Friday, May 3, 2013

Season Special: Christmas At Downton Abbey

Just kidding! I can’t conclude my blog of Season 1 and Season 2 without commenting on the best episode of the series! It’s Christmas at Downton Abbey, and the characters have fully recovered from the aftermath of the Spanish flu. Though Lavinia’s tragic death is still fresh in everyone’s memory, the Downton family is trying to move forward by celebrating the most festive time of the year.

The opening scene of this episode is spectacular as it focuses on the elaborate holiday decorations at the Downton estate. Tinsel has been hung, garlands are wrapped around the staircase, and a beautiful Christmas tree adorns the living room. What is more, the shows creator, Julian Fellowes, introduces the viewer to some of the Downton family’s annual Christmas traditions. For example, each member of the family gives each of the servants downstairs a special gift to thank them for all the hard work they’ve done throughout the year. Lady Mary in particular gave Anna one of the most memorable gifts as she gave her a heart-shaped pin to remind her of her love for Mr. Bates. Unfortunately for Anna, Mr. Bates is currently in prison as a result of the accusations surrounding his wife’s murder. Though the trial of Mr. Bates will become a major theme later on in the episode, the beginning of the Christmas special specifically focuses on celebrating family.

Therefore, tradition continues to be a central theme in this episode as the Crawley family and the servants finally spend some well-deserved time together. Yet another Downton Christmas tradition that is revealed during the show is to play the game of Charades after dinner. This is perhaps one of my favorite scenes from the episode because Lady Mary appears completely ridiculous when it is her turn to act. However, this innocent game of Charades also functions to display the growing rift between Sir Richard Carlisle and Lady Mary as he quickly makes fun of her in front of her entire family. The Dowager Countess picks up on Sir Richard Carlisle’s negative comments and argues “Life is a game in which the player must appear soon your maxim will be tested.” Thank God for the Dowager’s witty remarks, otherwise I think I would have been screaming at Sir Richard myself.

Speaking of the growing tension in Sir Richard Carlisle and Mary’s relationship , Daisy is also beginning to grow tired of her commitment to the downstairs kitchen. Ever since William died, Daisy has been doing most of the cooking. Though she enjoys helping Mrs. Patmore, Daisy is beginning to feel unappreciated. Her low self-esteem coupled with Mrs. Shore’s comments about leaving Downton, make Daisy wonder whether she should leave the    estate altogether to become an independent cook.

But Daisy’s struggle with her role in the Downton kitchen is not as surprising as Sir Anthony Strallen’s return to Downton Abbey. Though Sir Anthony Strallen only comes back to visit the estate, Lady Edith is convinced that he has returned to confess his love for her. Sadly, Sir Anthony Strallen admits that he is simply too old for Lady Edith and that there can be no relationship between them. Lady Edith refuses to accept Sir Anthony’s remarks which made me wonder whether there may be a future for the two characters in Season 3!

Aside from Lady Sybil announcing that she is pregnant, the next exciting scene of the show occurs when the men of the estate go for their annual hunt. The central conflict in this portion of the episode is who Lady Mary will choose to accompany for the duration of the hunt. Whether she chooses her fiancé or Matthew will have a great impact on her romantic future. Obviously, she chooses to accompany Matthew on the hunt, and Sir Richard Carlisle quickly grows jealous. In a memorable scene from the hunt, Sir Richard Carlisle observes the genuine connection between Matthew and Lady Mary and screams “Am I ever to be free of him?” This loss of control from Sir Richard Carlisle clearly demonstrated that Lady Mary and he may have hit a dead end. Thankfully, Matthew comes to the rescue (as always) and tells Lady Mary that she doesn’t have to marry Carlisle at all. In fact, Matthew actually tells Lady Mary that she will always have a home at Downton Abbey.

Thus, Lady Mary’s future also becomes a major concern about mid-way through the episode. Now that Matthew has repeatedly commented on Sir Richard Carlisle’s violent demeanor, Lord Grantham is also worried about the future of his eldest daughter. When Lord Grantham finally speaks to Cora about Lady Mary and Sir Richard Carlisle he says, “I look at her and see a tired woman with a tiresome husband, not a bride on the brink of heaven.”This remark changes the course of Sir Richard Carlisle  and Mary’s relationship because there is no longer any familial support behind their marriage. To turn Lady Mary’s future around, Lord Grantham proposes that Lady Mary leave for New York to spend time with her grandmother. In a final attempt to save Lady Mary from the wrath of Sir Richard Carlisle, Lord Grantham says “Come bring us back a cowboy to shake us up a bit.” Though this is the first time I’ve seen Lord Grantham play the role of a father, I really respected the way he went about expressing his disapproval for   Mary’s fiancé.

However,  Matthew seems clueless when it comes to Lady Mary’s feelings for him. Though she volunteers to give him company when he visits Lavinia’s grave, his own mother has to tell him that Lady Mary is still in love with him. Even though Matthew believes that he and Lady Mary are cursed because of Lavinia’s untimely death, Isobel Crawley reminds him that no one deserves to be unhappy. In my opinion this is the turning point for Matthew, as he finally realizes that Lady Mary could be the one to make him truly happy. Before Matthew can speak to Lady Mary about his feelings, however, the two must help Lord Grantham find his beloved dog, Isis. While Matthew and Mary are searching for the dog in the woods, Lady Mary finally tells Matthew about the events surrounding the death of Mr. Pamuk. Though Matthew seems really angry at first, Lady Mary no longer looks like she is carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders.

Finally, the episode comes to a close when William’s father takes Daisy to the family farm. He tells her that she no longer needs to work at Downton Abbey because she can come to the farm to be his cook. This is a bright new opportunity for Daisy, and I sincerely hope she takes it! Though Downton Abbey has been good to Daisy, she needs to find her true purpose in life.

Even though things are looking up for Daisy, Lady Mary must finally end things with Sir Richard Carlisle. On the eve of the Servant’s Ball, Sir Richard Carlisle ends up creating a fight with Matthew over Lady Mary which gives her an excuse to end things. Unfortunately for Sir Richard, this marks the end of their relationship. Although things may be over between Sir Richard Carlisle and Lady Mary, Matthew finally proposes to Lady Mary in the last few minutes of the episode. I have to admit, this is the most elegant scene Julian Fellowes has ever created. For any loyal follower of Downton Abbey, this was the most beautiful scene of the entire Downton Abbey series. The sheer happiness on both of their faces just emulated how every romantic love story should be. 

For anyone who is addicted to Downton Abbey and other British period dramas, this episode demonstrated every reason why I chose to follow Downton Abbey in the first place. Not only did Julian Fellowes ignite the interest of the viewer, but he created a magnificent ending that simply left me wanting more. Though I have commented before that the show was starting to feel more like a soap opera, this episode changed my mind completely. If you’ve followed my blog from the very beginning, thank you for taking the time to read my comments and criticisms, and I hope you continue to follow the series in the future!

