Monthly Archives: January 2013

Downton Abbey Season 3, ep. 4 recap

Downton at night

Last night’s emotional episode brought out the best of what Downton Abbey has to offer in its acting and writing.  It was a tough one to watch, but the performances were brilliant and restored my faith in the series.  So, without further ado, let’s recap and review, shall we?

Warning: Major spoilers for episode 4 ahead!

The episode started out calmly enough.  Sybil’s baby is nearly due and everyone is anxiously anticipating its arrival.  Lord Robert has brought in Sir Philip, baby deliverer to the aristocracy, even though Lady Cora feels that Dr. Clarkson can appropriately handle the job.  I can’t say I blame Robert for doubting Dr. Clarkson’s abilities to some degree, given the misdiagnosis of Matthew last season (which Robert is quick to point out).  As a compromise, Cora is allowed to bring in Dr. Clarkson and both will attend Sybil during the delivery.

Mary and Sybil

Meanwhile, Sybil talks to Mary about wanting the baby to be brought up Catholic, and Mary promises she’ll fight in her corner should the need arise.  Mary mentions that she wants a family, which seems contrary to her statement to Matthew when they were in the nursery in the previous episode.  And Matthew is apparently concerned about his fertility, and brings it up with Sir Philip (though, after the way things turned out, I think I’d disregard his advice if I were him).  Matthew and Mary continue to have almost zero chemistry, and spend all of their time talking about money and the estate.

Look! They're touching!

Look! They’re touching!

Edith

Edith receives an offer to write for a newspaper.  She’s excited, but her dear Papa is quick to dismiss the news, stating that they only mean to exploit her and her title.  I saw a little glimmer of hope in Edith’s biting remark that no one supports her.  I keep hoping she’ll come around to the fact that she needs to get out on her own and make her own happiness.  Maybe this is the first step.

Anna and Bates

Elsewhere Anna and Bates are reunited in prison.  And my hunch was apparently correct–Vera put arsenic in the pie and was scrubbing her nails to get rid of the evidence.  Mrs. Bartlett’s testimony will set Bates free, but only if they can get it from her before she finds out it will prove the man she despises is innocent.  Something tells me that the unfriendly cellmate and jail warden will muddy the waters a bit and drag this storyline out even longer.

Ethel and her disastrous kidney souffle

Ethel and her disastrous kidney souffle

Just when we thought we might have seen the last of Ethel, she returns this episode as Mrs. Crawley’s new project.  She takes her on as her maid, causing the immediate resignation of Mrs. Byrd.  She’s not the only one in an uproar about this turn of events–Mr. Carson hears the news and lays down the law that no maid or footman is to go near Crawley House.  Mrs. Crawley has a good heart and she wants to give Ethel a second chance, but I wonder if she’s bitten off more than she can chew.  While I’m not the biggest Ethel fan, I’ve actually warmed up to her character a bit since last episode, so I’m interested to see where this goes.

Alfred and Ivy

Ethel’s new appointment isn’t the only thing causing a stir downstairs.  We’ve got a really complex love…polygon going on here.  Daisy likes Alfred, Alfred likes Ivy, Ivy likes Jimmy, and Jimmy likes…?  Then of course you have to throw Thomas in the mix, as he likes Jimmy also.  Which is of course working to the advantage of Mrs. O’Brien, who is throwing Jimmy at Thomas every chance she gets.  I don’t like this game she’s playing, and I feel Thomas is really going to get hurt (and after this episode, I have some sympathy for Thomas, so this bothers me even more).

Daisy and Mrs. Patmore

Daisy continues to walk around with a perpetual scowl and takes out her frustration on Ivy.  Mrs. Patmore gives her some sensible love advice (finally the meddling comes in handy!) and tells her that Alfred won’t like her any more for treating Ivy poorly.  She also opens her eyes to the fact Ivy likes Jimmy, not Alfred.

