Downton Abbey 2.5 Review

Here we are at episode 5. An episode which suddenly made me seriously worried that this show had jumped off the deep end and given up any shred of respectability.


Let’s get this right on the table–the plot line with Patrick the long lost heir coming back from the dead to lay claim on Downton? As soon as the wounded soldier blurted out that story, a wave of dread shot down my spine. No. They wouldn’t do that. The writers couldn’t do that to me. Could they? It was everything I’d been complaining about last week–the over the top soap opera taken to the nth degree.

Take a step back for a sec and think about it. Try justifying it to a non-fan. “So there’s this awesome show Downton Abbey that’s really cool and realistic and all about exploring a fascinating time period. What happened this week? Oh, well, the long lost heir to the estate (who we all thought had died on the Titanic) was revealed to have been living in Canada for four years with amnesia, until he enlisted in a princess’s army and then went to World War I, where the shock of battle reminded him, “Hey–I’m the heir to a major estate.” And then he came back to tell them all in a really shifty way, because he figured they’d take one look at his scarred-beyond-all-recognition body and say, “Wow! That’s the long lost heir to the estate. Look at him. He even has a letter that says he is.”

Um . . . no.

But this is Downton Abbey, a show I’ve just adored till now, more or less, and so I didn’t turn off the television. I gave them a huge benefit of the doubt.

And I’m happy to say that the writers managed to take that potential huge misstep and turn it into a strength by the end of the episode. How did they do this? By having all characters but one treat this long lost heir the same way I wanted them to treat him. By not believing him. By having them outraged at the story. (And yet, Lord Grantham still looked like he wondered for a moment there, didn’t he–that’s important.) So you’ve got the viewers placated, and then you have Edith convinced the man was telling the truth. And she’s so convinced that you wonder–just for a moment–if the man’s story might not have been true after all. Because sometimes bizarre tales turn out to be true. And so you feel bad for the heir, but mad at him if he really was just trying to pull one over on you.

A wonderful mixture of emotions, very well executed. Bravo, writers.

What did I think of the other plot lines?

  • Pleased that Sybil and the chauffeur plot was on the back burner for now. (Though it appears she loses all reason and decides to go all in with him next week.) This is a plot that has been mismanaged. We as an audience don’t need to agree with Sybil falling for the guy, but we do at least need to see why she would fall for him at all.
  • Mary and Matthew–I’m still convinced they end up together, and nothing the show can throw at me will convince me otherwise. If they killed Matthew off, I’d be convinced he’d come back from the dead as a zombie to bite Mary and run off with her for a long undead existence of bliss.
  • Mary’s idiot fiancee–I’m sorry, but the moment your fiancee starts threatening you, that’s when you decide that anything would be better than living with that jerk for the rest of your life. Not that I don’t buy that Mary is in a pickle, but man. The guy’s a walking oil slick.
  • Bates and Anna–So. Bates killed his wife? Occam’s razor says he did, at least. If it turns out that someone else did, that’s a mighty big coincidence. Then again, the woman was such an awful human being, I suppose it’s not outside the realm of possibility that more people would want her dead than just Bates. Because I really hope he didn’t off her. Murder’s a big no no in my book, even if you did it so you could be together with Anna.
  • Thomas–Can anyone tell me how they’re going to manage to keep him around now that the war is over? And could he please get a bigger role than the requisite cigarette smoking snide remark generator he seems to have been relegated to for now? Honestly. Why bring the villain back if it’s just to have him mope and be obnoxious? I have to think more is at work here than we know yet.
  • Ex-Maid and Baby–How do I put this nicely? I. Don’t. Care. About. This. Plot. It’s not that I don’t feel bad for her, and it’s not that I’m not outraged how people are excusing the guy and blaming the girl, but . . . I still don’t care. Maybe that makes me an awful human being.
  • Matthew’s mother seems to be the world’s most gullible, easily directed human being alive. While I enjoyed the scene where McGonagall uses Jedi mind tricks to convince the old lady that she wants to leave Downton alone, it could have been a tad more subtle. As it is, the woman came off as a complete bat brain, which is unfair to her. Or maybe she really is that wool headed.
  • Edith, meanwhile, continues to be the favorite doormat of the writers. What’s next? She’s going to fall in love with a young German named Hitler? The girl just can’t catch a break, and while I don’t hold her in particularly high regard, I wouldn’t mind seeing her settle down with someone nice and decent.
How about you–any of my evaluations seem off to you? Did I miss anything? What did you think of last night’s episode?

4 thoughts on “Downton Abbey 2.5 Review”

  1. I really enjoy your thoughts each week!! i agree in general — the last episode and this one have been too soapy. But I think the show can pull it back together.

    I think the Sybil/Branson storyline has been mismanaged — I like the idea of them — but again, why is he suddenly so uninteresting after having declared his love? It’s been years now, right? If this is all they can talk about, I don’t know…

    I’m also frustrated with what they’ve done to Isobel. I quite liked her character in Season 1 and I don’t find the continued development of her character this season believable — nor the sudden turning on her by Cora and Violet. It was so well done last season, for them to go from acting exactly like this to begrudgingly welcoming her into the family and being a bit humbled for once.

    I wonder why the family couldn’t just deny the story if Richard publishes it? Does he know too much?

    I hope to Pete Bates didn’t do it. Part of why he’s become such an unlikely heartthrob is that he’s such a good man. Killing someone changes everything.

    All this hrumph-ing now done — I still completely adore the show.

  2. I am so done with the Ethel storyline; I never liked her from the beginning.

    And on Bates, I’m betting that his wife killed herself in an attempt to land him in the dock. That seems like the kind of thing she would do–if she can’t win, she’s just going to destroy his life as thoroughly as she can.

    Missing heir twist: it’s pushing it, but it’s still conceivable because it was a crazy time in history and things like that did happen. Rarely, but it’s possible. But I really dislike the guy–he’s whiny and manipulative and he looks too much like Two-Face and so I hope he goes away, but I feel sorry for Edith. I didn’t like her character in the first season but I really like how she’s matured in the second, and now she’s just getting yanked around.

  3. Lisa–Glad you’re liking them. 🙂 I agree with your observations whole heartedly.

    Hilary–Yeah, but you could see that coming from a mile away, couldn’t you? I had wished they wouldn’t play the “false paralysis” card, since it strikes me as being too soapy.

    Rachael–I like Edith this season, with the exception of the random “I want to sleep with a farmer” subplot that thankfully slipped away into blissful oblivion . . .

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