Take a peek at some of my favorite scenes from this episode!

For a further synopsis on this fantastic episode click here.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Season 2: Episode 7

Another brilliant finish to the end of the Downton season. Episode 7 really wrapped up all of the remaining cliffhangers from Season 2. Matthew and Lavinia are blissfully preparing for their wedding, and the Downton estate is littered with bouquets and elegant gifts that have been sent from close family friends. Though Matthew and Lavinia are eagerly anticipating their wedding ceremony, the Spanish flu has also decided to pay a visit to the estate. Little do Matthew and Lavinia know that the sudden flu outbreak will change the future of the Downton family forever.
In the first few minutes of the episode, Mrs. Hughes also learns that Mr. Bryant has changed his mind about Ethel’s baby, Charlie. Mr. and Mrs. Bryant have written a letter to Mrs. Hughes about visiting Charlie and possibly adopting him. Though this seems like good news, Ethel is not prepared to let go of her only son. This becomes quite problematic when Mr. Bryant expresses to Ethel that he wants to raise baby Charlie “as a gentleman, and not as a housemaid’s bastard.” For the first time in several episodes, I actually agree with Mr. Bryant. All season long, Ethel has been nothing but a burden to Mrs. Hughes and the the rest of the Downton family. Major Bryant has been dead for some time now, and it is time for Ethel to move on. I’m actually surprised that Ethel still feels she has the right to raise Charlie, when she has no financial stability to take care of him on her own. Nevertheless, Ethel must decide what type of life she would like her son to lead. He can either lead a life of grief, poverty, and  humiliation as a housemaid’s bastard, or he can become well educated, privileged, and marry whomever he chooses.

However, Ethel’s problems seem insignificant compared to the chaos that is going on upstairs. Lady Sybil has invited Branson to tell Lord Grantham that they plan on running away to together. Lord Grantham is furious when he hears about the news, and threatens to cut Lady Sybil off from all financial support. Clearly, Lady Sybil is forced once again to choose between two walks of life. Once she leaves Downton Abbey to become the wife of a middle-class chauffeur, she will never again enjoy the pleasures and luxuries of aristocratic life. Though the Dowager Countess has always admired Lady Sybil’s independence, she too feels that Sybil is making a horrible mistake.

But even Lady Sybil’s astonishing announcement is put on hold when Cora, Carson, and Lavinia each fall sick with the Spanish flu. While everyone is resting upstairs, Matthew and Lady Mary share an elegant dance that is almost impossible to forget. In my favorite scene from the entire season, Matthew finally admits his feelings for Lady Mary. Though Lady Mary jokes that they were a “show that flopped”, the two fall into a passionate kiss that marks a new beginning to their relationship. However, their intimate moment is cut short when Lavinia walks downstairs and catches them in the act. It is not until Lavinia is on her death bed that she calls off the wedding as a result of their indiscretion. Even though this seems like a rather dramatic ending for Matthew and his fiancé, nothing is worse than when Lavinia dies right in front of Lady Mary and Matthew. 

Unfortunately, the arrival of the Spanish flu continues to play a central role in this episode as it has now threatened to wipe out some of the most beloved characters on the show. Though Lavinia has passed on, Cora has also fallen violently ill. Mrs. O’Brien has done her best to take care of her, but she feels guilty that she never admitted to causing Cora’s miscarriage in Season 1. Now that Cora’s life is in jeopardy, Lord Grantham also feels bad that he ruined a perfectly good marriage. Though he ends his relationship with Jane, it really bothered me that he paid for her son Freddie to attend Rupert Grammar School. In a way, it’s almost as if he wants to remain a part of Jane’s life. Luckily for Lord Grantham, Cora quickly recovers from the flu and their marriage is saved without Cora having any idea about his affair. 

Sadly, even though the rest of the house has recovered from the flu outbreak, Matthew must learn to cope with the death of his beautiful fiancé. This psychological battle becomes painfully evident when Matthew blames himself and Lady Mary for Lavinia’s death. Though Matthew and Lady Mary may have shared a brief moment of bliss, no message is more powerful than when Lady Mary walks away from Lavinia’s funeral with Sir Richard Carlisle. Will Lady Mary ever succumb to her obvious attraction to Matthew? Or will Matthew always believe that their relationship is cursed? These are the questions left unanswered at the end of Season 2.

Since this is my final blog post, I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed reviewing and criticizing Season 1 and Season 2 of Downton Abbey immensely. Though there were times when the show began to feel more like a soap opera than a cerebral drama, I really enjoyed watching the British television series. Now that I’ve carefully watched the development of each character, I can also confidently argue that The Dowager Countess, Carson, and Lady Mary are my favorite characters on the show. Although I think Julian Fellows has many more surprises in store for future seasons of Downton Abbey, I am impressed with his ability to make a tale of English aristocracy entertaining to an American audience. Though this is the final episode of Season 2, make sure you watch the Downton Abbey Christmas Special! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Season 2: Episode 7

The Downton estate has returned to normal now that the war is finally over. Though the house is no longer functioning as a convalescent home for wounded soldiers, there are still some obvious wounds that still need to be healed. Lord Grantham seems to have lost his way during the war, and now his damaged ego is also starting to destroy his marriage. In the beginning of the episode, this becomes painfully evident, when Lord Grantham’s relationship with Jane suddenly explodes with a lustful kiss. Even though Jane seems to be completely humiliated over this indiscretion, the sexual tension between the two characters will clearly have some disastrous consequences in the future. 

Speaking of harmful relationships, Sir Richard Carlisle is also starting to rush Lady Mary into marriage before she is ready. In the beginning of the episode, he corners Anna and asks her to spy on Lady Mary. Essentially, he wants to “know more about her interests, where she goes, and whom she sees”- anything she does when she is alone. In my opinion, the fact that he is so worried about Lady Mary’s whereabouts only highlights his jealousy over her close relationship with Matthew. Lady Mary and Sir Richard Carlisle have nothing in common, except for the fact that they are both tortured souls- however, spying on her doesn’t seem to be the correct approach  to win her affection.

Thus, Lady Mary’s development as a character throughout the course of the show is yet another major theme of this episode.  The loyal Mr. Carson still plans on leaving Downton to take care of Lady Mary when she marries Sir Richard Carlisle, but he admits to Mrs. Hughes that he is completely against their marriage. Mrs. Hughes doesn’t seem to care for Lady Mary’s uppity and cold personality, but Mr. Carson protests that Lady Mary wasn’t always so unwelcoming. In his opinion, Lady Mary’s indifferent manner has evolved from a variety of experiences that she has witnessed since she was a child. Deep down however, Mr. Carson believes that Lady Mary has a kind and compassionate soul. This unknown side of Lady Mary’s personality however can only come to fruition if she decides to spend the rest of her adult life with the right person.

