Downton Abbey: Season Three Predictions, Wild Dreams, and Sundry Other Prognostications

Well, folks, what do we think about next season? I thought it would be fun to do a few polls, so please share this around on your favorite social media things (if you haven’t given it up for Lent!), so we can have plenty of opinions! :)

Let’s start at the beginning:

What about the general contents of the season?

What else? Other predictions in the comments, please!

Downton Abbey 2.CHRISTMAS EPISODE!

No, seriously, seriously go away right now if you’ve not seen the finale. Go!

Happy sigh, everyone. Happy sigh. And in keeping with that emotive beginning, let’s recap (organized according to the words and/or sounds my fellow-watchers and I most frequently interjected):

Awwwwwww! That sweet little brooch Mary gave Anna reminded me how much I’ve grown to love Mary. I mean, consider it: can you imagine the brittle, selfish heiress from season one, the girl who balked at the idea of going into mourning for her dead fiance, bidding Sir Richard farewell with genuine grace and goodwill after everything he’d done to her? Or instinctively offering a steadying hand to Anna in her moment of grief? Or opening her heart and her past to her father and Matthew? Or, frankly, thinking of anyone but herself? As much as I love a sassy girl, I hope this softer, kinder, more selfless Mary is here to stay.

Big “aww” when Sir Anthony Strallan came into the parlor for tea. Although, much as I love Sir Anthony, I do wish they wouldn’t keep sticking Edith with a string of men as interesting as dishrags and as attractive as landed trout. She is lovely, darn it! It’s only by comparison with the luminous Mary and the luscious Sybil that she looks plain, and it’s high time she had some beaux worthy of her in the looks department.

And speaking of Sybil, was anyone else a bit shocked that Lady G just came out and said “pregnant” rather than “expecting” or some other polite euphemism? Anyway, I can’t wait for next season when there’s a charming little Fenian toddling around in adorable period-appropriate sailor suits.

Dan Stevens (who plays Matthew) has been working overtime this season to make every woman in the English-speaking world fall in love with him. Those eyes, my gracious. And the way Matthew and Mary banter and flirt with each other is so companionable and charming, especially at the shoot when he tells her she must promise not to reveal his middle-class ineptitude with guns. The chemistry between those two says a lot about Michelle Dockery and Dan Stevens’s skill as actors — Matthew and Mary have gone from having as much spark as wet sawdust to their stolen glances being used as kindling for the Downton fires.

Probably the best “awww” of the night, though, was the scene in William’s father’s kitchen, Daisy looking awestruck and teary-eyed at the idea of being dear to someone. God love her. She’s got a mother-figure in Mrs. Patmore who, for all her bluster, is a big-hearted and wise woman, and it’s lovely to see her with a father-figure at long last. And she can finally come to terms with her marriage and her affection for William, thank God: “I were only ever special to William; I never thought of it like that.” *sniff, sniff*

Gasp! Y’ALL. Lady Grantham told Lord Grantham about Mr. Pamouk! SHE TOLD HIM ABOUT MR. PAMOUK! AND THEN LORD G TOLD MARY THAT HE KNEW! AND THEN MARY TOLD MATTHEW! What a wonderful few scenes, with everything I love and admire about Lord Grantham right at the forefront. He’s such a good man — a loving father, a protector, a man of ideals and humility, and incredibly smart. And the big revelation scene saw the return of the tough, canny, sensible Cora we loved from season one, in all her maternal glory, after turning momentarily into a snippy little baggage in the last couple of episodes. I think the scene where Lord G tells Mary to give Sir Richard the heave-ho might be my favorite scene from the series so far (topping last week’s favorite, Violet’s Little Chat with Matthew).

Also: FIGHT! Matthew finally socked Sir Richard right across his stupid jaw. Hallelujah.

(Also: Mrs. Hughes said a swear! In public!)

Hahahahaha! Basically all of Violet’s lines this week got a laugh. Spies? She’s a gem, and so wise with her advice to Daisy. She’s been quite the fixer the last few episodes. “I doubt we’ll meet again.” “Do you promise?” “Sorry about the vase.” “Oh, don’t be, don’t be; it was a wedding present from a frightful aunt. I have hated it for half a century.” Isobel got her fair share of sassy lines too — who better to give Matthew a much-needed telling-off for “invoking that poor dead girl’s name” and wallowing in his grief, martyr-like? And the ouija board scenes were a hoot, especially Mrs. Patmore’s transparent effort to ooga-booga Daisy into visiting William’s father.

