‘Downton Abbey’ season three returns!!!

15 Jan

We’ve waited and waited and waited…and really started to feel like Amy Pond…then waited some more…but Downton Abbey season three has finally returned to PBS!!!  Somehow my new year does not truly begin until the day our Downton returns to us from afar across the Pond.  Welcome back to the States, Crawleys!

Once again, Downton Abbey is so beautifully orchestrated and filmed…it’s as if Carson and his magnificent standards have a hand in the very filming itself.  I’m always so sad that there are so few episodes in a season of Downton Abbey, but for the sake of Trans-Atlantic relations, and in an attempt to be more like Lady Grantham, I will try to learn to accept it gracefully.  Still the same touching moments.  Still the same familiar characters we’ve grown to love and loathe.

This season kicks off in the spring of 1920.  It’s been a few months since we last saw the Crawleys at Christmas 1919.  Isis is still wagging his tail; the Dowager is still slinging one liners; the evidence of war and foreign diseases is long gone; and Bates is still in jail.  Anna is now not only ladies maid and wife, but now she is also landlord and detective.  She visits Bates regularly, and when she’s not with him, she’s flatfooting around town trying to find the evidence that will set him free.  I wish I had half her energy and determination.

Lord Grantham receives the news that he has accidentally flushed his wife’s entire fortune down the drain in a bad investment.  OUCH.  Downton Abbey is going to have to be sold, but worse, someone is going to have to tell Cora they can’t serve twenty-three courses at the wedding and Mary that after all her efforts she’s still not going to inherit.  DOUBLE OUCH.  But no worries — Cora’s got her American gun and Mary’s got a new hubby who’s inheriting his late fiances fortune.  And here’s me thinking the first episode would be all about choosing the correct shade of white for the wedding invitations.

Apparently this is the season of pairs.  Lord and Lady Grantham need each other as much as ever now that they have lost their fortune.  Matthew and Mary race to and from and beyond the altar in this episode.  Tom and Sybil return from Ireland after nearly a year of marital bliss and familial estrangement.  Edith finally wins over Sir Anthony.  O’Brien has her nephew Alfred firmly under her wing, and Mrs. Hughes’ and Mrs. Patmore’s friendship is tested at a new level.  And, of course, there’s Anna and Bates who set the model for perseverance.

The contrast between Matthew & Mary and Sybil & Tom is hilarious.  Alone in their room, Mary tells Matthew since he’s the one who’s preventing them from staying at Downton he has no right to criticize her plan…”Now kiss me before I get cross.”  But when Sybil tries to graciously guide her husband out of the hole he digs for himself with her family, he tells her “Don’t disappoint me.”  And she lets him.

Sybil looks terrible.  Kudos to the makeup and hair and wardrobe departments!  Mrs. Branson finally gets to visit her family at Downton.  But why does she have to bring Mr. Branson with her?  Tom hasn’t changed a bit.  My dislike of him has nothing to do with his politics.  His character is entitled to his own opinions.  However, he’s not entitled to bully Sybil into leaving her family and everything she’s known yet treat her as a total disappointment.  Tom goes out of his way to make everyone feel uncomfortable.  He doesn’t see them as family any more than they do him.  He doesn’t believe in mending fences…he just wants to blow them all up while he fiddles.  Or something.  We still don’t get a peek at what his idea of “journalism” is…or how he managed to get a job in the field.

Where is their baby?  Sybil wrote her family in December that she was pregnant.  Now several months later she doesn’t even look pregnant, and there’s zero conversation about the fact that Cora’s about to become a grandmother.  Matthew is a much bigger person than I am to include Tom in the wedding, but then, Matthew also has a very astute understanding that when you’re yoked to a Crawley woman, you need all the allies you can get.

The Dowager’s a little off her game this episode — it takes her until just before the wedding to put Tom in his place on the planet…and in the family.  We all thank you, dearie!

Speaking of Matthew and his groomsmen, I found myself wondering where are all of his war buds?  His college pals?  His fraternity bros?  His professional peers?  Is there really no one but Branson, I mean, Tom who could stand up for him?  Time to request backstory, please.

Mary’s just a bit high-strung and over-reactive about Matthew’s inheritance news — is she nervous that he might change his mind about marrying her?  The “one of us” drama is so season one.  Pitching a piece of paper on the floor where she danced with him a year ago after zero discussion about the issue feels kinda…awkward.  This is a couple where he has fought in the very trenches of hell and she has had to face the consequences of a personal hell she created for herself — we expect some sort of fight, but by this point we’re hoping for a little more fighting for each other rather than jittery spats.  This storyline is the one we’ve all been waiting a year for, and it just seems rushed.  Has Mary forgotten what’s at stake if she calls off the wedding?  Her little story could still hit the front page of Carlisle’s paper any time, and with the collapse of the family fortune she won’t have a spinster wing in Downton Abbey to look forward to.

SHOCKER:  Tom finally says something right and almost single-handedly gets the two lovebirds back on the path to the altar.

The chimney in the basement kitchen is clogged but no one seems to know a chimney sweep.  Aren’t they supposed to be lucky at weddings?

“Are you not popular downstairs?” – Lord Grantham

WWI never happened.  It was all a dream.  Thomas is back downstairs, as un-humble as ever, and now he’s all settled in to the position he schemed over throughout season one — valet to his lordship.  Oh, Bates, where art thou?  Just one tiny little parallel universe-type problem…The Axis of Evil: Downton Edition is in big trouble.  Thomas and O’Brien are no longer on the same team.  Has Thomas decided he’s better than her since his “elevation” during the war?  Is he jealous she has a new protégé?  Has he forgotten she knows everything about him?  Has she forgotten he knows everything about her?  The War of the Rogues is officially ON.  Somebody pass the popcorn.

“If you ask me, we are staring into the chaos of Gomorrah.” – Carson

The chaos of Gomorrah of which Carson speaks is the wake of Lady Grantham’s American, widowed, wealthy mother, Martha Levinson, who floats away from her card game in Newport to attend Mary’s wedding and irritate her British in-laws.  Her sharp tongue makes her an unattractive ambassador and a mostly unwelcome house guest.

How in the world did the family do so much talking about the financial ruin and no servant ever overheard?  Simply amazing.

“Accepting change is quite as important as defending the past.” – Cora

Overall, I confess I was a little disappointed and confused this episode.  I expected 80% wedding related activities with 20% dramatic interruptions.  I expected to find the characters we left after season two and the 2011 Christmas special — people changed by war and social upheaval and learning the true meaning of love and nobility — but for the most part, that’s not what I found.  It’s true that I did ask Elizabeth Michelle if the writer had forgotten to watch the last two episodes of season two before he started this episode.  But that doesn’t sway my faith.  He must have some crazy huge plans for the story this season that he can’t waste time on dress shopping and who didn’t get chosen as a flower girl and bachelor parties and wedding cake fights.  He’s been trustworthy so far, and though a bit underwhelmed with the storylines of episode one, I still expect great things to come.

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