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Downton Abbey Season 3, ep. 5 recap

This week’s episode of Downton Abbey focused on its inhabitants in the wake of last week’s devastating tragedy.  Everyone is trying to come to terms with the death of Lady Sybil and the reminder that nothing can be taken for granted.  I thought the series turned out another quality episode to follow up last week’s in both its writing and acting.  The family (as well as the audience) needed time to grieve Sybil’s death, and much of the episode was devoted to just that.

Warning: Spoilers for episode 5 ahead!

Leaving Downton

Mourners leaving Downton Abbey

The funeral is over, the guests have gone, and now it is time for the Crawley family to resume life without their dear Sybil.  Tom (who turned in another wonderful performance this week) is grief-stricken, telling a concerned Matthew that his wife is gone and he is past help.  Cora’s role continued to have more substance as a grieving mother who cannot forgive her husband for not listening to Dr. Clarkson’s advice.  She barely speaks or looks at him, and when she does it is to tell him that his fixation on tradition, with his insistence on hiring a fashionable knighted doctor, killed their daughter.  The two parents are therefore left to mourn on their own.  In order to help her son, Lady Violet steps in and contacts Dr. Clarkson, asking him to review the evidence and find out what Sybil’s chances were of surviving eclampsia so that the rift between Cora and Robert might be mended and they can deal with their grief together.

Robert at breakfast

Robert upon hearing Tom’s plans to raise his daughter as a Catholic

In the meantime it becomes painfully apparent that Robert is lost.  Even more so than during the war when his house was turned into a convalescence home.  All of the traditions, all of things he’s found comfort in as certainties, are crumbling around him.  His response to the loss of control is anger and frustration, and he releases it wherever he can.  He almost explodes at the breakfast table when grief-stricken Tom announces his daughter (who he’s decided to name Sybil to remember her mother by) will be Catholic.  When Robert goes to his favorite daughter to rail against Tom’s “ghoulish” idea of naming the baby Sybil and for his insistence on breaking with the Crawley Anglican tradition, he finds no sympathy.  Mary disagrees with him, reminding her dear Papa that the baby is a Branson, not a Crawley.

Mary talking to Robert

Robert’s traditionalist boat is further rocked when Matthew brings up the mismanagement of the estate once more, which Robert wants to hear nothing about.  Matthew urges him that the time to act is now, that the money to keep Downton afloat is already “leaking through the cracks.”  Again, Robert looks like he might explode.  But Carson enters before he has a chance to and gives Robert a place to funnel his full wrath when he informs him that his mother, wife, and daughters are all at luncheon with Mrs. Crawley, eating food prepared by a former prostitute.

Robert at luncheon

Robert puffs up his chest and bursts into the luncheon, insisting that every one of them leave at once, blustering on about Ethel’s wayward ways and how Mrs. Crawley has exposed his entire family to scandal as a result.  He is put in his place quickly by his wife, who, after learning that Mrs. Patmore helped Ethel, looks straight at him and says she is glad her cook has a good heart and does not judge.  When he makes one last attempt to get them to leave, his mother states that it would be a pity to miss such a good pudding.  Once again finding himself in events outside his control, Robert exits with a firm slam of the door.

Mary and Robert

Just when I was ready to smack Robert to make him wake up and get with the program, he has a heart to heart with Mary that brought tears to my eyes.  After Mary tells him he won’t win on the christening, and spells out what we’ve observed all episode (“The world isn’t going your way.  Not anymore.”), he finally opens up about Sybil.  About how he forgets she is gone, and when he sees a newspaper article that will make her laugh or a rose she loves that is in bloom, he goes to tell her, and then he remembers.  Mary begs him to tell Cora this, but he knows she won’t listen.

