Thursday, May 24, 2012

upstairs, downstairs, and in her lady's chamber

This past week I've been totally immersed in the world of "Downton Abbey."  This PBS TV series premiered in 2010, but I'd never had an opportunity to watch it.  The library has dvd copies so I put a hold on the season 1 dvd and finally got it last week.  It's an excellent series.  The upstairs-downstairs intrigues between the wealthy Granthams and their household staff are very interesting and I'm now totally hooked.  I put a hold on the season 2 dvd but there are 27 people ahead of me (who do they think they are, anyway?) -- so I may have to rent it from the video store because I can't wait that long!

I love movies and TV shows that explore moral dilemmas and decisions, and "DA" is definitely one of these.  (SPOILER ALERT:  you may want to stop reading here if you're hoping to see the show and don't want any giveaways.)  Two bits in particular really got me thinking about the relationship between what we do and who we are.  Miss O'Brien, personal maid to Lady Grantham, is snarky and unpleasant right from the get-go, always plotting and conniving with the nasty footman, Thomas.  When the staff is assembled in front of the house to welcome a visiting duke, she kicks the cane out from under the new valet, Bates (whose job Thomas wants), so that Bates will fall and be publicly humiliated, perhaps fired.  She's just a nasty piece of work!  Then at one point, she suspects (wrongly) that Lady Grantham is trying to replace her with a new maid; in her resentment, she deliberately does something that may cause Lady Grantham injury.  But at the last moment, she sees her reflection in the mirror and says, "Sarah O'Brien, this is NOT who you are" and rushes to try to prevent the mishap she's set up.  Unfortunately, though, she is too late and Lady Grantham ends up falling and having a miscarriage.  I was really intrigued by her comment that this action was not who she really is.  Up until that point we have nothing else to judge O'Brien on except her actions -- and they have all been bad.  So I wonder how she can say this is not who she is.  Perhaps the fact that she is capable of feeling remorse and seeing the gap between her actions and who she wants to be is a sign that she is not a completely hopeless character.  And maybe the message is that it is never too late for redemption:  we may not be able to change the consequences of our actions, but we can change ourselves.

Another moment of self-revelation comes from the sweet, naive little scullery-maid, Daisy.  She has a crush on footman Thomas and allows his nasty ideas and opinions to influence her; she even tells a lie to please him.  But later she's talking with another staff member about their families; he declares that he and his parents totally trust one another and that there are no lies in their home.  This comment sticks with Daisy and she soon retracts her own lie, saying, "I think I let myself down."  Although she's portrayed as very immature and "ditsy," she has enough self-consciousness to again see a gap between what she's done and who she wants to be; she has standards, and she's mature enough to recognize when she hasn't lived up to them.

I hope season 2 has more of these kinds of scenes:  the show provides great "eye candy" with the gorgeous costumes and sets, but the moral issues are what keep me thinking about the series and anticipating the next installments.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment. I love to hear from readers, and I always reply!