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Monday, January 14, 2013

'Downton Abbey' Season 3, Episode 3 Recap

Look at me Im Edith C! For once everything is all about me!
  • PBS
  • Look at me I'm Edith C! For once everything is all about me!

Does any other show burn through plots as quickly as "Downton Abbey?" There was the good, the better and the worst at the manor this week, and while the episode was high on drama, it lacked any real risk. This was our third hour spent contemplating Downton's ruin because, without Bates around, somebody has to fall on their sword unnecessarily, so it might as well be Matthew. No one ever really thought Downton would be sold though, did they? After all, the servants didn't even know that it was a possibility, and the show isn't called The Crawleys.

It was always a question of timing for when the manor would be saved, and there was no other option (after Mrs. Levinson said she was unable to access her fortune - she was whisked away quickly after that, wasn't she?) but for Matthew to accept Reggie Swire's money and gift it to Robert. While Matthew pouted and sighed, Mary actually read the letter about the money in question, and found it to be so exceptionally explicit that Matthew should accept the money without feeling guilty that even Matthew believed it was a forgery.

Thank heavens for Daisy and coincidence though, which allowed for Lavinia to somehow post a letter to her father while she was on her death bed without anyone knowing. Why would Lavinia have been left alone for long enough to compose a letter? And why ask Daisy of all people to post it? Why am I looking for logic with this show though. Ooo aren't Cora's dresses lovely!

The thing about "Downton Abbey" though is that even when it's ridiculous, it's wonderful. Matthew accepts the money, Downton is saved, and he and Robert are business partners (that seems like a bad idea), and that was the least interesting part of the episode (minus Shawshank Bates, of course).

The happiest and saddest emotions came from Edith and Mrs. Hughes' tales this week. Like the idea that Downton was never in real danger, I doubt anyone believed Edith would get a happy ending that quickly. At the same time, how fast was that entire engagement? We watched Mary and Matthew hem and haw for two full seasons, although I guess nothing can beat Sybil running away with Branson as quickly as they did. It's interesting to juxtapose a relationship like Edith and Sir Anthony against one like Carson and Mrs. Hughes. While the later two are not romantically inclined towards each other (just exceptionally fond of the each), we're so much more invested in their relationship. When Mrs. Hughes caught Carson humming along like he was back in his Cheerful Charlie days at the news she would be fine, it was a beautiful moment. Sir Anthony proposing to Edith? Nearly missed it, not to mention the wedding.

Still, even though we were never meant to get too attached to Sir Anthony if that's how he was going to choose to play things (what a cad!), poor Edith deserved better. I suppose he was always squirrely about their relationship, and clearly had no backbone when it came to her. He wasn't the right choice, but for him to wait until that moment to realize it was brutal. Edith waking up to her "role in life as the useful spinster" was just as heartbreaking though, and perhaps the realist and most sincere her character has ever been.

The other issue is though, again, why was everyone so down on the marriage to begin with? Without Sir Anthony, Edith was likely to be a spinster (or so everyone guessed). Why this sudden devotion to "true love" from the old guard (Robert and Violet)? I imagine Edith would have been pretty happy with a man like Sir Anthony. He would give her something to do, as Isobel brings up later, and she would be useful as well as loved, something that is not true of her existence at Downton. Unfortunate all around.

Back to Mrs. Hughes, I wanted to celebrate the benign nature of her cyst, but could she just have asked Mrs. Patmore to tell Carson that to cover up the truth that she did have cancer? I just feel that there's no way Patmore would have gone along with that, especially after Cora made such a lovely overture to Mrs. Hughes that she would be taken care of no matter what. I think Elsie lives to rule another day at Downton, cancer-free.

Another jam-packed hour of "Downton" this week, with plenty of subplots (mentioned below) to keep things interesting even outside of these major events. Already this season has had more heart and made more sense than the entirety of last, and it's good to see the series back to Season One territory.

Next Week: No mail for Anna, Matthew and Robert butt heads over the running of the estate, and Sybil and Branson get up to hijinks.

Musings and Miscellanea:

- As much as the Bates story bores me, I did like the little trick where he was able to thwart his cellmate from setting him up.

- The only thing more boring than Bates is the Isobel / Ethel subplot.

- In other Bates news, Anna, a.k.a. Sherlock, Jr, didn't seem to get anywhere with Vera's surly neighbor. Or did she pick up a few clues? (like scrubbing the poison pastry from under her nails?)

- "If you find one more reason to refuse that money, I shall be forced to beat you about the head" - Mary. You and me both, sister!

- Alfred is still flirting with Daisy, and she seems to maybe be interested. Is it just because he's the only single guy around?

- Speaking of single men, Thomas has REALLY lost his edge. Telling Molesley to spread the word O'Brien was leaving? That did nothing, and was so easily traced back to him. Come on Thomas, step up your game!

- Meanwhile, Molesley is getting to be a better and better character for comic relief - from his bewilderment over O'Brien's anger to him refusing to drink (remember last year??) to being left out of staff events, he's a joy.

- Violet: "Sybil, vulgarity is no substitute for wit." Sybil: "you started it!" I love that Sybil came back at Violet like that, with a grin, and Violet's expression in response was just the best.

- Oh yes, having only eight servants is very economical.

- "I am a useful spinster. That is my role. And spinsters get up for breakfast" - Edith

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