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.