While Lady Mary continues to struggle in her relationship with Sir Richard Carlisle, Matthew begins to complain that he feels a tingling sensation in his legs. Though Dr. Clarkson has declared that he will never walk again, Matthew is convinced that something odd is happening with his legs. In an exciting scene in the middle of the episode, Matthew suddenly stands up from his wheelchair to help Lavinia when she nearly trips and falls on the floor. This marks a new beginning for the happily engaged couple, as he will clearly be able to lead a completely normal life.

Although the rest of the Crawley family is thrilled with Matthew’s sudden recovery, Lady Mary almost seems disappointed that Matthew has healed. During a beautiful dinner with the entire Downton family, Matthew announces that he will marry Lavinia at Downton in the Spring. Not only does this quick announcement seem to depress Lady Mary, but for a short moment it seems as if the entire Downton household has forgotten her existence. Countess Violet notices the negative effect Matthew’s announcement has on Mary, and secretly tries to convince him that he can love Lady Mary again. She explains that Lavinia’s loving attitude is admirable, but she does not believe that she is the right lifetime partner. The Dowager Countess insists that marriage is a long business, and “when you think of spending several years with these women, you need to make sure you pick the right one.” Unfortunately, Matthew is convinced that Lavinia will be a good wife, and he fully intends on marrying her.
Another major development that occurs in this episode is that Major Bryant’s parents come to visit Downton Abbey. In earlier episodes, Major Bryant had a relationship with Ethel, the housemaid, and wound up getting her pregnant. During the war, Major Bryant was killed, leaving Ethel alone to raise her bastard child. Since Ethel no longer works at Downton Abbey, she no longer has any way to support her baby, Charlie. Mrs. Hughes, in a kind effort to help, invites Major Bryant’s parents to the estate to see the baby. However, Major Bryant’s father wants nothing to do with the child, and insists that his son would have taken care of his own mistake. In my opinion, there really wasn’t any purpose for Ethel’s character to come back on the show. I wholeheartedly agree with Lady Mary’s opinion that Ethel got what she deserved. For the past few episodes, Ethel has done nothing but complain about her current state of affairs, she still has not accepted any responsibility for her child, and she hasn’t even tried to find a decent job. Frankly, Ethel’s character irritates me because it seems as if she is looking for a source of pity-though she had no problem sleeping around, she seems to have a problem raising her own child. Lady Mary captures this tension with Ethel brilliantly when she says “ Aren’t all of us stuck with the choices we make?”
In regards to the idea of making the wrong choices, Sybil has also told Tom Branson that she is ready to run away with him. I haven’t been a fan of this relationship since the very beginning, but Sybil seems to see running away with Tom as the perfect solution to all of her problems. Now that the war is over, Sybil wants to continue working-she does not want to go back to the proper and meaningless life she once led at Downton Abbey. As a result, she runs away from the estate one night leaving nothing but a note on her nightstand. Lady Mary finds the note and rushes off with Lady Edith in the night to prevent Lady Sybil from eloping with Branson. Thankfully, Lady Mary gets to Sybil on time and convinces her to come back to Downton Abbey. Though I don’t think Lady Sybil will stay at the estate for long, I’m relieved that Lady Mary prevented Sybil from making a huge mistake. Even though I don’t support Sybil’s decision to marry Tom, I have to admit I’m kind of excited to see what will happen with this daring pair in the future!

Overall,  this episode was excellent, and I really can’t wait to see what will happen to Sir Richard Carlisle and Lady Mary in the future! There seems to be a great deal of tension between the two, and if Julian Fellows continues to follow his normal trend of throwing in a surprise when all things seem to be going wrong at Downton, then he certainly will in the near future!

For a complete synopsis of this episode click here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Season 2: Episode 6

The Great War is finally over, and Downton Abbey is learning to cope with all of the changes the end of war can bring. 

Though the entire Downton family is still haunted with the tragic death of William, this episode also seems to move the viewer past the horrors of war, and into the future of the estate. Lady Mary is still taking good care of Matthew, and it seems as if the two have reignited their mutual fondness for one another. This paired with Lady Mary’s constant dedication to Matthew’s recovery forces one to question whether fate will play a role in the growth of their relationship. In one of the best scenes from the episode, Mary and Matthew seem to compare their relationship to some of the greatest love stories of all time. 

But the relationship between Mary and Matthew is constantly challenged in this episode as Sir Richard Carlisle fully intends on making Lady Mary his wife. Though I still have not warmed up to his character, Sir Richard Carlisle proves to be a huge threat to the Downton family since he seems to be against all the values and beliefs the Crawley family holds dear. Even Lord Grantham is troubled by the fact that he may have to give away his favorite daughter to “a man of publicity”. Nevertheless, Sir Richard Carlisle fully plans to separate Lady Mary from Matthew, as he announces his desire to purchase the 12,000-acre Haxby Park estate. If this isn’t enough proven motive to ruin the entire Downton family, Sir Richard Carlisle also asks the beloved Carson to leave Downton forever to serve Lady Mary in her new house.
However, not everyone is thrilled about the changes war has brought to Downton Abbey. Daisy, the kitchen maid, is still tortured by her decision to marry William. To make matters worse, the new housemaid, Jane (played by Clare Calbraith ), has told Daisy that she can now identify herself as a war widow. Daisy rejects this label since she firmly believes that her marriage to Matthew was forced. She not only blames Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes for her rash decision, but she also blames herself for lying to William about her true feelings. I am hoping that in future episodes Daisy finds some closure to her decision to marry William. 

Amidst all of this drama, a badly burned Canadian soldier by the name of Major Patrick Gordon also comes to recuperate at Downton Abbey. Though the Crawley family quickly welcomes his request, he soon declares to be the long lost Patrick Crawley that was killed during the sinking of the Titanic. If you remember from the first episode of Downton Abbey, Patrick Crawley was a distant cousin of the Crawley’s, and he was assumed to be the heir of the Downton estate. Unfortunately, this unlikely surprise throws the entire future of the Downton estate into question once again as Matthew may no longer be the true heir to the Downton fortune. Though Lady Edith believes Major Gordon’s story, the rest of the family seems to question the validity of the soldier’s claims. Though Lord Grantham does his best to verify Major Gordon’s identity, the soldier mysteriously leaves one morning saying that proving his identification was simply too difficult. Though Major Patrick Gordon’s arrival at Downton was short-lived, this episode left me wondering whether the Grantham’s will still be haunted by the soldier’s claims in the future.

These critical elements of mystery bring the viewer to question what will everyone at Downton do once the war is over. Carson has decided to leave Downton to take care of Lady Mary, Lavinia has returned to take care of Matthew, Lady Sybil will continue as a nurse, and Sir Richard Carlisle will make Lady Mary his wife. All of these changes will clearly change the dynamic of the Downton estate in future episodes to come. What was once a warm, energetic, and productive home may very well turn into an empty wasteland.  To follow these changes and see what happens to the estate in the future, be sure to watch the next episode of Downton! I know I’m really curious to find out what Jane’s true role in the show will be!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Season 2, Episode 5

This excellent episode of Downton Abbey opens up with a panoramic view of the warfront in Amiens, France. Two of my favorite characters, Captain Crawley and William, are found on the front discussing their future right before a major battle begins. When they leave the trenches to fight, they are both seriously injured when a shell explodes nearby. 

