Monday, January 7, 2013

Dishing on Downton, Week One

Warning: Do not read on if you haven't seen episode one yet.
Read on at your own peril...

It's finally here and I, for one, wasn't disappointed. Mary and Matthew married and I cried. American grandmama is wonderful and watching her with Maggie Smith would be worth it alone even if there were no story. Weren't they fabulous?

But now we have Mrs. Hughes to worry about, and Bates's new roommate. And I can't believe that happiness will go smoothly for Edith, can you? After all, if the girls are all happily married, where is the romance and drama? Perhaps Branson will get killed in an Irish uprising and Sibyl will come home....

My gripes: I found the scene in which the oven fails and the guests have to picnic ridiculously over the top. If that oven had been smoking for some time, someone would have fixed it. And it was just the oven that wasn't working, surely. Couldn't they have cooked some things on the stovetop? And frankly a house the size of Downton would probably have more than one oven. My sister-in-law's manor house, not as big as Downton, has an Aga stove and a gas cooker.

My other gripe. I hate inconsistency. Bates's house is okay because he signed it over to Anna. So how come Cora's fortune was all tied up in Downton? Couldn't she have kept some for herself?

And the evil Thomas versus the evil O'Brien--hasn't that theme gone too far now? Why doesn't she just tell the master that Thomas took his dog? Then Thomas would be fired and peace would return to downstairs.  That would be too simple and of course we need Thomas for that touch of evil, don't we?

Finally I've only just read that Matthew won't be in Season 4. That changes everything. Please, please don't kill him off at the end of season 3!

So let's hear from you. What did you like or dislike. Was it as good as the previous years?


  1. All I have to say is if they kill off Matthew, they'd better make sure he and Mary have produced an heir or two first! lol

    As to the house/money thing, I think it's easier for the lower/middle classes than the aristocrats to seperate their money/property. I can't imagine Bates' house/money having entailments, etc.

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    1. I enjoyed Mrs Patmore's OMG's at the Dr's office and her fussing with Daisy. And Mr Carson's "I am not dressing up as a Chauffeur"! I thoght it was a good s previous seasons. I am wondering Where is Ethel's baby? or did I miss something?

    2. It's Sibyl who is pregnant, and the baby isn't due yet.

  3. I confess - I too had tears in my eyes during Matthew and Mary's wedding.
    I LOVED! Maggie Smith in this episode. She is always superb, but this was really special. I actually thought she outshone Shirley Maclaine in every way. So many brilliant lines and facial expressions.
    By the way, I followed you this summer and visited Highclere Castle. For me, having seen the rooms and the estate for myself made watching the show even better.
    As a faithful NY Times reader, I unfortunately read both the spoiler about Downton Abbey and the most recent articles discussing the popularity of the show. The reviewer completely missed a major reason for watching - the spectacular costumes. Those hats and dresses for the wedding were GORGEOUS! The entire show is eye candy in so very many ways.

  4. I thought Maggie Smith had the best lines as usual. I almost fell out of my chair when she asked her son for a drink. . .Oh, I'm sorry. . . I thought you were a waiter. Yes, I am also perturbed hearing Dan Stevens (Matthew) won't be in season 4.

    1. I laughed out loud at the one, too. Maggie Smith gets all the best lines. And she makes the most of them.

  5. Loved every minute... I can't wait for next week. Maybe I should stop now and wait for the series to end (many years down the road!) and watch the whole thing at once so I don't have to be impatient so many times.

    I agree with Anonymous 11:25 - if Matthew is bumped off, I hope that there are heirs on the way.

  6. My favorite scene was Mary in the stairs in her wedding dress and both her father and Carson wearing the same "pole-axed" expressions. Who does she ask if she'll "do"? Carson! I just squalled!

  7. On the stairs not in the stairs! Sheesh!!

  8. I was disappointed in how washed out Sibyl looked. I don't like that Branson...he pushed himself on her last season. I agree with you-maybe he'll be killed off. And poor Edith. If she doesn't find happiness I'll be so sad. I'm thrilled that the season has started again. It's been too long of a wait.

  9. Laraine in Santa MonicaJanuary 8, 2013 at 9:12 AM

    Like you, Rhys, I thought the dinner scene was ridiculous--it was as if the writer hadn't a clue and somebody just said, 'let's make Americans look like rubes and jump around eating chicken in the library'--it was a very careless, shallow and unsatisfying sequence.
    Kind of fascinating to see the British sense of fairness emerge in the scenes around Branson: I rather liked it, but I'm of mixed opinions on Branson and Sybil--it could work; maybe. I did think her costumes were great, though, as a simple pregnant Irish housewife would, of course, have a very simple and utilitarian day dress . . . nothing like her previous splendors.
    Edith is sad and makes poor choices, but will she be happy with her older man?

  10. A couple of weeks ago a Hollywood-scene reporter dropped a MAJOR spoiler re Downton...which I will not reveal here. About the same time I saw an interview with Dan Stevens, who is currently on Broadway, where he said how much he loved America/Broadway...I knew right away that he'd become another Brit seduced by the glitz, glamour, and high paychecks of America/ no surprise to me when it was revealed that he would not be back for season 4.

    Yes, the dinner scene was absurd. Not the best of writing and not sure at all what it was supposed to show. Except perhaps as some kind of showcase for Shirley MacLaine. But overbearing, critical, and blind-to-anyone-else's-feelings can be overblown and done to death.

    If the American family and their lawyers were smart enough to tie up the money so that Shirley couldn't give it away, why weren't they smart enough to set some of Clara's fortune aside? Why turn the whole thing over to the Crawley's? Were they so ignorant that they didn't know about entailments? Did it never occur to them that Clara might only have daughters, in which case the entire fortune would be lost? Not believable, to me.

    The thing I love most about Maggie Smith's performance is not her zingers (although they are wonderful...will we ever get over "Do you promise?"!!) is the way she shows her human side under the stiff aristocratic backbone. The noble way she defended Branson at dinner, and the sensitive way she handled Daisy when she was crying in front of the fireplace. Quietly and subtly done. Maggie Smith is magnificent, and performs with true finesse!

  11. I, too, was wondering what Ethel did with her the end of last season, I don't think it was made entirely clear..did she keep him? Did she give in to the grandparents? But, with Matthew's mother in the picture now with the prostitutes, you can bet we will get the scoop on Ethel...the scenes with Anna and Bates left me cold...And, while I like Edith and sympathize with her plight, I did think that she was really coming on strong with Sir Anthony...there are so so many avenues for various plights here, it will be interesting to see which one comes forward next week...

  12. Yes, I thought that the oven/flu problem was leading to something. I guess it was a way to bring an American "buffet/picnic" idea into British society. I think Shirley's character took a while to feel natural among the others - from a viewer's perspective. Her greetings to Cora and all the girls were cold and rehearsed. For not having seen them in a long time, it didn't seem right to me. But, half way through the show, she became more relaxed and "real".

    The only big issues I had were:
    1. The wedding.... I wanted MORE!!!
    2. The inheritance money....Why can't they just use SOME of it, invest it, grow it and then give it back to the next heir that's in-line?? Oh well. Maybe they will do that in the next episode.

    All in all, it's the period, the setting and the costumes that draw me in. I could always do with more historical references that take us outside of Downton for a bit. The town was decorated beautifully, don't you think? And the reference to the Irish v Crown politics helped.

    AHHHHH - what an indulgence this show is. It's like a nice cup of cocoa - leaving me feel all warm inside. Much like your novels, Rhys!! :)