Poor pathetic Thomas’s schemes were a source of laughter rather than anxiety — he’s almost become a parody of his former self. Seems he’s beginning to realize his own unimportance in the world, which is a good place to start for him! And the servants’ ball scene was hilarious as well.

[Edited for Language]! Sir Richard’s constant passive-aggressive (or just aggressive-aggressive) commentary about how no one appreciates him and everyone’s too easy on the servants and “Oh, suuuuure he’s innocent” and mocking The Game and slandering the poor late Lavinia and on and on just made me crazy. He has always reminded me of a spoiled overgrown child — capable of great charm, even kindness when it suits him, but equally capable of fearsome temper tantrums and ultimately utterly selfish. (Hm, you know, at the start of season one, Mary would have been his perfect match: selfish, thoughtless, superior, petulant…) Miss Shore would be a good match for him, that little social climber. Or even Rosamund herself.

I also rather wanted to take Bates’s defense attorney by the neck and throttle him for presenting such a pathetic case for his client. I’ve seen better defenses on Ally McBeal, and most of those involve hallucinations or musical numbers.

Noooooo! Bates in prison! Bates in leg irons! Bates in the dock! Bates being convicted! Bates getting a death sentence!

(Before we wrap up the wrap-up, just one extended parenthetical, to any ITV/PBS bigwigs who might be lurking about: please, for the love of everything that is good and right and holy, air season three simultaneously everywhere! Not just to satiate your multitudes of American and Australian watchers, but so you can actually make money from the show! In this day of squishy international copyright laws and ubiquitous torrent-ripoff sites, far, far too many people who wouldn’t otherwise have taken your property without paying for it did so, because of the absurdly long wait between the UK premiere and the others! For crying out loud, American fans could buy season two in bookstores before it showed for the first time on television. That’s just stupid. For the sake of your bottom line and your fans’ sanity, please, just air it at the same time in both places. Thank you for your kind attention to this matter.)

OH THANK GOD FINALLY YES. People, I don’t have a caps-lock capsy enough for the proposal scene. Three of the four of us watching may or may not have been crying, and clutching on each other’s hands, and covering our mouths, and whispering, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh” under our breath. There’s our Mary, looking unbelievably beautiful in the snow, small-talking with her beloved, who says plaintively, eyes aglimmer, “Would you stay, if I asked you to?” They quickly address the problems of Mr. Pamuk and Lavinia, and then Matthew GETS DOWN ON ONE KNEE AND ASKS MARY TO MARRY HIM AND SHE. SAYS. YES! And then they kiss and laugh and embrace and are as jubilant and relieved as they ought to be having fought through years of heartache and confusion to arrive at that triumphant moment, the last moment of this season of Downton Abbey.

And so on that happy note we bid adieu to our dear friends upstairs and down, until season three!

Downton Abbey 2.6

ESPECIALLY, ESPECIALLY GO AWAY if you haven’t seen THIS one yet, good GRIEF.

OK, this was a TWO-HOUR episode, so forgive me if I have to skim pretty lightly over a few things. War’s over, Matthew’s feeling tingles in his lower regions (ahem, I meant his LEGS, you perv), Lord G’s getting a little too share-y with Jane, Lady G is being horrid, Sir Richard is still a [naughty word redacted], Sybil and Branson are still involved in the least-compelling romance ever, and I WAS RIGHT ABOUT SPANISH FLU, HA.

Since it was such an emotional episode, we’re just going to go with pure emotion to “organize” this.

STUFF I WAS RELIEVED ABOUT: Bates and Anna, finally, for crying out loud, got married. This is another handy plot device since now everything he’s ever said to her is inadmissible in court — and as far as I know, she can’t even be called to testify. Ethel decides NOT to give up her baby to that awful bully even if Charlie IS his grandson. And oh goodness, in a house where the secrets are so layered that the layers have layers, it was so great that Anna went immediately to Carson and tattled on Sir [Nickname Redacted] AND that Violet had a very firm (and surprisingly tender-hearted and open) sit-down chat with Matthew, and just outright told him that Mary was in love with him Hoorah! AND, FINALLY AGAIN, Isobel actually wept for joy over THE OTHER THING I PREDICTED, HA!

