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!

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5 thoughts on “Downton Abbey 2.2

  1. Good points all around, Laura. And I’d add that when it comes to Branson, his remaining at his job is inexplicable. If he’s such an Irish patriot, why would he voluntarily work for a person who is not only a member of the British arsitocracy but also carries two responsible positions in the military as Lord Lieutenant and Colonel of the local regiment. I mean, the Easter uprising was a recent event of British brutality and he had a friend murdered by a British soldier. It’s one of the few problems I see in an otherwise excellent piece of writing. Like you, we look forward to each week’s episode.

    Tim

    • I think it says something about Julian Fellowes more than it does about Branson, but I also think that, in reality, there are a great many idealists who would choose a job and a full belly over “integrity” if they felt that was really the choice (as well it might be for an Irishman in those days). Besides, Branson’s remark that he was sure the Marxists were too moral to actually kill the Romanovs? I think his character’s meant to be more than a little naive — which, again, would be Fellowes’ view of Socialists, I reckon.

      • I agree about Branson’s naivete, nice catch there Laura! It seems more like a plot device than good character development to me, especially considering the character’s history of tragedy.

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