Agent Carter’s X-Files Meets Downton Abbey
Who says Downton Abbey and the X-Files have nothing in common? Certainly not Peggy Carter, who could take scones and cream tea with Mary Crawley by day and track down zero matter with Dana Scully by night. Let’s catch up with our three favorite heroines, shall we? This week Lady Mary faces a reckoning, Peggy Carter chooses the SOE, and Scully reminds us “how much fun” the X-Files can be.
Agent Scully, who does not need backup, takes delight in Mulder’s “bat crap crazy,” as the two happily return to form in “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.” After spending years clawing their way through a mythology of aliens, conspiracies, and one Cigarette Smoking Man our two favorite FBI agents have reached a middle-age (much like their audience). Scully notes with her usual dry humor, that monster-hunting comes with danger and a whole lot of WTF, but it’s also fun, damn it. Taking on the looney cases no one else wants makes her feel alive and brings her closer to the man she loves. Sure, a whole lot of life’s mysteries are “just ice” as Mulder discovers, but plenty still defy explanation. Best of all, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny still sizzle like no other crime-solving couple on television, proving why Scully and Mulder are the Original Ship.
Making the leap from the X-Files where an Animal Control Officer rips out the throats of his prey to the upper-crust world of Downton Abbey has never been easier thanks to Lord Grantham. His dinner-table blood-spewing suggests that Julian Fellowes and Chris Carter go way back. The casts of both shows say more with a glance than they do with words. Scully and Mulder practically invented eye sex, while on Downton Abbey whole storylines play out with a knowing look and a tip of the head. Nearly the entire household, for example, knows of Miss Marigold’s true parentage with barely a word spoken to confirm it.
Everyone that is except Mary who only considers Marigold after overhearing Cora and Violet mention her in hushed tones. Mary feels the sting of exclusion once she begins piecing together Marigold’s origin story. She realizes that the women closest to her including Anna, her beloved friend and lady’s maid did not trust her with knowledge of sister Edith’s indiscretion. This insight, coming on the heels of a reminder of late Sybil’s goodness in contrast with her own selfishness has the potential to soften Mary.
Lord Grantham’s bloody eruption also rattles Mary and empowers her to take charge of the estate with trusty brother-in-law Tom at her side. She need only leave shallow Henry Talbot in the dust where he belongs and her ascension to the Downton throne will be complete. Though, rather than “our own Queen Mary,” as Tom calls her, Mary ought to choose Elizabeth I as a model. She understood that for women marriage and sovereignty did not mix. There is no need for Mary to take all of her cues from the Virgin Queen. Her earlier tryst with dull Tony Gillingham proves that for Mary a single life does not mean a sexless one.
Agent Peggy Carter has her own reckoning in “Smoke and Mirrors.” Michael Carter knew that his sister would never be an ordinary woman, let alone a lady. After her brother’s death she realizes that he was right. Peg tosses her wedding gown aside, along with reliable fiancé Fred, and makes haste for the SOE. She chooses a life of adventure over stability. Agent Carter battles sexism before it has a name and picks up a side-kick along the way. She and Jarvis are no Mulder and Scully (good thing too since Jarvis has a Mrs.), but they perfect the rat-a-tat-tat of crime solving. Her current foes include scientific genius Whitney Frost and a cabal of evil-doers intent on controlling the world (Hail Hydra?). She stays ahead of all of them all with quick saves like “I get really confused around books” and backs those up with hand-to-hand combat. She also takes great pleasure in kidnapping large men and stowing them in the boot of her car. That’s why we love our Peg.
Like Dana Scully, Peggy Carter has chosen an extraordinary purposeful life. The question remains whether Lady Mary Crawley will do the same.