Monday, February 6, 2012

Downton Abbey Series 2, Part 5

I can hardly believe that there are only two weeks' worth of Downton Abbey episodes left on Masterpiece Classic this season! The last two weeks in particular have been crammed with more information and covered more time than any one hour of television has a right to in my view, but for all that I love this show. IT IS SUCH A SOAP OPERA! Here's this week's episode summary from the PBS website:

As the war promises to draw to a close, uncertainty still reigns. With its ruined aristocratic houses, rationing, and fallen officers, war's aftermath opens some doors for the present and former servants and slams shut others. Meanwhile, Isobel's post-war plans create an indomitable, if unlikely, alliance. But when a mysterious stranger arrives, Downton faces more turmoil.

Sir Richard is anxious to take not just Downton's most beautiful asset, but one of its most treasured as well. In return and against Robert's wishes, he restores a powerful replacement in its halls. And Vera Bates takes startling action.

This post is going to be all over the place, so bear with me (who am I kidding, like there's ever any rhyme or reason to these review/recaps? HA!). As the episode opens, Matthew (Dan Stevens) is still facing a future without luv or mobility, if you catch my drift (*wink*). Mary (Michelle Dockery) has thrown herself into the role of nurse and primary caregiver, and the two share a sweet, heart-wrenching moment when she reminds him that she doesn't have to marry the slimy Sir Richard (Iain Glen), leaving unspoken WHAT WE ALL KNOW TO BE TRUE -- that she just wants to care for Matthew for the rest of his life. Mary, you have come a long way my friend. :) This is the point where I was pretty much ready to reach through the television and shake Mary and Matthew until the truth of their feelings for each other finally spilled out. The tension between Stevens and Dockery is so superbly well-done, I just love it -- it drives me mad but I love it.

Sir Richard is -- no surprise -- bombing at endearing himself to Mary's family (of course I don't think he's really trying, but that's another story). Love the fact that he's jealous of Mary's attachment to Matthew -- seriously what does that say about a guy when he's threatened by a man who is supposedly paralyzed and impotent? Yeesh what a control freak. As part of his plan to embrace an aristocratic lifestyle Richard approaches Carson (Jim Carter) with a shocking offer -- knowing Mary's affection for the butler, and in line with his desire to establish an aristocratic lifestyle with his "new" money -- loads of money to leave Downton and head up their household. I found it fascinating that no one, including Mary, was overly thrilled by this prospect. Robert (Hugh Bonneville) and Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) were more upset by the idea that "new money" like Sir Richard's would purchase an estate nearby, disrupting the centuries-old norm in the neighborhood. Of course where Robert and Carson are concerned, I like to think that Robert's annoyance over the gall of having his future son-in-law poach his butler and Carson's reticence in accepting the position stem from an underlying recognition that Mary is on the verge of making the WORST MISTAKE OF HER LIFE (more on that later).

With the war nearly over, the thoughts of everyone both upstairs and down begin to turn to toward imagining postwar life. While Robert, Cora, and Violet (Maggie Smith) are relieved at the idea of transforming Downton into a home again, Isobel (Penelope Wilton) is horrified a the idea of such waste -- Downton should remain a convalescent/recovery home, and she of course should run it. While I applaud her initiative and desire to make a difference in the world, I think it would behoove her to remember that she is wanting to disrupt the personal life of others while reserving a private home for her own use. DOUBLE STANDARD, just sayin'! Anyways, Violet rises to the occasion and is absolutely hilarious when she plays to Isobel's weaknesses and gently steers her energies towards the plight of war refugees. Maggie Smith's expressions of wide-eyed innocence and earnest intent had me in stitches! As an added bonus, Violet's machinations earn her some serious goodwill points with Cora (I don't think she really cares about that, but she strikes me as the type to note the goodwill bank balance, if you will.)

Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nichol) bemoans rationing in Thomas's (Rob James-Collier) hearing, which prompts him to investigate the thriving black market for rationed goods. Thomas has been curiously mellow for the last few weeks...while he's not reformed, one result of his wartime service does seem to be less of an interest in actively messing with others' lives. O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran) is another story, however -- after taking it upon herself to write Mrs. Bates (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and having that volley towards Bates and Anna nearly blow up in her face she seems content to observe -- for the moment at least. For someone who claims to have Cora's best interests at heart she certainly goes about striving to attain that goal in some seriously messed up ways -- maybe she was dropped on her head as a child??