Cora and Robert
Finally, Lady Violet orchestrates an intervention for her son and daughter-in-law, asking them to pay a call at her house.  There they find Dr. Clarkson, who explains that after a great deal of study, Lady Sybil had an infinitesimal chance of survival.  Even if they had performed a caesarian, it likely would have put her through a great deal of pain and suffering and she still would have died.  At the realization that death was inevitable for their daughter, Cora and Robert both break down, seeking each other for solace.  And Lady Violet saves the day once more.

Matthew and Mary

Robert and Cora took up the largest chunk of the upstairs story this week, but there were a few other plot points worth mentioning.  Sybil’s death seems to have reminded Mary and Matthew of the uncertainty of life, and that they shouldn’t take their marriage for granted, nor their home.  Nice to finally see a scene in which the two aren’t fighting about money, but I couldn’t help but wonder if their memories were completely erased of the previous years of angst they both suffered when they weren’t together–wouldn’t that be reminder enough not to take each other for granted?

Matthew and Tom

Matthew takes Tom on a tour of the estate and shares some of his ideas, and is surprised to learn that Tom has some experience of his own when it comes to farm management.  Is it just me, or would Tom and Matthew make an excellent management team for Downton?  But I won’t get my hopes up, because Tom seems determined to leave the place as soon as possible.

Edith

Edith’s ongoing indecisiveness about the newspaper job continued this week with a quick mention at the luncheon.  She is still unsure of what to do with herself, and proposes learning to cook (to her sister’s horrified “Why?”).  Please Edith, get thyself to London post haste, and get thee a fantastic job and a life of thine own.

Ethel

Downstairs also had some difficulty adjusting to change.  Carson and Lord Robert are apparently cut from the same cloth, and Carson cannot let go of the fact that Mrs. Crawley has hired Ethel of ill repute to run Crawley House.  And Molesley is right there with him.  But others, like Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes, are more understanding (except for when it comes to rouge–Mrs. Patmore is having none of that!).  And I will admit it–I’m totally invested in Ethel’s story now.  Her character bored me last season, and her arc was slow to start this season, but ever since she gave up her darling boy Charlie and has started to turn her life around, I can’t help rooting for her, and look forward to seeing where her story goes.

Daisy and Alfred

Daisy teaches Alfred the foxtrot

The love polygon between Daisy, Alfred, Ivy, and Jimmy (and Thomas off to the side) continues.  Even when Mrs. Patmore plainly points out that they’re all in love with the wrong people, it’s as if it goes straight over their heads.  Maybe if she took one of those copper pots Ivy is always cleaning and banged them over the heads they’d see reason, but I doubt it.

Thomas and Jimmy

Thomas still recovering from the loss of Lady Sybil

I’ve been feeling sympathetic for Thomas the past few episodes.  He hasn’t done one evil or nasty thing.  Which means I’m really dreading what must be in store for him courtesy of O’Brien.  Because if Julian Fellowes is trying to get us to care about one of the nastiest pieces of work at Downton, it means he’s setting that character up for a major fall.

Daisy

Daisy of the constant scowl finally had something to smile about this episode.  Mr. Mason informs her he wants to give her his farm and all of his worldly possessions.  Could Daisy have found a nicer father-in-law?  She explains that she plans to stay in service, but Mr. Mason, wise man that he is, asks Daisy if she really thinks that the world will keep turning as it has been for houses like Downton Abbey.  She’s got a lifetime of work ahead of her, and she may need to think of some other way to make a living.

Bates

The “Free Bates” campaign continues.  As I predicted, that no good jail warden got to Mrs Bartlett before Mr. Murray could.  Again, why do they hate Bates so much?  I understand their current anger (since Bates framed his cellmate)–but why was there an issue to begin with?  I really wish that could be explained further.  Bates tells Mr. Murray he knows why Mrs. Bartlett did not give the same story that she did to Anna, and that he is going to do something about it.  Anna tells him to promise not to do anything stupid, but Bates only says he’ll take care of it.

