Tag Archives: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey: Season Finale in Review

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: You know, for a finale to such an amazing season, this definitely fell short for me. The highlights of the final episode of “Downton Abbey” this season were none of the gigantic and lame plot twists, but were the small moments. Bates and Anna’s picnic. Rose grabbing Anna when it was time to dance the reel. Thomas and James at the beginning of what hopefully will be “a beautiful friendship.” Carson carrying baby Sybil. Cora getting choked up talking about revolutionary, modern daughters. Mrs. Pattmore and Mrs. Hughes sharing a spot of tea and laughing over presumptuous grocers. But throughout the entire episode, it felt like little tiny mounds of conflict were being made over sticks of dynamite that just kept being added to and added to as the episode went on, and one by one they exploded, awkwardly, with some piles still in tact for next season.

NAVA BRAHE: Well, there we have it: Matthew has been conveniently killed off in the spirit of high drama that occurs on the most commonplace of soap operas. I must admit that it was a huge disappointment for me as well, and I agree with Howard that “Downton Abbey” has likely “jumped the shark” with Dan Stevens’ departure.

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Downton Abbey: Week 6 in Review

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: This week’s double dose of “Downton Abbey” was one of the best episodes (well, technically two best) that I have seen this season. Minus the pointlessness of Cousin Rose (seriously, I don’t want to know what they’re going to do with her thoroughly obnoxious character) despite introducing us awkwardly to the fabulous underground party world of London in the 1920s, many very interesting story points were introduced. Characters often stuck in their ways proved to have more complexity than their starched exteriors often allow. Relationships developed and grew with a surprising level of intimacy, trust, and knowledge. And finally, we got to see Carson playing cricket. With so much to possibly focus on in this episode, I’m going to tackle a few points that I have been particularly interested in all season.

NAVA BRAHE: Since Sonia tackled the Thomas issue in such depth, all I will add is that Lord Grantham’s admission of having to rebuff what sounded like countless advances from his Eton classmates, sounded rather hollow. You would think that a man of his standing would be more homophobic than he was portrayed, especially given his resistance to change.

HOWARD MEGDAL: I think of Cousin Rose as the lone blemish on an otherwise delightful Downton Abbey. Julian Fellowes has birthed many characters we adore; indeed, it is their company I believe so many of us who watch Downton Abbey are seeking out, not some new plot twist. Continue reading

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Downton Abbey: Week 4 in Review

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: In the still relatively new season of “Downton Abbey,” we get an episode so full of sorrow, confusion, and woe that it feels, like tragedy, so out of the blue. Sybil was my favorite of the Crawley sisters, and her relationship with Branson was in turn one of my favorite love stories. Her death felt like one of a dear but distant friend, whom you have always loved and admired and who always gave so much with every decision and every action she made. The glee with which she displayed her turquoise harem pants to her shocked family in Season 1 will never be forgotten, and will always be my favorite moment at Downton. A woman “at the height of her happiness”departs from this world and leaves behind all that she has been so important in anchoring.

NAVA BRAHE: I could not possibly add anything to Sonia’s description of the events leading up to, and following Sybil’s death. What I would like to tackle, however, is what this portrayal of a young woman’s demise in childbirth means outside the bubble of popular culture.

HOWARD MEGDAL: I, too, wouldn’t have done well with corsets, Nava. You are not alone. Continue reading

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Downton Abbey: Week 3 in Review

NAVA BRAHE: Lady Mary is becoming as annoying to me as someone flushing the toilet while I am taking a shower. Now that Matthew has “invested” in Downton, she seems to have become more uptight, rather than relieved by the fact that her ancestral home and lavish lifestyle are no longer in limbo. The scene in the newly commandeered sitting room was telling, when her dismissive attitude reared its ugly head at the thought of becoming pregnant. Now that Matthew has cemented his position as both heir and savior of Downton, of course he wants offspring of his own. Is Mary afraid there won’t be enough funds to hire the army of nannies she would require to rear her children?

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: One of the major criticisms that this show has received is its supposed glorification of the upper classes with a seemingly complacent attitude from the servants. Though I can see where these critics are coming from, I have always defended “Downton Abbey” saying that the commentary on the British class system is subtle and not overbearing, but ever present. Episode Three, however, seemed to address these issues of class head on. As Nava stated, the Branson/Sybil plotline meshing with the Ethel tragedy provided the loudest roar I have ever heard from “downstairs.” I sincerely hope episodes with intricacies like these continue this season, because I am growing very tired of Mary’s icy demeanor and incessant snobbishness.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Agree with both Nava and Sonia that this is a dramatic improvement on last week; Julian Fellowes, at last, takes some time from racing through plot and allows the complicated characters in Downton time to breathe. Remembering Season 1, when luxuriating in their presence was the overriding pleasure of the show, would do Fellowes good as he plans future episodes. Continue reading

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Downton Abbey: Week 2 in Review

NAVA BRAHE: 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.

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.

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.
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Downton Abbey: Week 1 In Review

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: We’ve got a wedding, a new footman, “jolly” new hair styles, a “blushing” Mary, unlikely camaraderies, financial difficulties, a cancer scare, Irish rants, and Shirley Maclaine. Season Three of “Downton Abbey” has made it across the pond into our eager minds and hearts. Sunday night’s two-hour premiere can be summed up best by Lord Grantham at the beginning of the episode: “Nothing’s the matter. What should be the matter?” Nothing should be the matter. Matthew and Mary are about to be wed, Sybil and Branson are happy(ish) on their own in Dublin, Anna and Bates are making the best of a bad situation, the money troubles can easily be fixed by the immensely wealthy Martha Levinson (should she choose to contribute), and things are managing so-so downstairs given that they are currently understaffed. Nothing “should” be the matter. But, in true Downton fashion, many things are likely to be.

