Downton Abbey – Season 3, The Finale: Holiday Road

 Posted by on February 20, 2013 at 7:00 am  Downton Abbey
Feb 202013
 

World Wars, impotence, paralysis, the 1918 Flu epidemic, eclampsia, sexual harassment. Boy! If ever folks needed a vacay, it’s the Crawleys. And that’s just what they’re finally doing in this episode. Instead of Club Med or the South of Spain, though, they’re going to Scotland! Because nothing says “RELAX” quite like offal and organ meat, ill-tempered natives, and tempestuous weather.

It’s a year later. In the opening frames, everyone’s bustling to load the cars that will take them to Doneagle, Cousin Shrimpy’s summer home in the highlands. Carson explains that the family summered there regularly until they were prevented from doing so by the war and the various tragedies we’ve witnessed. Good for them for going on holiday! Mary is now preggo and about to give birth any minute! And red is her new signature color, so I think her Goth phase is over. Color Matthew uxorious because he’s worried about her traveling in her condition. She shushes him, there’s no way she’ll miss this getaway! In the hubbub, Branson crosses paths with a new maid who gives him the eye. Lady Vi in her prescient manner worries about Branson being all alone. Oh, yes, you see, he’s not going. That would be too much of a shock to the Shrimpy family. Maybe Branson is allergic to crustaceans. Isobel tells her not to worry, she’ll invite him to dinner.

The downstairs servants want to know if the family’s absence will mean that they too will get a break. Carson disabuses them of that notion. Silly cows! What do they think this is, communist Russia? Now they can finally clean the entire house, top to bottom.

We learn that the new maid’s name is Edna. And she sure is curious about Branson and Sybil. Mrs. Hughes tells her that Sybil was a “a real beauty, inside and out.” To which Edna replies, “He’s nice-looking, I’ll give him that.” Indignantly, Mrs. Hughes says, “I don’t think you’re required to give him anything!” From the looks of it, Edna is planning to give him a LOT, most of it involving bodily fluids.

Sure enough, over breakfast, Edna pounces on him when she clears the dishes. She introduces herself as Edna Brathwaite. We’ll just call her Goldigger. Branson is a little awkward, but also intrigued. Boy, does the man need female companionship.

The family arrives in Scotland and young Rose runs out to meet them. She introduces Matthew to her Dad as “Matthew, defender of the downtrodden.” I think “Matthew, protector of the hymen” is more apt in Rose’s case, but then again I’ve never been good at job descriptions. Then we enter the summer house, which has obviously been decorated by special tag team consisting of Martha Stewart and the NRA, such is the artfulness with which rifles have been arranged along the walls. Shrimpy must be a little defensive about his nickname because nothing spells “compensating” like an armory used as wall decor.

Back in Downton, who should show up but a new merchant. Thomas is taking his new authority to heart with the intruder. Where’s Mr. Cox, “one of our regulars”? This jolly old fellow is one Just Soften. What’s the opposite of a porn name? (Seriously, though, it wasn’t until I’d watched for an hour and a half that I realized his name was Jos Tuften, not Just Soften. So my mind’s in the gutter and my hearing sucks. It’s such a joy being me.) Anyway, Mrs. Patmore warns him that there better not be anything amiss with the order or she’ll pay him a visit. To which he replies that he hopes that there’s something not up to scratch so he can see her again. Mrs. P realizes that he’s flirting, the cheeky devil! And he tastes everything he can get his hands on too, the glutton!

In Scotland all the servants are addressed by their masters’ names. That’s confusing and would be offensive but political correctness hasn’t been invented yet. Lady Vi admires the landscape: “That’s the thing about nature. There’s so much of it!” And the Crawleys are regaled with such delights as bagpipes and men in skirts! I mean kilts. It’s about time we enjoyed some music and the sight of hairy, manly flesh. “He keeps it up through breakfast,” whispers Rose, meaning the bagpipe playing, you filthy cows. Who wants a good night’s sleep on vacation, anyway? Not Edith. She’s too anxious about the news that her editor, Mr. Gregson, has decided to travel to Scotland too. And he’d love to see her. Shrimpy and Susan, a.k.a. Mrs. Shrimpy, want to meet this fellow and invite him to dinner tomorrow night.