Bates threatening Craig

Bates then proceeds to threaten his former cell mate with a sharp object (where did he even get that?) and tells him he better put things right and get Mrs. Bartlett to tell the truth or else he’ll tell the governor that he and the jail warden were trying to involve him in a drug scheme, which would put the jail warden out of a job and give the cell mate five more years in the clink.

Anna

Apparently the threat works, as Anna receives a letter from Mr. Murray saying that he got the statement from Mrs. Bartlett and Bates will be freed.  But the process will take a few weeks, which means Bates isn’t out of danger yet.  After the threat he made, he should probably watch out for some sort of retaliation.  While it would have been nice to have him freed by the end of the episode, it looks like this storyline will be dragged out at least a little longer.  Sidenote: wasn’t that a sweet moment between Mary and Anna, when Anna says how touched she is to hear Mary say “we” when discussing Bates’s case and how much Mary cares about seeing him set free?

Anna and Mary

So much to think about for next week’s episode.  Will Robert finally set his pride aside and listen to Matthew’s ideas so Downton Abbey isn’t run into the ground?  Has Cora finally forgiven her husband?  If (though it looks like “when” from the preview) Bates makes it out of jail alive, and resumes his post as Lord Robert’s valet, what will happen to Thomas?  O’Brien’s set her trap, and I’m just waiting to see how it will snap.  Will Daisy accept her father-in-law’s offer to leave service and move to the farm?  What about Mary and Matthew?  I saw the way they looked at little baby Sybil, it’s obvious they both want a family.  And what will happen to Tom?  Will he make a fresh start in Liverpool, or will he perhaps be convinced by Matthew to stay at Downton?  And it looks like from the preview that Edith will finally work up the nerve to become a career woman!  But who exactly is this Rose they are introducing next time?  Looks like a “Bright Young Thing” to me.  Perhaps she’ll teach Edith the Charleston.

What were your thoughts about this week’s episode?

Missed an episode?  Read my recaps of episode 1, episode 2, episode 3, and episode 4.

 

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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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Downton Abbey Season 2, finale recap

Season 2 of Downton Abbey drew to a close as the household ushered in a new decade with hunting, dancing and a Ouija board.  Wait, what?  Yes, the parlor game panchettes (or in the US, “Ouija board”) was popular by the 1920’s, but made for an odd plot device in this otherwise excellent finale.

Warning: spoilers ahead

Where to begin?  Episode 6 left us in the spring of 1919, so approximately eight months or so have passed in “Downton time.”  Lady Sybil is married to Branson and living in Ireland, and gasp! is already pregnant, and it sounds like Robert is going to cave to Cora’s demand that she not be kept from her grandchild, so we’ll likely see Sybil again next season (I really missed her during the Christmas episode).  Lady Mary is becoming increasingly agitated by Sir Richard and his constant “when can we set a date, already?” question.  Mr. Bates is on trial for his life, casting a gloomy shadow over Anna’s world.  Thomas and O’Brien are up to their scheming once again.  And Aunt Rosamund comes to visit, bringing her lady’s maid with her and another Ethel-like sub-plot that seemed almost entirely unnecessary (other than to highlight how many of the British aristocracy had serious financial troubles after the war–but wasn’t that point already hammered home when Richard and Mary were searching for an estate?).

Bates listening to Mrs. Hughes's testimony

Let’s start with the dominating plots of the show.  First, Mr. Bates’s trial.  For a man who uses his words sparingly, Bates certainly managed to utter some choice phrases that did not come off well in the courtroom when O’Brien, Mrs. Hughes, and Lord Grantham were forced to repeat them.  Anna’s strangled scream after the guilty verdict is pronounced was heartbreaking, as was Bates’s haggard face as he’s dragged off to meet his maker.   But news later comes that is in Mr. Bates’s favor–some of the details call into question the case for a premeditated murder, reducing his sentence to life imprisonment rather than hanging.  Now there is a chance of proving his innocence–which means this plot will be spilling over into the third season.  Makes me wonder if perhaps Sir Richard may have to testify, as he heard Mrs. Bates make a very clear threat against her husband after she learned she had been paid off for the Pamuk story.

