Check out our Downton Abbey episode 1 blog
Starting in 1912, the war was going to be unavoidable, but with Downton Abbey Series Three we’re back to episodes comparable to the first season. It may be a decade later, but this week we saw a conventional hour of old-fashioned Downton – stresses over evening dress, Thomas fighting with anyone he can find and a heart-wrenching storyline for Mrs Hughes.
Conveniently for me, who left the downstairs cast untouched last week, most of this week’s drama revolved around them. I challenge anyone not to love Mrs Hughes, so her cancer scare was devastating to watch, not simply for its subject matter but also for her rock-solid strength of character. It was also with karmic balance that she enlisted Mrs Patmore as her only confidante, who went through a similar experience in series one. It only scares me that with Mrs Patmore’s storyline having resolved so satisfactorily, Mrs Hughes might not be so lucky.
Meanwhile Thomas is up to his old japes ruining other servants’ reputations. Which was great fun against Bates, not only because he gave as good as he got but also because the story was entirely plausible. Bates took the job Thomas felt he deserved and Thomas wanted revenge. But now, Thomas has made it to valet (ironically with a crippled hand after the jip he gave Bates for his leg); so why does Thomas have it in for Alfred? Is it because he’s replaced Thomas in Mrs O’Brien’s favours? And if that’s the case, well why exactly have Thomas and Mrs O’Brien fallen out? It’s almost as if Fellowes has brought in Mrs O’Brien’s son just to quell rumours that he was in fact Thomas, and not done the most subtle job.
Upstairs and downstairs the Americans are causing a stir. As fabulous as Shirley MacLaine is, her derisive comments are only improved by Dame Maggie’s relentless Britishness. The “indoor picnic” may have saved the day but for entertainment the traditionalists won out as Carson’s sheer dismay and the Dowager’s contempt made me giggle for at least three minutes. Down in the kitchens Miss Reed caused a stir (for Daisy at least) as she heedlessly came on to Alfred. What bothered me more than her promiscuity was, why Alfred, who seems entirely without personality? But then it is slim pickings at Downton – she must have a well-developed Gaydar.
In a decidedly static storyline, Matthew still won’t invest his newfound inheritance in Downton’s future. For me this isn’t too much of an issue – ok, it’s pretty dull watching him moralise over Lavinia’s memory but we’re lucky he loosened up enough to marry Mary. It’s going to take time, that’s all. In the meantime we have not one, but two bed scenes for the newlyweds. Now I know it might be the roaring 20s but the Downton audience hasn’t changed: I’d prefer some highly charged brushes of the hand, thank you very much.
Next week – could those be wedding bells, the second time in three weeks? Anything to stop Lady Edith moping, and hopefully to bring Sybil and Branson (sorry, Tom) back too. I definitely didn’t write that just to make a fairly lacklustre joke one more time. Well, maybe a little bit, but this week’s episode was lacking a certain militant Irish charm.
Downton 2, Financial Ruin 0.