What I found to be most interesting about this opening scene was that the show’s writer, Julian Fellowes, heightened the episodes suspense by pairing the explosions on the front with scenes back at Downton Abbey. For example, when Captain Crawley is hit during battle, Lady Mary immediately feels his shock on the front when she spills her tea back at the estate. Whether this comparison was intentional or not, I thought  it created a great deal of suspense for the remainder of the episode.

When Lord Grantham finally hears the news about William and Captain Crawley, he is completely beside himself. With the heir to the Crawley fortune seriously injured, the future of the Downton estate is thrown into question once again. Though William is sent to Leeds, and Matthew to Downton Village, William’s father cannot afford to leave his farm and move to the city while William recovers. As a result of this misfortune, the Dowager Countess goes to visit William’s doctor to ask if the boy can be transferred to Downton hospital. Unfortunately, the doctor tells the Dowager Countess that William has no hope for recovery.  He has sustained too much damage, and the force of the blast has fatally injured his lungs. Though the doctor is cautious about moving William, he tells the Dowager that he thinks William should die in a familiar place surrounded by familiar people. Even though the Dowager intentionally hides this horrific news from William’s father, she has an even tougher time convincing Dr. Clarkson to move William back to the estate. 

The dialogue between Dr. Clarkson and the Dowager Countess in this episode further illustrates the fact that the Dowager is not the only cold-hearted personality in the Downton village. When the Dowager goes to ask Dr. Clarkson if he can spare a bed for William, Dr. Clarkson says that the Downton hospital is only for recovering officers. Since William does not have the rank of an officer, he cannot be transferred to the Downton hospital. In one of my favorite scenes from this episode, The Dowager Countess sharply responds to Dr. Clarkson's answer by saying. “It always happens when you give these little people power, it goes to their heads like a strong drink.” Though Dr. Clarkson will not change his policy, the Dowager has made it clear that she will make sure William is transferred to Downton. Another fantastic part of this episode is when the Dowager tries to call the Prime Minister to change Dr. Clarkson’s mind. While she is speaking with the Prime Minister on the telephone, she becomes frustrated that she cannot properly use the new piece of technology. As a result, she screams, “Is this an instrument of communication or torture?” 

But the Dowager’s clever remarks do not makeup for the pain that is being felt throughout the Downton household. Matthew’s fiancé, Lavinia Swire, has been notified of Matthew’s condition, but Lady Mary has taken it upon herself to take care of Matthew while Lavinia is away. Though Lady Mary has turned Matthew away in several of the show’s previous episodes, it seems as if his injuries have only made her fall even more in love with him. Thus, there is a significant change in Mary’s attitude during this episode, as she finally chooses to play the role of caretaker. 

Furthermore, when Lavinia finally arrives at Downton, it seems as if she may not have the courage to stay with Matthew if he cannot recover from his injuries. Though she protests that she will stay by Matthew’s side no matter what, Matthew sends Lavinia to London because he is told he will never be able to have children. If this isn't enough drama for one episode, William also asks Daisy to marry him before he dies. Unfortunately for Daisy, Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes practically force her to accept William’s proposal. In a five-minute wedding ceremony, Daisy and William are married in one of the Downton bedrooms. William ends up dying shortly after, and I have to admit it was a terribly emotional scene. I sincerely hope that this rushed marriage will not prove to have negative consequences for Daisy in the future.

Towards the end of the episode, Lord Grantham also learns that Sir Richard Carlisle has announced his proposal to Lady Mary in a local newspaper. Though Lady Mary has not officially agreed to Sir Richard Carlisle’s proposal, she promised to give him a chance if he cleared her name from the rumors surrounding her relationship with Mr. Pamuk.  Although this announcement only added to the drama in this episode,  I still think it was one of my favorites. Once again, the acting by Maggie Smith was superb, and the constant tension between Lavinia and Lady Mary is nothing short of entertaining! Even though this particular episode was slightly depressing, I cannot help but wonder what lies ahead for the Crawley family in future episodes!

Here are some of my favorite moments from episode 5!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Season 2: Episode 4

The year is 1918, and the Downton estate has become a fully functioning convalescent home for wounded officers. The entire household, including Lord Grantham, are doing their best to keep the men’s spirits up while they recover. As a kind gesture to the Downton family, the men have planned to put on a concert in the living room. Though the concert will not take place until the end of the episode, the excitement surrounding the event is central to the episode’s theme of moving forward.

Aside from the excitement of the concert, the transformation of the Downton estate into a convalescent home has  also changed the dynamics of the estate forever. Although Lady Mary and Lady Edith never seemed to be cut out for hard labor, both of them have found purpose in helping the wounded soldiers. For example, in the beginning of the episode, Lady Edith is found helping the recovering soldiers write letters to their loved ones at home. Not only does this specific scene highlight Lady Edith’s transformation into a young woman, but it also brings attention to her passion for writing.

However, the Crawley sisters are not the only ones helping out on the estate. Cora and Isobel Crawley are both equally in charge of running Downton. Unfortunately, the two women continue to argue over who has greater power over running the estate. In a heated argument, Isobel expresses that she no longer feels valued and useful at Downton. She accuses Cora of never having a real profession, and threatens to leave the estate to help out the Red Cross in France. Cora welcomes the idea, and sends Isobel away. I can’t express how much I think this drastic change will help the Downton family in the future. With Matthew away at war, perhaps the absence of Isobel will allow the Crawley’s to move forward with their lives.

But the war is breaking down many other barriers. Branson, the chauffeur, has expressed his love for Lady Sybil, and he tells her that he’ll stay at Downton until she decides to run away with him. This scene is somewhat alarming as Branson fully intends to take everything away from Lady Sybil. He obviously loves her, but one must consider whether he can be trusted. In past episodes, Branson’s character has been a bit mischievous. For Sybil’s sake, I hope she comes to an intelligent decision before she decides to give up her affluent lifestyle forever. In a memorable scene from this episode, the Dowager Countess also warns Lady Sybil about her relations with Branson. The Dowager cleverly says, “Sometimes in war one can make friendships that are not appropriate, and they can be very awkward later on.” Whatever Sybil decides, this brief exchange of dialogue makes the relationship between Branson and Lady Sybil something to watch in future episodes.

Although Lady Sybil may feel like her entire family disapproves of her relations with Branson, Lady Mary is beginning to feel as if no one disapproves of her relationship with Matthew. Last episode, Sir Richard Carlisle proposed to Lady Mary. Though she plans to accept the offer, Lord Grantham seems to think that there is still a chance for her and Matthew. What is worse, when Lady Mary speaks about Richard Carlisle to her family, everyone seems to ask about Matthew instead. This conflict only grows when William and Matthew are reported missing. For what seems to be the entire second half of the episode, Lady Mary and the rest of the Downton household nervously wait for their safe arrival. 

