PBS aired the first two episodes of "Downton Abbey" back to back. Here's my review of the first hour.
Hardly a pause for breath, was there? The second hour of "Downton" swept through with as many swirling plots as the first, spending far more time Downstairs than Up this time (or so it seemed), and culling a few stories (Branson and Sybil) while cultivate some new, heartbreaking ones (Mrs. Hughes). Still, the night belonged to Mrs. Levinson (Shirley MacLaine), and her saving the day, but not the estate.
As I mentioned in my review of the first hour, though Mary and Matthew are no longer a "will they / won't they" couple, their uses have not been diminished. For one thing, they make a much better couple in bed than Bates and Anna (and I am very sorry to bring that image back to your mind). How perfectly adorable for Matthew to worry about being caught in Mary's bed (at least he survived it!) and for her to turn his "shut up and kiss me" entreaty from before to wedding to the even more delightful "now stop talking and kiss me before I get cross." Oh, you two!
But the newlyweds have more to deal with than just getting to know one another in intimate settings - Mary spent much of the episode scheming with her Crawley grandmother to "fleece" (as Matthew put it) her Levinson grandmother. Despite decent performances from the former, the latter was not fooled for even a minute. She knew they were after her money and she let the pantomime continue until she ultimately revealed that even if she wanted to save the estate she couldn't. The money was tied up and going to Cora's never aforementioned or seen brother Harold. So that is that. However ...
Mrs. Levinson did use her crass American ways to help out with the near-disaster of a dinner party though, suggesting an indoor picnic and leading a rousing rendition of "Let Me Call You Sweethart," which ended with a surprisingly flirty serenade to Lady Violet. Oh my. But then again, Mrs. Levinson is American, and to quote her lady's maid Reed, "this is 1920, after all!" Modernity is here!
Speaking of Reed, she was rather forward in her affections with Alfred, but why not? It's a romance with a timer to it, and both are having fun, something Daisy is scandalized by. There may be something brewing between Alfred and Daisy, but it doesn't look like it will come along easily.
Elsewhere Downstairs, Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes team up in a perhaps unlikely alliance (but then again who else would Hughes turn to?) to battle Mrs. Hughes' medical woes together. Mrs. Hughes is devastating in the way she stoically handles the news, which makes her occasional breakdown about it all the harder to bear. Mrs. Patmore is a good humorous foil for the dire situation, which is probably not made any better by that quack Dr. Clarkson. What's worse too is that Mrs. Hughes doesn't feel yet that she can confide in Carson, which is sad. Their friendship of mutual admiration and light ribbing is one of the show's best, and for him to admit at the end that though he's been "a bit crabby, but I am on your side" was beautiful.
The weak point in the show remains with Bates, which is curious since he and Anna were its brightest spot in the first season. But somewhere Bates travelled over to the set of HBO's "Oz," or a scared-straight documentary. On Twitter there was the comment "Bates scenes = bathroom time, right?" and it's all too true. As much as I like Anna and am mildly interested in her new career as Sherlock Jr., there is nothing about Bates or his imprisonment that means anything. It's not a commentary on prisons or about the times ... nothing. Useless.
In other suspicious plots, Robert (a.k.a. Flopbert), loser of fortunes and wearer of black tie at white tie functions (ok that last one was not his fault), decides to put the ax on Edith and Sir Anthony Strallen's budding romance. As Mrs. Levinson points out, what is he playing at? Sir Anthony has a house, money and a title - isn't that all that Robert could hope for? He seems only ok with Mary's marriage to her cousin and is coming around to Sybil having run off with the chauffeur, but can't allow Edith - who has zero other prospects - to shack up with his friend? And the age gap? In that day and age? Don't make me laugh, Flopbert. The writing here makes no sense, and even though it's pointed out in a meta way, it's not resolved. Then things suddenly fast forward - marriage?! Just like that?! Well Sir Anthony if you felt that strongly about it then why did you let Robert bowl you over in the first place? The sense is fully lacking, but I'll play along for now.
The bottom line: drama is high and taught and much more relevant than many of the stories last year, even though two solid hours of it was a lot for anyone to take in. Most importantly, the drama also returns to the house, where it belongs. But how much longer the house will stand and be attached to the Crawleys remains to be seen.
Next Week: The unthinkable: Edith gets married! Also, it looks like it could be cancer for Mrs. Hughes. Matthew still refuses to take Reggie Swire's money, which leaves a huge question looming: what will happen to the Crawleys?
Musings and Miscellanea:
- Molesley running made me laugh out loud. He's such a great minor character.
- "Never mistake a wish for a certainty" - Lady Violet.
- I like this theme of Adapt or Perish. I think the household will be split on this issue.
- "If you ask me, we are staring into the chaos of Gomorrah" - Carson
- I love, love, love the silent looks of horror that Carson gives Alfred on a regular basis.
- Things really heated up with the trolling this week - Thomas sabotaged Alfred, and O'Brien sabotaged Thomas in return. It's on, bitches!
- "You are American and I am English. I am going to be Countess of Downton one day" - Mary
- I almost completely forgot about the Ethel and Isobel subplot because I really don't care about it.
- "Better to pay a doctor than an undertaker!" - Mrs. Patmore
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