Downton Abbey

I let a friend use my computer to watch Downton Abbey since she couldn’t. Afterwards, I felt I had to re-watch it before PBS stopped showing it. What satisfying drama! I was as absorbed as the first time and there just aren’t many programs or movies that are so good, you can watch them twice in just a few days or weeks.

Again, the costumes and sets were stunning and the acting superb. Part of the brilliance of Downton and many English dramas is the understanding that the less emotion that’s overtly shown in times of crisis, the better the effect. In the telenovela or the bad Southeast Asian soaps everyone’s screaming and crying and raving because someone needs their tonsils out or some such mundane problem. So all the emotion seems to be poured out and then some. As an audience member it seems overwrought and it’s off putting.

Lord Grantham on the stand at Bates' trial

But as wise creatives like director Robert Bresson knew and wrote, when the actors show little emotion, it travels into the audience members psyches. We’ll actually feel more. (I realize this could be a very cultural thing, but it works on Americans.) Though I suppose Anna’s cry when Mr. Bate’s verdict was read worked as it was shocking even though we saw his case getting weaker and weaker as circumstantial evidence mounted.

I’m relieved he’s out of her life and like how naturally that enfolded. I like how Fallows writes those scenes showing the effects of revelations rather than the whole retelling of each secret. Effect, effect, effect is how much of Downton proceeds.

So we can’t help but care when Mary stoically puts up with Carlisle to protect her reputation. Like Matthew, we want better for her than this despicable man who just gets worse and worse as he blackmails her. Yes, he was right to feel he wasn’t her first choice and to feel slighted when she’d turn to Matthew to share a joke or insight, but he was just so vulgar and mean, this upstart who begrudged the servants their Christmas lunch, that you really couldn’t sympathize with him.

Violet blessed the show with her wit as always. Her quote on charades was unforgettable repartee. I liked how these elite people all played charades.

Sir Richard: Do you enjoy these games in which the player must appear ridiculous?

Violet: Sir Richard, life is a game in which the players appear ridiculous.