Sure enough, Mr. Tuften did make a mistake: Instead of fresh ginger, he packed dried ginger, which just won’t do. Well, you know when a man gives you the wrong form of spice that he’s one step away from playing footsies with you and slapping you on the bum.

Isobel and Branson have tea together. She’d like to know if he’s lonely and he admits that he is but Old Lady Grantham wouldn’t approve of him eating downstairs with the servants. Isobel then reminds him that he has a new identity and that as agent of the estate, he has a right to talk to anyone he chooses. Oh, oh. There’s a gleam in Branson’s eye. Looks like Edna’s plan to supplant Sybil is taking off.

By the way, the Shrimpys are not a happy lot. Lady Susan and Shrimpy bicker all the time, ostensibly about when he’ll grow a spine instead of relying on his exoskeleton, and Lady Susan is always on Rose’s case because the latter dresses like a slut. Yes, back in the Roaring Twenties sluts wore kitten heels and cloche hats instead of clear plastic stripper heels and peroxide hair. Ah, progress! Poor Rose! Poor Lady Susan! Poor Shrimpy! It’s time for a dance. It’s going to be so much fun, I’m feeling dizzy. Let’s call it Giddy’s Ball!

Mary says that if she were pregnant, she’d dance until dawn. Instead, the only fun pastime she has left is being cruel to Edith, asking her about Michael: “Is he one of your hard luck cases?” Ouch! Then again, Edith does seem to be the animal hoarder of TV romance. If the object of my cruelty were surrounded by so much weaponry, I’d ease up. But I freely admit I’m a wuss.

Mary demands to know why Michael is coming to Scotland. What does he have up his sleeve? He’s on a sketching and fishing holiday, says Edith. “He’s bringing his pencils and his rods!” How is that even the slightest bit suspicious, Mary, you bitch? Why, many a man packs Crayolas alongside a Trojan variety pack when traveling! Now we know how his paper got its name!

Cunning Edna overheard Mrs. Hughes say that Branson will be having his lunch in town and who should she run into at the pub? Why, Tom Branson, as I live and breathe! How very fated! Anyway, she wonders if he’s ashamed of his background and tells him he should have dinner at the servants’ hall sometime. Is Edna a hussy or just a troublemaker? Either way, she makes terrible mealtime conversation, that’s for sure. But then again this is Downton, where no one has mastered the art of light table talk, and every course is another chance to cause heartburn.

In the meantime, it looks like someone has a “fancy man”. And, no, it’s not Robert even though his black silk pajamas sure are snazzy. Why, it’s Mr. Tuften, silly. He fancies Mrs. Patmore and has sent her a little package. He also wants to know if he could ‘esquire her’ to the fair! She asks Carson for some time off and while he’s sputtering indignantly, Mrs. Hughes advocates on her behalf and also for some time off for the other servants. “Must I constantly be undermined?” asks Carson. I know! These people are worse than the Borgias.

But enough scheming and backstabbing, back to Scotland, where Michael Gregson has arrived. I never noticed before that he looks like an older version of Branson. The Earl immediately says, “It puzzles me to know why you should choose to employ amateurs like my daughter!” No wonder Edith keeps choosing unavailable men. My inner Freud says it’s all Robert’s fault. Oh, Edith, you ARE enough. Someone tweet her some morning affirmations, stat. Michael brought tails, by the way, another detail that rouses Mary’s suspicions.

I was all worried that baby Sybbie had gone to that mythical nursery where TV babies are sent to, never to be heard from again. It must be another Skinner experiment. I was wrong for there she is FINALLY. And she is so cute. Excuse me while I blow raspberries into her belly and play peekaboo.

In the meantime, Dr. Clarkson seems to be cozying up to Isobel. Oh, these “romance in the winter’s of one’s life” storylines are all the rage today, huh? He says something along the lines of how nice it is to finally find someone who ‘gets you’ and Isobel is all, Ya know?!

