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. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Series 1: Episode 4

Though the excitement at Downton Abbey has dwindled since the death of Mr. Pamuk, there are still many questions left to be answered within the Downton household. As a result, the theme of loyalty becomes a central thread throughout the course of this episode.

What is more, the annual Downton fair brings a great deal of joy to the servants at Downton. For once, they are allowed to leave their posts as servants to enjoy the simple bliss of the town fair. However, the annual fair becomes problematic when it becomes a means for relationships to develop among some of the characters in the show. For instance, when the town fair is setting up in the beginning of the episode, Lady Mary rekindles her relationship with Matthew Crawley when she admits that she has still not recovered from the death of Mr. Pamuk. Moreover, she assures Matthew that she no longer holds anything against him, and that in actuality it is her stubbornness and frustration with her current situation that makes her so unpleasant.

But the town fair is even more instrumental in the character development of Mrs. Hughes and Daisy. In the previous episode, we learned that Daisy had something of a soft spot for Thomas, the evil and conceited footman. Though it is clear that Thomas does not have any type of attraction towards women, he makes it his mission to compete for Daisy’s attention when he realizes she has a bit of a crush on him. Even though Thomas sees this as a game, the shy and genuine William is clearly upset when Thomas offers to take Daisy to the village fair. My biggest problem with this awkward situation is that Daisy is so naive about Thomas’s sexual preference that she continues to make a fool of herself throughout the entirety of the episode. When this was coupled with her uneducated English accent and her vulgar comments towards William, it was almost too much for me to bear! It seems like Daisy still needs to understand her rank in the hierarchy of servants at Downton.

Mrs. Hughes, on the other hand, reveals a softer side of her character in this episode. Since the beginning of the series, Mrs. Hughes has been somewhat of a private character, but she finally comes into her own when she admits that she had another life before she was employed at Downton. This development in her character is further revealed when she attends the town fair with an old boyfriend. At the end of the night, her old lover asks her to leave her life at Downton to spend the rest of her life with him. For a moment, Mrs. Hughes is torn between the life of a farmer’s wife and the life that she created at Downton as housekeeper. However, she soon realizes that Downton has changed her for the better, and that her career choice at Downton is the relationship she must keep.

Yet another interesting development in this episode is the maturity and growth of Lady Sybil (played by Jessica Brown Findlay). Though at first I thought Lady Mary was my favorite character, in this episode I found that Lady Sybil seemed to have much more substance and curiosity than Lady Mary. Throughout this episode Lady Sybil defines herself as a rebel who is independent from her comfortable and traditional roots. Though she is still loyal to her family, she begins to articulate her passion for politics and women’s rights. Not only is she a strong advocate for women’s rights, but she finds happiness in helping those who are less fortunate than her.  This is further exemplified when she supports Gwen and her desire to leave Downton to become a secretary.

Finally, the key moment when Lady Sybil’s maturity and growth is realized is when she showcases her new frock in front of the Downton family. Instead of choosing a dress that would follow traditional feminine lines, Lady Sybil chose an outfit with pants! Elegant upper-crust women are never seen in pants! (or at least in comparison to the rest of the women in this period drama) This is a scandalous move on Sybil’s part, but it fully illustrates her desire to defy convention. In my opinion, the best part about this scene is Countess Violet’s facial expression..she looks both surprised and horrified! Perhaps this refreshing choice of clothing is too much for the women of Downton.

Overall, this was an excellent episode, as it further developed many of the characters in the PBS television series. Though the town fair seemed to be the key player in the development of several relationships, the most exhilarating portion of this episode was Lady Sybil’s rebellious display of women’s pants. Jessica Brown Findlay’s performance in this episode was a refreshing change in direction for Downton Abbey, and I can’t wait to find out what she comes up with next!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Series 1: Episode 3

Wow! In this episode, a little English hospitality proves to be far too much for the Downton household. After watching the first two episodes of Downton, I thought I was instantly hooked, but this particular episode was by far one of my favorites!

Gwen sends some mysterious mail, and Anna discovers her typewriter hidden inside a suitcase  while she is snooping around in her bedroom. As a result, yet another technological innovation is introduced into the plot of the show. The discovery of Gwen’s typewriter becomes controversial within the Downton household when she reveals that she secretly wants to leave her position as a maid to become a secretary. 

