mon 17/06/2024

Downton Abbey, ITV: Alien vs Dowager | reviews, news & interviews

Downton Abbey, ITV: Alien vs. Dowager

Downton Abbey, ITV: Alien vs. Dowager

We were promised shocking scenes – just not Lord Grantham's guts splattering over the first course

Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) in healthier timesNick Briggs/Carnival Films

It's been the most heavily signposted illness in drama history. A twinge here. An "Oof" there. Chekhov's roiling guts. And tonight, His Lordship's mystery complaint finally took centre stage, in a scene that led one to wonder exactly how to remove three pints of aristocratic blood from a pristine white tablecloth.

The latest shoehorned-in visitor from history, marvellously mustachioed health minister Neville Chamberlain (Rupert Frazer, pictured below) was on hand to witness Lord Grantham's (Hugh Bonneville) spectacular horror movie regurgitation: Alien's iconic John Hurt chestburst meets Carrie's generous blood budget. Servants scattered. Cousin Isobel leapt into action, brandishing life-saving napkins. Lady Cora wiped gore off her smart/casual tiara. Was Fellowes about to give us a surprise mid-series demise, à la the dearly departed Sybil? No: a miraculous (off-screen) operation, and a swift coup by Lady Mary, Downton's self-appointed new manager, reacting to blood in the water like a shark. 

Downton Abbey, ITV1: Alien versus DowagerIt was one way to silence the tedious hospital debate that's consumed this final run, and Chamberlain – the millionth victim of a Downton blackmail plot – was spared the determined advances of the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith), who was hoping to enlist a ringer in her death match against Cora. Will that be an end to it? Or, like the oddly prominent (and at least topical) pigs, will it continue to dominate despite no evidence of interest from either cast or viewers?

The episode's other blackmail victim, the ever-startled Spratt, was coerced by devious lady's maid Denker into supporting her reinstatement – her equally hasty dismissal following a bizarre confrontation with Dr Clarkson that felt like drama Mad Libs. At least there was some resolution, unlike Baxter's big showdown with the wrong 'un who got her into a life of crime and yet somehow escaped screen time entirely. "A bit of an anticlimax," mourned Baxter, leaving a criminal court set that the production team probably considered criminally underused. Points for meta criticism at any rate.

In other subplot news, Andy no longer fears Thomas's homosexual advances now that he's teaching him how to read pig-rearing manuals (no, really); Edith hired a lady editor; the honeymoon is over as Carson starts in on his new wife's cooking; and Mary's latest in a long line of interchangeable suitors – brunette, high cheekbones, plummy vowels – took a woman whose husband died in a car crash to the race track on a first date. However, she soon cheered up when she discovered a new way to torture her perennially hangdog sister. Next episode: Mary sets mysterious foundling Marigold on fire to see how Edith reacts. Having long since abandoned believable drama, Fellowes has finally found the perfect format for his increasingly bizarre show. Time to go all in on the Gothic camp. 

Read theartsdesk's full Downton Abbey coverage

Alien's iconic John Hurt chestburst meets Carrie's generous blood budget


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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