Cammy: Please raise your hands if you held out this teeny-weeny-miniscule-scrap of hope (carefully nurtured by a studious avoidance of all things spoiler) that Sunday’s Downton return would wipe away the tragedy that last season ended with in a completely cheeze-tastic and deus ex machina “Surprise! It was all a dream!”
Anybody? No one? Really? I’m all alone here?
But you all squee’d over the use of the term “testamentary intent” in a TV show, right? Criminal law terms get all the love, but property and inheritance law is so neglected. What? No one? Again????
Okay, fine, so I was forced to face reality. We’re down a Crawley (and I’m alone in my legal nerdiness). But even though Matthew was worm food, it sure was nice to have the rest of the Sunday night gang back together. More or less. Not quite the same energy of some of the previous season kick offs, at least not to me. Did things seem, I dunno, disjointed in some ways? A little rushed?
Okay, well please tell me I wasn’t alone in cheering that we finally get a mention of Gwen?!? I’m so glad to know she wasn’t pushed down that mysterious well where other gone-and-not-mentioned-TV characters are condemned (like Mandy from The West Wing).
At any rate, let’s go through the laundry list.
Starting Above Stairs:
Rose: I’m still not reconciled to her being around. She’s a train wreck, but not even a fun and entertaining train wreck. She is part of what felt disjointed about this opener. Kind of like they tossed her in because they needed someone above stairs who wasn’t decked in black and depressed as shit or planning to run away with a man married to a crazy woman.
Edith: Wow. Germany. That’s gonna end well, now won’t it? Um, paging Percy from Upstairs Downstairs…It’s a shame really. The longer the show has gone on, the nicer and more likable Edith has become, but home girl is just plumb snake bit with men, and I’m sure Mr.
Rochester Gregson isn’t going to wind up any better.
Lady Mary: I was actually hoping for a good violent outburst out of her. I mean, she got mildly testy at dinner. And the crying on Carson’s otherwise spotless jacket was a step in the right direction, but I was really hoping to have her throw dishes and truly verbally eviscerate someone like Nanny West in the style of her Granny. As it is, with that pallor and thin frame, I’m starting to hope the Downton writers haven’t realized that they’ve yet to give us a good death by consumption. They latch on to that and Mary is set up to be the next season ending funeral.
Isobel: The whole bit with pulling her out of the funk added to the disjointed problem. It felt kind of random, and granted, we all know that a social savior project is a fabulous way to redirect Isobel–Granny proved that already–but I was actually up for further exploration of a de-motivated Isobel for a change. It was almost too miraculous how she flipped the switch into standard philanthropically directorial mode with the guy Carson had un-friended. I’m not saying I never wanted anyone to reset Isobel to her standard mode, I just wanted them to wait awhile.
The kids: They’re in prams, cribs, and prissy clothes. And they drool. Nothing more need be said.
Lord Grantham: Is anyone else getting tired of Lord G’s petulant child attitude about running Downton? I’m still trying to figure out why he thinks he’s so hell-fire great to run the joint when he’s nearly bankrupt it already. In theory, I should be able to pity him for being stuck and obsolete in a changing world, but mostly I’m there with his mother and just tired of his whining.
Cora: WHEN is someone going to find a way to curtail her personnel management powers? She has zero skill in judging character in employees. O’Brien. Barrow. Edna. And ten bucks says she was the one who was all ready to hire Nanny West. Once upon a time I would have though Daisy was the most daft and clueless at picking up on other people’s true colors, but I’m pretty sure we can now declare Her Ladyship the winner in this particular race to the bottom because we’d be way better off if Daisy were running HR these days. If the triumvirate management unit of Mary-Lord Grantham-Branson wants to make real progress, they should see to this. I’m sure Lady Violet would agree.
Branson: Dude. When the revolutionary Irish Socialist driver is the most level headed, calm and even business-minded person upstairs, you know this bunch is fucked. It is obviously to the credit of the departed Sybille The Elder that he is not sitting back, laughing his ass off while the rest of those yahoos destroy the whole estate (why rise up against the landed gentry when you can watch them implode all on their own?). Someone has to be the brains of the operation, and some luck that he’s stuck with it. For a while, one could have hoped that he would have sane back up with Edith, but in her quest for yet another doomed romance, all this poor guy has for a bastion of sanity is Lady Violet.
Lady Violet: She hasn’t let me down yet. Rather nice to see her play the nice Granny with Mary there (especially with that note of awkwardness). Branson’s got the business part to deal with, and that leaves her to whip everything else into shape. God help the lot of them if the writers ever pick her off. And then God help the writers…
O’Brien: I will admit, when I see a silhouetted female staff member leaving in the dead of night, I actually automatically think it’s just another in the long line of housemaids jumping ship. It took me a minute to get that it was O’Brien. Then I realized that now no housemaid has to share a room with Anna anymore, so they might be around longer (my theory is that she snored, and that she had some weird gold ring under her pillow that she would take out at night and call “Precious” but, I can’t prove it). At any rate, I feel like it was a punk-out departure for O’Brien (not because she left Cora in the hair-do lurch, but because we viewers didn’t get any parting barbs out of her).
Nanny West: And while we’re on the subject of out-like-a-punk, did anyone else find the whole Nanny West thing to be a big, steaming pile of “What the Fuck?” I think that old bat had less time on screen than Mr. Pamuk. This was one of the most disjointed elements for me. A little build up would not have killed these people here. Why was she evil? What was her motivation? And could we not have had a few more hints that she was satan incarnate before Thomas figured it out? I really don’t cherish thinking I might have to give that asshole credit for some kind of super-hero level of perception, when I was sitting there completely in the dark until Cora figured it out (and since we’ve established that Her Ladyship is NOT at the forefront of perception when it comes to people’s true colors, that makes me feel like the kid eating paste and licking the windows in the back of the short bus, and I feel like that often enough without help, thanks).
