Last month, the world was finally forced to take a real, sobering look at the threat of Isis, once it was suggested that the beloved Downton Abbey dog might die soon. The timing of the Labrador’s sickness was, for those who get their news from places besides telegrams, suspiciously coincidental: After all, there’s currently another, far less adorable ISIS terrorizing the Middle East, and other TV shows have been distancing themselves from that group as quickly as potential suitors from Lady Edith.
Some seemed convinced that the dog’s sudden diagnosis of cancer was a convenient way to avoid mentioning the name of the Jihadist group during this difficult time, by concocting a storyline that would require the word “Isis” to be said aloud more often than it had in the history of the entire series. Yet ITV insisted it was all just an “unfortunate coincidence,” and that the scripts had been written and episodes filmed long before the non-canine ISIS gained infamy. Besides, Isis the dog is all grown-up now. Should she not be allowed to experiment with the adult fads of the day, such as getting cancer and dying?
Now that stance has been reiterated by Hugh Bonneville, who plays Isis’ master Lord Grantham, and who wrote a blog post decrying these scurrilous rumors about his total bitch of a co-star:
To clarify recent speculation, the labrador that appeared in Series One (1912-14) was a dog called Pharaoh. From Series Two (1916-1920) onwards, the labrador has been a bitch named – in keeping with the Egyptian theme – Isis. Anyone who genuinely believes the Series 5 storyline (1924) involving the animal was a reaction to recent world news is a complete berk.
(For those unfamiliar with British terms, “berk” is a shortened version of “Berkeley Hunt,” a traditional hunt based at Gloucestershire’s Berkeley Castle, which is used as Cockney rhyming slang for “cunt,” meaning a “fool” or “prat.” It is a beautiful language.)
And so fans of Downton Abbey can now be reassured that Isis will die not because of some ridiculous association with a terrorist group, but rather because of the capricious, inescapable cruelty of existence. After all, that’s what the show is about.