This week we found out that Isis is dying, all right, but not the one that answers to “ISIL!” Last Sunday night, we learned that Isis, Lord Grantham’s beloved white Labrador, is dying of cancer and probably won't make it to next week’s episode. (See the Guardian for "Isis in Crisis".)
The show's last scene, when Lord G puts her in the marital bed so she could die flanked by “two people who love her,” makes me tear up even now. I get why they killed off two other G family favorites--they had other gigs! And it was a necessary plot device to kill off Daisy’s “husband” to illustrate the horrors of WWI.
But Isis? Unless she like Matthew and Sybill and the downstairs guy has a better offer, what narrative purpose does killing her off accomplish? Downton is simply one of the most riveting TV shows ever: did Julian Fellowes really need to stoop to the “dying dog” device to move us, like in the controversial dead pitbull scene in Fruitvale Station? Would the Sopranos have been even grislier if Tony had killed both Ralph Cifareto AND his dog?
But something good may yet come of killing off Downton Isis. Here is my Isis, an 11-year-old lab mix named Bella. She’s a mongrel, but like Isis and Violet (the peerless Maggie Smith), she’s an aging great lady. Bella is “over 65,” and my vet is always trying to shame me into paying for the doggy “senior wellness evaluation” at yearly check-ups. Thus far I’ve resisted with the a heartless quip like, well I can hardly afford my own heath care so if B has the big C, she’s just going to have to blah blah blah.
This year, I'll spring for it.