Downton Abbey: Week 2 in Review

NAVA BRAHE: Oy…poor Edith. Those were my exact word after watching Sir Anthony Strallan play the role of runaway groom. And she looked so beautiful!

I have to admit that Edith has become a much more sympathetic character in Season 3, not just because she was left at the altar by Strallan; she seems to have gained so much poise and confidence after helping nurse the King’s soldiers during the war, as opposed to trying to sabotage Lady Mary in Season 1.  Her previous role was that of a typical middle sister, especially when one’s older sibling happens to be another girl.

Lady Mary seems to have gone in the exact opposite direction as Lady Edith. She is less sympathetic as Mrs. Matthew Crawley, trying desperately to preserve her way of life. She comes off more as a spoiled American socialite, rather than a dignified Englishwoman. Could it be that Lady Edith is being groomed to become the most modern twentieth century woman of all the Crawley sisters? Sybil has taken a backseat to Branson, but I can’t help but think there is much more in store for her.

I am thrilled that Mrs. Hughes’ tumor turned out to be benign, and am even more delighted at seeing Carson’s relief at her positive news. Carson’s commitment to tradition and loyalty is at once endearing and unrealistic, and in my opinion, makes him the real Lord Grantham, even though Robert Crawley possesses the actual birthright. He is the true guardian of Downtown Abbey, and no doubt appreciates its existence much more than the Crawley family does. On that front, it seemed rather convenient that Lavinia’s dying words absolved Matthew of his guilt; I have a strange feeling that Matthew’s latest inheritance might not be the answer to all of Lady Mary’s problems.

O’Brien and Thomas are set to go to war with each other in the most evilly juvenile fashion, which illustrates yet again how the downstairs intrigue proves much more imaginative than what  goes on in the library and sitting rooms. While the Crawley family does their best to avoid losing all they hold dear, the danger and potential jeopardy their servile counterparts must endure, is most often the most enjoyable element of the show.

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: Spinsters do get out of bed for breakfast, and Edith has exhibited so much strength these past few seasons, even if she doesn’t see it herself. The opening shot of the episode with the house a-bustle for wedding preparations and Edith, for the first time, with a Lady of the House glow of pride on her face gave me such joy. I don’t think I have seen her smile so much in one episode, yet what killed me the most was that her face became so much more open, her eyes so much more willing to take in the beauty around her. There wasn’t a single fear of heartbreak present at the beginning of the episode for Edith, which I find surprising in retrospect. I am predicting that this hardship will boost her as a character, as each of her hardships have done in the past. She sure as hell, as Nava points out, appears more sympathetic than Lady Mary at this point in the season.

What’s up with her, seriously? When Mary told Matthew she read Mr. Swire’s letter to show Matthew he really, truly, has nothing to feel guilty about if he gives the money to Downton, I thought she wrote it herself too. It’s seems like the type of thing she would do this season. There is such an odd dichotomy being played out in Mary so far. She is coming across as more calculating and proactive (insomuch that she is going after what she wants with seemingly little regard for anyone around her) and at the same time appealing, as Nava said, extremely spoiled. Not wanting to lose Downton in a sentimental way, for her family’s sake, or for anything other than her desire to be countess might make her behavior a little more understandable. I am wondering how this will wear on Matthew, who seems to be very tired of money matters, but who also desperately wants to help a family who has given him so much.

Completely terrified for what is going to transpire for Bates in jail. I have a terrible feeling that the more Anna finds out, the more she will fear Bates and grow away from him. What if Bates did kill Vera? For some odd reason, Bates’ “good guy” act is starting to show some more holes for me. Clearly, his cell mate is dead set on getting Bates in trouble while in prison. Will this mean further persecution for Bates? I’m sincerely hoping I’m just being negative and reading too much into it, because I can’t stomach seeing Anna unhappy.

My money’s on O’Brien over Thomas, personally. She can be a little maniacal when she wants to get back at someone (need we remember the soap on the bathroom floor and Cora’s miscarriage?).

HOWARD MEGDAL: Put my money on O’Brien too, Sonia. But at the risk of sounding negative about a show I enjoy, there were two particular points within this episode that I thought stretched the writing beyond its breaking point.

The first is that letter, one Sonia points out seems like it could have been forged by Lady Mary. Yes, partly, that is because of the nature of her desperation to hold onto all things Downton. But isn’t it also a reflection of the mere existence of such a letter being entirely too perfect? Really, if all there is to the story is that Lavinia, on her last day on earth, just happened to write precisely the words to her father that caused him to have precisely the reaction that allowed Matthew to feel okay about keeping the money from him because Daisy just happened to be in the room; I mean, a little much, no?

The other ridiculous use of the hour had to be the three times now that Ethel has very nearly asked for help from Isabel, only to run away. She’s expressed the same idea, that it is too late for her. What exactly is the suspense here? Isabel knows she has a child. Ethel knows Isabel knows she has a child. The same woman bold enough to enter the dining room with that baby suddenly can’t discuss the child with Isabel?

The payoff on this better be more than just the child; otherwise, Julian Fellowes is repeatedly going to the well for a surprise that every single person, on screen and at home, knows about already. It’s ridiculous, frankly.

Allow me to dissent from Sonia on the complexity of Bates; yes, I’d like to see Anna happy. But a little more variance to a character is more reminiscent of Season 1, which so far towers above Season 3. Fellowes, back then, allowed us some breathing room to consider who we might root for. He’s taking great pains now to make sure he paints every character in home and away jerseys. A little mystery, please.



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