The fifth series of Downton Abbey has now had its Swedish premiere (last Saturday). While I'm of course buoyed up no end - this is one of the year's highlights for me - I'm not quite as euphoric as after the first episode of series four last year. I'm nervous about series five. Something tells me it will be a nerve-racking affair. Be careful what you wish for, if what you wish for is a worthwhile storyline for your favourite Downton character, because that usually also means trauma.
Sometimes I wonder if life would be easier if I wasn't a villain-lover, and instead fancied heroes like most people. But when it comes to Downton, such a course wouldn't make me safe from anxious moments either. Matthew died. Mr Bates is suspected of murder again, and may actually have done it this time (though I still don't think he did). Branson has taken up with a bolshie school teacher who gets up people's noses - honestly, where's his judgment gone since Sybil died? Let's face it: until the last episode has peacefully concluded, we will have reason enough to worry about most of the characters' chances of a happy ending.
So I might as well worry about Thomas. The reviews I've read of episode one tend to find that the Lady Anstruther plot-line - where Jimmy gets entangled with his old employer who, contrary to my predictions, was all too ready to forgive him for having quitted his post with her - was one of the best things about the episode. I agree, it was juicy, but I'm concerned about the consequences. Will Jimmy really leave now? Is his fragile friendship with Thomas at an end, just as they had reached mutual first-name status? How will this affect Thomas's mood and, importantly, will it make him more inclined to commit the ghastly mistake of squealing on Bates (when he finds out about his suspicious trip to London and the rest, which is surely only a matter of time)? Quite apart from not really wanting Bates to swing - though, innocent or guilty, the silly man brought it on himself - I can foresee the dire effect squealing would have on Thomas. All sympathy with him would be at an end from the other Downton characters; from Downton viewers inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt until now; in fact, from everyone except myself. Oh, to be back in the times of the series three finale, when supporting Thomas was considered fine and dandy for a while.
Oh well, enough manservant-bellyaching. Luckily, there are some points about Downton - however outlandish one's sympathies - about which most viewers can agree. One of these is that poor Lady Edith is being given far too grisly a time. By now, if comments on the series are anything to go by, Fellowes - who seems to prefer icy Lady Mary to her sister - is in something of a minority. He has admitted in interviews to "punishing" Edith for her passiveness, but she isn't really passive. For someone supposedly more conventionally minded than her sisters, she has time and again dared to leave her comfort zone. She learned to drive during wartime, then figured out how she could be most helpful in the Downton convalescent home. She decided to write articles for magazines. She stuck to the man she loved, although he was married (to a madwoman, allegedly), and had an all-too-brief affair with him. She had his baby, and arranged for it to be brought up close to her in defiance of her aunt's advice. How much more actively taking charge of her life will she have to do before Fellowes takes pity on her? Let's hope, when the happy endings are handed out at Downton's conclusion (the end of series six, maybe?), that hers is an especially blissful one.