To add even more fuel to the fire, the servants downstairs also seem to be fighting their own war. Ethel, the rebellious new housemaid, claims to be in need of a new adventure. Though she constantly talks about what she will do once she leaves her responsibilities at Downton, no one is prepared for the adventure she finds upstairs. One night, while Mrs. Hughes is walking around the house, she hears a noise and opens the door to one of the bedrooms. To her surprise, she finds Ethel and Major Bryant having sex in the bedroom. Ethel is fired immediately, but she doesn’t waste too much time making herself useful as she returns almost instantly to tell Mrs. Hughes that she is pregnant.  But Ethel is not the only housemaid that is having some trouble. Although Anna knows that Mr. Bates is working in Yorkshire, the rest of the Downton family has no idea that the beloved Mr. Bates is working in a pub. When Lord Grantham finds out about this, he immediately goes to visit Mr. Bates and asks him to come back to Downton. With Mr. Bates back at Downton, you would think that everything would go back to normal, but there is still a great deal of drama in the downstairs kitchen. 

When the night of the concert finally arrives, the central theme of moving forward is finally brought to a an elegant close. Although no one has heard about Matthew and William, all of Downton’s worries seem to evaporate as Lady Edith and Lady Mary sing for the wounded soldiers. While Lady Mary and Lady Edith are singing, Matthew and William enter the living room. To everyone’s surprise, the two men are completely unharmed, and Mary can’t help but stare at Matthew. When Matthew notices that Lady Mary has stopped singing, he joins her in finishing the rest of the song. This was a wonderful conclusion to such an eventful episode. In the final moments of this episode, we are given hope that Matthew and Lady Mary may one day end up together. As for the rest of the characters, only time will tell how they will adjust to the rest of the changes that war will bring to Downton. 

To read the PBS synopsis of this week’s episode, click here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Season 2: Episode 3

Isobel Crawley’s deep longing for authority creates quite a problem for the Downton family in this episode. The estate has been turned into a convalescent home for wounded soldiers, and Isobel has not wasted any time barking orders at everyone. This creates a bitter ideological divide between Cora and Isobel as Isobel continues to see herself as the new head of the Downton household.

But to be honest, I think Isobel should just be sent away. It is not her fortune or occupation that is maintaining Downton’s existence in the first place. She is lucky to even have the opportunity to live at Downton. If it weren’t for Matthew’s position at Downton, her life would be entirely different. The fact that she sees herself as part of a class that she does not belong to proves to be a central problem in this episode.

Although Isobel Crawley may see herself as the new lady of the house, Lady Sybil and Lady Edith are also doing their fair share to help out with the recovering soldiers. In the beginning of the episode, Lady Edith tells Lady Sybil that she feels useless without the responsibility of helping out on the Drake’s farm. In a memorable scene, Lady Sybil admits to Lady Edith that “it’s doing nothing that is the enemy”. This scene not only displays the maturation of Lady Sybil’s character, but it also encourages Lady Edith to make better use of her time at Downton.

Speaking of the Downton ladies, the Dowager Countess still believes that Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley are still very much in love despite the obstacle of Lavinia Swire. With the help of Lady Rosamund (played by Samantha Bond), the Dowager Countess plots to break up the happy couple by questioning Lavinia’s relationship with Sir Richard Carlisle. Though Lady Rosamund and the Dowager Countess are sure that Lavinia and Carlisle used to be lovers, Lady Mary finds out that Sir Richard Carlisle actually saved Lavinia’s reputation by making a deal to forgive her father’s debt. Lavinia’s confession to Lady Mary is probably the most thrilling part of the episode. For it not only diminishes Lavinia’s innocent persona, but it also creates a mutual friendship between her and Lady Mary.

Downstairs, Ethel and Daisy are also experiencing the harsh realities of war. Ethel, the troublesome housemaid has made it her new mission to inappropriately flirt with the wounded officers. Although she is warned by Mrs. Hughes and Anna to stop her shameful behavior, she continues to flirt with Major Bryant. I still haven’t decided what I think about Ethel’s character, but I think something terrible might happen to her in the future if she continues to act in such a reckless manner. In the kitchen however, Daisy is terrified by the fact that William might propose to her when he comes to visit Downton. The beloved Mrs. Patmore warns Daisy that she cannot send William off to war with a broken heart, so she must accept his proposal even if she does not plan on actually marrying him. This creates an internal conflict for Daisy as she is torn between her own feelings and the responsibility of lifting Matthew’s spirits.

Though the Downton household has clearly transformed since the beginning of the war, many of the characters are still fighting their own battles at home. For example, although Lady Mary and Lavinia may now see eye to eye, I still think there is a hidden possibility for Matthew and Lady Mary to rekindle their relationship. Daisy’s forced engagement to William at the end of the episode has also changed Daisy’s character as she will never have the freedom to fully leave the Downton kitchen. Furthermore, Mr. Lang’s shell shock also proves to be a problem as he can no longer perform his duties as Lord Grantham’s valet. Due to all of these conflicts within the Downton household, it seems as if the war will only bring more change to the English estate.  

Overall, the acting in this episode was excellent especially from Maggie Smith who always seems to have an opinion about everything. Also, I really liked the elegant hats in this episode, specifically Lady Rosamund’s and Countess Violet’s. I can’t wait to watch for more of these sophisticated costumes in the future!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Season 2: Episode 2

There never seems to be a dull moment at Downton Abbey. The horrors of World War I have finally hit the Downton household, and both the servants and the Crawley’s are doing their best to keep the estate running. 

Thomas has conveniently returned from war, but he does not waste any time establishing his new role in the Downton Village. William, on the other hand, has announced that he will be leaving his responsibilities at Downton to fight in the war. All of these unexpected changes greatly affect Lord Grantham, as he begins to see his role in the war as nothing more than “cutting ribbons and making speeches”. Though Lord Grantham’s role in the Great War is clearly symbolic, the women in the house are doing more than their fair share to aid in the war effort.

Lady Sybil has completed her training as a nurse, but she can no longer go back to her life before the war. Now that she finally feels useful, she no longer has the same appreciation for the aristocratic rules and beliefs that govern everyday life at Downton. Lady Edith has also found her calling, as she has decided to help out on the Drake’s farm. Though she is not exactly helping with heavy labor, she is using her new-found driving ability to help out with the tractor on the local farm. Unfortunately, Lady Edith’s time on the farm is cut short when she has a brief affair with Mr. Drake. In my opinion, Edith’s termination is rather confusing because I do not understand whether Mr. Drake was married to Mrs. Drake, or if he was actually her brother. Either way, the termination of Lady Edith’s job further illustrates the bitter division between the upper and lower classes during the war.