Mary’s got under Edith’s skin and she finally asks Michael why he’s here. “What do you hope to achieve?” She needs a remedial course on flirting because that just sounds like the most passive aggressive job interview question ever. But Michael doesn’t let it get to him. He openly admits that he’s in love with her. Aww! Too bad he’s married already. Oh, well, I suppose they could always kill his wife. This IS the U.K., you know. Land of Macbeth and countless police procedurals. In another corner of the drawing room Mary purrs to Matthew re: Michael, “He was right to invest in those tails, wasn’t he?” Apropos of nothing Matthew tells Mary that she’s nice to which she retorts: “You think me nice but no one else does.” No, Mary, you are a bitch and we can’t even lay the blame on hormones, alas.

But enough sibling rivalry! Enough cattiness and awkward romantic non-banter! Let’s go hunting! The men go skulking in the Scottish glens, and I keep expecting Elmer Fudd to show up. Yes, I know Elmer Fudd’s not Scottish, ya wise asses! It’s those hats.

Mrs. Patmore’s imminent romance also worries Mrs. Hughes. After all, if a man that age is showing interest, he must want something more. Is Mrs. Hughes implying that sending foodstuff is Mr. Tuften’s way of arranging a “casual encounter”? Will Mrs. Patmore let her freak flag fly? My, no! She thinks he must be in need of a wife. This is also the land of Jane Austen, right?

Ever the peacemaker, Matthew has taken it upon himself to be nice to Michael. He suspects that Michael is in love with Edith and that he’s come to Scotland to ask for her hand. They go fishing, sans sketchpad or pencils. Michael openly admits that he’s in love with Edith, that he’s married and that his wife is insane. He’s come to Scotland to get to know Edith’s parents and soften them up. Matthew thinks this the worst idea ever. Really, Michael is daft, isn’t he? For a newspaperman, he sure is naive. Even parents nowadays would look askance at this arrangement. Matthew proposes that Michael use the ball as a chance to say goodbye to Edith. Poor Edith! Does no one know the name of a good therapist, pray tell, or is the estate in such a shambles that they can’t afford treatment?

But enough psychological dysfunction, let’s go to the fair! And rather a useful fair it is: Al figures out his true calling in life: He wants to be a cook. Mrs. Hughes figures out that Mr. Tuften is an incorrigible flirt and ladies’ man who “loves to be in love!” Jimmy figures out that Thomas is in love with him when he follows him and prevents some hooligans from beating him. Instead, Thomas rescues him and martyrs himself, getting the tar kicked out of him. And Isobel can’t figure out that Dr. Clarkson is interested in her.

Some things are falling into place in Scotland as well. Shrimpy confides in Robert that his marriage sucks and that he’s made such a mess of his state that he must take a job in Bombay. Lady Susan for her part, asks Cora to take in wild Rose and Cora agrees. Oooh, boy. I foresee some juicy plotlines with this boy mad teenager along! Will Jimmy catch her eye? Or will Branson? Or will both have to fight for her affections? Shrimpy is grateful that the Crawleys will take care of Rose and show her what love is like: “Love is like riding or speaking French. If you don’t learn it young, it’s hard to get the hang of it later.” This is the saddest line Fellowes has ever written, is it not?

Mrs. P finally gets her marriage proposal from Mr. Tuften. When she tells Mrs. Hughes, she regretfully tells her good friend about Mr. Tuften being a shameless flirt. Instead of being heartbroken, Mrs. P laughs with relief. Turns out Mr. Tuften was getting a bit tyrannical about her cooking. Apparently cooking 10-course meals for thirty people is easy peasy compared to cooking for this guy. I doubt that his appetites reach such Rabelaisian proportions but you know how Fellowes is about servants’ natural inclination for celibacy. Endless toil is sooo much better than regular coitus. Not.

Meanwhile, Jimmy and Thomas have a lovely scene in which the latter declares his love and both agree to be friends. It’s surprisingly affecting. Somewhere upstairs Edna bursts into Branson’s room while he’s undressing for bed and the sight of his torso compels her to feel him up. Men in this household should really lock their doors. She kisses him and he’s all, Whut? She’d like to see him the next day. I knew it! She’s a hussy! On the other hand, I was expecting her to seduce him outright, so this is a relief.