Sir Philip and Dr. Clarkson

Sir Philip and Dr. Clarkson

But all of these subplots felt like background noise when Sybil goes into labor and Dr. Clarkson expresses concern that all is not well and that Sybil may be suffering from eclampsia.  Sir Philip wholeheartedly disagrees, basically telling Dr. Clarkson to butt out and not to worry the family unnecessarily.  But as the evening progresses it becomes more apparent that Dr. Clarkson’s diagnosis may be correct, and a decision has to be made.  Follow Dr. Clarkson’s advice and Sybil will be rushed to the hospital for a c-section, which may or may not come out all right, but is the only way to prevent her from succumbing to eclampsia.  Or follow Sir Philip’s advice, who says he knows he can confidently deliver the baby safely and is still doubtful she has eclampsia.

Branson

Poor Tom, I felt so sorry for him standing there, eyes wide, as the two doctors bicker back and forth, and he has to make the decision that will impact the health of his wife and his baby.  It seems that Robert makes it for him though, stating that Sir Philip’s certainty is better than Dr. Clarkson’s speculation.

Sybil and Branson

Sir Philip successfully delivers a baby girl for Tom and Sybil, and everyone relaxes, feeling that Sybil’s out of danger.  Cora apologizes to Robert for doubting him and for siding with Dr. Clarkson.

Sybil and Cora

Sybil tells her mother about Tom’s plans to become a mechanic in Liverpool, and how she doesn’t want that for him, that they should be moving forward, not back.  She wants to know she has her mother on her side.  Cora tells her to rest and they can talk about it later.

Later that night Mary rushes into her parents’ room, telling them to come quick.  Unfortunately Dr. Clarkson’s diagnosis proves to be correct.  We all watch helplessly along with the family and the two doctors as Sybil dies from eclampsia.  Cora and Tom’s reactions are absolutely heart-breaking.  The news travels through the house, overwhelming everyone with shock and grief.  The performances here were phenomenal, from Thomas crying in the hallway and being comforted by Anna, to Carson’s look of devastation while telling Mrs. Hughes that he’s known Sybil all her life.  But the most heart-wrenching of all was Cora’s.  She promises Sybil that she won’t let anything happen to her baby or to Tom, that she’ll take care of them both.  And she’ll always be her baby (and that’s all I’ll say, so I don’t have to grab the tissues again).

Thomas and Anna

The day after Sybil’s death the family is still in a state of (understandable) shock.  Mary and Edith say goodbye to their sister, Edith wondering if they could ever mend their fences now that they are all the other has left as sisters go.  Mary: “Probably not.”  Well, probably true, but ouch.  I suppose we can’t expect Mary to put her bluntness aside, even at the death of her dear sister.

Mr. Murray comes to see Anna about her new information related to Bates’s case (I know he was scheduled to come then–but at this point I was so emotional over what happened to Sybil I didn’t care about this subplot and just wanted to see how the family was coping).  While there, Matthew, in a rather un-Matthew-like move, pulls Mr. Murray aside to talk about the mismanagement of the estate.  This felt so out of place to me–and I can’t say I blame Mary for being angry when she walks in to find her husband and her father’s lawyer talking business the day after her sister’s death.  It was insensitive of Matthew, and seems out of character for him.

Matthew and Mr. Murray

Mary walks in on Matthew’s meeting with Mr. Murray

We get a fresh wave of tears when Lady Violet enters the house (and another fabulous performance by Maggie Smith).  Cora relates that she plans to write Dr. Clarkson a letter of apology for their behavior, that they should have listened to him instead of Sir Philip, and if they had Sybil might still be alive.  This was directed at her husband, of course, who at least has the decency to admit that he was not entirely without fault in what played out.

Cora

A determined Cora

I was sorry the show lost the character of Sybil.  While her role has been fairly flat this season, in the previous ones she was so likable, so full of life and spunk, and she really helped to balance out her other two sisters.  With her gone, the whole family dynamic is going to change.

It seems the clash between traditionalism and modern thinking, an undercurrent throughout the season, finally burst to the surface with the death of Lady Sybil.  Robert calls in a knighted doctor to handle Sybil’s delivery because that’s what aristocrats do.  He has unwavering belief in Sir Philip’s abilities.  Cora calls in Dr. Clarkson, who may not be knighted, but who knows her girls.  She believes in his medical knowledge and that he knows what’s best for Sybil.  When the crisis occurs, Robert chooses the traditionalist path, and Lady Sybil becomes a victim as a result.  Of course, we know there’s a chance she may not have made it through the c-section, but Robert wouldn’t even entertain the idea.  He’s clinging to what few certainties he feels are left in the world.  And he’s just had his eyes opened through the death of his youngest daughter.  And I have a feeling, or at least I have a hope, that Cora won’t continue to sit idly by and let her husband run the show.  It’s time for change to come to Downton.