Obviously, the huge reveal this episode was that Matthew can walk, just with a cane for the moment, but still. Duh. Of course he can. But the other big deal was that LORD GRANTHAM SHOOK BRANSON’S HAND!

Stuff I was delighted with: O’Brien. Is she softening at last? Sybil and Branson also — just for growing up a bit, and making plans and following through with them. You’ve got to respect their refusal to be blackballed from the family, and their persistence in turning everyone’s objections back on them! No money? Fine, your choice. No visits? Stupid, but again, your choice. And in the end, even Violet came around!

STUFF I WAS ANGSTY ABOUT (but understood): Man, people were wigging out about Lord G’s little tryst with Jane, which he cut off. Not cool, kissing a housemaid, and there’s no excuse, but it’s not totally not-understandable, when stupid Cora kept being snippy and dismissive and pompous and nasty. And he did give her up, and reconciled with Cora. So I think it’s safe to file this under “foolish” rather than “catastrophic.”

The whole deal with Edith and Mary chasing Sybil and Branson down was equal parts angsty and HILARIOUS. I wish it’d had plonky music from a silent film under it instead of dramatic strings — “They won’t expect us to be in pursuit until the morning!” Hand me my magnifying glass and my moustache wax — just there, behind the dramatic cape and deerstalker hat — and we’ll set off to solve the Mystery of the Missing Heiress, what ho! And then bursting into the hotel room! And Mary telling Branson to pipe down! HA! I was nervous that Sybil would tell Mary where to shove it and run off with Branson just to spite her family, but gosh, isn’t Mary so blinking reasonable these days, and she was absolutely right that running off in the night made it look all wrong.

Stuff I’m a bit annoyed by: Thomas. Hmmm… Schemer. Is he for real? Did the Black Market Grocery Debacle finally set him straight? Or is he just angling for Carson’s job, or more likely Carson’s keys to the silver pantry? Good grief. I don’t see Thomas doing well in prison. And also DAISY. UGH. Look, just TELL William’s father that you married him as a kindness and because it was his last wish, not because you were in love with him, but that you did care about him in your own way and don’t want to dishonor his memory by pretending to be a heartbroken widow. All this whiny protestation is wearing me out.

STUFF I AM JUST STRAIGHT UP ANGSTY ABOUT: Mary and Matthew, dancing! And kissing! And Lavinia SAW THEM OH NOES, and then broke off their engagement and then she DIED! And Sir Richard is trying to spy on Mary and he’s still such a jerk and he needs to go away! And Bates got arrested for EVIL VERA’s death! And Matthew is so blasted hurt and guilt-ridden that he’s lashing out at Mary! And AUGH!

Next week’s the Christmas special, and hallelujah I don’t have school the day after because it’s ANOTHER two-hour episode! So excited! Too many exclamation points!

Downton Abbey 2.5

(Blah blah blah GO AWAY IF YOU’RE NOT CAUGHT UP.)

Number of predictions from last week that were anything close to correct: a few.

Number of predictions from last week that were TOTALLY, TOTALLY WRONG: most of them.

For the sake of having some kind of organization, we’ll take this apart Western-style:

THE GOOD: Lord G’s patronage of the new housemaid’s son. So cute. And speaking of cute, how sweet did Edith look when she was gadding about the place with Probably-Fake Patrick? Her costumes have just gotten better and better — that beautiful red high-waisted skirt and the ivory top with the tassels? And her hair is fantastic. Guh. I also loved the little crack about how Bates doesn’t think a tuxedo (as opposed to a cutaway/tailcoat) will be much use after the war and Lord Grantham says he’ll keep it around for informal family dinners.

Y’all know I predicted that Matthew’s dire injury wasn’t going to be as bad as initially thought, which I’m obviously pumped about, but seriously (shallow moment) — he looks SO, SO, SO good when he’s doing that steely-eyed stare into the middle distance as he tries to Cope With His Pain, so that’s a little bit of a drawback if he’s all happy and content with Mary OR Lavinia. (Still think Lavinia’s going to die of Spanish Flu.)

I had a moment of softening a bit toward Sir Richard when he talked about “rescuing” the Granthams’ neighboring estate — so romantic! — which was quickly dashed, but we’ll get to that later. His bride-to-be, however, has become just about my favorite character in the series. She really has become both more resolute and more tender, and it’s all because of her love for and loyalty to Matthew. It’s all so old-fashioned and sweet, the idea of someone becoming the best possible version of themselves because of love, and I just — well, love it. (Also, side note about how much I hate Michelle Dockery. That milky, velvety skin! That glossy raven hair! Those dark expressive eyes! Ugh. Hate.)