At the ball, Michael screws up his courage to end it with Edith. But she won’t have it! She loves him! This is only the beginning! I truly hope Michael is good in the sack. No, he better be spectacular. Molesley drinks too much and begins reeling, which is Scots-speak for dancing, the sight of which compels Robert to observe, “There’s a wild man in all of us.” To which Lady Vi retorts: “If only he would stay inside!” Lady Vi has never been on the LIRR on Saint Patrick’s Day, has she?

Mrs. Hughes has had enough of Edna’s brazenness and fires her. She informs Branson, who worries that he’s spoiled everything for her and begs her to give Edna a recommendation. Mrs. Hughes agrees although she doesn’t think Edna’s cut out to be a housemaid. No kidding. Anyway, she gently chides Branson for not discouraging her and then he starts crying. He’s lonely and misses Sybil! “I can’t bear to be without her,” he says. “You must be your own master and call your own truth,” says Mrs. Hughes. At least you don’t have to climb every mountain and ford every spring, Branz. Really, I love it when Mrs. Hughes channels Yoda. Let us hope next season she doesn’t channel Gollum, or scenes such as this one won’t be as sweet.

All the foot tapping at the ball has induced labor! Mary must travel to Downton asap to have this baby, but Matthew should stay behind and let everyone know. She must’ve boarded a bullet train because she makes it to Dr. Crawley’s in time to be comforted by Isobel. And she has the easiest labor yet, thank God for pop goes the weasel. I mean, baby. Enter the proud papa. Mary introduces their baby: “Say hello to your son and heir.” Yes, Mary, that’s so much better than your original, “Say hello to your little friend”. Wise editorial choice. While Mary prattles on about how they did their duty and saved Downton, he is over the moon: “I feel like I swallowed a box of firecrackers!” That’s what happens when you dine with the Crawleys, Matt, ole chap. He tells her that he is more in love with her than ever. Aw.

Back at the ranch, Robert has finally seen the error of his ways, thanks to the dysfunctional Shrimpys. He tells Cora that he’s relieved that Matthew has taken over the stewardship of the estate and that he’s saved them. Over these words of appreciation, we see Matthew joyfully driving back to break the news of the latest Crawley addition. A truck approaches in the opposite direction… Mary cradles her baby… And Matthew drives off the road, his car flips over, and lands on top of him! Oh no! Matthew is dead and only we the viewers know! What a sad season finale!

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  32 Responses to “Downton Abbey – Season 3, The Finale: Holiday Road”

  1. The ending is handled so…”oh, well, what a sad season finale”…I chortled. THANKS!

    • I admit, I didn’t do it on purpose. I just couldn’t figure out what else to say… You’re welcome!!

  2. I have looked forward to your recaps each week. Thanks for the chuckles.
    I think Edith’s and Michael’s problem is easily solved. Edith: “Michael dear, our Mr. Bates has baked this lovely pie for your wife.”

  3. I love your cheeky recaps, you made this season more bearable! Thanks!

    Alas, I have to say — this show is really starting to tick me off — and not because Matthew has suddenly died – it’s the whole way the show is written that just does NOT respect it’s audience. I agree with bloggers Tom and Lorenzo and the podcast Ryan and Ryan about how Fellowes comes to edge of a great dramatic story and then shies away from it or ties it up in a neat bow — to have everything return, unchanged, to the status quo, without what could have been some deep, dramatic and satisfying consequences. Consider the elements that surfaced this season:

