Downton Abbey continued on Masterpiece Classic Sunday with what I thought was an overall slightly lackluster hour after last week's excitement/tragedy of Edith getting left at the altar. That said, as a "bridge" hour it serves its purpose of (presumably) setting up events to unfold later in the season...so let's discuss. :)
One of this episodes main storylines involves Anna (Joanne Froggatt) becoming increasingly upset as days turn into weeks without a letter from Bates (Brendan Coyle) or permission to visit him in prison. The silence breeds doubt, and she becomes convinced that Bates is trying to be all gallant and set her free to move on with her life, unencumbered by a prisoner for a husband. Bates, likewise, is becoming depressed that he hasn't heard from his lady love, sure she is sick and tired of putting up with the burden of his prison sentence. Oh these crazy kids. *wink*
Meanwhile, the fallout from the decision to make Matthew (Dan Stevens) co-owner of Downton is primed to explode IMO, as Matthew being who he is, that means he's going to actually strive to understand how Downton is run and what he can do to make it better. No offense to his father-in-law, but a born administrator he is not. Downton's dire straits call for a little middle class common sense, if you will. *wink* Unfortunately this means going against generations of deeply entrenched tradition, as it becomes abundantly clear rather quickly that Robert (Hugh Bonneville) doesn't view Matthew's "save" of Downton with any sort of urgency. Instead of an invitation to reverse the downward financial spiral, he sees Matthew's investment as permission to maintain the status quo -- and his biggest ally in this point-of-view is Mary (Michelle Dockery). Awkward.
Downstairs, all that Carson (Jim Carter) cares about is that now that Downton is flush in cash once again is that he can bring the staff back to full pre-war strength. With that in mind he undertakes to hire a new footman and a kitchen maid, the latter which will finally allow Daisy (Sophie McShera) to claim her long-promised promotion to Mrs. Patmore's (Lesley Nichol) assistant cook. The new servants will, however, not be hired in time for the family's scheduled dinner entertaining the Archbishop of York (apparently Julian Fellowes had a premonition that he'd need to answer this recently-published article entitled "Why Is God Still Absent from Downton Abbey?"...ha! *wink* Why anyone is worried about that, in a soap opera, is beyond me given this show's track record, but whatevs).
The dinner party sees a surprise guest return to Downton bringing the promise of scandal -- Branson (Allen Leech) shows up desperate, soaked, and on the run from police, wanted in connection with attacks on the estates of noble families in Ireland sympathetic with British rule. And so the Irish Rebellion comes comes home to Downton and the family finally has to face the real-world impact of Branson's radical views -- well face it being a relative term, as this house possesses the ability to remain remarkably insulated from greater worldwide events all things considered. :P
|"I'm stuck HERE? ARE YOU KIDDING ME??"|
So the entire family is scandalized -- quite understandably -- that Branson fled Ireland ahead of Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay), leaving his pregnant wife facing possible questioning or imprisonment at the hands of the authorities because of her relationship with him. Now, in fairness to Branson, Sybil was remarkably game about the whole thing -- but that doesn't dismiss the rather "ungallant" flavor of Branson's actions...particularly after it is revealed just how involved he's been in Irish protests. This show has always taken a rather fast and loose approach to the real world impact of Branson's socialist political views -- he's always been big on talk and light on action and follow through. But actually playing a part in seeing the lives and home of individuals destroyed because they disagreed with him politically -- that seems to have had an impact, and it was refreshing to see the cocky political idealist actually shamed to some degree, for both his actions and the position it put him in vis-a-vis his wife's family.
Everyone goes into survival mode, and with Cora's (Elizabeth McGovern) encouragement Robert takes the first train to London the next day, desperate to quickly control the narrative fallout resulting from Branson's rash actions. The result is a promise from the powers that be that as long as Branson never returns to Ireland, he will not be prosecuted. Dude, you're stuck at Downton FOR-EVAH. Let's set aside for a moment that I think this is ridiculously unrealistic, even by this show's standards, but this show is all about the house and sending family members to other countries has got to make filming dashed inconvenient. *wink*
By far the biggest reason this episode felt extraordinarily pointless to me was because of its focus on Ethel (Amy Nuttall) and Isobel (Penelope Wilton) and Mrs. Hughes' (Phyllis Logan) attempts to help her and her son. Look, I think her life is TERRIBLY tragic, but Ethel's storyline has yet to have a twist or development that makes me care about her AT ALL. It doesn't help that Isobel is so wrapped up in her story, either, because last season Isobel got extraordinarily annoying in my opinion and this season has done little to mellow her penchant for irritation. I really do think she's well-intentioned, but FOR THE LOVE the woman has NO common sense.
