A Soldier’s Daughter

Season 2 of Victoria opens as the queen is ready to get back to work after a month of confinement (i.e. rest after childbirth). At first she must fight her way to get the reins back. The British army has just suffered a huge defeat in Kabul. Albert and some of the nobles have kept this from her. I expect the lords to keep things from her, but Albert? He should know how hands on she wants to be. It’s her country. He’s just lived there a few years, at most. He’s not a Prince.

Albert keeps crossing Victoria such as the time he decides not to approve an appointment of a courtier’s brother. He thinks he knows better. He also doesn’t realize that he’ll have some explaining to do if Victoria, as she’s bound to, finds out.

Second seasons usually bring new characters. With Victoria we have Diana Rigg as the Duchess of Buccleuch, who’s added as a version of Maggie Smith’s Violet on Downton Abbey. In the first episode it doesn’t work well. The Duchess makes annoying comments about how women shouldn’t read novels and how her niece has a red, strawberry-like face, but the wit is missing. Time will tell. In the two hour episode we Yanks got, The Duchess didn’t add much.

There was a bit of comedy about the chef Francatelli having left. The new chef’s food tastes and looks horrid and at one point he’s about to stab someone who made a mistake. Penge insists he hand over the knife and upstairs the queen insists Francatelli returns. Skerett, who’d turned down Francatelli’s marriage proposal has no luck getting him back. The royals can’t very well starve so his new boss is forced to fire Francatelli, who’s soon back in the palace kitchen, very much annoyed. I expect we’ll see this romance continue, though it wasn’t that thrilling last year.

The Green-Eyed Monster

In the second episode shown in the US, Albert is enthralled with mathematician Lady Ada Lovelace, who invented a calculating machine and early computer programming. Caught confusing pi and pie at a social gathering and frustrated that she can’t understand Thomas Mathus’ idea population increasing geometrically, Jeremy Victoria feels threatened by Lovelace. She’s certain that Albert will start an affair with her.

To seek some counsel, Victoria turns to Lord M, who’s a sight for sore eyes. As usual, he is wise and kind. Albert and Lord Peel don’t want her to see Lord M as he’s no longer in power as Prime Minister. Victoria argues that she’s just seeing him as a friend, not for political reasons, but Albert insists she’s naive, which doesn’t help the bumps in their marriage.

We glimpse Lord M as tired and not himself in his greenhouse, which foreshadows serious illness ahead.

Albert resists his father’s requests for money and ignores the reminders of his home region of Colberg’s many financial needs.

A young maid is hired, but must hide her Catholicism as Penge hates Catholics. This young girl gets spooked by a mysterious figure running through the house. Victoria’s undergarments have gone missing, which convinces the maid that the palace is haunted. By the end Victoria and Albert discover that a second child is on the way and we discover the ghost is really what Violet, I mean the Duchess of Buccleuch, calls a guttersnipe.

The costumes and settings were majestic and elegant. I enjoyed Jenna Coleman’s fiesty, yet vulnerable performance. The writing was good, though I hope the screenwriter could be freed from the need to add in Downton-esque elements. The show has plenty of its own merits it doesn’t need to pander to Downton fans. Downton fans are Masterpiece fans; let Victoria be Victoria.

Victoria, Season 2 Begins

Downton Abbey Season 5.6-7

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The last two Downton Abbey episodes have really moved along. I’m delighted that the pace picked up. In episode 6 Cora discovered that Edith is Marigold’s mother and she made Violet and Rosamund take her to the hotel where they had fled to. As usual, Cora was quite composed, though disappointed that she’d been kept in the dark about Edith’s pregnancy as any good mother would. She cooked up the scheme to bring Marigold into Downton’s nursery under the pretext that the farmers couldn’t afford to keep her and Edith would adopt her. By the end of episode 7, Robert guessed that Marigold isn’t really adopted.

I was surprised that Rose’s engagement was so short. Suddenly, at episode 7’s start everyone’s preparing for her wedding. The only problem is that Atticus’ is Jewish and both his father and her mother don’t approve of mixed marriages. Rose’s mom, the ultimate sourpuss Susan goes as far as setting up Atticus by having a floozie take suggestive photos with him. Fortunately, the ruse doesn’t work. Nor does Susan’s announcement that she and Rose’s father Shrimpy are divorcing stop the wedding, although Atticus’ dad disapproves of divorce. We don’t know that much about Atticus, but he’s good looking and seems nice. I just hope he doesn’t die. Mary, Edith, Tom and Rose’s generation does not have a good track record for marriages. I suppose someone’s spouse bound to live. (I’ll count Edith in this list though she didn’t get a chance to marry her beloved.)