What an episode!  It certainly made up for the somewhat lackluster start of the season.  What did you all think?

Missed an episode?  Read my episode 1, episode 2, and episode 3 recaps.

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Downton Abbey Season 3, ep. 3 recap

There were an awful lot of new plot lines jammed into this episode (in classic Julian Fellowes style, we flitted from one character’s story to the next, hardly giving us enough time to digest what just happened), and while there were no major shocker moments like last week, it looks like the groundwork has been laid for some escalating conflicts that are sure to come in the remaining episodes.

Warning: Spoilers for episode 3 ahead!

Upstairs revolved around two main stories: Tom and Sybil’s escape from Dublin, and Matthew’s increasing involvement in the running of the estate.  The former was the big drama for the night, the latter looks like it will create quite a bit in future episodes.

Branson

Tom shows up on Downton’s doorstep (on a dark and stormy night, of course), on the run from the law after his involvement in burning down an Anglo-Irish estate.  He and Sybil had a plan in place in which they would leave Ireland separately should something like this happen, but that doesn’t save Tom from getting an earful from the Crawley clan.  I can’t say it was undeserved, leaving a pregnant woman in a very volatile situation to fend for herself.  But, fortunately Sybil arrives safely, much to Tom and the family’s relief.  And Tom’s name is cleared with the authorities thanks to Papa, as long as he doesn’t return to Ireland.  It’s understandable that Tom is crushed by this; after all, Irish independence is his passion and to be kept away is a cruel punishment for him. But Sybil becomes the voice of reason, telling her husband the baby’s safety is what’s important, and so at Downton they will stay.  Side note: I wish we could have heard a bit more about Sybil’s experience in Ireland here, and how she feels about Tom burning down an aristocrat’s home, given that she was raised as one herself.

Tom and Sybil

Matthew

Matthew realizing his father-in-law is not the best business manager.

Elsewhere upstairs, Mary encourages Matthew to take a greater role in the estate, now that he’s invested in it.  She’s probably going to regret her prodding.  Matthew uncovers a lot of waste when looking over the accounts, which is not a big surprise given Lord Robert’s penchant for business management (need we be reminded of episode 1’s Canadian railway disaster?).  Matthew brings up the bookkeeping to Mary, who reluctantly tells him to talk to her father about it.  But Papa quickly brushes him off.  When Downton was so quickly saved thanks to Reggie Swire’s money I wondered where else we could go regarding story lines with the estate.  Now I know.  There’s going to be a showdown between Matthew and Robert, and maybe Matthew and Mary.  Change is certainly not their strong suit.

Mary and Matthew

A few other minor things upstairs: an interesting little scene between Matthew and Mary in the former day nursery.  Matthew apparently is looking to start a family, Mary not so much.  Seriously, can we please have a few scenes in which Mary doesn’t seem like an ice queen towards her husband?  It’s like first season Mary all over again.  What happened to dewy eyed love struck second season Mary?  Bring her back!

Edith

And then we’ve got Edith.  Poor Edith who seems a bit lost since her jilt at the altar.  But this episode gave me some hope that she’ll soon be finding her voice.  Her dear Papa is shocked when the newspaper actually prints an article she wrote about the women’s vote.  And Edith is not just becoming more vocal about suffrage, but also about the way her family perceives her.  I want to see Edith gain a little backbone when it comes to her family and the way they treat her.  And maybe move somewhere where she’ll be more appreciated, where she isn’t the overlooked middle child.  Go Edith!

Carson and the toaster

“What in God’s name is it?”

There was a lot of exciting new plot developments downstairs, and I’m not just talking about Carson waging war against a toaster.  Now that Matthew’s money has saved Downton from financial collapse, new staff members can finally be hired (even if Matthew seems reluctant about it…but Robert easily overlooks this), allowing Daisy to get her at-long-last promotion in the kitchen, and Anna to officially become lady’s maid to Lady Mary.