    *Mrs Hughes had a cancer scare — oh wait, no, it’s alright. We don’t have to deal with it anymore.
    *Mrs Hughes almost has a romantic relationship with the doctor — nope, not gonna happen.
    *Mrs. Patmore almost has a relationship with the spice merchant – nope, Mrs. Hughes set her straight.
    *Tom almost had a liaison with the slutty new maid – nope, Mrs. Hughes set him straight.
    (sensing a repeat pattern here)
    *O’Brien almost gets drunk at the Scottish Ball — nope, she sensed the hard liquor in the drink and passed it off to Mosely. (I would have paid to see O’Brien drunk and possibly spill the beans about making Cora slip on that soap the other season!)
    *Servant Thomas makes a sexual advance on Jimmy, but is miraculously spared his job, not only that, but the staff AND Robert understand that Tom was born gay and accept it???? Totally, totally unbelievable considering the time period and attitudes about the gay lifestyle in that era. And Bates helps Thomas? Total hogwash. It would have been more believable if Thomas actually did go to jail, and we’d see his time away from DA, and substantial drama. And Jimmy agrees to become his friend? Baloney!
    *Speaking of Jail-Bate’s jail story was a total BORE, but, of course it’s been all tied up with no scars whatsoever. Part of me was actually hoping that he did do that murder, at least that would bring some real drama to the story.The way all the main characters are written is that no matter what, they can do no wrong, and will never stray far from their origins. There is no grey area with any of the characters, all black and white. (At at the least, Mad Men gives all of its characters some ambiguity!)
    *Sybil Dies — that shocked me more than Matthew’s because I knew the actor playing Matt was leaving, but not the actress who played Sybil. But even though Sybil’s death was shocking it gave the series the kick in the pants it really needed–if only for one episode. There was potential there if Tom would take baby Sybil back to Ireland, that’s now never going to happen, writer Fellowes doesn’t really want to go there. It would have been more of an intriguing series if Tom and Sybil STAYED in Ireland, and we’d get glimpses of their life there from time to time, and see the contrast between the real world and the fantasy life at DA, but Fellowes wants everything to stay at DA; keep the status quo regardless of how illogical and contrived it may be.
    *Robert and Cora. Give me a break! There is NO WAY that they would have reconciled that soon after losing Sybil. The Dowager getting the doctor to LIE about Sybil’s condition to make everything work between Robert and Cora again was not only egregious but totally unbelievable. Of course a couple mourns the untimely death of their child, but since it was Robert’s stubbornness which caused Sybil’s death, I was actually hoping for Cora to LEAVE Robert and his ever backward views about science, the place of women, and his noblesse obige. (Robert’s a jerk) This is the 1920′s, I hoped to see Cora and Mary becoming more aware of their individual worth, but no, that’s not going to happen either.
    * Mary. She’s never been a nice character, and I don’t love her at all. She is her father’s daughter, and only cares about DA and it’s legacy. Will raising a child alone make her a better person? I hope so, but otherwise I really don’t care.
    *Matthew. Let me get this straight — Fellowes knew that Dan Stevens was leaving the show at the end of the season, but instead of giving him a decent send off, he KILLS HIM OFF in the last minute of the season. In a way, I’m glad he’s dead. Once Matthew had ‘saved’ DA by changing the way it’s run, he became little more than a sap concerned about how good his reproductive system is. And his dialogue in the last episode? Please. It was awful and completely out of character — as if Fellowes wanted to make Matthew as sappy and googly-eyes as possible, make sure he says EVERYTHING a man would say if he knew he was going to die. Totally bogus. But if he lived, there’d be little for him to do except tell Mary how wonderful she is (Zzzzz)
    *Even the Dowager is getting boring — her snide asides are not only expected, but starting to wear thin. The Shirley MacClaine stuff was awful too. (Would an American really be that sloppy an eater in that setting? I doubt it.)
    *The final episode introduced us to new characters (Shrimpy? Seriously?) that I already don’t like (More snotty rich people) And you know that the next season will be dealing with the ups and downs of spoiled, ditzy Rose. (ugh!) Bloggers Tom and Lorenzo (TLo) commented that Rose is like the ‘Cousin Oliver’ character who was introduced in the final season of “The Brady Bunch”, a character introduced to make things more exciting, but who actually made it much worse. I really hope S4 won’t be all about Rose. In fact, I like the idea that TLo proposed that DA jump ahead about 15 years, and see the lives of baby Sybil and Baby Crawley pan out during the Depression and pre-WWII period. That would be great.

    Maybe I’ll write an Alternate Universe post about DA on BoK — anything to make the drama better!

    I highly recommend the following 3 links:
    http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/2013/02/downton-abbey-nasty-boys-dont-mean-a-thing.html
    http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/2013/02/downton-abbey-visitors-from-the-south.html

    This podcast is @ 45 minutes, but a great chat about DA and the direction it’s taking:
    http://talkingtvwithryanandryan.libsyn.com/talking-tv-with-ryan-and-ryan-episode-41-downton-abbey-season-3-with-tom-fitzgerald

    • I’m glad to hear I helped you bear the downward slide that is DA. I agree with your points, except that I do think that the actors who played Thomas and Jimmy were somehow able to pull off that improbable reconciliation scene. But, let’s face it, when someone sneaks into your room late at night to cop a feel, it’s really really hard to just let that slide.