The new maid, Jane (Clare Calbraith), urges Daisy (Sophie McShera) to claim her rights as a war widow -- something Daisy is loathe to do since she was only married to the lately departed and much lamented William for approx. six hours. I just feel like Daisy needs a hug. I really want her to find her happy ending, but with so many men lost to the war I fear the likelihood of her remaining a reluctant war widow is pretty high. I find it rather hard to get a read on Jane's character, which I'm chalking up to her being introduced halfway through the season. It's clear shenanigans are brewing between her and the tragically adrift Robert...I just wish I knew if she is playing on Robert's glaringly telegraphed emotional vulnerabilities, or if this is just one of those "lapses" in judgment, for lack of a better term. THIS IS NOT GOING TO END WELL, IS IT?

The most interesting aspect of this episode was the introduction of a wounded Canadian major, Patrick Gordon (Trevor White), who requested a transfer to the Downton hospital claiming a vaguely-referenced family connection. And OF COURSE Patrick claims to be THE PATRICK, a.k.a. the cousin and heir who drowned on the Titanic. YES, Fellowes couldn't resist bringing Mary's first intended back from his watery grave. :P Of course the question remains is this really Patrick, erstwhile amnesiac and now horrible burn victim, or a clever and opportunistic imposter? Personally I am torn, because I think Fellowes could take this scenario either way. Part of me really wants it to be Patrick, because Edith (Laura Carmichael) was in love with him once upon a time and the two really seemed to bond in this episode. But the other part of me thinks he's a dastardly schemer taking advantage of Edith's newly cultivated niceness, which means he's going to BREAK HER HEART which of course means I will HATE HIS GUTS. *sigh* According to the IMDB, White is only in this one hour this season, so I have to think the Patrick storyline will be revisited in season three -- I certainly hope so, that would be a tremendous story thread to just drop (don't do that to me OR Edith, okay Fellowes?! Thanks!).

It was fascinating to see the rest of the family react to the news that Matthew could be displaced. I loved Mary's indignation -- not only do I have great confidence in her ability to smell a rat where Matthew is concerned, but her whole protective act was FABULOUS. :) This is something of the final straw for Carlisle, though, as seeing Mary's raw, undeniable feelings for Matthew is just more than he can handle. A NICE GUY would release Mary from the engagement and GET ON WITH HIS LIFE, but sadly for Mary she has put herself at the mercy of a snake. Carlisle suggests to Cora that they need to get Matthew married, otherwise Mary will never have children (not sure of the logic there because releasing Mary from the engagement doesn't appear to be an option), and so he brings back Lavinia (Zoe Boyle). Lavinia, getting dragged back to your ex-fiance's house at the behest of a man you seem to hate/distrust does NOT make me think any better of you. GRRR!!! The final scene between Mary and Carlisle this hour, when he threatens to reveal her sordid Turkish diplomat story unless she submits -- and then he has the gall to KISS her -- that scene gave me chills. Where is Mary's moxie when it comes to saving herself? I'm getting the feeling she thinks she deserves to be a martyr to a loveless future...

Let's talk about Bates (Brendan Coyle) and Anna (Joanne Froggatt) for a bit, shall we? I am getting very concerned about this relationship...the stress Vera and her insistence on NOT granting her long-estranged husband a divorce is really starting to put a strain on my season one favorite couple. This is, of course, completely understandable -- I'm convinced vile Vera would sour the patience of the most devout saint -- but I just HATE seeing it all play out. I just want Anna to be happy again! Her stress is getting to me! And Vera turning up dead immediately following a meeting with Bates, who returns to Downton looking as though he got whacked upside the head -- please Bates, please tell me you didn't snap and throttle her. Though the possibility really does bear out the theory that he was a secret ninja/spy/assassin during the Boer War (yes I just went there).

So, leading up to next week's TWO HOUR episode (which is the season two proper finale, as the two hour installment the week after next is the Christmas special), we have loads of cliffhangers which will hopefully see some resolution. Personally I'm really hoping Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) hauls off and smacks Ethel (Amy Nuttall) the ingrate upside the head. I get that Ethel has a crummy life but GOOD GRIEF it's her friggin' fault. Her never-ending sense of entitlement does NOT help matters. *sigh* Also, Branson (Allen Leech) and Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) need to finally, FINALLY kiss. PLEASE, the suspense is KILLING ME. I loved the scene where she visits him in the garage and he's all dishevelled and HOT (it needed to be said, sorry...rawr!). :P She is so over living the life of a privileged elite with her talk of respecting Branson's desire to fight for Irish independence and just give me a few more weeks and I think I'll be ready to kiss Downton goodbye" (!!!). Seriously Sybil, I had no idea you were that far gone...this is one woman who plays her cards very close to the vest. *wink*

Did I miss anything? You all know I HATE to miss anything when discussing Downton, right?! :) Would love to hear what you think!


Ella said...

Is this the episode where Branson goes without his cravat? =D I was very happy with that scene.

Yes, Patrick is only in this one episode, so I am inclined to believe that his storyline will come back in Series 3.