But Gwen is not the only female at Downton that does not recognize her proper position within the estate. Edith, the ugly but flirty sister of Lady Mary, invites Matthew Crawley out to see some churches and have a picnic. She naively mistakes the friendly occasion for a date, and quickly realizes that Mr. Crawley is more interested in churches and Lady Mary than he is in her.

While Edith desperately continues to flirt with Mr. Crawley, Cora finds out that Lady Mary has been secretly corresponding with Evelyn Napier, a Marquis’s son. Cora jumps at the opportunity to invite Mr. Napier to Downton, with the hope that he will make an offer of marriage to Lady Mary.

Thus, the excitement begins as the Downton home is thrown into chaos with the arrival of Evelyn Napier and his handsome Turkish friend, Kemal Pamuk. A hunt and an elegant dinner are planned, and the arrival of the two men becomes way too much for the Downton women to handle. Lady Mary is instantly attracted to Mr. Pamuk, and for a few minutes it seems as if she’s found her Mr. Darcy. I have to admit, that for a moment I was also smitten with the effortless charm of Mr. Pamuk. However, the mutual attraction becomes even clearer when Lady Mary ditches Mr. Napier during the hunt to spend more time with his friend. 

I just want to say that I was really impressed with the fact that Lady Mary accompanied the men on the hunt. I think it speaks volumes of her character since none of the other women at Downton even bothered to come. 

Anyway, when Lady Mary and the men return home after their hunt, the obnoxious, homosexual, Thomas reveals that the women in the house are not the only ones attracted to Mr. Pamuk. Yet Thomas simply embarrasses himself, as Mr. Pamuk makes it clear that he does not feel the same way. As the elegant dinner begins, the attraction between Mr. Pamuk and Lady Mary becomes painfully evident to the Downton family and to Matthew Crawley. Mr. Pamuk invites Lady Mary into a back room and the chilling excitement at Downton continues!

Though Lady Mary appears restrained at first, she cannot get enough of Mr. Pamuk. When he comes to her bedroom later that night, she by no means makes any attempt to make him leave. Unfortunately, the unthinkable happens, and he falls dead in her arms.

Lady Mary is instantly thrown into an emotional roller coaster when she is forced to ask Anna, the housemaid, and her mother to help her move Mr. Pamuk back into his bedroom. If the Downton family finds out that Mr. Pamuk was in her bedroom, then she will be publicly shamed forever. Though Lady Grantham is disgusted by Mary’s idiotic decision, she promises to keep it a secret from the rest of the Downton household.

Pamuk’s tragic death, however, proves to be too much for Lady Mary. In many ways, he taught her a great deal about being human. Although Lady Mary always seems to be in control of everything, he taught her that in other ways she is still also very immature. Another important lesson he taught her was that money doesn't mean everything, and it most certainly cannot prevent death. It is here that I think Lady Mary’s character will change for the remainder of the show. She can no longer be cold and mean to all of her suitors, and she must find meaning in her life besides simply marriage and money. 

But Pamuk’s death also has a profound impact downstairs as the servants debate whether Pamuk died of natural causes. The news of Pamuk’s death also troubles Lord Grantham, as he is worried that Pamuk’s death at the Downton estate will ruin his reputation. Mr. Carson, on the other hand, reveals a softer side of his personality when he tries to console Lady Mary by telling her that she is his favorite. Perhaps just like Lady Mary, Mr. Carson also finds status to be a defining factor in his life.

With status being a central theme to the show, it is also revealed that there will not be a romantic relationship between Mr. Napier and Lady Mary. Due to everything that has gone on during his stay at Downton, there is simply no hope for their future as a couple.

Overall, this was a wonderful episode. In my opinion, it sets the course for the remainder of the season. The tragedy of Pamuk’s death injects a theme of mystery into the British drama that gives it an even more addictive quality. Mr. Pamuk seemed like the epitome of a handsome and  healthy foreigner, and it will be interesting to see if he really did die from natural causes. Could there be some hidden agenda behind his death? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see...