|INSANELY cute kid, no?|
In sum, Isobel and Mrs. Hughes want Ethel to reach out to her son's grandparents, Mr. & Mrs. Bryant (Kevin McNally and Christine Lohr). Do we all remember that McNally is married to Phyllis Logan? No? Well then noodle that when you watch these scenes of Mr. Bryant being an absolute jerk. :P Isobel seems to think that Ethel's son should stay with his mother no matter what, while Ethel (to her credit, I'll admit) seems to realize that IN THAT DAY AND AGE having a mother who is a prostitute *might* impede her son's chances of making something of himself in society. At this point Ethel isn't able to support herself without selling her body, so honestly I was a little horrified that Isobel was okay with Ethel's son likely witnessing that at his age. Just sayin'. Anyways, making a looonnnnggg story short(er), Ethel makes the extraordinary sacrifice of turning her son over to his grandparents. And I WISH that was it, but the previews promise this ISN'T OVER. It will apparently NEVER be over. Oh well, c'est la vie.
In more interesting news, Edith (Laura Carmichael) starts taking steps to reinvent herself following the Wedding of DOOM and takes an interest in women's suffrage. She writes an editorial expressing support for the cause, and it is actually published in the Times -- thoroughly horrifying Robert but earning welcome support from both of her brothers-in-law. People, if Fellowes pursues Edith possibly having a writing career -- becoming a political activist -- oh, this could be GOOD. I have this wonderful feeling that Edith is poised on the edge of something awesome. *keeping my fingers crossed* :)
Back to Bates and Anna for a moment -- honestly I thought the whole CORRUPT PRISON SYSTEM conspiring to keep them apart was bordering on the ridiculous. But I love them, so I have an extra measure of patience for their story -- and the end of the hour delivers a fabulous payoff. After Bates spends most of the episode continuing to prove that he is, in fact, a badass, when Bates and Anna finally receive their missing letters the raw emotion of the moment just killed me (yes, I am a total sap). This is why I love this couple -- Anna so incandescently happy she's positively glowing through her tears of relief, and Bates immediately transforming from badass to cuddly teddy bear. Get him out of prison already, please?! FREE BATES!
Downstairs is poised for a shake-up with the arrival of a new, and extraordinarily good-looking, footman named Jimmy (Ed Speelers -- remember Eragorn? Yes, I saw it... :P). Everyone (and I mean EVERYONE, except perhaps Carson and O'Brien) falls hard for the new footman, particularly Thomas (Rob James-Collier) -- we all saw that coming, right? Interestingly enough, O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran) appears to have taken careful note of Thomas's response to Jimmy as well, and unless I'm very much mistaken she'll be looking for an opportunity to manipulate Thomas's feelings at the first opportunity.
Daisy is still crushing on Alfred (Matt Milne), and after a visit to her father-in-law (props to her for that, because considering she and William didn't actually have a marriage, I love that she's sort of allowed William's father to "adopt" her -- she needs that) Mr. Mason (Paul Copley -- holla Horatio Hornblower fans!) she decides to be all daring and modern and SHARE HER FEELINGS! I love that. Seriously I am turning into SUCH a Daisy cheerleader. :) While Alfred seems fairly receptive, the moment is never quite right (girl has GOTTA work on her follow through here), and then the moment flies out the FRIGGIN' WINDOW when Mrs. Patmore announces Daisy's promotion and introduces Ivy (Cara Theobold), the new and very pretty kitchen maid. She seems nice enough (now, at any rate), but OHMYGOSH did I hate this for Daisy. :P
While overall I didn't find this episode particularly exciting, it does set up some nice potential drama for Edith and Daisy, and the promise of some Downton-running conflict between Robert and Matthew. In perhaps one of the show's more shocking scenes, Matthew actually goes to Violet (Maggie Smith) for help and advice -- talk about desperate times, hmm? *wink* I love the fact that Violet seems receptive to Matthew's ideas, but is basically all "yeah....good luck with that." HA!!!
- Read my recap/review of Series 3, Part 2
- Read my recap/review of Series 3, Part 1
- Pre-order Season 3 on Blu-ray/DVD
- Watch Part Three online at PBS through 3/3/13
And here's another Bates pic...isn't that smile to DIE FOR?! :)