The Return of Downton Abbey

Mary-and-Matthew-Crawley-Wedding-downton-abbey-32428302-3000-2000Last night was definitely worth waiting for.

“Downton Abbey” returned to PBS in all its aristocratic splendor, with Mary and Matthew tying the knot at long last. It took them 2+ seasons to get to the altar, but the trip was an intriguing one, made enjoyable by watching the performances of Michelle Dockery and Dan Stevens. It’s to their credit that these actors made every twist of this relationship plausible, because at times they had to jump through some incredible hoops (miraculous recovery from paralysis, anyone?).

On the plus side of the ledger, we had the Dowager Countess in rare form, littering her path with bon mots, but stepping up when it was most needed by sending Sybil and Tom the fare to attend the wedding. I liked her collaboration with Isabel Crawley to get Tom into a cutaway, and Maggie Smith played the “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” sing along to perfection. It’s too bad the show’s creator, Julian Fellows, didn’t write an equally realized character for Shirley MacLaine to play. I would have expected more for Cora’s mother—instead we got Fellows’ wildly off-key conception of a dotty American. If memory serves, Mrs. Levinson (under her first husband’s name) made the match between Cora and Robert, which shows title shopping at its best. If she were that ambitious, there’s no way she’d be putting down the British aristocracy for being fuddy-duddy, no matter what changes the war brought.

It seems upstairs will be preoccupied with money in the weeks to come, and I’m already tired of it. Though I must say it was a great coup for show continuity by having Lord Grantham lose his fortune by investing in the Canadian Grand Trunk Railway, formerly run by Charles Hays. Mr. Hays died in the sinking of the Titanic, so that makes Downton Abbey a three-time loser with this disaster, the body count consisting of two heirs and one investment property. But Matthew’s reluctance to accept that sizable inheritance left by Lavinia’s father is somewhat ridiculous. Yes, she was a sweet girl and he’s apparently still guilt-ridden over kissing Mary while his erstwhile fiancée lay dying of Spanish influenza, but let’s get real. Don’t you wish Mary would scream at him “She was only a plot device! Get over it”?

As far as downstairs goes, we’re now in double overtime as far as Bates’ murder conviction is concerned. This is a plot that desperately needs resolution, because Anna is being wasted in its service. On the other hand, it was great to see O’Brien turn on Thomas in order to advance her nephew in the household, though I still think she’s a snake (She’ll never live down that strategically placed cake of soap that caused Cora’s miscarriage).  Mrs. Hughes unfortunately ended up with the obligatory illness storyline, which I hope sorts itself out sooner rather than later, otherwise O’Brien will have the opportunity she’s been waiting for (and doesn’t deserve).

I’m looking forward to seeing where the Lady Edith/Lord Anthony story goes, because that girl needs a break. She’s got her bitchy side, but let’s face it—it must have been tough growing up in Lady Mary’s shadow. What’s going to be even tougher in the weeks to come is avoiding more spoilers. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve got to know Dan Stevens is leaving the show (sob!) and that Matthew’s fate was revealed in the UK on Christmas Day (cue screaming).

Definitely looking forward to more of the Crawleys in the post-war world in the weeks to come.

4 thoughts on “The Return of Downton Abbey

  1. I’ve struggled to keep from being spoiled as to Matthew’s fate, because I genuinely like the character and want to experience his fate (whatever it may be) full force when it happens. I am less fond of Mary, in fact for two seasons I have wavered between disliking her entirely and feeling a smidgen of empathy. My favorite daughter is Sybil, who had the good sense of marry Tom Branson. The scene with the tampered with drink and Sir Anthony’s reveal was interestingly handled by all the long noses, I thought. Yay, Tom and go Edith! And while I’m not one normally to give a hoot what anyone is wearing, can’t help but mention that Mary’s wedding dress resembled a flour sack freshly bleached by Mrs. Patmore and hastily pressed by Alfred, the new footman! The one bit of intrigue I latched onto was the mysterious appearance of the girl who had the baby out of wedlock last year. Wondering what sad business she’s gotten herself into now and just what kind of aid Matthew’s mother will render. So glad it’s back!

  2. Interesting. I know Mary isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve always liked her, even when she was being difficult. I’ve come to appreciate Edith somewhat, and thought it was really out of whack for Lord Grantham to break up her romance with Sir Anthony—as she rightly pointed out, the war killed off most of the eligible men. I agree that Isabel Crawley’s latest cause of helping “women who have come to grief” will be an absorbing story.

  3. I have to agree with you–I was disappointed with Martha Levinson’s character. So much was made about Shirley MacLaine’s appearance on Downton that it was really a bit of a let down. She was a pretty flat character in the end.

    And the Bates storyline really is out in left field at this point, isn’t it? It’s so detached from the rest of the “house-centered” story, and I really do wish they’d go ahead and wrap that whole murder mystery up.

  4. Pingback: Breaking Downton Abbey Bad

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