AND, of course, Violet’s completely unsubtle, and mercifully successful, attempt to find something to get Isobel’s prying eyes and meddlesome fingers out of Downton was brilliant. But this wasn’t Violet’s normal control-freak impulse, it was genuinely wise and ultimately kind. Isobel is a woman used to activity, who must have something to run, and it’s not right for her to be in charge of someone else’s home when her not-insignificant skills could be better used elsewhere. And was that a little detente between Cora and Violet after Isobel revealed she was going to work with War Refugees? Cora used the word “Mama” to address Violet, and thanked her unironically! Heavens!

THE BAD: Cora, being rushed and dismissive toward Robert, AGAIN. Not ok, Lady G. Vera being dead, although I was thisclose to putting this in “The Good” because it means she’s out of their hair, but it surely means more scandal and draaaaaagging ooouuuut of the plooooot with Baaaaates and Aaaaanna booooooooorrrrrrrrrrriiiiing… But maybe it was Sir Richard who had her bumped off and HE’LL have to go to jail? That would very firmly move this to “Good.” For sure.

Also, the soapiest Downton plot yet: Oh-How-CONVENIENT-To-The-Storyline! Amnesia? Come ON, Julian Fellowes. If this P. Gordon feller is just a red herring, you could have done a more convincing job with him. I gave you a pass on the whole “Oh NO The Heir is paralyzed from the waist down OR IS HE DUN DUN DUNNNNNN” thing, but really, you only get one of those lame-sauce Days of Our Lives plot devices per season if you’re going to shoot for Masterpiece-level highbrowery. He knows things only the real Patrick would know? AS IF. Because it would be so hard for a friend of Patrick’s to learn or figure out that three spoiled aristocratic daughters would have had a governess? Or that they wouldn’t have liked her? Psh. I think you mean he knows things only a moderately-skilled mentalist would know. He is so annoying and has the worst speaking voice ever and I hate him and he needs to stay away and someone delicious — American businessman, or world explorer or somesuch — needs to come along for Edith to marry, post-haste.

THE UGLY: Lavinia’s costumes we just have to talk about for a second. Right shape for the period, but it looked like the tailor skipped her costume rack. Like two sizes too big.

BUT. Most importantly: SIR RICHARD, that jerk. Inexcusable. He plays puppet master with Lavinia and Lady Grantham, and that’s bad enough, but hauling Mary behind a pillar to threaten her with blackmail and ruin if she doesn’t toe the line and act like a good little wifey? And then planting that horrid little possessive kiss on her? “Don’t ever cross me”?? What is he THINKING? Maybe she’ll go ahead and marry him and he’ll try to smack her around and she’ll take their shiny nouveau fire-poker to his nasty little nouveau skull, because she’s much stronger than she knows, and that will be the end of that.

PREDICTIONS: Someone is (or maybe several someones are) going to die of Spanish Flu, maybe Cora. Matthew may walk again? I dunno. We’ll see. Either that or Downton’s going to have to become the first wheelchair accessible estate house in England. And Sibyl is definitely going to run off with Branson. But apart from that? I got nothin’. This week’s Fake Patrick/Convenient Amnesia plot wore out my predictor.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The shot of Carson and Lord Grantham standing in the doorway, just the two of them, really sums up this show for me. It is, essentially, a show about men — good men, trying to get along in a world that seems increasingly built for Thomases and Sir Richards, being strong and noble and facing facts and looking out on the world with as much courage as they can. And that’s reason number 1156 why I love it.

See y’all next week!

Downton Abbey 2.4

(Weekly reminder to GO AWAY if you haven’t seen this week’s episode.)

I live next door to a nursing home, and one of the less-pleasant things about it (apart from the constant partying, you guys) is the fact that they have a giant, massive trash compactor at the back of their parking lot, and they have no compunction about running the darn thing at, say, 11:30 at night in the early summer when everyone has their windows open. Not bitter. Anyway, it’s run by hydraulics from what I’ve deduced, and when the compacting arm has smashed all the trash down as far as it’ll go, it kind of jumps back on itself and makes a loud, repetitive, thudding G-G-G-G-G-G-G-G-G-G-G-G followed by a groaning beeeeeeeeooooooooow noise.