But Lady Mary is still the only daughter without an occupation. To be honest, I’m not sure if she is lazy, or if she is just remaining true to aristocratic tradition. Although she has finally realized her feelings for Matthew, she has decided to pursue Sir Richard Carlisle. Mr. Carlisle owns a few newspapers in London, and although he is extremely rich, he has no personality. The lack of chemistry between Lady Mary and Mr. Carlisle is painfully evident when Matthew Crawley enters the equation. Though Matthew is engaged to Miss Swire, it seems as if Lady Mary still thinks she has a chance. But Sir Carlisle’s arrival also provides a startling twist when Carson collapses on the floor during dinner. Even though Carson did not have a heart attack, he is not healthy enough to continue his duties in the dining room. However, Carson’s collapse provides an ideal situation for Mary to speak with him in private. Carson is one of Mary’s most beloved servants, and she uses this opportunity to receive some advice on one of her most private desires-Matthew. After speaking with Carson, Lady Mary realizes that she must tell Matthew how she feels. If he marries Levinia, or dies while he is away at war, she will always regret it.

Yet Lady Mary is not the only character who is experiencing regret. Although Thomas is back in Downton, he begins to regret his ridiculous act of cowardess when he befriends Junior Officer Courtney who is suffering from gas blindness. He visits the hospital to tell young Courtney to have faith, and teaches him to walk, but Courtney commits suicide with a razor blade when he finds out he will be transferred from the hospital. This horrific act not only changes Thomas’ outlook on life, but it also spurs the idea that the Downton estate should  become a hospital for recovering soldiers. Though the Dowager Countess is not thrilled with this charitable suggestion, Lady Sybil is certain she can sway her parents opinion.

While the Crawley family is deciding whether to transform part of the estate into a hospital for recovering soldiers, Lady Mary decides she must talk to Matthew about her feelings. However, when she wanders into the garden to speak to Matthew, she is interrupted by a crying Levinia Swire. Matthew’s fiancé confesses to Lady Mary that she would be lost without him and that she fears he will never come back after the war. But Matthew interrupts their conversation, and Lady Mary attempts to express her romantic feelings...but fails. 

Towards the end of the episode, Mary’s frigid politeness results in a proposal from Sir Richard Carlisle. He clearly does not have any room in his life for romance, but he does believe in the power of a strategic marriage. For once, Mary must decide whether she marries for love, or for the sake of lifelong wealth.

Overall, this episode opened up a great deal of questions surrounding the future of the Grantham estate. Since Matthew is engaged to Levinia Swire, perhaps Lady Mary will accept Sir Richard Carlisle’s proposal and leave Downton to start her own family. But it seems as if Mary might find the courage to tell Matthew her true feelings...or at least by the end of the season! While I’m still keeping my fingers crossed, there is also some sort of secret between Miss Swire and Sir Richard Carlisle that is left to be revealed. Whatever the outcome, the acting in this episode left me hanging on the edge of my seat! Once again, the effortless delivery of Maggie Smith’s quick-witted comments was brilliant! I can’t wait for the next episode!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Season 2: Episode 1

War plays a critical role in the developments of Downton Abbey in the first episode of Season 2. The show picks up in the Fall of 1916 during World War I, with Matthew Crawley and Thomas fighting in The Battle of the Somme. Though the opening scene demonstrates that their lives have drastically changed since the end of Season 1, they are not the only beloved characters of Downton whose lives have been altered by the Great War.

Life back at Downton Abbey is clearly another world in comparison to the horrors in France. The servants downstairs have received a new housemaid, Ethel, who seems to be extremely outspoken about her responsibilities as a maid. Though she is optimistic about her life after the war, her positive outlook seems to rub everyone downstairs the wrong way. In addition to this new source of conflict, William and Mosley are both frustrated by the fact that they cannot join in the war effort. This disappointment changes the relationship between Daisy and William significantly when he expresses his love for her in the Downton kitchen. Though I think Daisy is flattered by William’s confession, it doesn’t seem as if she is ready to return a similar degree of affection. 

However, the lifestyle of the privileged never really seems to change much in times of war. Though Lord Grantham is aiding in the war effort, he is not expected to experience any type of combat. Instead, his role as Colonel of the North Riding Volunteers is merely symbolic. What is more, the women of Downton are carrying about their normal routines, without seeming to worry much about what is going on over in France. This false sense of security changes, however, when Lady Sybil finds out that one of her friends has passed away as a result of the war. Even though Lady Sybil tries to hide her bad news from her parents, the tragedies of war have finally hit the Downton household. This reality is confirmed when Lady Sybil claims that “sometimes it feels as if all the other men I’ve danced with are dead.” This scene functions to change the entire spirit of Season 2 as many of the characters of Downton Abbey are finally forced to acknowledge the realities of war.

But the tragedies of war also prove to be instrumental in changing the role of women. Though Lady Mary and Lady Edith still remain true to tradition, Lady Sybil expresses her desire to help with the war effort. This is by far one of my favorite parts of the episode, because even though Lady Sybil does not have any true talent, she wants to help those who are affected by the war. Although Lady Sybil cannot cook, clean, or make her own bed, she decides to be trained to become a nurse. Perhaps in future episodes to come Lady Sybil’s compassion for others will rub off on the other women of Downton.

For now, however, the other women of Downton are still preoccupied with the aristocratic duties of marriage and charity. To aid in the war effort, the ladies and servants of Downton have planned a concert to raise funds for the village hospital. Since the war started, the hospital has been receiving many more casualties than usual, and it no longer has the space to properly accommodate all of the injured men.

But the charity concert also functions to reunite two of Downton’s most beloved characters. Last season, Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley parted after Matthew decided that he needed to leave Downton Abbey. Yet, the reality of war changed everything when Matthew was forced to enlist. Though Matthew is currently away fighting in the trenches, he has announced that he will be attending the charity concert with his new fiancé Lavinia Swire (played by Zoe Boyle). Lavinia is a sweet, naive, London native, who claims to be deeply in love with Matthew, but she seems to be nothing more than that. When she finally meets the strong-willed women of Downton at the charity concert, this flaw in her character is painfully evident. 

Although Lady Mary warmly greets Lavinia Swire, the romantic connection between her and Matthew is still quite obvious. When Matthew finally speaks to Lady Mary, it seems as if both characters are relieved by the fact that they are reunited. But Matthew is spoken for, and he is leaving for France in the morning.  Though Lady Mary and Matthew are finally on good terms, Matthew may never come back to Downton Abbey after the war. In what seems to be a final plea for affection, Lady Mary says goodbye to Matthew at the train station and gives him a good luck charm. It is this scene that makes Lavinia Swire’s existence almost completely insignificant.
After Matthew’s departure, things seem to calm down until Mr. Bates is forced to leave Downton. His former wife Vera comes to collect him after she threatens to expose Lady Mary’s scandal regarding Mr. Pamuk to the London press. This is a horrible tragedy for Anna, as Mr. Bates finally proposed to her earlier in the episode. But Mr. Bates is not the only beloved character who will be leaving the Downton home. Lady Sybil also leaves Downton at the end of the episode to be trained as a nurse. Though Cora seems to have a great deal of trouble saying goodbye to her youngest daughter, Tom Branson also makes Sybil’s departure difficult. He has finally declared his love for Lady Sybil, but Lady Sybil cannot yet reciprocate his feelings. 

