Downton Abbey 4.1 Review

Hard to believe Downton Abbey has started up again already. (I know–to many of you, it’s been an interminable wait. But for me? I think it took this long for me to get over the stunt they had to pull at the end of last season. Hey Dan Stevens–how’s that acting career launch working out for you? Leaving Downton to have a supporting role in Night at the Museum 3? What a great call. Maybe you can star in a Beethoven movie after that.)

Still, time heals all wounds, and I began to get excited for the show a month or two ago. (I realize that the show’s been available to stream for quite some time, since it was broadcast over in Britain ages ago. I choose to avoid those streams, mainly because they fall into a gray area, legally speaking. Also, I believe there’s something to be said for everyone watching the show at the same time. I like the idea of me watching along with a lot of other friends, even if those friends are scattered across the country.)

I wasn’t sure, however, how the show would work without its main central couple. (Warning–as always, there be SPOILERS ahead.) A half hour into the opening, the answer was clear to me: Downton was never about Mary and Matthew. It was always just about Mary. Things that happened to Matthew concerned us because we worried what they would do to Mary. I was never really worried about Matthew, however. Think about it. The show jerked Matthew around like a fish on a line–he’s paralyzed! He’s engaged! He can walk! He’s unengaged! It was like a live action adaptation of the Hokey Pokey. But Mary has been constant. She’s presented with different scenarios, and she’s reacted to those scenarios. (I for one will be really irate if they give her a sickness of the week at some point.) In any case, life without Matthew was juts fine, because all I was really worried about was whether or not Mary would come out of it okay. With that said, here are a few more thoughts on last night’s double feature:

  • The maid shrew is back? Well, I suppose it had to happen, seeing as how O’Brien cut and run. (Another victim of the actress deciding she was done with the show. Honestly. Those Downton show runners have as much trouble keeping actors as the Crawleys have keeping family members alive. I wonder if there’s a connection . . . ) And it makes sense that she’d be circling the waters, looking for a chance to get some hot loving action with the ex-chauffeur again. I’m just hoping that ex-chauffeur has half a brain (for once) and doesn’t take her up on said offer.
  • Thomas is back to his old tricks, and I’m very happy to see it. The show needs some nefarious villains, and he pulls it off admirably. Things would be far too boring without him, the little snake. That said, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the nanny (up until her last little comment, that was)–she was simply Thomas bait for the show. It was like he was skeet shooting with her. He told the writers, “Pull!” And seconds later, one sacked nanny. I wonder who will replace her, and if she’ll last any longer.
  • That said, sometimes I’m disappointed that a lot of the show hinges on Lord and Lady Crawley being complete nincompoops. That said, they pretty much *are* complete nincompoops, so I suppose yay consistency?
  • Mary–I was very pleased with how they handled her plot line. It felt true to life–to the character we know her to be. And the way the whole family and staff responded to it was again right in line with everything else. Also very happy to have her back by the end of the episode. One and a half episodes of broody Mary is quite enough.
  • The fallout from Matthew’s death was handled well across the board, really. His mother’s reactions. The letter from him. Carson’s speech to Mary. This is Downton at its best. No need for wildly inventive plot lines. Just characters being characters.
  • Carson and his old thespian pal–A fine plot, if predictable. That said, I would have been very upset if Carson hadn’t shown up at the end to see his former nemesis off. If the surprise death of Matthew at the end of last season’s heart-warming Christmas special taught me nothing else, it’s that I appreciate the show when it’s being consistent, not surprising. Sometimes the predictability is a welcome thing.
  • Anna and Bates–this is a good level area for them. Please please please just keep this at this level for the rest of the show. No more surprise murder accusations. No infidelity. No long lost children. Just let them be happy together. Or else!

Too many other little plots to mention here, but I’ll end by saying that overall it was a very strong episode. A return to season 1 form, and it left me very hopeful that the rest of the season would be as strong. But enough about what I thought of the show. What did *you* think?

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