up once again when her boyfriend, who has gone to Germany supposedly to divorce his lunatic wife so he can marry her, decides instead to stay in Berlin, where the naughty pleasures of Weimar nightlife are just too enticing?

And, heartbroken once again, will she turn to absinthe or opium and slide into the life of a shabby vamp who haunts low places in London?

All of these things seem possible right now. I guess I’ll just have to stay tuned.

Reach Glenn Richter at grichter@record-journal.com.



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