Downton Abbey continued with part two of its Masterpiece run last night, and thank goodness it was only an hour long installment because this episode was packed. And AWESOME. This is Downton at its best, for me at any rate -- absolutely insane drama at lightning-fast speed. *wink*
The Crawley family is in the throes of planning its second wedding in what -- a month? -- as Edith (Laura Carmichael) is determined to marry Sir Anthony Crazy Eyes Strallan (Robert Bathurst). NO ONE except Edith thinks this is a good idea, but the family all seems resigned to letting her push ahead with her grand plan to become Lady Strallan. But a pall even worse than gaining a sap for a son-in-law hangs over Downton, and particularly Robert (Hugh Bonneville), as the family must face putting the beloved estate up for sale. Robert is loathe to see his financial and leadership failures exposed to the world, but he's resigned himself to his family's fate, even if Mary (Michelle Dockery) hasn't, because her stubbornly MORONIC husband refuses to save the family home. *headdesk* The family decides to take a picnic to "Downton Place" which is far from a shack...but it's all about perspective, isn't it? *wink*
To her family's everlasting credit, they are attempting to celebrate Edith's big day and encourage her as she marries Sir Anthony, even though the marriage is virtually, universally frowned upon. For all that Edith suffers from "middle child syndrome," if you will, when compared to the glittering Mary or the unconventional Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay), good friggin' GRIEF does she ever deserve better than marrying to become (as Violet so eloquently puts it) "an old man's drudge" (and keep in mind, I will be ALLLLL about a well-written May/December romance, as long as one of the parties involved doesn't give me the creeps!). I mean I GET that nearly all of the young men in Edith's social circle died in the war. I GET that Anthony gives her the time of day. But a mutual love of motoring is only going to take a couple so far... :P
So while Edith is all in la-la land getting ready for her marriage and a lifetime of having Sir Anthony as her own special "project," the rest of the family copes with the reality of having to leave Downton while downstairs health scares and personal rivalries take center stage. After two seasons of seeing O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran) and Thomas (Rob James-Collier) as allies in their shared quest for world domination and desire to spread pain and suffering where ever they go, they are finally on the outs...and people, I LOVE it. Last week saw O'Brien abscond with Robert's dress shirts in retaliation for needling her nephew, making Thomas (as his valet) look the fool. This episode saw Thomas up the ante and use poor, gullible Molesley (Kevin Doyle) to start a rumor that O'Brien was leaving Downton. When Cora hears this "news" through back channels she's understandably put out that her ladies' maid wouldn't confide in her -- and this leads to all sorts of awkward moments for O'Brien. She's so rarely off-kilter. *wink* (I actually felt kind of bad for poor Molesley, unintentionally running afoul of O'Brien!)
Matthew (Dan Stevens) continues to be a complete ass about the fact that he's due to inherit money from Reggie Swire, the man who would have been his father-in-law if that silly twit Lavinia hadn't up and died last year. :P Lavinia, to her credit, was more than gracious about the whole Matthew-is-still-in-love-with-Mary mess, and for goodness' sake she died from THE FLU. It isn't as if she wasted away solely through her own (lack of?) willpower. So for approximately three-quarters of this episode Matthew is a complete jerk about the fact that Reggie wanted to leave him his estate, apparently relishing the chance to wallow in self-loathing and guilt over how he shouldn't accept the money because of Lavinia. Dude, Lavinia DOESN'T care!!! *sigh* I know Mary can have something of a reputation for being difficult and cold, but goodness I wanted her to smack Matthew upside the head so. BADLY. All things told, the new bride handled her husband's idiocy with real class IMO.
