Downton Abbey, Season 2

William Is Samwise and Matthew Is Frodo
Talking television.
Jan. 24 2012 11:56 AM

Downton Abbey, Season 2

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The coming historical events that could turn Downton upside down.

Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary.
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary

Photograph Courtesy Carnival Film & Television.

Dearest Abbeycionados,

Dan Kois Dan Kois

Dan Kois is Slate's culture editor and a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine.

Seth, our readers are all over your discussion of William’s soldier-servant status. Commenter MK points out that The Lord of the Rings’ portrait of Frodo and Sam may have been based on Tolkien’s own experience with soldier-servants during the war. Despite William’s height, I can see him as a Samwise to Matthew’s Frodo, trundling off across the hills of France. Needless to say, that means Thomas is Gollum, Daisy is Rosie Cotton with flowers in her hair, and Lavinia is the Ring of Power.

June, you’re absolutely right to note Mary’s defense of Sir Richard, but I don’t think it suggests a wholesale embrace of the man’s worldview. The disappointments of Season 1 seem to have made Mary extremely practical, and she’s not about to bad-mouth the man who seems likely to become her husband—not in front of the Dowager Countess, whom Mary may love dearly but who can do a lot of damage with the wrong piece of information. Whether she’s on board with Richard’s business and estate plans or not, she’s smart to keep her opinion to herself—she likely considers it practice for the decades to come of biting her tongue.

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Of course, Violet isn’t the only one with a nose for trouble. The coexistence of scandalmongering Sir Richard and a hidden Downton scandal produces the same sense of disquiet in me as I might feel if, say, my pet mouse were in the same crowded living room as a cat. There’s a lot to distract the cat, but doesn’t it seem likely that he’ll eventually take notice of the mouse? And when he does, he’ll snap it up. It’s in his nature.

But to look into the future is foolish for those of us who haven’t watched ahead, ahem, so I’ll refrain from speculating further. I’ll only point out two coming events of which our intrepid commenters have made note, and which promise to turn the world of Downton upside down. (These aren’t spoilers, really, as much as history.) Very very soon we’ve got the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed millions worldwide and did a real number on the trenches of Europe. And seven years from now—I’d put it somewhere in Season 4—we have the 1925 Administration of Estates Act, which eliminated primogeniture in England and, as far as I can read inheritance law, would allow Mary to inherit Downton even if she’s married to a cat.

Until next week,

Dan