      I think that’d be a marvelous idea, to just flash forward 15 years. I’d go so far as to flash forward to the actual war, a period in British history which I’m beginning to find interesting thanks to British shows such as Foley’s War and Wish Me Luck. I know that for the most part WWII has been played out, but those two series have given me a new appreciation for how deeply affected the British were (and might still be) by having to fight alone for such a long time.

      I too would’ve loved it if Bates had truly turned out to be guilty. What’s more, I don’t think the audience would’ve disliked him at all.

      Anyway, Fellowes is not a subtle writer and he lacks nerve, which has noticeably hurt the quality of the writing. Everything gets resolved by the end of an episode and there’s no real sense of danger because nothing has real consequences. Compare Downton with Upstairs Downstairs, which was more realistically written. Some of the storylines were truly heartbreaking, if only because we knew that, regardless of how well-intentioned the nobles were, even they were forced to condone some injustices because they had to follow society’s rules. But Fellowes is not interested in such an in-depth and nuanced view of the British class system. But Downton is an escapist fantasy, really. We don’t want anything too too terrible to happen to our favorite characters. I think we could do both, have a little fluff and create some truly great plot twists.

      I’ve said this before but I think at the very least, he should go the writers’ room route. Writing so many episodes alone is a huge undertaking. Few writers pull it off. Even Larry David benefited from having a team of outstanding improvisers on Seinfeld. (And I do know that while the situations were written, a lot of the dialogue was improvised on set. My sister regularly appeared as an extra on Seinfeld, which is how I know.)

      And I also agree that he’s obsessed with keeping the entire family at Downton. It gets a little claustrophobic, to say the least.

      • Thanks Marly, I really appreciate your reply. Yeah, a writer’s room would definitely help! And I’ve really enjoyed the reboot of Upstairs Downstairs — it tackles problems a lot more realistically. Matt Weiner knows when to depend on his writers as did the late Rod Serling (for Twilight Zone), it can only help.
        And thanks to whoever approved my unusually long comment — sorry about that — but it was good to get it off my chest! Hmm…I think I will write that alternate universe S3 DA!

    • Sweet Fancy Moses! This is a really thorough recap of the season.

      Thanks for the links; I really like the T&L write-ups and I’ll definitely check out the podcast.

    • I don’t think it’s fair to compare Rose to Cousin Oliver. Oliver was brought in because Bobby and Cindy had outgrown the kinds of the stories the creative team wanted to/needed to be able to tell. Rose is going to allow for new stories that would not have been possible without her: The London season, jazz records, and the outlook of a new generation. Rose wasn’t even a teenager when WWI started, whereas Sybill, the youngest of Robert and Cora’s children, was serving as a nurse.

      • Good point about Cousin Rose.

        • I see what you mean, Retro. Although part of me would have much rather seen Sybill’s take on the growing women’s emancipation of the 1920′s and getting her first vote then whatever they have planned for Rose. Just don’t make it become The Rose Show!

  4. Thanks for another great season of recaps, MarlyK! I enjoyed them, as always.

    Does anyone know about what the Edwardian laws of entail say about who inherits Downton now? Does Matthew’s oldest male offspring automatically inherit, or is there a possibility that some other heir will take precedence over Baby Crawley?

    Also, if Robert dies when the new kid is – say – 12 years old, is the estate held in trust until the kid is older? Upon Robert’s death, would Mary then be kinda like the queen regent of Downton until Baby Crawley comes of age?

    Also, how inbred is Baby Crawley, exactly? Like, on a scale of Hapsburg to West Virginian?

    • You’re welcome, Tasha! So glad you enjoyed them. We can all breathe easy now that the estate is saved.

      I don’t know enough about British law to answer any of the questions about the entail, but I have seen a lot of documentaries and shows about the monarchy to guess that, yes, by siring a male heir Matthew has saved the estate. His son is next in line, not some other surprise kinsman. Other than that, I’m clueless.