Thomas: As I’ve said, I don’t want to have to give him credit for sparing Sybille The Younger from starvation and therapy (well, Nanny induced therapy at any rate. She’s screwed when it comes to the impact of her maternal relatives). Points to the writers for putting me in this kind of conflict over him again. Now they need to stop and just make him unambiguously evil and slimy so I don’t have to think so hard.
Anna & Bates: I’m addressing them as a unit because they are appearing that way. Delightfully happy. This terrifies me. Don’t they know that they are only painting big bullseyes on their backs for the writers? The happier they are in this first episode, the suckier the rest of their storyline will get. I’m sure Lady Violet would back me up on this.
Mrs. Patmore: She is so delightfully unchanging. Just like we can depend on the Dowager Countess upstairs, we can lean on Mrs. Patmore downstairs. For a sarcastic observation, she’s really the best of the best below stairs. And the worst she’s going to do is interfere a bit to keep Daisy happy, which is sweet. Oh, and break the mixer.
Edna: Satan. Really. I got nothing else.
Mrs. Hughes: When she picked up that letter out of Carson’s waste basket, I was stoked that we would get something truly awesome out of her. I felt a little let down with her interfering with the un-friend. It was like they were trying to finally utilize her as more than something flat and functional, but they didn’t manage it. Which sucks, because Mrs. Hughes is awesome and I don’t want her sidelined (or, y’know, queued up for TB).
Carson: At least he held his ground telling Mary how the cow ate the cabbage. He is way nicer than he should be with that girl. Really wasn’t into the whole thing with his friend stealing his girl back in the day. It would have helped to have had some hints of the lost love sometime before. It came way too much outta left field here. I’m hold out for Carson to get stuck with temporary Nanny duty until they get a replacement for West. You know you want to see it, too.
Ivy-Daisy-ChefBoy-PlayBoy: Oh for the love of Pete. Just get on with this already. I want to go back to seeing Daisy make more progress in maturing. She’s regressing in this fucked up foursome. And Ivy lack’s Daisy’s charm in her doltishness. And neither of those boys is William, so can we just get past the love quadrangle? All the other out-of-the-blue-no-build-up stuff in this opener and we’re still stuck with this lingering, uninspired pseudo romance garbage from last season.
Moseley: Poor guy can’t get a break. He’s like the Edith of Downstairs. Only dumber. I think he should start his own B&B somewhere. Not a hotel. Not a pub. A B&B. Hotels would have too much scandal and he couldn’t handle the drunks in the pub. He needs low key. He can get Mrs. Bird to run the kitchen.
Moseley the Elder: Here’s the secret people, I know Kristy pointed out to me on Twitter that Old Moseley is alive (thought I predicted his death ages ago), I now offer this: Moseley Senior is actually a cyborg replicant. The true Papa Moseley died sometime after winning the flower competition and his remains are buried beneath the remains of the semi-grubbed out rue hedge of doom and discomfort. You’ll be able to read all about this in my upcoming fanfic, Download Abbey: Cyborg Apocalypse (spoiler:: don’t trust the miraculously revived Matthew). I’ll be writing it just as soon as I finish my masterpiece crossover between Anne of Green Gables and Firefly.
Kristy chimes in: I agree it felt very disjointed. Like they tried to cram in way too much in one episode. Granted, my power/cable kept going out, so the fact that I missed several chunks of it didn’t help.
I’m gonna miss O’Brien. Not ‘cause I liked her, but because she was a familiar part of the landscape. I’m disappointed in Thomas because last season he seemed kinda… you know… human. Now he’s back to evil. Except Nanny West really was as terrible as he made her out to be. Her whole storyline could have built a lot more.
I’m also having trouble caring this season. Maybe they’ve just killed too many people and now it’s like Game of Thrones where I just don’t want to get attached to anyone. Speaking of GoT, Gwen reference! I kept expecting her to die off screen in season 2, so I’m relieved that she’s alive, but concerned the baby is Jon Snow’s and it’ll be doomed to a life of mouth-breathing and poor decision making.
I want to care about Moseley, but I don’t. And I feel bad for not caring, but refuse to fake it. I don’t care about Rose or Ivy or Carson’s ex-partner. Though Carson’s storyline did give us the awesome line “This is a man you sang and danced with. Do you feel nothing?” and Carson walking out of the mist at the train station. Truth, Downton Abbey: Did you write in the whole lost love part just so we wouldn’t think other Charlie was Carson’s ex-lover? It kinda felt like you did. I don’t care about Isobel, but I never really have. I did enjoy watching Mrs. Hughes manipulate her.
I might love domesticated Branson more than revolutionary Branson and that makes me feel old. I liked him suggesting Mary try carpentry. I would have LOVED it if Mary HAD tried carpentry.
Speaking of Mary, I’m fine with her being bitchy, I’m not fine with her being lame. Pre-Matthew Mary was a bitch, but she was a funny bitch. Girl needs to get her snark back. I almost smacked her for being mean to Carson, but they fixed that, so all is mostly forgiven.
If this show kicks Edith in the shins with Mr. Rochester, I’m going to be very displeased. At least they’ve given her better hair and clothes. It’s like the reverse of the treatment Sybil got last season.
I’m willing to give this season a chance, but I’m just not excited for it like I have been for the last two. I still enjoy it, I’m just not obsessing over it.