Downton Abbey 2.7-2.8 Review

It’s Monday again, and that means yesterday was Sunday. And THAT means that yesterday was Downton Abbey 2.something or other. Better yet, it was a double dose–two hours of Downton, when I was only expecting one. (I kept wondering how in the world they were fitting everything in to 1 hour–then I checked the time.) As always, here I am with my responses to the various ongoings at the manor castle thing.

AND THERE ARE SPOILERS, so don’t read this if you haven’t watched the episode yet.


First off, I want to make sure that I state very clearly that I still like the show. If I didn’t care about the show, I wouldn’t blog about it so much. Yes, there are some things that really frustrated me with this episode (and this season in general), but I still get a whole lot of entertainment out of watching the series, and I’m not planning on stopping anytime soon.

We clear on that?

Good, because there were some plot lines in this episode that annoyed me. A lot. Let’s run down the bad first, shall we? (Better to get it out of the way)

  • Lord Grantham and the maid? Really? What in the world was up with this plot? I’d seen hints of it in earlier episodes–I noticed Lord G taking special interest in Pretty Maid. Enough that I wondered for a moment if the writers would be dumb enough to try to tack on an adultery plot to the Grantham household. Answer? Almost. Hey–he stopped himself, which is something, but still, there’s nothing present in the series to make me believe or understand why Grantham would go all horn dog on a maid for five minutes. One second he’s the honorable Lord G, then he’s the human octopus, and then he’s back to being Lord G again. Bizarre, out of place, and stupid–especially since the plot is now resolved. It was a single episode blip.
  • And it happened while Cora was practically dying. But what really got me was the switcheroo death, with Cora healing and Lavinia dying in an agonizing death bed scene. That scene was very emotional. The way it was built up? Yuck. So let me get this right. Lavinia gets sick–sick enough that she’s going to be in bed so that Matthew and Mary can have an emotional discussion and a bit of lip locking (which was a good scene, by the by) until SURPRISE–Lavinia’s better, and she heard the whole thing. But then she’s sick enough to want to lie down, so she and Matthew can have a heart to heart, until SURPRISE–she’s dead. That’s one convenient sickness, writers. Almost like
  • Matthew’s miracle recovery–Predictable in the extreme. Who *didn’t* see this coming? It’s crap like this that push the show further and further toward soap opera and away from authentic slice of life. If you’re going to paralyze the guy, paralyze the guy. Don’t do this miracle recovery crap. (That said, the actual way he discovered he could walk again? Well done, but in an overly dramatic sort of way.)
  • Daisy–What’s up with that girl? The whole “I’m conflicted because I married a guy for 10 minutes” thing is getting old, and I’m not sure why they keep bringing it up.
That said, there was quite a bit about the episode that I liked a lot.
  • The Spanish Influenza–I really enjoyed how this was handled (except for the switcheroo noted above). It helped me put history in context. The world had just gotten through WWI, and then this hit. Did you know this epidemic killed 50-100 million people in the world? That’s at least 3% of the population at the time. If that hit us today, it would be at least 210 million people dead. Yowzers. This was an historical event that made total sense to include in the show, and yet I didn’t see it coming until there it was. Nicely done–it’s stuff like this that makes me really enjoy the series.
  • Cora’s near miss with deah–This was well executed. It operated on all sorts of different levels, and gave a nice moment to O’Brien, where she showed some real heart. I liked how everything felt up in the air–I really thought she might die, and that’s a good thing.
  • Sybil and Chauffeur Boy–Yes, I’m still irritated that Sybil decided to go with him, and I wanted to throw up when she kissed him, but after that, the plot line got much better, in my opinion. Mainly because Chauffeur Boy stopped shouting out an endless stream of Communist Doctrine and started actually being honorable and admirable. Go figure. I felt like the conflict of the family vs. Sybil and her boy toy was well handled and unfolded at a good pace. And I’m really happy there’s a happy reconciliation there.
  • Anna and Bates–Am I happy about their plight? No. The writers have beaten these two into a bloody pulp. Each episode, they throw them a bone or two–some moments of genuine happiness–only to make things even worse by the end of the show. (Seriously–who else wanted to give Anna a big hug when she was just standing there, lip quivering? Don’t worry Anna! Next week, things will no doubt look brighter for a day or two, and then something *even worse* will happen. Will they reveal that Bates really DID kill his wife? Of course not. If they did that, they would need to have Bates turn into a completely different character for all of five minutes, then go right back to to way he’s always been. Who does that? Lord Grantham? Oh. Right . . . )
  • Thomas–Mwa ha ha ha! Take *that*, you conniving jerk. Seeing him get taken advantage of and subsequently flip out? That was almost worth having to see Lord G think about cheating on Cora. (Almost.) It was also really nice to see a humbler, more willing to please Thomas emerge. I give that attitude about 5 minutes before he’s back to his old self, though.
  • Sir Richard/Lady Mary–I don’t like the situation, but I like the way the conflict is being handled. Richard is an oil slick of the nth degree, but Mary is really in a pickle now, and it’s pretty believable how she ended up here. Step by step, she tied herself up, and now it’s going to blow up next week. I can’t wait. (But Sir Richard better get what’s coming to him.) (On a side note, it was refreshing to see Mary behave beastly toward Crawley. Because she can do that from time to time–it’s the way her character was established. I like the return to form–a reminder that she can be a grade A witch when she wants to be. That’s the sort of spirit I want to see step to the fore when she goes up against Richard next week.)
Like I said, I still really enjoy the show. I think the biggest flaw of the show stems from its trying to take on too much history at once. It jumps over years at a time, and in those jumps, we lose the justification for some of the actions of the series. Is it possible Lord and Lady G had a falling out off screen? Certainly. But we didn’t see it, and so it’s difficult to believe it. But then again, if they didn’t jump around as much, we couldn’t have covered WWI and the Spanish Influenza. Pros and cons to everything.
Anyway–those are all the thoughts I have time for today before I head off to work. (Evening shift today). What did you all think? Do share!
PS–Can I just say that when Lavinia was getting buried, I suddenly wanted the show to take a dramatic turn and become a vampire flick, with Lavinia rising from the dead to try and get vengeance on Matthew and Mary, who then must kill her and feel guilty about it? That would be cool. They’re doing a Christmas special next week–how about a Halloween special next season? 🙂