    • Issues of inbreeding is really just a cultural issue, not a genetic one. We as a society deem it “gross.” In reality, there is more chance for a women over 40 to have a child with genetic issues than for first cousins. Matthew and Mary were barely cousins – remember they had to track him down and it turned out they didn’t even know the family – the kid is fine.

    • “Hapsburg to West Virginian”…hilarious!

  5. Oof, I’m pretty checked out on DA after this season.

    I agree with all of Therese’s points about crappily efficient problem solving in the writing. I mean, why have Isobel hire Ethel and then have the scandalized Mrs Bird quit immediately? That was 1 of a thousand missed opportunities for something interesting.

    Also, the invention of the cricket game. Are you kidding me?

    A few quick ideas for some storylines we won’t be seeing:

    Personally, I’d rather see a Shrimpy based franchise in India than whatever has been going on at Downton.

    Flashback to Robert’s days dodging kisses at Eton.

    If Anna dies mysteriously and Bates is the only suspect that’d be cool.

    Branson’s drunken brother could move in and have a weekly scandal.

    Thomas lives it up in London before embarking on a trip around the world.

    Flashforward a few years to when Daisy is the richest landowner in the county.

    Kamal Pamuk’s family starts a blood feud with the Crawleys.

    Now a widow, and the mother to the heir, Mary can do whatever she likes. She starts by evicting the entire village “All their little hovels are terribly sad. Carson, have them razed.”

    The mummy returns. That is, the injured soldier who claimed to be the heir who died on the Titanic resurfaces.

    Combine storylines that are set at fictional Highclere Castles, DA mashup with Jeeves and Wooster.

    • “All their little hovels are terribly sad. Carson, have them razed.” Hah! How dare you be funnier than me?! Carson, have Josh flogged.

  6. The 2012 X-mas special was rather pointless. Character writing and dialog was above average, as usual, but the story was mostly an empty bag of tricks. They needed to kill off Matthew because the actor didn’t want to return for season 4, and that was pretty much the only event (and not one done very well, either) with any meaning to it. The whole thing felt sloppy and last minute. Filler. A couple of other situations did develop the characters a little further, but nothing that couldn’t have been take care of with one well-written scene tucked here or there in a normal hour. Really disappointing episode and not worthy of the rest of the series. Some beautiful scenery in the supposed Highlands of Scotland.

    Nice list, Therese. If other TV was better, DA wouldn’t be as welcomed.

    • I agree that Matthew’s death was handled really badly, both technically (ie, the editing was really bad and rushed), and story-wise. Tom and Lorenzo’s suspicion that this was a vindictive move on Fellowes’ part is thought-provoking, isn’t it?

      Everything about DA (including the behind the scenes speculation about Fellowes himself) reminds me vaguely of Mario Vargas Llosa’s Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. Anyway, it’s based on Vargas Llosa’s experiences as a young man writing for a Peruvian radio station in the 50s. The station hires a Bolivian scriptwriter to write radio soap operas, all of which do incredibly well. Little by little, though, the scriptwriter begins adding spurious storylines that mostly hold up his own prejudices and ax-grinding (all the villains are Argentinians, for instance, because his wife left him for an Argentinian), and begins confusing the storylines of all the soaps. He gradually starts losing his grip on reality. It’s a very funny book. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

  7. -I too was hoping Bates was guilty. He and Anna just make me yawn.

    -I also thought that the actors who play Jimmy and Thomas did a great job with that scene, but I hope that storyline isn’t over. It was tied up too neatly.

    -I’m glad Branson didn’t hook up with the slutty maid. It would have given me stomach pains. He was so in love with Sybil. Maybe it would have still been a good storyline though. Hook up, roller coaster relationship, ending with Branson admitting he still loves Sybil and Edna quitting Downton broken-hearted. All over multiple episodes.

    -I’m so glad someone else disliked the quick resolution of Robert and Cora. I mean come on. When a couple fights like that, it doesn’t just disappear. Maybe Cora lets Robert back into her bed, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t shoot daggers his way every time he looks the other way. The whole discord between them could have been pulled out over multiple episodes as well.

    -Lady Mary should do something awful and really crush Carson.

    -Perhaps Edith will say “screw you” to her family and go be Mr. Gregson’s lover. And wear pants. Then she will really be disowned, unlike Sybil.