That was the sound my brain was making after episode four, or as I like to call it, THE ONE WHERE MATTHEW DID NOT DIE THANK GOD. (Subtitle: ALSO WHAAAAAAAAAAA???) Holy cow, where do we start? SO MUCH PLOT. I apologize in advance for how scattered and craze-balls this recap is. The episode was a bit that way. I blame Julian Fellowes.

All right. Battle sequence, with the most unbelievable sob-inducing score under it ever, and Matthew giving a convincing “Once more unto the breach, dear friends” speech. AFFIXING BAYONETS, which is basically NEVER something you want to do or see or hear or experience because it means you are either going to stab someone in the face or get stabbed in the face and both of those things SUCK. OR SO I HEAR. Things explode and then we get a Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch Estate, in which both Mary (unsurprisingly) and Daisy (reeeeeeeally!) get that “a goose walked over my grave” spooky premonition at the same moment. How about that! And then Matthew and William are in a bloody heap and then O’Brien is waking up the Lord and Lady with a telegram saying Matthew’s been badly wounded. OH NOES!

BUT TO THE DOWAGER COUNTESS high fives all around. You have to love her sallying forth at full sail to stand nose to nose with both the British Army and the Church of England because she will have her way, by heaven! What’s a few Generals or Bishops here and there when we have a second footman to collect and a kitchen maid to get married off? And calling her nephew the Marquess of Flintshire “Shrimpy”?! That phone conversation?! Amazing!

I won’t lie, I’m a little worn out with this back-ing and forth-ing between Bates and Anna. What IS Vera’s problem? Why does she care so much? Great balls of fire. She’s got her money, why go around ruining it for everyone else? And if dear Valet and Housemaid exchange one more throaty, threadbare platitude about being grateful for what they have and I’ll never give you up John Bates and Come, pray symbolically with me at the altar of a church GEDDIT IT’S LIKE WE’RE UP HERE GETTING MARRIEDLOL and blah blah blah I might need Mary to hold an emesis basin for me. I mean, I want them to end up happily ever whatever, but E. BLOODY. NOUGH. Also, pro tip: don’t propose to a chick if you’re married to a different chick. Mmkay?

Also a big fat E.B.N. to Branson’s “you have to crack a few eggs to make an omelet” overly-socialist nonsense. Honestly. I like Sibyl, I do, but I wish she would grow enough self-respect to tell him off. He needs a very firm kick in the seat of those natty green chauffeur’s britches and a Get-A-Grip friend to tell him that the best way to get the girl of your dreams to run off with you is not to insult her life, her family, and her work at every possible opportunity, nor to act like she’s not committed enough to her political convictions AS YOU CHAUFFEUR HER AROUND IN HER CAR, you loathsome hypocrite! Not a fan.

Now what do y’all think about Daisy going through with the wedding? I do love William, and I think Daisy was lucky to have a man like that after her and stupid to push him away all that time. BUT, I also completely understand where she’s coming from. No amount of Him Being Great means they’re meant to be together. BUT, I also think it’s rarely a bad thing to give a dying man his last request. BUT, I also totally get the fear of living a lie however well-intentioned the lie is. BUT, was she falling in love with him as she was dying? Or was that just sympathy? UGH SO CONFLICTED HELP! (Amazing, amazing score during the wedding scene too.)

OK so reversals:

Thomas, a bit. Mr. Heartless has a heart? Takes William’s side? Scolds O’Brien for being too vindictive? WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? And speaking of O’Brien: her regret last season was bitter indeed, but her regret over calling Vera back to Downton seems to be a mobilizing force. Vera has made a couple of bad enemies, including the powerful and unscrupulous Sir Richard, so I think we haven’t seen the last of her, in a good way.

Lady Grantham. She was, last season, purposeful but kind and gracious, and she’s turned into a snarky, dismissive Dragon Lady YUCK NO. Is she having an affair or something? Bleh. She’s out-cold-fishing all the cold fish around her, and that’s saying something.

Mary, although hers is an arc more than a reversal: she’s continued to transform from an impulsive, vain, snobbish cat to a thoughtful, selfless, resolute woman of character who sits at Matthew’s bedside dabbing bits of vomit away from the corners of his mouth — a sadder-but-wiser girl who surely must turn out to be the girl for Matthew. And yet again we have a character with a Terrible Choice who must Fall on His/Her Sword for the Sake of Honor — it’s nice to see Bates get a moment’s rest from being the show’s resident martyr, but I hate to see Mary take up the mantle.