Anna and Mr. Bates discuss the future.

The other main plot had a (thankfully) much happier ending.  The Matthew & Mary “will they/won’t they?” dance seems to have come to an end.  At least, I hope so.  I won’t feel at ease until I see those two at the altar, exchanging vows and pronounced husband and wife.  Matthew and Mary are miserable for most of the episode, Matthew due to his insistence on honoring Lavinia’s memory (even though that’s not how she wanted it honored), and Mary dealing with her abrasive, controlling fiancee.  The only time the two do seem happy (shockingly enough), is when they are together.

A rare smile from Lady Mary

Finally, finally, they begin to listen to outside advice.  After learning of the Pamuk scandal, Lord Robert tells his daughter to break with Carlisle, as a month’s worth of scandal is not worth a lifetime of unhappiness.  Mary then receives similar advice from Matthew (I bet that was an awkward confession–too bad they cut away and only came back to show Matthew’s reaction).  Now that Mary’s decided to give Sir Richard the boot (good riddance–though I’m sure we’ll see him again next season), the only thing standing in the way is Matthew, who is still unconvinced that the Spanish flu killed Lavinia rather than the kiss he shared with Mary.  Cousin Isobel at last makes herself truly useful by telling her son that no one his age should be unhappy, and if he believes there is a way to change that, and doesn’t do it, well, the war has simply taught him nothing.

Matthew receiving some motherly advice

Lord Robert seems to give Matthew the final push by telling him he did nothing dishonorable and was a man of his word as he had every intention of marrying Lavinia.  Robert adds that Matthew should not blame himself for feelings he cannot control (I suppose he speaks from experience after the “Jane affair”).  Lavinia makes a final appearance from beyond the grave, sending her blessing through the Ouija board, to Anna and Daisy’s surprise (does this mean Lavinia’s spirit now haunts the halls of Downton?)

"May they be happy. With my love."

So, after waiting for two agonizing seasons, we finally get the fairytale scene we’ve been waiting for: Matthew down on one knee, asking Mary to be his wife, who very happily accepts.  A perfect ending to the second season (now please, Julian Fellowes, please let them get married and have lots of babies and live happily ever after…please?)

There were several other great sub-plots featured in this episode.  Lady Edith goes after her love interest from the first series, Sir Anthony Strallen.  It was awfully nice of Lady Violet to set up a reunion between the two (which she then quickly discouraged after realizing his arm was lame–really Granny?  Almost all of the eligible bachelors are dead from the war or maimed in some way or another.  Let Edith have her happiness where she can find it).

Edith pays a call on Sir Anthony

Thanks to the Ouija board’s urging, Daisy pays a long overdue call to her father-in-law on the farm.  In a poignant scene Daisy finally wraps her mind around the fact that William thought she was special, and that he wanted his father to have someone to call family after he passed away.  And now Daisy has a rational guiding voice to listen to, which prompts her to ask for a promotion in the kitchen.

"I've never been special to anyone."

It was nice to see some of the old-school plotting and scheming by Thomas this episode.  But stealing a man’s dog?  That’s just wrong.  And then to be rewarded for it with a trial run as his valet?  What sort of lesson is that to teach?  At least we see Thomas showing some concern for the dog’s absence when he finds her missing from the shed he locked her in.  Still, you know a scheme is particularly underhanded when it garners O’Brien’s disapproval (even though it hatched from her own advice).

Searching for Isis

So that’s a wrap for season 2!  I really found this to be one of the best episodes of the season, with more focus on the principal characters.  I also liked the “lighter” parts thrown in, such as “the game” (aka charades) and the servants dancing with the family members (Mrs. Patmore’s face was priceless while dancing with Matthew).  What did you think?  Did the finale live up to all the Downton hype?  Any predictions for next season?

A gratuitous photo of the happy couple, just because you know you want to see them again.

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