The Downton Abbey writers love to shock; we know that from their cruel Christmas episode where they killed off heart throb Matthew Crawley as he drove back from hospital after his wife gave birth to their son and heir.
And darling of the family Lady Sybil was ruthlessly written out in a traumatic episode where from early on, viewers knew she was going to die from complications of childbirth. The youngest daughter of the Earl and Countess was doomed as soon as viewers heard that two medical practitioners had different opinions on the health of the mother-to-be: naturally the renown expert, Sir Peter Tapsell, was wrong and the overlooked local GP was, sadly, all too correct.
“My dear, this is just Clarkson’s professional pride. Like barbers asking who last cut your hair. They always want to be better than any other practitioner.”
And the Earl of Grantham’s beloved Labrador has not been excused from her own dramatic scenes: she was cruelly locked in a shed on the Downton Estate by comedy baddie Thomas as part of a ruse to save his career. Luckily one of the boys on the estate (of which there are many but none we ever see) found her, but the Earl mistook Thomas’s desperate searching for his beloved hound as demonstration of his dedication to His Lordship.
But is the death knell ringing for Isis?
In the latest episode Cora Crawley, the Countess of Grantham, is seen looking at the morose-looking Isis splayed on the ground and remarks: ‘She’s terribly listless. I don’t know that she hasn’t picked up a germ.’
Her eldest daughter Lady Mary Crawley adds: ‘She’ll have eaten a dead squirrel or something equally foul’.
But she’s getting fat: perhaps she’s pregnant?
There was no mistaking the tension: things were not looking good for Isis and it has stirred mutterings and rumours that the four legged creature is staring death straight in the face not because she’s at least a ten year old dog and life expectancy for a Labrador is between nine and thirteen, (she was there in the second series, set in 1914) but because of her name: Isis.
Seeing as she was named in the Edwardian era exactly a century before the latest hooded murderers began spreading their particular brand of evil in Syria and Iraq, it’s safe to assume that Lord Grantham named his pooch after the Goddess Isis.
An ITV spokesman told the Independent on Sunday that the name ‘Isis’ was “unfortunate coincidence” and that it pre-dated the emergence of the terror group.
She said: “Isis has been the Crawleys’ family pet since series two (2011) and was named after the Egyptian goddess.
Series one saw the family pet, Pharaoh with the same themed name.
Even so, people have taken to twitter to say that it’s ‘inappropriate’ and that ‘something should be done.’
And on the subject of twitter, it should be noticed that Isis the @DowntonLabby has not barked out a tweet since September 26th.
But in a British drama, particularly one so clearly aimed at a sector of society who mourn the Empire and hark back to when everyone dressed for dinner, is it acceptable to kill off an animal so brazenly? People we can manage, although during the Christmas special was a bit rough. But dogs? What next? Is Lady Mary to be seen drowning a sack of kittens in the Downton Lake? Are we to witness hare coursing and fluffy bunnies being mistreated by footmen?
But all this aside, it raises a serious question.
When do we start governing our lives by what people on twitter moan about? And if we the consumer keep demanding name changes, be it for chocolate or fictional dogs, aren’t we bowing down to the politically correct brigade and even giving a group of thugs in the Middle East control over what we view as an acceptable name?
Naturally, Lord Fellowes is saying nothing about future scripts.
But whether Isis lives or dies, Downton writers will not be able to please everyone.