HOWARD MEGDAL: The return of Downton Abbey Sunday night provided precisely the well-acted, somewhat conveniently-plotted, aesthetically-pleasing television viewing we’d come to expect from Julian Fellowes and company over the first two seasons. Continue reading

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Downton Abbey: Season 2 Finale

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: “Downton Abbey,” you have successfully ripped my heart out, put it back in, ripped it out again, put a cute little bow on it, spritzed it with glitter spray, and put it back in again. It may be over until Season Three, but the Yuletide finale of Season Two of “Downton Abbey” made the tearjerking episodes of the past look like “I Love Lucy” in comparison. Whew! Between Anna’s shriek upon hearing Bates’s death sentence and Matthew’s climactic proposal to Mary, my heart strings tugged and bound me to every second of this final episode.

MICHAEL CUMMINGS: For me, five moments from the Season 2 finale of Downton Abbey have stood the test of time from Sunday to, um, the middle of this week.

HOWARD MEGDAL: It’s official: the normally-astute Jason Diamond could not be more wrong about Downton Abbey as the least-Jewish show in television history. Mr. Bates is a Jewish mother nonpareil, regardless of his actual ethnic background.

ZOË RICE: The season 2 finale of Downton Abbey was destined to touch its viewers – whether with Anna and Bates, Mary and Matthew, poor William’s dad and guileless Daisy, or even Mary’s genuinely good-natured farewell to Sir Richard. Wherever the characters went during these 90 minutes, I was game to follow raptly. Continue reading

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Downton Abbey: Week 6

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: An intense two hour episode of “Downton Abbey” rarely leaves much to the imagination when all questions are asked and answered without much lull in between. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t love every minute of this episode, but oy veh, is this emotional roller coaster exhausting!

ZOË RICE: The pacing of this week’s two-hour whirlwind left little room to breathe. So much action keeps a viewer utterly engaged. But from another point of view, it also robs us of the kind of slower progression that allows for heightened suspense and a savoring that only comes when a drama series makes you earn its tastiest moments.

MICHAEL CUMMINGS: Much better. Much, much better. Love stories were advanced, an in-the-way character died, affairs were narrowly avoided, the annoying long-lost presumptive heir nobody cared about stayed away (hopefully for good), and everybody’s favorite nice-guy walked bravely to his arrest. All in all, it was an outstanding week, but one minor detail keeps nagging me: How old is everyone?

HOWARD MEGDAL: The conclusion of Season 2- from what I understand, this coming finale is really a separate, Christmas at Downton aired later over in Great Britain- had the pacing problems Zoë mentioned for me as well. That said, there was so much to like, and I am greatly saddened at the idea that Downton is coming to a close for now.
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Downton Abbey: Week 5

SONIA BRAND-FISHER Not one of my favorite episodes of “Downton Abbey” this week, for multiple reasons. It kind of felt like the second episode of the season for me, where plots were started and stopped, nothing really gets resolved, and we are all just left hanging until more chaos ensues and decides to further the plot.

ZOË RICE: My thoughts as Downton’s opening credits flicked from room to room ran along the lines of, “Please let Matthew have sex again!” And as the closing credits rolled, they turned more to, “Huh, okay…?” This week’s episode was something of a place holder – the set up for what we can only anticipate will be a whirlwind of tumult.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Oh, good. I thought I was the only one disappointed by this episode. Safety in numbers. Continue reading

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Downton Abbey: Week 4

SONIA BRAND-FISHER When scandal strikes on “Downton Abbey,” we are intrigued and enthralled to be caught up in the frivolous exhilaration. Even when something as wild as Branson’s attempted vandalism happens at the dinner table or when Thomas sobs at the suicide of a blind soldier, we watch from afar, curious yet hopelessly invested. Episode 4, however, brought us closer into the tragedies of the household that were articulated with so much intimacy and humanity that at times it was very difficult to be a part of. This episode took us out of our cozy roles as observers and into the depths of Downton, all the way to the end of the South Gallery, behind white curtains, and into the hearts of the inhabitants.

ZOË RICE: And so this week the camera doesn’t cut away when Matthew and William face their gravest peril yet. Instead we see them lying seemingly lifeless on the battlefield. With that, this season’s most gripping episode of Downton yet is underway.

MICHAEL CUMMINGS: I swear for a minute there I almost thought Julian Fellowes was trying out material for the tragically as-yet-unplanned Star Wars Episode VII post-quel. First, Lady Mary and Daisy started feeling disturbances in the Force when their men took shrapnel at the front. Then, the radical chauffeur reminded the cute daughter to be more mindful of her feelings. Later, Captain Crawley and William (requiescat in peace, by the way) threw down in an epic Darth Vader egg-off. At that point I was honestly expecting to see a 1138 Easter Egg pop up somewhere.

HOWARD MEGDAL: So much to love about this week’s episode. My fellow reviewers have touched on the larger points, and I largely agree. It is almost impossible to imagine that Matthew, whose entrances have provided so much of the show’s lifeblood, will now be a forlorn figure in a wheelchair. Perhaps they can split the difference and give him an FDR persona, but betting on a misdiagnosis seems wise. Continue reading

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