8 thoughts on “Downton Abbey 2.7-2.8 Review”

  1. Very perceptive! But.. I disagree re what happened w/ Lord Grantham and Jenny/Jane…

    Haven’t we seen in tandem Cora and the Lord getting frosty w/ each other? Isn’t he sleeping in a separate room? the larger point that seemed to me to unite everything last night is that everyone is losing it from stress; a contagion of PTSD as well as the flu. I truthfully didn’t see Matthew standing/walking again. But all of it does seem like a dressed up soap opera. Still, I was again on the edge of my seat. xj

  2. I love the series and wouldn’t miss an episode for anything. Actually I do because I work on Sunday night and watch it Monday’s online. Thanks PBS.

    Lord Grantham took a back step in the virtue department last night for sure. I didn’t see the kiss coming. I don’t think there had been enough interaction between him and Jane to warrent it.

    Re: Matthew and Mary – Even though Mary has been quite the bitch in the past I applaud her for taking the stand she has. I am glad she hasn’t told Matthew point blank she loves him. The story line between Livinia and Matthew at her death bed was quite far fetched. And Matthew is just the one to carry what Livinia said to the extreme. Don’t you think that when Matthew and Mary finally get together it will be passionate.

    Re: Bates and Anna – Bates doesn’t deserve her

    I know I am not alone but I think Thomas should be the permanent toilet cleaner in the house. And I can not figure out O’Brien … She has that bad streak in her just not quite as bad as Thomas. I don’t fall for her guilt over the Cora miscarrage.