The Lord Gillingham/Mary relationship has been over and it seems he’s moved on. He’s realized that his former fiancée suits him best. Nothing’s moved forward with Mary and Blake and since Mary’s so critical and aloof, I think he can do better. The energy they shared when they saved the pigs has cooled.

The police investigation has slowly moved along.  In episode 6 the police seemed to have Mr. Bates in their crosshairs, but by episode 7, they brought Anna in for a line up and then arrested her. Anna! She can’t have done it, though she had a reason. It seems way out of character.

Tom is seriously considering going with his daughter to Boston to start a new life. I really hope he doesn’t. He adds a down-to-earth perspective to the family and I doubt life in Boston would be preferable. It’s good for Tom to bond with Sybil’s family and he can find love in the village, he just needs to seek out someone with similar values and decent manners. He has valuable work at Downton and couldn’t be replaced.

The episode ended very much like season one of The Village did, with the ceremony for the unveiling of the WWI memorial.

Downton Abbey, Season 5 Premiere

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After months and months of hype and waiting, Downton Abbey’s fifth season began in the U.S. It’s a favorite show of mine, but I’ve never seen so much promotion. For crying out loud I saw three ads for Downton on CBS’ Sunday Morning — they’re in competition. CBS just had one promo for The Good Wife, which is on opposite Downton. Did PBS advertise on other networks as well?

It felt good to see the familiar faces of the Crawley clan and their servants. The costumes are always stunning. Julian Fallows offered his usual fare: verbal digs from the Dowager Countess, plots from Thomas, Cora going along with most everything, light moments with Mosely, Edith unsure and worried, and Mary capably preparing to take over the reins of Downton while mulling over her suitors.

Fallows packed a lot into the episode, which picked up where the last one left off although I was surprised that while the adults haven’t aged much, the children’s ages seem to have doubled. We learned that little Sybil calls her grandfather “Donk” as in donkey. How perfect! I love children’s names for grandparents and this one will keep Robert humble.

SPOILERS

While dedicated fans have already seen the new episode, let me note the following comments contain spoilers .

I’m glad that Miss Baxter told Cora that Thomas was using her and confessed that she’s been to jail for theft. Cora was discrete and fair with Baxter, who now can work without constantly worrying about Thomas.