While Anna and Tom are left without their loved ones, the footman Thomas is over in France desperately seeking an escape from the trenches. Throughout the episode, Thomas is recognized as a coward as he constantly thinks about his comfortable life as a footman back at Downton. In the traumatic final scene of the episode, Thomas purposely draws attention to his hand, so that he is shot by enemy fire. In the final moments of the episode, Thomas is caught clutching his bleeding hand and thanking God for deliverance.

Overall, this episode was a superb start to the second season of Downton Abbey. Not only have the elegant costumes drastically improved, but Julian Fellows seems to have brilliantly changed many of the shows’ most esteemed characters. After watching the interaction between Lady Mary and Matthew, I can’t wait to see if there is still one more chance for the two to end up together. I’m not sure what other viewers thought, but it also seems as if the themes of this season will be less like Pride and Prejudice and more like Ernest Hemingway’s In Love and War. Whatever the outcome, I cannot wait to watch the rest of Season 2! No wonder the show has received such rave reviews!

If your still interested in further analysis about this episode, check out the PBS synopsis by clicking here.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Episode 7 Season Finale Part 4

WHAT A SHOCK! Mrs. O’ brien always seems to ruin every bit of happiness at Downton Abbey. While Mrs. O’Brien is helping Cora with her bath, she leaves a bar of soap on the floor so that Cora ends up slipping on the slick tile floor. Cora falls and loses her unborn child. I thought Mrs. O’Brien couldn’t get any worse, but this is by far the most sinful act she has ever committed. When Lord Grantham hears about Cora’s accident, he is beside himself with anger and sorrow. It turns out that Cora’s baby was a boy, and that Lord Grantham could have actually had a son to inherit the Downton estate. I’m not sure about what others thought about this part of the season finale, but I’ve never seen Lord Grantham show more emotion than he does in this episode. Though there is still a great deal of sorrow within the Downton household because of Cora’s accident, the Garden Party has finally arrived. But the Garden Party seems to be nothing more than an excuse for some of the most beloved characters of Downton to walk away from their real responsibilities. Thomas declares that he is leaving his position at Downton, and Gwen finally accepts an offer to become a secretary. When Matthew finally speaks to Mary at the party, he confesses that he must leave Downton in order to take charge of his life again. He cannot simply be a puppet that the Downton family plays with when they have no other option. The death of Cora’s child has clearly left a lasting impact on Matthew. Though Lady Mary planned to accept Matthew’s proposal, it is too late. Matthew thinks he has been living a dream by thinking that he will one day inherit the Downton estate, and he tells Lady Mary that he cannot marry her under these circumstances. This is a horrible point of departure for the season finale. I had truly hoped that Matthew and Lady Mary would end up engaged by the end of season 1. But, if anyone thought that things couldn’t get worse, Lord Grantham has announced that England is at war with Germany....This should certainly cause some added tension in the Downton Household!

Episode 7: Season Finale Part 3

The news of Cora’s pregnancy is causing a great deal of confusion for the men at Downton. Though the Dowager Countess has thankfully accepted the news, Cora’s pregnancy has thrown the entire issue of inheritance into question. The birth of a son would mean that Matthew Crawley is no longer the heir to the Downton estate. Obviously, this throws Matthew into a fit of uncertainty, as he wonders whether Cora’s pregnancy will change his fate at Downton forever. Lady Mary has also arrived back at Downton, and the news of the baby seems to have almost no impact on her whatsoever. She has spent enough time away from Downton Abbey, and no matter what happens with Cora’s child, she is determined to accept Matthew’s proposal. Has Lady Mary finally fallen in love with Matthew Crawley? But after Lady Mary speaks with her grandmother, she seems to be less sure about her decision to marry Matthew. The fight between Matthew and Lady Mary that follows reminds me of the scene in Pride and Prejudice where Mr. Darcy (played by Matthew Mcfayden) stubbornly confesses his love for Elizabeth Bennet (played by Keira Knightley). However, Matthew and Lady Mary are not the only ones who seem to be reenacting one of the greatest love stories of all time. Lady Edith continues to show interest in Mr. Strallen, but I still think there may be some time before she finds her happy ending. Lady Mary finally confronts Lady Edith about her gossip surrounding Kemal Pamuk, and Lady Edith surprisingly labels Lady Mary a slut! Such vulgarity has not yet been heard from any of the characters at Downton.  But the inhabitants upstairs are not the only ones who are thrown into fits of  confusion and anger in this episode. Since Mrs. Patmore is gone, and Mr. Bates has been ordered to leave, Daisy is having a difficult time handling an added amount of responsibility. What is worse, Thomas and Mrs. O’Brien have no problem making fun of her when she messes up a recipe that is meant for dinner. While Daisy tries to make sense of her responsibilities downstairs, Anna is in London finding out whether the accusations about Mr. Bates are true. I’m personally hoping that for the sake of Anna and Bates there is nothing true about the  accusations of him being a drunken thief.

Episode 7: Season Finale Part 2

It’s July 1914, and Lord and Lady Grantham have just arrived back from London. The Downton household is already thrown into chaos with their arrival, but it looks like there are also some sad developments downstairs. William’s mother has passed making him more self-conscious than ever, and Mr. Carson has not yet decided what to do about Mrs. Patmore or Mr. Bates. What is more, we are also informed that Lady Mary has decided to stay in London for a few extra days, while she decides whether or not she will accept Matthew’s proposal. If this isn’t enough of a surprise for the first few minutes of the episode, Cora just announced that she is pregnant! How can Cora possibly be pregnant? All of her daughters are practically mature adults! The arrival of a new baby would definitely throw the Downton family into shock. But if your still wondering what ever happened to the charming Kemal Pamuk, Evelyn Napier has come back to speak with Lady Mary before she leaves for the countryside. During their private meeting, Mr. Napier reveals that the gossip about Lady Mary and Mr. Pamuk did not come from him. Instead, he tells Lady Mary that Lady Edith sent the gossip about Kemal Pamuk’s tragic death to the Turkish ambassador and his wife. Clearly, the rivalry that we saw in previous episodes between Lady Edith and Lady Mary has some seriously embarrassing consequences...