Daisy

Poor Daisy, can this kid ever catch a break?  She’s got her eye on Alfred, and she even goes to visit her father-in-law for a heart to heart about being interested in someone else.  And wouldn’t you know, every single time she’s about to say something to Alfred, Mrs. Patmore interrupts.  Does this woman have some sort of sixth sense for interfering in Daisy’s love life?  I had hoped we’d be rid of Daisy’s scowl and foul moods once she got promoted, but just as she’s about to tell Alfred how she feels, Mrs. Patmore comes in with Ivy, the new kitchen maid, who immediately catches Alfred’s attention.  So Daisy’s promotion came with a simultaneous jilt in the romance department.  I don’t expect that scowl to disappear anytime soon.

Anna

This week’s edition of the “Anna & Bates saga” was a little more interesting.  All communication was cut off between the two for the majority of the episode, causing some temporary anguish as Bates feels Anna has given up on him, and Anna worries that Bates wants her to move on and forget about him.  But thanks to a helpful fellow prisoner and a set up of Bates’s cellmate, his good favor is restored in the prison, and a backlog of letters finally gets delivered to them both.  It was nice to see at least one happy couple in this episode.Bates Anna with letter

Jimmy Kent

The new addition downstairs that causes the biggest stir is handsome footman Jimmy Kent.  His arrival turns all the maids’ heads, gives Mrs. Hughes pause (did anyone else notice her look him up and down?), and catches the attention of Thomas.  That attention does not go unnoticed by O’Brien, and I could see the cogs of evil working in her head.  I have a feeling she’s figured out what her next move is going to be, and I fear it is going to be exceedingly low.  Because now she not only needs to get back at Thomas, but she has to keep this headstrong new footman from taking away Alfred’s chances for advancement.

O'Brien

O’Brien forming a new scheme

Ethel

Finally, we have Ethel, who is still hanging around.  I actually felt some sympathy for her this week when she made the extremely difficult decision to give up her darling boy Charlie to his paternal grandparents.  I thought that might be the end of her story.  But now it appears that in next week’s episode Cousin Isobel is indeed going to make her her new project, and hire her on as a maid in her house.  Good luck with that, Isobel, we know how well that went last time.

I’ll be interested to see how all of these new developments play out in the remaining episodes.

All right, your turn!  What did you think of episode 3?

Missed an episode?  Read my episode 1 and episode 2 recaps.

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Downton Abbey Season 3, ep. 2 recap

Well, that was interesting.  I’ve got some mixed emotions about last night’s episode–some parts were excellent, other parts contrived and eye-roll-able.  Let’s just get right to it, shall we?

Warning: Spoilers for episode 2 ahead!

Preparing for wedding

Upstairs the house is preparing for another wedding, this time for neglected middle child Lady Edith.  But everyone seems more concerned with the inevitable selling of Downton Abbey and the move to what Cora has termed “Downton Place” (which sounds like a great name for a soap opera, which this episode took plot cues from at points).  Matthew is still being badgered by Mary to accept Reggie Swire’s money and save the estate so the family is not forced to move into….a gorgeous country home with accompanying village that they own…?

Downton Place

Certainly it is no Downton Abbey.  And I can understand Mary not wanting to leave the home she grew up in, one that’s been in her family for generations.  But is it really worth putting your newly wed husband in guilt-ridden agony for months on end by constantly harping about the money?

Matthew

Yes, please, let’s talk about Reggie Swire and my guilt over Lavinia’s death. AGAIN.

On the day of the picnic at “Downton Place” Matthew receives a letter from the deceased Reggie Swire, which he refuses to read, much to flabbergasted Mary’s irritation.

Side note: This was my favorite "Mary outfit" this episode.

Side note: This was my favorite “Mary outfit” this episode.

So Mary takes it upon herself to read the letter, much to flabbergasted Matthew’s irritation.  And this is where my eye-rolling commenced–Reggie Swire’s letter reveals that Lavinia, on her deathbed (though I suppose she didn’t know it at the time) wrote her father a letter about calling off the wedding and Matthew’s chivalrous “I’m going to marry you anyway” attitude.  But wait, no one saw Lavinia write such a letter, or saw it leave the house (and for that matter–where did Lavinia get the paper and pen to write it if she was lying in bed the whole time?).  So Matthew accuses his wife of forgery–which to be honest, I wouldn’t put past Mary at this point in her desperation to stay at Downton.  He takes back his accusation, but doesn’t believe the letter’s legitimate.  But if it is real, it relieves Matthew of all guilt, regret, etc. in one tidy little note.  Why, what a handy, convenient little plot device!  First thing next morning Mary goes downstairs, her hair undone in her haste, to learn that Daisy was the one who posted the letter.  And in one fell swoop guilt is swept away and Downton Abbey is saved!  Good thing Daisy’s own moral dilemma over marrying William didn’t cause her to forget to post the letter.