  3. Jen–Yes, we’ve seen them get frosty, but it just wasn’t enough for me to believe he’d just pounce on Jane like that.

    Michele–No, Bates doesn’t. Then again, I think if you asked him, he’d agree with you. Which makes me like him that much more. And Thomas should be the toilet cleaner only as long as he’s forced to use a rag, not a brush. >:-)

  4. B & I are in total agreement with you on this one. I’m glad to hear the rumblings online that suggest that the second half of the season is better than the first.
    With the whole Robert/Jane “fling”, we felt it was totally out of character, and seemed like it had almost just been put in there to emphasize a certain amount of hypocrisy in his objection of Sybil and Branson.
    Our favorites are Violet and Mary. (How could you not love Maggie Smith?) Despite all their flaws, they are great, likeable characters.
    Next week looks very promising!!! 🙂

  5. Yeah–next week should be a doozy, but then I’ll be in serious Downton withdrawal. They haven’t even *filmed* the next season yet. How ever will I pass the time? At times I really wish British show seasons lasted longer than they do . . .

  6. Yay, couldn’t wait to read your post after watching!

    Okay, here are the two things that most irritated me (I’ll put them first like you did because I still ADORE the show):

    1) Lord Grantham/Jane — yes, they’ve been building it up, and I was expecting it, but no, it was not a believable direction for his character to take and did not enrich the story at all. Yes, I believe the war has left him questioning much of what he once counted on, and yes, I believe he feels adrift and not very useful, but to pull the almost-adultery twist is, to me, tired and dumb. Also, why couldn’t they actually just have have a nice man being nice to maid, taking an honest interest in her well being and that of her son? He’s always been so full of decency — I could buy all the ways he was kind to her without needing it to go where it did.

    2) Much smaller — I didn’t like what they did to Molesley. Thought it was for cheap laughs. Sure, he’s not an exactly lovable character — trying to move in on Anna, trying to take advantage of Bates’s absence, evading military service … but I think he’s actually quite an interesting character and have enjoyed what he’s done with the roll. So, poo on the booze thing.

    Here’s what I loved:

    1) The DANCE! Perfect. Emotionally just right. Swoon. Sigh. Oh dear.

    2) Mary in general. She’s arguably the most interesting and dynamic character in the whole series, and it’s been so good to see her mature so much this season, but I like that she’s not some angel, that she reacts quite humanly in many ways. I think maybe the most heartbreaking line in the whole episode was when she says essentially that Ethel has gotten herself into this mess and should just accept it — and someone says that seems a bit harsh — and then she said, “Does it? Aren’t all of us stuck with the choices we make?”

    (Related: I’m impressed with the show for keeping us interesting in the Mary/Matthew story for this long. Quite often the foundational will-they-or-won’t-they relationship of a series becomes far less interesting than the other stories (somewhat unfortunately, the only example coming to mind at present is Marissa and Ryan in The OC), or they-don’t-in-fear-of-jumping-the-shark for so long as to become unbelievable (Bones).)

    3)Matthew’s recovery. Count me in among the fans! I’ve been expecting this since the second Dr. Clarkson never said never. And I thought the moment it happened, expected and yet not, was great.

    4) Ethel’s decision to keep her baby. As a mother, this was the only okay choice for me. (Don’t quite believe Amy Nuttall AS a mother, but she does alright.) I know from my work pre-farm, and especially from the work my organization did in other countries, that this kind of decision is one parents do face often — but still. I would’ve been so mad if she’s decided the other way.

    4) Sybil & Branson! I’ve always been fans of theirs, although I think the creators let their story stagnate — so good to see it moving again, and I loved all the bits, direct and implied, about honor and dignity and the sources of happiness, with Branson v. Lord G.

    5) Carson’s not leaving Downton!

    6) Cora’s less of a … you know. Even pre-flu.

    7) Isobel is likable and interesting again.

    Wow! Apparently I had a lot floating around in my brain needing to be tethered down 🙂

    I thought the two episodes prior to this one were too soapy. In terms of high drama, this one was too, then — but it totally won be back over and seems like the start of a return to form. Not looking forward to DW withdrawal after next week.

  7. (And apparently so much was floating around in my brain that there are typos and mis-numbering galore. Oh well. Wanted to also add I was surprised at the direction the Branson/Sybil storyline took. I thought they show would have her family prevail.)

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