“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.