Daisy saves the day.

Daisy saves the day.

So now that’s settled, it’s time for Edith’s wedding.  At least Matthew is kind enough to ask Mary to wait until after the wedding to inform dear Papa that he doesn’t have to move, so as not to steal Edith’s thunder.  Because you know Mary would have.

Edith's wedding gown

Despite countless efforts to convince her otherwise, Edith is prepared to walk down the aisle and give her life to taking care of an older man with a lame arm.  And boy does that get hammered home about a thousand times in this episode.  It’s featured in every discussion between Lady Violet and Lord Robert, and every conversation between Sir Anthony and Edith.  So I guess we should have been prepared for what would happen next.

Edith & Sir Anthony

Poor Edith!  Her very happy day, the one that was supposed to be all about her, turns into a train wreck as soon as she arrives at the altar and Sir Anthony stops the proceedings by announcing he cannot marry her.  In front of everyone.  And to make matters worse, Edith drags the scene out by begging him not to leave her.  Granny has to step in and tell her to let him go, which he promptly does.  I know Sir Anthony did it because he loves Edith and did not want her to end up spending her life with a man she’d have to take care of, but he really picked a bad time to finally make his mind up about it.

Edith

But, I will say that while I wanted Edith to win the day and get her man despite what everyone else said, this gives us a chance to see a potentially more fleshed out character.  Laura Carmichael’s performance as the jilted bride was fantastic.  And now, instead of having all three Crawley sisters settled down into married life, we have one whose character arc could go in any number of directions.  So here’s hoping Edith picks herself up and finds a less traditional path for her life.

Matthew delivers the good news to Robert.

Matthew delivers the good news to Robert.

And just in case we weren’t positive that Edith doesn’t matter that much, we’ve got a scene where Lord Robert quickly dismisses Edith’s broken heart with a “she’ll get over it” and then is overjoyed to learn his son-in-law, thanks to his newly unburdened conscience, has saved the day, and in his thanks makes him a partner in the estate.

Mrs. Hughes smiling at Mr. Carson's serenade to the silver.

Mrs. Hughes smiling at Mr. Carson’s serenade to the silver.

The downstairs stories felt a bit weak to me this episode compared to the altar jilting happening upstairs.  We continued to bite our nails over the diagnosis of Mrs. Hughes.  Lady Cora (who finds out from Carson, who finds out from Mrs. Patmore, who apparently can’t keep a secret for a gold clock) tells Mrs. Hughes she knows about her health, and wants her to know she’ll always have a home at Downton.  A very touching moment, and it seemed to make Mrs. Hughes feel a bit closer to the family, as illustrated when she allows Alfred to talk badly about Sir Anthony for leaving Lady Edith at the altar.  In the end, it looks like the scare was for nothing, as the results indicate a benign tumor.  As Mrs. Patmore tells Carson everything is okay, I kept waiting for Mrs. Hughes’s relieved face to droop as if she were putting on a brave face and not telling the truth about her diagnosis.  But it never happened, so perhaps the health scare was just another minor plot point to pull us along for a few episodes before wrapping up neatly.

Cora & O'Brien

Cora under the misimpression that O’Brien will be leaving her.

Elsewhere we’ve got O’Brien and Thomas playing a slow, vindictive game of tennis.  Last week Thomas made trouble for Alfred (and therefore O’Brien), and then O’Brien retaliated by taking Lord Robert’s shirts.  In this episode Thomas starts a rumor that O’Brien is leaving, catching poor Molesley in the middle.  And now the ball is in O’Brien’s court–so what’s she going to serve Thomas with next week?

Bates finding the contraband his cell mate planted.

Bates finding the contraband his cell mate planted.