Downstairs, aside from the O'Brien/Thomas "war," the most compelling storyline involves Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) anxiously awaiting the biopsy results from Dr. Clarkson (David Robb). I really enjoy the layers this test has revealed not only in Mrs. Hughes' character, but the warmth of the friendship that she shares with Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nichol). Mrs. Hughes' worry and fatigue become increasingly difficult to hide from the ever-vigilant Mr. Carson (Jim Carter), who first attempts to discover the cause from Dr. Clarkson (props to Clarkson for actually -- surprisingly? ha!! -- respecting doctor/patient confidentiality), and then wheedles the truth out of poor Mrs. Patmore. His worry for Mrs. Hughes just KILLED me...please, if they retire or something can they PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE get married Julian Fellowes? Because that would rock my world. I love how he goes to Cora on Mrs. Hughes' behalf, and then Cora calls her in and is all DON'T WORRY ABOUT A THING, WE WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU NO MATTER WHAT. I was close to tearing up right along with Mrs. Hughes -- particularly in that day and age, where she sacrificed the chance to make her own family for a career at Downton, when facing a cancer diagnosis she must've struggled with feeling so alone! HUGS ALL AROUND! And well done, Cora. :)
|Edith and the Wedding of DOOM|
So...Ethel's WEDDING EVE OF DOOM is upon Downton, and Sir Anthony has this horribly awkward conversation with Robert, where Robert, to his credit, doesn't tell Anthony what he's REALLY thinking (i.e., that Strallan is too lame to be his son-in-law). One gets the feeling Anthony is making Robert re-think Branson's (Allen Leech) suitability. *wink* Fast-forward to the next day, and the Crawley women all share a pre-wedding bonding moment, and then Edith makes her grand entrance -- and oh it kills me that she's so excited about this, because Anthony looks like he's going to throw up and she looks FAB. Seriously, wasn't her wedding dress amazing?! About this time I commented we have a runner -- and Sir Anthony Crazy Eyes does not disappoint, delivering perhaps one of the most awkward jilt-the-bride-at-the-altar scenes ever caught on film. LAME LAME LAME. Poor Edith is in understandable shock, but Violet (Maggie Smith) seizes the day -- and her comments about letting him go and it's all for the best -- AT THE ALTAR!! -- cracked me up. Vintage Violet moxie, that. *wink*
|in hindsight, a portent of doom?|
I predict that Anthony ends up dead if not by the end of this season, then before the end of the show. He is going off the RAILS, I can feel it!! :P I'd like to propose this scenario: Anthony runs his car off a bridge or something, because he can't stand that he's become SO LAME, and leaves all his money to Edith. Edith (who doesn't have compunctions about accepting odd and convenient inheritances like Matthew) takes the money and RUNS and goes on a grand European tour, where she takes up writing poetry. Somewhere in France or Italy or someplace AMAZING she meets an exiled Russian nobleman who had the foresight to put all of his money in a Swiss bank. They fall in LUV and Edith happily sticks it to her ENTIRE FAMILY by lassoing a HOT RUSSIAN PRINCE. The End. :)
Edith's heartbreak leads to a really touching scene between Cora and her oft-overlooked middle child -- people, that scene is why I love Elizabeth McGovern. She rocks. Cora doesn't often get the opportunity to show her "motherly" side, so it was refreshing to see her cast in the role of comforter here. I am quite excited to see where Fellowes takes Edith's storyline in the rest of this season and the next. Methinks the girl could do with a bit of scandal and genuine drama in her life. Mary and Sybil have carried the balance of that far too long. *wink*
Running parallel to the wedding prep and drama, Mary bites the proverbial bullet and -- against Matthew's express wishes -- reads his final letter from Reggie, wherein Matthew receives the man's full blessing. Of course Matthew is still an ass about it all and Mary actually has to go to the SERVANT'S QUARTERS to find out who the heck could've mailed a letter from Lavinia on her DYING DAY. LET IT GO MATTHEW, FOR THE LOVE LET IT GO!! But finally, after what, fifty-five interminable minutes of Matthew whining, he takes the money and runs and puts Robert out of his misery -- with a twist. Robert insists that they in effect become "co-masters" of Downton, with Matthew's money being treated as an investment. Like this join chairmanship thing is gonna go down without any drama... :P
|gratuitous Bates looking hot shot|
In other news, Anna (Joanne Froggatt) goes all Miss Marple on the Bates case and interviews the last woman to see Vera alive. Of course this "witness" was Vera's BFF, who patently hates Bates and goes so far as to describe Vera in saint-like terms. Give me a break. I did rather enjoy seeing Bates (Brendan Coyle) manage to foil his cellmate's attempt to frame him by concealing a weapon in his bunk. Bates, m'dear, you are a badass. Love it. :) And in news I care absolutely nothing about, Isobel (Penelope Wilton) hunts down Ethel (Amy Nuttall), who has shown up at her wayward women reformation project multiple times, only to change her mind and run off at the last minute. WHY OH WHY is Ethel still on this show? Has she had another kid? Didn't she give her kid to random soldier father's parents? I don't even care enough at this point to look it up. :P
In the aftermath of Edith's wedding debacle, I thought it was quite touching to see the family and servants rally around the heartbroken daughter. I loved how during the servants' meal, where they got to eat all of the wedding food, Mr. Carson caved and "allowed" them to speak poorly of Stupid Strallan. *wink* I loved Daisy (Sophie McShera) in this episode, and how she's determined to become more outgoing in an effort to further her career and catch the eye of Alfred (Matt Milne), the new footman. When he asked her to play checkers and she had to say no I might've kinda screamed at the television. They could be SO CUTE together!!!
This installment concludes with perhaps one of my favorite scenes in Downton Abbey to date -- Mrs. Hughes returning to the house with the news that she is cancer-free. She lets Mrs. Patmore break the news to the anxious Mr. Carson, who is then so happy he starts singing while he works. SINGING. Carson. SINGING. That moment was utter perfection. :)
I absolutely loved this episode of Downton, precisely because it was so insanely wild. :) Good times, people, good times. Here's to next week's installment!