And wasn't Mary's defending Matthew totally awesome? I LOVED it!!! Those two are so freakin' wonderful

Charity said...

Violet is the best thing about this season, in my opinion. I loved her manipulating Isobel into finding some other cause in desperate need of her assistance.

I still don't know if Patrick was telling the truth.

Bates' situation... SIGH.

Also? Prepare for the worst. By the end of the next episode, you'll be very angry at one of the Downton cast. =P

Heidenkind said...

Bates WAS a spy during the Boer War. That's just fact. ;)

Sir Richard just keeps getting worse and worse! I think Mary's problem is that she always expected to marry for the estate and her family, so she doesn't really know what to do about Matthew. And not to be pessimistic or anything, but I honestly do not see them getting together this season. She's going to marry Sir Creepaziod, and he'll probably beat her and starve her death. Poor Mary!

Anne Mateer said...

Agree with everything you said, but how could you not mention the shocker at the end? Matthew "feeling" something? My husband said last week he thought Matthew would eventually recover and throw everything into yet another tangle and it appears he might be right!

It's killing me that Mary has sold her soul to the devil (Sir Richard) when she has come to love Matthew so unselfishly!

Laurel Ann (Austenprose) said...

I think that Fellowes really missed and opportunity to confuse us even more with Patrick Gordon. We are not sympathetic to the character as he wrote it, but if her had played him as a gentleman who Edith thinks might be Patrick because SHE recognizes similarities and is there by fate, now that would have been interesting. This guy is just unappealing and using Edith's good nature to wheedle his way into Downton. I don't think we have seen the last of him. Thanks for the great review and images.

Julie Klassen said...

I'm wondering if Sir Richard had Mrs. Bates off-ed to assure his future wife's reputation. Sure hope Bates doesn't take the rap for it.

Debra E. Marvin said...

Thank goodness I can end the day with one last look toward Downton!

hmmm, where to begin.

I didn't know next week was the two hour finale! but I'm glad they have the Christmas special coming up.

I was a bit disappointed with this episode (can you believe I'm admitting this?) But it's all tied into the Patrick character. If he'd been someone that half the family believed in and the other half didn't we would have been emotionally whipped into a frenzy. Instead, it seemed so unbelievable, there was little drama to it. Why not just give him an English accent (that was also the least Canadian Canadian accent I've ever heard...)

I almost wanted him to be Patrick and have Edith happily married and the mistress of Downton. Almost.

But the true highlight of the night was the tender scenes between Mary and Matthew. Of course. When he tells her he wouldn't be any where near her if she wasn't engaged... it's basically them admitting their love. Don't you think?

Yet, it almost keeps Mary tied to Richard. She at least keeps Matthew in some small way by being his 'neighbor' now.

and I agree, I don't know what to think of Jane. She's the biggest mystery of the season. Schemer, or innocent. I'm not sure I believe her story at all but I also don't think she came in just to try and catch an Earl. But Cora's patience is running short this season and Robert has nothing to do but face his middle age crisis as a basic unncessary part of DA. Even Mary reminded him (neither of them blinked) that Carson had 'raised her.'

oh well, thanks for providing a place to chat, Ruth! Sure, we all knew Matthew was going to become fully functional sometime. I'm almost surprised it happened so soon.
By this time next week, I'll begin detox. maybe.

Susannah said...

Love all of this, as usual. :) Just watched the episode and came to hear your thoughts on it, which are invariably pretty much identical to mine.

It DID need to be said. I applaud you--he DID look hot. And if they don't kiss before the season's over... I shall be very, very upset.

Unknown said...

@Ella - That was the moment. The open collar...oh that was nice. :)

I really do hope Patrick comes back and we get some resolution there...that was almost too big a bombshell to slip into one hour and then leave it!

And I completely agree with you about Mary and Matthew. :)

@Charity - Violet is really picking up steam...I was a bit worried the first 2-3 weeks because she was there but the zingers I love seemed strangely absent. Glad that is turning around! :)

@heidenkind - After this episode I am 100% behind your theory there... :) And excellent point about some respects she is so independent and forward-thinking and yet still very much a product of her time. I just wanna give her a good shake and say forget the reputation, run and save yourself!

@Anne - Ohmygosh, how could I forget THAT? Yeah part of me can't believe Matthew is already feeling things but I have to remember each hour is covering weeks if not months of time! And you are so right about Mary...she has made such a wonderful turnaround!

@Laurel Ann - I am rather inclined to agree with you about Fellowes' handling of Patrick. It was a bit too forced/contrived. And you're welcome -- and thank you for two of the last images (they link to Austenprose through my Pinterest account). :)

@Julie - Oh, I hadn't gone there at all but great thought!!