O’Brien (see above).

Predictions for next week? Here are mine: O’Brien decides to use her horrible scheme-y powers (combined with the powers of the other Downstairsians; looking at you, Mrs. Hughes) to bring Vera down once and for all, possibly getting her to confess to the crime Bates went to jail for that she actually did. Lavinia will either wimp out or die of Spanish Flu. Mary will realize that Sir Richard doesn’t love her, and in fact despises everything she’s grown to understand about her truest self. She’ll also realize that Matthew loves her too much to care about The Turk, so she’ll tell the world, and divvil take the hindermost. Given that there’s a war on, and a global pandemic about to break out, nobody will have time to care about her stupid affair and it’ll become part of the quirky Grantham Family Lore. Matthew’s injury will turn out to be not as bad as previously thought, so he’ll still be wheelchair bound and unable to produce an heir but also get to be “really married,” to Mary, of course. Then in 1925 British laws will change to allow daughters to inherit (this is actually historically true; whether this season makes it to 1925 remains to be seen), whereupon Lord Grantham will of course make Mary the full heir.

SOMEONE is going to die though. I know it. They’re going to kill someone off. JUST NOT MATTHEW. Kill Sibyl. Kill Isobel. Heck, kill John “Harshing Everyone’s Buzz Since 1877″ Bates. JUST. NOT. MATTHEW. I cannot TAKE another entail scandal, another shot of Mary looking stricken, another montage of Lord Grantham reading newspapers and telegrams determinedly, another round of Downstairs gossip about the chimney sweep fifth cousin twice removed who’s NOW set to inherit. PEOPLE. NO.

G-G-G-G-G-G-G-G-G-G-G-G-beeeeeeeeeeeooooooooooooowwww

Downton Abbey 2.3

(Weekly grumpy reminder to go away if you’re not caught up, etc.)

So who else practically lost consciousness at some point during this episode? Great balls of fire, people. OK, let’s calmly deconstruct this whirlwind, by which I mean TRY TO REIN IN THE SQUEE-ING.

Boy, y’all, how do we feel about Branson right now? I mean, Sibyl actually received medical training and is a certified nurse, right? And has been consistently calm and efficient and great as said certified nurse, right? So Branson decides that his best come-on is to disparage her seriously countercultural career choice, dismissing it as “serving hot drinks to a lot of randy officers”? NOT COOL, Mr. I-Drive-The-Man’s-Car. NOT. COOL. I felt like this was a pretty grim Switcheroo, from Poor But Worthy to just Poor, both Pecuniarily and Personally (heyyy, alliteration). Sibyl’s not going to run off with him as long as he cops that attitude.

The other Switcheroo would, of course, be Edith, who in last week’s episode was beginning to discover that she was, in fact, born with a beating, pumping human heart. This week, much to everyone’s surprise, including her own, she discovered that not only was she born with a heart, but it hasn’t utterly atrophied from disuse! Can you believe it? She behaved decently the entire episode, not scheming or backstabbing or cooking up scandal ONCE! I mean, dig: She plays the piano, for other people? She relishes her newfound role of Steppin Fetchit/Alluring Yet Altruistic Postal Delivery Girl? She doesn’t hate Mary with every fiber of her being? Who knew? The scene of her wrestling with her conscience and ultimately deciding to tell Mary that Matthew had gone missing was so touching because it was Edith realizing that she actually has a conscience!

The theme of conscience-wrestling is becoming my favorite thing about the show. The characters we hate (or who annoy us) are the simplistic ones — out for revenge, protecting their territory, parroting a party line — while the ones we love are the ones who recognize the complexity of the world and are striving to be good and right and honorable in the midst of that complexity. Lord Grantham, Matthew, Anna, Bates, and now even Edith, all experience some degree of anguish over a difficult moral decision. They don’t always make the right call (HELLO MATTHEW ENGAGED TO NOT-MARY HELLO) but they labor toward the right call.