And then we’ve got the ongoing Anna & Bates saga.  Bates’s cell mate is out to get him for unexplained reasons, but Bates receives a tip off from someone on his side, which allows him to hide some contraband the cell mate has planted before the jail wardens raid the room.  Anna continues to devote every spare moment to freeing her husband, this time interviewing a friend of Vera’s who lived nearby.  If you’re playing “collect the clues,” we know that Vera ate an arsenic-laced pie.  The neighbor indicated that Vera made the pie the afternoon before she was found dead, and when she came to visit her she noticed that Vera was scrubbing under her fingernails like mad–my guess would be to make sure there were no traces of arsenic that would lead anyone to suspect she had put it in the pie.

Ethel and Isobel
Ethel appears again in this episode to say the same line over and over: “I shouldn’t have come.”  I couldn’t agree more.  I was done with Ethel last season, so why do we have to keep picking at this thread?  Yes, I get that we’re trying to show the gritty, not so pretty side of life after the war, and Ethel represents that.  But I’ve just never cared much about Ethel for some reason.  However, Cousin Isobel seems dead set on helping her, and my guess is she’s going to wriggle her way into Ethel’s life whether she wants it or not.

Daisy, besides informing Lady Mary that she posted the letter for Miss Swire, didn’t have much of a role this week, except to ask Anna if perhaps she should speak her mind more like the American girls.  She also seems to have her eye on Alfred.  I’d like to see an outspoken Daisy, maybe it’ll spice things up downstairs a little bit.  Because, for me at least, this back and forth between O’Brien and Thomas just isn’t cutting it.

Sybil and Edith

Just a few final thoughts–give me more Sybil and Tom!  They were barely in this episode, but I loved Sybil’s saucy little comment to Edith about not sleeping on her wedding night.  And Tom was in black tie!  But I thought he’d never buy such frivolous clothes–what made him change his mind?  And why wasn’t he more outspoken about the family having to potentially downsize to a house that has its own village attached to it?  Maybe he’s trying to play nice for his wife’s sake?  It looks like next week’s episode is going to feature the couple more prominently (and Tom leaves his pregnant wife behind in Dublin because he’s on the run?  What on earth will Granny have to say about that?).

I hope now that the ghost of Lavinia has been laid to rest we can see more cheerful moments between Matthew and Mary.  Yes, I know they’re going to bicker and squabble, but they’re newlyweds.  Surely the honeymoon period hasn’t ended already.  Give us some more light-hearted “proposal in the snow” type moments!

And even though the day ended in heartbreak, Lady Edith’s dress was stunning and in my opinion trumped Lady Mary’s.  I think the very simple gown Lady Mary wore fit her pragmatic personality, but Lady Edith’s dress with the detail work on it was just gorgeous.  So even though she didn’t actually get a husband on her wedding day, maybe Edith can take solace in knowing that her dress was prettier than Mary’s?  Maybe?

Finally, I know that Downton Abbey has soap opera tendencies (like last season’s misdiagnosis that allowed for Matthew’s miraculous spinal recovery), but I really hope we don’t have too many more all-too-convenient plot devices that allow for difficult situations to be easily fixed.  That letter from Reggie Swire still bugs me.

All right everyone, now it’s your turn!  What were your thought’s about episode 2?

Miss the premiere of season 3?  Read my recap.

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Downton Abbey Season 3, ep. 1 recap

Well, it’s been a long year of anticipation, Downtonites, but boy did it pay off!  The premiere of the third season of Downton Abbey was well worth the wait.  If the first episode is any indication of the focus of this season, we’re in for a more “estate-centered” story that puts priority on the people living and working at Downton Abbey, as well as on the house itself, something I felt we got away from in season 2.  Not that I disliked the second season, it just felt all over the place at times and I’m glad to see we’re getting back to a central focus.  Now, onto the episode recap.

Warning: Episode 1 spoilers ahead!

Last night’s episode had Fellowes’s fast-paced story-telling style going at full speed, with plots piling up one after another.  There was a lot going on, so I am going to hit the highlights.

Upstairs it was all about wedding bells and money woes.  Finally (finally!) Matthew and Lady Mary are about to tie the knot, and it is so nice to see the two of them as a couple, swapping flirtations.  And Mary smiling!  Such a nice change from last season.  Of course, their impending nuptials are overshadowed by the fact that Lord Grantham, who apparently does not understand what “diversify” means, has lost the “lion’s share” of Lady Cora’s fortune in a really bad business deal.  I like how Lady Cora points out that what he did was stupid, but stands by her man.  Further proof that the woman is a saint.

