Friday, June 7, 2013


I have, at long last, caught up to the 47 trillion folks who have already devoured season 3 of Downton Abbey.  For months I have shunned any news about and forbidden my friends to breathe a word about it in my presence.  I finally got my hands on a copy and devoured it last weekend.  To be honest I think I was somewhat unmotivated to track it down because I'd been relatively disappointed in Season 2.  I'm not sure I can even say why I didn't like season 2 - I probably need to go back and watch it.  Maybe the war broke up the rhythm, split people up too much.  I was also really disappointed that much of the romantic focus was on Mary and Matthew while Bates and Anna and Sibyl and Tom got short and in many cases rather awkward shrift.  I don't think I've ever witnessed such unromantic, chemistryless development of romance then Sibyl and Tom and the promise of their relationship in season 1 was a big reason I couldn't wait to get to season 2.  So I think I was a little wary of Season 3...what if Downton had used up all its good juju in the first season?

I was so happy to find out that there's still some life in the old girl yet.  This season was over the top and pretty phenomenal.  I think it may even be my favorite season thus far though to be fair I need to do a re-watch of Season 1.  I think it could win the award for the most heartbreakingly gut-wrenching season as well.  I shed quite a few tears. There are two or three episodes in a row early on that were just relentless in bringing on the tears. And I was flat out shocked more than once.

The great thing about Downton is of course the large ensemble cast of characters which are almost universally lovable (except perhaps O'Brien though she was pretty awesome in the final ep) in an often complex way.  It's a joy to spend time with these folks and even more fun to speculate and analyze them.  I found myself grinning helplessly at times with affection for these fictional characters. Their lives may be a crazy ass wonderful soap opera but they seem down to earth and real.

Some miscellaneous musings:

The Death of Major Characters
I am likely WAY off the mark here, but I feel like it is a staple of British TV that actors feel no real compunction to up and leave a show whenever they wish.  I have not crunched any numbers nor even done any real investigation to see if this really is a phenomena but there have been a number of British shows that I've watched that lose major characters due to actor's leaving and cheerfully and successfully soldier onward (MI-5 or Spooks is one show where I first noticed this and of course Doctor Who is rather brilliantly designed for this inevitability).  Actors in British shows seem to feel no compunction to just "Well I know the show is enormously and internationally HUGE but, you know, I've got other things on."  It's kinda awesome, if sometimes frustrating, because it frees up the show runners to go all George R.R. Martin on their cast.  No one is safe!

The death of Sibyl:  This was something I was spoiled on but her death was still a huge shock.  With their removal to Ireland at the end of season 2 I figured that was the write off for Sibyl and Branson, perhaps because of their lackluster storyline in season 2.  I thought they would kill Sibyl off screen in Ireland during some violence or something so I was pleasantly surprised to see them show up in episode 1.  And then comes the death.  It was one of the more intense death scenes I've ever seen on TV. I was sobbing and couldn't have been more wrenched if I had been in that fictional room with the family as Sibyl violently, horribly and suddenly just goes.  The distress, panic, and desperation played by everyone was spot on.

The death of Matthew: WOAH!  This I was not at all spoiled on.  When they did the rather obvious flashes of his car speeding along the narrow country track I knew disaster was in the wings and was sort of thinking confusedly "Are they going to paralyze him...AGAIN?"  But nope, he's totally and completely dead.  Huh.  I feel like Dan Stevens was the biggest star to emerge from this show and that lots of folks watch it mostly for him.  His death has the added tragedy of him making it through World War I and coming back from his injury to die 2-3 years later in a stupid car crash.  I watched this episode right before bed last night and needless to say that did not help me get to sleep!  It certainly opens up all sorts of potential dramas for a 4th season?  Is his infant son now the heir or must there be someone else in the mix? Who on Earth are they going to introduce as Mary's love interest?  Because she undoubtedly will have one.  How will Branson fit in now that his strongest ally and friend in the family is gone?
This was a persistent through line in the season.  The 1920's are here and the aristocratic lifestyle must evolve if it is to survive.  But evolution isn't it's strong suit.  I really like the emphasis on this and think it worked great even if it did turn Lord Grantham into an idiot curmudgeon.  And why did he invest all of Cora's money in a single investment?  He ain't dumb but he did frequently act like it this season.

Invasion of the Yanks:
Shirley MacLaine was pretty awesome and I love that she refused to bail Downton out.

Questions I can't wait to find out the answers to (besides the ones I've already posed):
1) What new characters are we to have in the 4th season.  Obviously Cousin Rose will become part of the main cast which I'm not sure I'm thrilled about but I'll keep an open mind. I REALLY hope they don't pair her with Branson.
2) Speaking of which where are they going to go with Branson in Season 4?  I think they will need to introduce some more romance to his life but how will they do this without trampling on Sibyl's memory?
3) Edith becoming a man's mistress - what repercussions is that going to have?  And is Mr. Editor (can't remember his name) on the up and up or is there more heartbreak in store for Edith?
4) What drama are they going to introduce into the servants?  It seems there are all sorts of goodies in the wings for the toffs but the servants all seem in a happy good place at the end of S.3.  Will Mr. Barrow finally find himself a sweet young thing who loves him back?
5) How much time will have passed between the end of Season 3 and the beginning of Season 4?
6) What is Mrs. Crowley going to do? Is she going to regret gently spurning the Doctor now that Matthew is gone?
7) Will season 4 be as good as season 3?

So what did you think of season 3?  If you lived or worked at Downton Abbey who would be your best friend? What's your favorite season thus far and why?

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