@Debra - To Laurel Ann's point and now yours, the Patrick situation was a bit of a missed opportunity, I completely agree. There'd better have been a point to all this come Season 3! If he IS genuine, I'd love for him to end up with Edith, because I think she really did love him...

Completely agree with you about Mary and Matthew...that is as close as they are gonna come to a declaration at this point! *sigh*

I'm inclined to think Jane came into the job with good intentions...but now that she's there the temptation seems pretty overwhelming. Poor Robert and his mid-life/emotional issues. He really is adrift with little to anchor or give him purpose.

Thanks for stopping by, as always I love the discussion! :)

@Polka Dot - Yay! :) We had better get some serious Sybil/Branson time...glad to know another blogging friend is in my corner as far as where Branson is concerned. :)

Rissi said...

I believe that "Patrick" was NOT the former heir to Downton. There was one inconsistency in his story that Edith picked up on when she and Mary were talking about him. It doesn't mean that the character won't come back in S3, but I don't think he was the "real" Patrick.

Anyway... that is just my "two cents." =D

Kristin said...

I haven't read this post because I haven't watched the episode yet...because I totally cheated and bought season 2 at Target today! :)

Watching the episodes online stinks (it starts and stops constantly and takes approx. twice as long as the episode lasts to actually watch it), so I can't wait to actually watch the show on my TV. :) I feel guilty somehow that I'm going to spend the evening watching episodes that haven't aired yet in the US. I thought they wouldn't release the DVD until the last episode aired? I remember that's what they did with Emma a couple of years ago.

Anyway, I'll be back with my thoughts after I watch it. :)


247mama said...

Okay random thoughts:

Violet CRACKED me up with her manipulation of Isobel. And what was Isobel thinking? Did she really believe they'd let her run Downton again? HA!

I do not think Patrick is the real deal. I think he was Patrick's friend and it seemed pretty obvious that he was pumping Edith for additional information.

Please oh please don't let Bates be a killer!

Robert needs to run away from Jane as fast as he can. I was disappointed he was even entertaining conversation with her. DANGER DANGER!

Sir Richard needs to jump off a bridge and I canNOT believe he kissed her after the vile things he said.

I'm also shocked at Sybil and Branson. I really thought she was just stringing him along as a distraction. Sigh.

Ethel is an ingrate and needs to be written off.

So sad that we only have 2 more weeks!

Joni said...

I actually found Branson hot in this episode, which is weird for me, since I can't stand him normally.

Debra E. Marvin said...

Okay, I believe Branson had his collar open and, gosh, we just aren't used to that much skin!

I've felt he's been totally selfish this season. Of course, she just keeps going to the garage, so he knows she's hooked. Sigh.

The other thing that's been bugging me is how they sort of made Isobel a bit ridiculous. I've really liked her though of course she was getting way to bossy, but it felt out of character for her to be so taken in by Violet. Since when are they just hanging out having tea? I didn't buy it. nor did I think Isobel would not be staying home with Matthew. She was a nurse, she wants to help people. Why not her own son? would you go away if your only son was now paralzyed and depressed?

I've had some fun (and spoilers) by checking out some youtube interviews of the actors. It's so much fun to see them out of character. Yes, Allen Leech is adorable. I'll wait until after the finale before I go looking any more (I caught a bit of the Bates storyline by accident)

Unknown said...

@Rissi - I'm leaning towards NO as well right this second, but who knows which way Fellowes will take this thing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :)

@Kristin - Come back and discuss! :) I know what you mean about the online seems that PBS's platform leaves something to be desired.

I don't know what the deal is with the DVD preorder is arriving from Amazon today, but I'm going to hold off. I managed to do it with season 1 so we'll see how that goes. :)

@247Mama - Isobel is so out of it this season! LOL! And Robert...yeesh he does need to be smacked upside the head. I think Richard's kiss was one of the creepiest moments I've ever seen on film!

@Joni - His hotness cannot be denied! ;)

@Debra - I know, right?! Amazing! :)

Isobel has become quite wrapped up in herself this season...she's taken the reins and run with everything. Does seem a bit much!

Lori said...

I have to agree with Debra about it being out of character for Isobel to fall for Violet's shenanigans. She always suspected Violet of some mischief last season. She's really done a 180 and become rather annoying. However, I did love Maggie Smith in that exchange. I think her best quip ever is in the last episode (the Christmas special). Ruth, considering your emotional investment in the Mary/Matthew plotline, you will LOVE it too!

Unknown said...

@Lori - The only thing I can think with Isobel is that she's become rather puffed up with self-importance as the mother of Downton's heir. But that theory admittedly only holds water to a certain point.

However I can't complain too much when Maggie Smith was so hilarious in that conversation. :)

Looking forward to the next two weeks!