Robert & Cora

The money troubles put a damper on the wedding, especially when Mary wants Matthew to use the potential money he’s inherited from Lavinia’s father to save Downton.  But Matthew, being the morally upright man that he is, just can’t bring himself to use money that reminds him of his betrayal to Lavinia.  Thus we have THE argument that leads to Mary storming off and possibly calling off the wedding.  Good thing Anna is there to remind Mary that good men aren’t like buses (“there won’t be another one along in ten minutes’ time”), and Branson, er, Tom, points out to Matthew that he’ll never be happy with anyone else.  So they kiss and make up.  I like how the two (well, mostly Matthew) realize that there are going to be some bumps in the road in their marriage, but they are just going to have to work through them because they love each other and want to be together.  We already knew it wouldn’t be smooth sailing for them, but at least the characters acknowledge it as well.

After making all that fuss about it being bad luck to see each other, why did traditionalist Mary open her eyes?

After making all that fuss about it being bad luck to see each other the night before the wedding, why did traditionalist Mary open her eyes?

One of my favorite portions of the upstairs drama was the interaction between the rest of the family with Sybil and Tom.  The two have obviously been living “a very different sort of life” and they both feel a bit out of place at the dinner table (of course, the constant questioning isn’t exactly helpful).  The scene in which Tom basically gets “roofied” by Sybil’s old suitor and Matthew steps up and asks him to become his best man was one of the best of the night.  The future earl is welcoming him into the family (after all, they’ve got to take on the “Crawley girls” together), setting the example for the others to follow. (Side note: I wonder if Mary would be quite as willing to welcome Tom into the family if he had married Edith instead of Sybil?  I didn’t think s0.)

Tom & Matthew

Matthew saves the day

Of course, we also have the introduction of Martha Levinson, Lady Cora’s mother, who travels from the States for the wedding.  She was a breath of fresh air, but I was somewhat underwhelmed by her presence.  It was a bit predictable, and so much hype surrounded Shirley MacLaine’s performance that my expectations were pretty high.  Still, the scene where she serenades Lady Violet was pretty classic.

The wedding goes off without a hitch.  Well, I assume it did, given we didn’t see the actual ceremony (which I was okay with–it was enough to have that little exchange between Matthew and Mary at the front of the church), and we cut straight to Mary and Matthew returning from the honeymoon (which again, we didn’t get to see–I would have liked a “first night together” scene, just because I’d like to know if Mary was afraid for her new husband’s life, given what happened the last time she took a man to bed–or if perhaps Matthew teased her about it.  But something tells me the Pamuk scandal is a sensitive subject).

Mary & Matthew in bed

Oh good. I’m glad to see you’re still alive.

In other upstairs news, we’ve got Edith flinging herself at Sir Anthony Strallan again.  I want Edith to be happy and I’m all for her take charge attitude, but she just comes off as a little bit desperate to me.  Does she really love Sir Anthony, or is he her “only hope” in her mind, given that so many British men were killed during the war?  By the end of the episode, despite her father and grandmother’s attempted intervention, it seems that Edith has secured her man.

Edith & Sir Anthony

While all the family drama and money issues are taking place upstairs, we’ve got health scares, workwoman’s strikes, and a new footman downstairs.  O’Brien manages to get her nephew Alfred Nugent a position as footman, and soon sets her sights on getting him promoted to Matthew’s valet.  For once I actually felt sorry Thomas, who worked for years to earn such a promotion.  I don’t blame him for disliking Alfred.  He’s not only being groomed for a position Thomas doesn’t feel he’s qualified for (rightfully so), but he’s put a wedge between Thomas and O’Brien, his only “friend” downstairs.  So naturally, Thomas and O’Brien turn on each other, and something tells me it’s going to get a bit nastier than coat-tail torching and shirt-stealing.  Each knows the other’s weaknesses and they’re going to use them to their advantage.

Thomas isn't about to help O'Brien's nephew learn the ropes.

Thomas isn’t about to help O’Brien’s nephew learn the ropes.