Episode 7: Season 1 Finale Part 1

Hey Everyone! I hope you are as excited as I am about the first season finale of Downton Abbey!  It’s been an eventful season for the inhabitants of Downton, and I’m hoping that the final episode of the season will bring some closure to the mysteries that are still left to be solved. Last episode, Matthew Crawley finally proposed to Lady Mary, but she told him that she would have to take some time to think about it. Could Lady Mary have finally come to her senses? Lady Sybil has also created a bit of a problem for the Crawley family, but perhaps she will simply continue to defy convention in future episodes to come. No matter the outcome, I will be live blogging the final episode of Downton Abbey Season 1. So, if your interested in finding out what happens to Lady Mary, and  some of your favorite characters downstairs, make sure to come back and visit my blog to read my thoughts! 

Series 1: Episode 6

Controlling Lady Sybil’s unique passion for politics is not the only fear that haunts Lord and Lady Grantham in this episode.
Downton Abbey is still recovering from the death of Mr. Pamuk, and Lady Mary has not accepted any offers of marriage. What is worse, Countess Violet has heard the truth about Mr. Pamuk’s death, and she is now skeptical about the other secrets the Crawley family may be hiding.
Lady Sybil tries to keep her support for women’s rights a secret, but she is caught in the act by Tom Branson, the chauffeur. When Branson finds out that Lady Sybil is actually attending a political rally, he begs her to return home at once. If Lord and Lady Grantham found out that their youngest daughter had participated in a political rally, they would be mortified. But Lady Sybil swears that she will make her thoughts and opinions heard.
Though Lady Sybil’s confidence and ambition for politics is admirable, perhaps it is misplaced. In the middle of the episode, she is injured when she attends a second political meeting. Though she has dreams to become politically active, her situation in life does not support her desire to become part of the public cause.  Since I share a similar passion for politics, I enjoy following Lady Sybil and her struggle to defy convention. However, I’m interested to see if in future episodes her love for politics clashes with her inherited duty at Downton.
Unfortunately, Lord Grantham finds out about his youngest daughter’s strong interest in politics. When Lady Sybil is injured at the second political meeting, Lord Grantham claims that active participation in politics is distasteful and highly unsuitable for a young lady. Not only is Lord Grantham unsupportive of Sybil’s liberal causes, but he sincerely believes in the traditional aristocratic structure of English life.
As a result, my favorite part of the episode occurs when Lord Grantham reveals his anger toward Branson for taking Lady Mary to the rally. When speaking with Lady Grantham he argues, “If it had not been left to that bloody fool Branson……. You should see what he reads, it’s all Marx and Ruskin, and John Stuart Mill.” This quote alone reveals what Lord Grantham really thinks about the equality of conditions in the early twentieth century.
But thanks to Matthew Crawley and a rare moment of sincerity from Lady Mary, Lord Grantham decides to keep Branson employed at Downton Abbey. While Lady Sybil recovers from her fall, the excitement surrounding Lady Sybil’s accident also reignites the flame between Matthew and Lady Mary. This is probably the most exciting part of the episode, because perhaps both the fate of Matthew and Lady Mary’s relationship has been determined. The two characters even show some affection towards one another, which is something that has not really been shown in previous episodes!
Another beloved character of Downton that reveals a vulnerable side throughout the episode is Mr. Bates. Though Mr. Bates is back at work downstairs, he confesses to Mr. Carson that he was once a drunk and imprisoned for being a thief. Though Thomas and Mrs. O’ Brien try to use this information against Bates, Bates offers his resignation out of respect for the Downton household.  
Though there are still some obvious troubles to be solved at Downton Abbey, this episode brilliantly captured certain historical developments in twentieth century England.  In addition, this use of history also helped to develop many of the characters in the show. Though I am also excited that the episode ended with Matthew Crawley’s proposal to Lady Mary, I still wonder whether she will actually end up marrying the man she swore never to love.

For further analysis on this exciting episode please click here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Series 1: Episode 5

Old traditions die hard in this episode as the inhabitants of Downton Abbey prepare for the Annual Downton Village Flower Show. Countess Violet always wins the Grantham Cup for the “Best Bloom in the Village”, but Isobel Crawley questions whether the Dowager Countess wins first prize out of merit,  or simply out of old English tradition.

 While Isobel Crawley and Countess Violet continue to butt heads, Lord and Lady Grantham worry if Lady Mary is also breaking tradition by not entering the institution of marriage. Lady Mary has denied all of her suitors, and she is becoming something of a lost cause to the other members of her family. What is worse, Lord Grantham has received word that there are rumors around London that Lady Mary is unsuitable for marriage. To put these rumors to rest, Lord and Lady Grantham decide to invite yet another potential suitor to Downton for dinner. But Lady Mary is tired of being setup with potential suitors. To her own surprise, she is becoming more and more attracted to Matthew Crawley. However, she has denied Mr. Crawley once, and it is unknown whether he will give her a second chance.

The arrival of Sir Anthony Strallen, Lady Mary’s potential suitor,  brings further chaos to the sisters of Downton. Mary finds her potential suitor boring, but her sister Edith finds him genuinely interesting. The two sisters quarrel over the attention of Mr. Strallen after dinner, and begin to place a bet as to which sister can effectively capture his attention. While the two sisters fight over Mr. Strallen, Matthew Crawley is left alone, and he soon realizes that he is not really wanted by any of the Downton sisters.  Thus, it is in this portion of the episode, that we learn that Lady Edith’s and Lady Mary’s rivalry may have greater implications.

My favorite illustration that best explains the sisterly rivalry between Lady Mary and Lady Edith occurs in the beginning of the episode when Mrs. Grantham is reflecting on the difficulty of raising three young women. She starts to compare bringing up three young daughters to the literary classic Little Women, but instead notices that “they are at each other’s throats from dawn until dusk”.

The rivalry between Lady Mary and Lady Edith therefore becomes central to the theme of the episode, as their distaste for one another carries on through the Annual Downton Village Flower Show. Lady Mary finds that she can no longer capture the attention of Matthew Crawley, and she uses her frustration to insult Lady Edith about her clothing. Lady Edith takes Lady Mary’s cruel words to heart, and begins to plan revenge. Though the competition between the two sisters seems immature and ugly, it reminds me of the sibling rivalry I share with my two younger brothers. Though we may not fight over potential suitors, we definitely compete for the attention of our parents. 

But the quarrel between Lady Edith and Lady Mary is not the only surprising development in this episode. After waiting several episodes to determine the true nature of the relationship between Anna and Mr. Bates, Anna finally tells Mr. Bates she is in love with him! I never thought that their relationship would amount to anything, but it was a great distraction from all of the fighting going on between Lady Mary and Lady Edith. 

The final surprise in this episode occurs when Countess Violet engages in an unlikely change of heart. When the Dowager Countess realizes that she is always given first prize at the Annual Flower Show out of tradition instead of merit, she decides to award the Grantham Cup to Bill Molesley, a lonely gardener who lives in Downton village. Perhaps this means that the Dowager Countess will not be so cold in future episodes to come.
Overall, I thought that this episode was pretty interesting, but not as exciting as other Downton Abbey episodes I have seen in the past. In my opinion, there were several stories to be developed in this episode, and not enough time to adequately capture their significance to the show.