I do definitely want to punch O’Brien in her stupid face, however. One of my fellow watchers, as O’Brien watched indigent ex-soldiers stream through the Crawley’s gate, tut-tutted, “She is such an unhappy woman.” What a miserable existence, to be constantly watching out for an opportunity to ruin someone else’s life, over a perceived slight! What must it be like to be so eaten up with bitterness! I had hoped that we might see a bit of softening in her this season, given her terrible remorse over causing Lady Grantham’s miscarriage, and her sympathy for poor shell-shocked Lang, BUT NO. NOW, she’s decided that it would be a SIGN OF WEAKNESS or something stupid like that to ALLOW Bates to go unpunished for whatever blah blah blah vindictive cow.

OK NOW. NOW we can talk about the SQUEE-est moment of the entire episode. So, background: Matthew and his trusty batman William are missing, and there’s a lot of consternation but people are trying not to worry. (Side note: could a guy like Lord Grantham really pick up the phone and find out the sitch on a couple of MIA soldiers JUST LIKE THAT? I mean, dang, I know there’d been some pretty important technological developments in the last decade or so, but it seems slightly crazy that the War Office would a) talk to him about it at all, b) be able to get information from the battlefront in a matter of, like, a day, and c) be allowed to pass that information along. Anyway.) Mary and Edith have loaded some of their personal baggage into Downton’s tack room long enough to put on a Charming Period Musicale including a number about being the Only Girl In The World etc., for the convalescing officers. (Side note 2: how about that for a brilliantly throwaway Chekov’s gun, when Edith laments in passing how much nicer the song would sound as a duet with A MAN HINT HINT?) Everyone in the crowd is looking exceedingly Stiff Upper Lip during this when who turns up but MATTHEW FREAKING CRAWLEY WHO IS NOT DEAD THANK GOD, looking all lean and tanned and I’ve-Been-Trapped-Behind-Enemy-Lines-For-Days-You-Guys-NBD. Mary, of course, goes white and stops singing, which is the cue for Our Man to (*swoon*) pick up where she leaves off as he walks down the center aisle toward her, all “Buckle! Swash!” which (*swoon*) gives her the strength to finish. (Male friend watching with us: “OK, that was a little too much for me.” His wife and me: “NO WAY *SWOON*”)

The look on Mary’s face! Look, people, she loves him and he loves her and it would be criminal for them to marry someone else, so OF COURSE next week’s preview makes it look like Matthew is going to die and Mary is going to succumb to Sir Richard. (I’m guessing that’s not what’s going to happen, because Julian Fellowes is a cynic about many things, but Love Overcoming All Obstacles ain’t one of them. I’m guessing all the hubbub is about Sibyl running away with Mr. Hypocrite.)

Downton Abbey 2.2

Oh boy. Episode two. (Insert weekly warning about MEGA SPOILERS and Dooce caps, etc.)

One thing I love about this show? I never know where it’s going to go. Oh, sure, I expect twists and turns, but last episode I did NOT expect Edith to go all homewrecker on some poor farmer, and this episode I did NOT expect… well, any of it, really, except maybe Isobel and Cora going at each other like a couple of feral cats, AS USUAL. Well, OK, I lied, sometimes I know where it’s going to go ten seconds before it gets there. Like this week, when the chauffeur tells Sibyll he’s going to make a grand statement and go to prison rather than fight, I thought, “Oh, I bet he’s going to have some kind of medical problem that keeps him from going to the front that’ll just thwart his moral high-ground plans.” AND I WAS RIGHT. It helps to know that the series’ creator and screenwriter Julian Fellowes is famously Tory in his political leanings; what, he’s going to be pro-anti-war sentiment? Psh.

And can we just talk for a sec about the score for this show? Old fashioned soapy illustrative goodness. It could almost be the score of a drama from the Golden Age of Radio.

We’ve got some good vs. evil lining up a bit more in this episode — the awful Rosamund vs. poor Lavinia, Thomas vs. … well, everyone, Vera vs. Bates/Anna. But we also have more complicated controversies and relationships, where it’s easy to see both sides of the issue: Mary and Lavinia, William and Daisy, Isobel and Violet, Branson and The Entire Aristocracy. I think those relationships are where the acting really shone this week — Mary’s not being a martyr, but she is unwilling to plant Granny Violet’s bejeweled shiv between Lavinia’s shoulderblades; Daisy has always been stupid to overlook the slightly overeager mensch William, but you can understand why she’s reluctant to actually marry the guy just because he’s off to war; Isobel’s right that Downton has to change but it makes sense that Violet sees her as a bit of an interloper; Branson’s Irish, for heaven’s sake, so if anyone has a perfectly legitimate axe to grind, he does, but at the same time he seems angrier at The Establishment in the abstract than at his actual employers who’ve been nothing but good to him.