Elsewhere we’ve got Daisy, who STILL, three seasons later (that’s 8 years in Downton time) hasn’t learned to ignore Thomas.  She goes on strike, much to Mrs. Patmore’s amusement, and Mrs. Patmore, treating Daisy like the child she is being, ignores her until she finally comes around.  Most pointless and ineffective strike ever.

Daisy's protest of 1920.

Daisy’s protest

One of the more intriguing plot-lines was Mrs. Hughes’s cancer scare.  Given her status downstairs, the only person she has to turn to is Mrs. Patmore, whose bedside manner leaves something to be desired (but also led to some of the funnier downstairs scenes of the night).  How frightening it must be for a woman in a position such as Mrs. Hughes, who has no family to turn to in the event her health does decline.  How long can she stay on as Downton Abbey’s housekeeper?  And how long until she lets poor Mr. Carson know?

Mrs. Patmore & Mrs. Hughes

“If you must pay money, better to a doctor than an undertaker.”

Finally we have Anna and Bates.  Their storyline feels so out of place to me this season.  Everything else is revolving around the house, and here we have Bates stuck in prison, with his wife playing detective and trying to find the piece of evidence that will finally set him free.  I’m still interested, yes, but it does feel a bit out in left field to me.  Good to know that Anna bought a garter while in France, though.

Bates contemplating Anna's wardrobe addition.

Bates contemplating Anna’s wardrobe addition.

So, looks like we’ve got quite a few questions raised in the first episode to keep us tuning in.  Will the Crawleys be downsizing from Downton?  How tumultuous will Mary and Matthew’s marriage be?  What will Matthew do with his unwanted inheritance?  Will Edith and Sir Anthony marry?  When do we get to see more of Sybil and Tom (they left so soon!)?  Will Anna ever exonerate Mr. Bates?  How out of control will O’Brien and Thomas’s one-up-manship become?  What will happen to Mrs. Hughes?  So many questions, so much more Downton  to come that will hopefully answer them!

What did you think of last night’s episode?  And for those of you who have seen spoilers, please don’t mention them here!

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The Chronicles of Downton Abbey: A Review

Chronicles of Downton Abbey

This Christmas I received The Chronicles of Downton Abbey: A New Era, the latest Downton companion book by Jessica Fellowes, niece of series creator Julian Fellowes.  And I could not put it down.  It was the perfect way to gear up for the coming third season, which starts this Sunday (Jan. 6) on PBS.

I think I prefer Chronicles to Fellowes’s other companion book, The World of Downton Abbey.  Each chapter takes an in depth look at one (and sometimes two) of the main characters both upstairs and down.  Fellowes discusses events that have taken place in the characters’ lives and how they’ve shaped and changed their personalities over the course of the series.  Select quotes are scattered throughout to break up the narrative text, along with beautiful color photographs from the set.  The actors give their takes on what makes their characters tick, and Fellowes also tucks in tidbits from her research to help explain character motivations.  This was the part I found particularly insightful.  When you know more about the life of a ladies maid, it helps to round out the background of O’Brien.  We better understand the hardships Lady Sybil and Branson face when we can compare their situation to other couples of the time who married outside their social class.

In addition, costume designer Caroline McCall explains her vision for each character and how that came across in their wardrobe, and the end of each chapter has a page filled with material objects that would have been a part of the character’s daily life.

Fellowes does an excellent job of bringing the characters to life on the page.  And I also think the book helps to give the characters more dimension than they sometimes get on the screen by taking plenty of time to discuss their backstory, their hopes for the future, and the challenges they presently face.  The fictional characters are made more real when their lives are compared to their real life contemporaries.

I give The Chronicles of Downton Abbey five stars, a must-own for any Downton enthusiast.

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Happy New Year!

New Year's postcard

It’s hard to believe it is 2013 already.  But there’s something so promising about a new year.  It’s unblemished, fresh, and full of possibilities.

January 2012 marked the start of this blog/website.  I want to thank all of you for reading and making it a success.  I’ve enjoyed it immensely and look forward to sharing another year of posts with you.

I wish you all a fantastic 2013 full of exciting and wonderful things.  Here’s to keeping those New Year’s resolutions (at least for a month or two)!

Vintage New Year’s postcard from New York Public Library’s digital collection.  Go here to see the full collection of New Year’s postcards.

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