    In all, while I think the writing this season was better than last, I really get tired of everything wrapping up in one episode. I mean, other than how the family handles Matthew’s death, what else is there to look forward to in the next season?

  8. Oh, and I knew I forgot something!!!

    When Shrimpy talks to Robert about having run the estate into the ground, I wanted to yell “Seriously? Can you make it any more obvious?” The way Shrimpy basically tells Robert “I wasn’t smart like you and so I lost everything” is just poor writing. Hand it to us on a silver platter, why don’t ya?

  9. Lady Mary and Carson is maybe the only endearing remaining relationship. Well, there is Robert and Isis. I find it sweet that Carson is always on her mind and goes about it like she has two fathers.

    I’m looking forward to Edith’s life being a bigger part of next season. They could do a lot with her willingness, and downright need, to find happiness. She might be the most unconventional of them all, if for no other reason than necessity. There’s a lot to play with in that necessity.

    I’m not sold on Fellowes being possibly vindictive with his characters and potentially with situations both on and off set. If anything, that might be the problem. The guy is too nice. Or, maybe rather, he’s too OCD to let anything hang for a while. If anything, I wonder how much the short story arcs and tidiness are influenced by marketing research and test groups wanting this or that. TV is a highly manipulated, and manipulative, thing.

    • One of favorite moments of this season was Carson and Robert waiting for Mary at the bottom of the stairs, and the look on thier faces while she came down in her wedding dress.

      • Definitely. Pragmatically, she’s attached to her father; things about the estate, society, etc. Emotionally, Carson is often first. She worries about him and their relationship. She was quick to include him when she had the baby. I don’t think she said anything about her father (maybe because it goes without saying), but “be sure to tell Carson” was right there at the front of her mind.

    • Let me clarify: the argument is not that Fellowes is vindictive with his characters. That argument, first put forth by Tom and Lorenzo, was specifically about how he handled Matthew’s death: He gave Dan Stevens some really stupid lines and then wrote and filmed his death scene in the most ridiculous way. They are saying, and I think it’s a compelling argument, that Fellowes was vindictive by making Dan look ridiculous because he wanted to leave the show. Whatever one may say about it, that last sequence definitely looked awkwardly and amateurishly scripted and shot. Fellowes can generally write good zingers that nevertheless sound “right” for a character instead of “written” and Dan was given lines such as: “Can this hot and dusty traveler come in?” and “I feel like I swallowed a box of firecrackers”. Really clunky dialogue that just made Matt look silly. And then he’s driving down the road, cheerful as all hell, and somehow gets into an accident. I mean, it was laughable. Compare that with how Sybil’s death was handled.

      Bear in mind that the above is a synthesis of Tom and Lorenzo’s argument, although I do agree with it and did find Matthew’s death weirdly jarring. Just want to give credit where credit is due.

  10. See here:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-downtown-abbey-20130219,0,6714589.story

    For a fun editorial cartoon on DA.

    Interesting the the cartoonist David Horsey also wrote a straightforward porse article to go with it.

  11. Love the recap Marly and lots of fun comments. I enjoy the look, costumes and soapy goodness of DA but Gawd the writing IS brutal sometimes. Makes me appreciate Mad Men that much more.

    My dog is the spitting image of Roberts beloved Isis so I’m a DA fan as long as she’s part of the show!

  12. But wait … Matthew ISN’T REALLY DEAD!! To be continued next season….

    • On the way home from Grandma’s I suggested the same thing to my daughter:

      “Dad, he died with his eyes open!”

      We won;t be seeing Matthew again – not even in an open casket.

    • Or…something turns out to be wrong with Baby Matthew (c’mon, you don’t really think they’ll name him anything else, do you?). It’s revealed that Matthew is in a comatose state, swathed in bandages somewhere on Downton, so Mary has to go all Jenny Garp in order to try for a new heir to the estate. (or possibly Edith has to be the one to try to get a new heir from Matthew In A Coma, since she’s finally killed Mary over one snide remark too many. After all, Edith has had terrible luck with men; even a widowed, comatose Matthew would be a step up after the Mysterious Mummy, Already Married Farmer, Old Lord Jilt, and Editor My Wife’s Insane.)

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