Mystery, of course, abounds in this episode: will Branson ever get his moment to speak out? Will Bates persuade Vera to take his money and leave him his honor? Can Edith figure out a way to be useful without shooting herself in the foot? Will Daisy actually marry William? Is there something more to Lang’s story than just shell-shock? Will poor Mrs. Patmore ever recover? And FOR THE LOVE OF LITTLE GREEN APPLES, WILL MARY AND MATTHEW EVER GET TOGETHER?

I know the rest of the episodes are available online, but I actually like the anticipation of waiting from week to week, so I won’t be watching ahead. See you again next Tuesday!

Downton Abbey: 2.1

Downton Abbey, Season Two! Long, long, long awaited.

(Warning: Mega spoiler alert. If you haven’t seen it, I seriously want you to click the little x or the little red dot or whatever and GO AWAY. Don’t ruin it. Go away. Go! Have you gone? Get out of here! If you HAVE seen it, on the other hand, please read along and re-swoon with me as we recap. DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU. Also, shouty Dooce-caps alert.)

WAR HAPPENS. Matthew AND Thomas (that scoundrel) are in the trenches, Matthew leading troops with composure and courage, and Thomas (that jerk) trying to figure out a way to fake die or something so he can get back to his pampered life as Mr. Sexypants-Head-Footman whose biggest worry is how to overdramatize the latest pseudo-scandal he’s cooked up with O’Brien.

ALSO ROMANCE HAPPENS: Bates proposes to Anna (yaaaaaaaay!) upon learning that his awful wife, for whom he went to prison, is back from outer space and at last seems amenable to granting him a divorce. And Mary is still in love with Matthew but won’t tell him so, and the idealistic chauffeur has the hots for Sibyl (who, awesomely, trains to be a nurse and relentlessly rocks it out tending to wounded soldiers at the encouragement of BOTH the show’s resident dueling Grand Dames), and Stupid Edith tries to start a seriously ridiculous affair with a farmer. I think she’s just trying to make sure nobody forgets her name like they did last season.

ALSO DRAMA HAPPENS: Mrs. Awful Bates turns up, sees our favorite loyal valet as a potential cash cow, and threatens to bring ruin on Anna and the entire family by revealing Mary’s big secret if Bates doesn’t immediately leave the house and go live with her and support her all her days (blessedly, this hideous confrontation takes place in Mrs. Hughes’s sitting room where, like any self-respecting housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes listens in through a grate, thus leaving open the possibility that Lord and Lady Grantham and/or the other members of staff will Not Be Having Any Of This Nonsense). Oh and Matthew’s Sudden and Possibly Ill-Advised Fiancee has some kind of Dangerous Past with a beau of Mary’s, who is Rupert Murdoch a scandal-rag-monger (stupid girl, if you’ve ONLY JUST managed to tamp down a potentially life-ruining scandal that includes being seduced by a Turkish diplomat who subsequently dies in your bed, MAYBE DON’T DATE A TABLOID OWNER, K?), and whose only known crime so far is being hopelessly nouveau — he doesn’t even know the difference between shooting tweeds and walking tweeds! Quelle horreur! Although this fact, following the show’s internal logic, in itself portends ill.

ALSO COSTUMES HAPPEN. OMG, do they ever happen. Swoon! Bliss! Downton is a period-costume-loving girl’s Heaven. One of my fellow watchers and I gasped SO MANY TIMES when Cora or Mary or Sibyl walked onscreen in some glorious jet-beaded confection or drapey jewel-colored velvet thing. We’re getting into a bit of an almost-20s vibe with some of the shapes as the teens come to a close — slightly lower waistlines, shorter skirts, lots more arm and shoulder, a few headbands, more pumps and fewer boots. Of course the Crawleys would be killingly fashion-forward, so I expect we’ll see even more dropped waists and calf-length skirts and feathered headbands as the season progresses.

Millions of people are now dying to find out if Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes can muster Lord Grantham’s power to twist the horrid Mrs. Bates’s arm in a divorce-ward direction, if Sibyl is going to continue disappointing that poor chauffeur and/or fall in love with a wounded soldier, if Matthew and Mary will EVER confess their undying love for one another, and what new mischief Thomas and O’Brien are going to cook up.

Can’t wait for next week!