February 25, 2013
Downton Abbey and The Price of Poor Casting
By Tim Romano
Today's Fly Talk entry is a guest post from our friend Chris Santella. You might know Chris from from his "Fifty Places" series of books, his work in The New York Times, Forbes.com, The New Yorker, Golf, Travel & Leisure, …and many others.
Chris and I were chatting the other day about the portrayal fishing on TV and in advertising, which as I'm sure you know is just god awful 99 percent of the time. To make a long story short, during the course of the conversation we both admitted to watching the season finale of Downton Abbey and were aghast at the sight of such horrible spey casting. Anyway, I'll stop trying to explain and let Chris take it from here. Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Barring any miraculous interventions Dame Maggie Smith might have up her billowing sleeves, Matthew Crawley, the young heir of Downton Abbey, is dead.
One could identify a number of plausible reasons to relish in Matthew’s demise: his perfectly combed hair (even in the foxholes), his smirk that wavers between knowingness and idiocy, his decision to pursue the deflowered Mary when the late Sybil was so much nicer and better looking.
But anyone who happened to watch the Season 3 finale knows the real reason Matthew has left us: his fly cast. After a promising shot of a fly box in the episode’s opening, we knew a fishing scene was coming. As it was to be set in Scotland, we knew it would involve spey rods. As it was 1922 (or somewhere thereabouts), we knew they’d be cane.
We just didn’t think that Matthew would slap the rod down on the water like he was engaged in a joyless bit of sadomasochism with a switch and Lady Mary. Does he lack a proper casting stroke because of his more modest uprbringing?
Did his ghillie refuse to give him any instruction?
Were his arms worn out after wresting the salmon (that we see later in the scene, borne by said ghillie) from the stream?
It’s unclear. But we cannot help but conclude that Matthew was written out of the script precisely because of his limp, insipid casting stroke. (It was all foretold with Matthew’s earlier bouts of impotence.) --Chris Santella