bramwell: head, meet desk.

I keep finding all these awful storylines and learning what not to do, so I suppose it hasn’t been a waste, but my heart has broken a little. Very frivolous, I know.

I’m not marking an inch of spoilers for this because Bramwell has been out for at least fourteen years by now, and it’s all downhill from the second half of the show onward, so I don’t know why anyone would want to watch it.

She is Doctor Eleanor Bramwell, rather an unusual specimen for 1895, when the show begins. Designated Love Interest mk 1 is a major who’d like to marry her away from her profession; Designated Love Interest mk 2 is an Irish doctor who gives a whole neighbourhood cholera just to see if his arsenic-based cure (“Compound 108”) really works. In the process, he doses twins differently to see how they react — one dies of an overdose — and a dose miscalculation kills the delightful Mr Bentley, played by Call the Midwife‘s Cliff Parisi.

And mk 2, O’Neill, is the one she falls for when there’s a perfectly nice, if married, man in her world who admires her doctoring so much that he works for her at her charity infirmary, the Thrift. That’s Joe Marsham, her colleague, who has accepted her as an equal from the start — she has to prove herself to O’Neill. Yes, yes, Marsham’s wife, slight problem, but it’s a medical show. She could have been killed off quite early via some curious means. He and Eleanor would have gone on to run the Thrift together beautifully. Some people might think, on seeing them together, that it’s not a torrid enough romance, but darlings, there is an ardor in Kevin McMonagle’s eyes that pins me to my sofa. I may be a soft touch for a Scotsman, but it takes a lot for me to overlook a moustache, and he has got a special something about him.

I believe what Marsham says to Eleanor. I believe he wants her to be happy. I haven’t believed that of O’Neill yet and I don’t think watching Eleanor lark off to the seaside with him will convince me. He gave people cholera. Is nobody else bothered by that throwaway line? Or the Mengele-esque experimentation on the Polish twins?

Also, they should never have attempted to take on homosexuality, or a genderqueer character, even though they follow the prescribed “kill your gays” formula. Nothing about this episode is making me happy. I liked most everything up to this. Awkward times are coming, and I’ll sit through this next episode, but I don’t think I’m going to like it. Especially since Marsham (now an avowed homophobe? Thanks, writers) is in Scotland tending his dying father. Hmph.

Given how they left things, I do not know why Eleanor is lying to anyone about O’Neill, especially Bramwell Senior, who is a wonderful, understanding sort of bloke. “Cousin” my rear, and how are they even remotely congenial? The cholera episode was the last one with him in it! So now we’re getting the “As you know, Bob” explanation, along with a “let’s not be doctors this weekend”. Yes, Eleanor, listen to the nice man who likes you better when talking shop doesn’t lead to an ardour-dampening tiff.

“I’ll just die of pneumonia.” Dear Dr O’Neill, I wish you would.

See? Eleanor can’t even lie about her name to save her reputation. She’s not Mrs Anyone. She’s Dr Bramwell the first she thinks of it. Oooh, but a patient’s about to rat them out to Daddy! [snicker] Go on, run down and fetch her home! Save her from her own idiocy! Quick, before the mad scientist deflowers her! Argh, no, I couldn’t watch.

Won at bridge, lost at canasta, probably too stupid to insist O’Neill use a French letter, and now bribing dear Kate the housemaid with knitted goods.

Ha, O’Neill turns up at the Thrift and Marsham’s all pointed looks and “Well, if you’ll excuse me then.” As for being an immoral woman, sorry, but lying to everyone you love because you can’t openly be with that man? You may as well be stepping out with poor Marsham, who at least has an ounce of ethics. Go on, Pa Bramwell, dress her down proper for what she’s done.

“Scheming opportunist.” Yes, that will do nicely. Seduce a woman, then refuse to keep her in the manner to which she’s accustomed now you’ve made her your mistress, then ask her father if you can marry her because anything less will be a scandal. Yes, you did turn her into a liar, and nothing you do will put that right.

And now you’re caught up in scandal because you’ve been accused of helping another woman cheat on her husband. Mmm, Eleanor’s not taking it well. Still she’ll marry bloody O’Neill, because we’ve gone from child-poisoning cholera experimenter to best beloved with only an “As you know, Bob” and a sex scene to convince us.

See? Marsham can joke about corsets. Tell me that’s not a saucepot of a man.

Eleanor being a child of privilege, of course she took a room at a nice hotel instead of sleeping above her clinic or, say, finding lodgings in the East End. Who are these people on my computer screen?

I’m going to guess that O’Neill had plans to go to America when he first told Eleanor about the scandal. Oh, don’t go taking it out on your staff, El. Marsham’s the only one with half a brain left. (And is also the one who taught her to ride “that dreadful machine”, which is symbolic of wanting her to be free and happy. I mean her bike! Don’t look at me that way!)

O’Neill can “manage” the two of you because he’s a smooth-tongued, arrogant liar. There are no other jobs on your “level”, you pissant? And Eleanor — can’t — come?! The job’s commensurate with your intellect, but it’s entry-level to the point where you won’t be able to get a bedsit in Chicago? Marry her and take a rude little room in the slums! In thirty years, she can work with Beatrice Tucker!

Yes. This is how it should be: the Bramwells against the world, and forget the son-in-law.

Oooh. Marsham got his wife up the duff before the wedding. Cue snickering, but also go go righteous fury at the idea of Eleanor being abandoned now. God, no wonder Marsham hasn’t any particular emotional attachment to his wife (hence his confession of love earlier in the English S2), and also why he’s alarmed at what Eleanor came so close to facing.

And she still won’t cut the unprintable out of her life.

Apparently in later episodes, O’Neill experiments with a smallpox vaccine… on his wife. Who is not Eleanor. And Mrs Marsham dies, so Eleanor and Mr Marsham are briefly engaged, but then some other major sweeps her off her feet, succeeds in getting her pregnant (someone learned absolutely nothing about babies)… essentially, in the end she gives up the Thrift and takes her prescribed place in society. Yes, I think the episode with the young transvestite is the one where the whole thing jumps the shark, so if you want to go on hoping there’s some kind of happiness ahead, stop at the one before. Pretend Bramwell was cancelled as abruptly as Firefly. I could hardly fault you for it.


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