  • There was no revelations about Bates. Perhaps he killed Anna’s rapist; perhaps he didn’t. It’s hard to say.
  • Edith seems to visit her daughter Marigold at the farmer’s house quite a lot. The farmer’s wife suspects that Edith’s got eyes for her husband, but I’d think these visits would be conspicuous to neighbors too. Alternative theories would come up and someone would get it right. Anyway, the husband’s sharp and he proposes the visits stop and agrees for a new story to explain them, because Edith can’t stop. Funny that she spends more time with her daughter than Mary does with her son, George.
  • Edith’s going to blow it. We all know that. The idea to bring Marigold to England was foolish and too tempting. I do have sympathy for Edith, but it irks me to see foolishness in any form. I’d love to see Edith get some gumption and hard as it is, send her daughter back to Switzerland. Then she should find a life’s passion and throw herself into it. Be a victor, not a victim, Edith!
  • Lord Gillingham visited Downton to woo Mary. Blake’s no where to be seen and Mary seems like the “out of sight, out of mind” type of woman. Any thought of Blake was fleeting. She’s agreed to go off with Lord G. to see if they’re compatible. I’m not sure that’s really historically accurate. Besides a week’s vacation isn’t a great way to learn about a person, especially when you’re traveling first class insulated from life’s trials and tribulations. The tryst is to be hush hush, but all secrets come out on TV. Seems to me there are other ways to gather the information Mary seeks. Also, is this going to be like the horrendous Bachelorette show? Will Mary give Blake a similar week?
  • Daisy’s starting to try to learn math. She’s struggling, but hats off to her for trying to take charge of her life. It’s funny how the high ranking staff had a pow wow about this. Carson and Mrs. Patmore worry that it’s too stressful for Daisy who already has a good job, in their opinion, while Mrs. Hughes supports Daisy’s desire to get more education.
  • As a surprise, Rose decides to invite the teacher Tom befriended to Cora and Robert’s 35th anniversary dinner. This Miss Bunting sets my teeth on edge. Throughout the evening she makes controversial statements such as questioning the need to remember the heroes of WWI (which we still do 100 years hence) and tries to cause trouble. She lacks the awareness to know that you can disagree, but you needn’t be rude and rabble rousing only rouses rabble. Tom’s just embarrassed and it took every ounce of patience and decorum for Robert not to toss this guest out on her tush. Miss Bunting was just boorish and self-serving. Her aim was to stir things up so she could then confirm her prejudices about the upper class. I really don’t like her and would love it if Fallows dropped her from the series, but I do doubt that. I fear Miss Bunting will go after Tom. What a pain!
  • Romance was on the horizon for Isobel Crawley, but Violet interfered as only she can. Violet does not want Isobel (Matthew’s mother) to marry a lord and gain status. So she hosted a big lunch inviting Dr. Clarkson, who’s sweet on Isobel and a beautiful widow who might divert Lord Whoever’s eye’s away from Isobel. It’s too soon to know whether that worked.
  • Robert’s nose got out of joint because the town committee wants Mr. Carson to lead the committee on the WWI memorial. Carson was as if not more upset by this unusual choice. My everything’s in flux!
  • Jimmy’s old employer showed up and they had a thing in the past, which gets rekindled. Almost literally.
  • The show ended with a house fire starting in Edith’s room. I’m not sure what happened. Did Edith try to burn that book with Gregson’s writing in it? Anyway Thomas was lurking in the halls trying to get dirt on Mary and to act as a lookout for Jimmy when he noticed smoke coming from Edith’s room. He swooped in and rescued Lady Edith, thus securing his job, which was on the line since his plot against Miss Baxter was discovered. I like justice so it would be fine with me if Thomas were fired. They can always bring in another devious footman and show Thomas in town, plotting against the family. I’m sure blackmail is in his skill set, as Lady Mary may learn.

I think Fallows could have made more of the fire. It was hard to believe the fire department could get their as fast as they seemed to and even with Robert and Tom’s quick response, I’m surprised there wasn’t more damage.

Downton Abbey’s Finale, Season 4

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After being presented, Rose dances with the Prince of Wales

Hmmm. I so love Downton Abbey, that it’s hard for me to criticize it. Even when it’s not at its best, it beats a lot of the fare on TV (e.g. Selfridge or almost anything on the “big” networks). This was a low ebb for Downton though. I think a lot of opportunities were missed and the main story, Anna’s rape, while true to life, was so hard to take.

When the first episodes aired, I thought Julian Fellowes was lining up his characters to present great stories. Of course, it would take time for the audience to know the new lady’s maid or Rose, to give characters like Cora or Bates a new problem, mission or angle. I was disappointed that we never got to know what secret binds the new maid to Thomas. (The fact that I don’t know the new maid’s name suggests her character remained one dimensional.) Rose has been a flibbertigibbet and that’s fine. Some people were and are airheads, but though she had the romance with the jazz singer and a bit of intrigue with the Prince of Wales (no romance, but a slight drama), it all amounted to so little because this flibbertigibbet sort of dwells in her own orbit. She hasn’t been integrated into the family so we have little idea of how she gets on with them. That’s where drama lies — in the relationships between family members or colleagues, be they friend or foe.

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I did wish Edith could have a career-related season, instead of this sad pregnancy cum lost love story. That could be season 5.

That’s the problem I have with Cora when her relatives appear. She’s barely in a scene with them. They are her family! She doesn’t have any business with them. Clearly, they come to see her, Mary and Edith. The mother has enough money for a hotel in London, where they’d have more fun. Yes, it’s dramatic, potentially for Cora’s mother and Violet to exchange barbs, but how about some sparks or something between Cora and her mother. Cora’s American-ness would probably surface with the Brits and her adopted British ways would chafe the Yanks, who knew her when. Cora has gotten so little story-wise since season one when she helped move the Turk’s corpse from Mary’s bedroom and when due to Sullivan’s machinations she lost the baby. Yes, have Cora host a luncheon or social event, but also give her some real problems. Make her more integral.

Now Edith did get a lot too deal with this season. I was surprised to jump from her being barely pregnant to having given birth and returned from Switzerland. I suppose that was plausible and for that era a good solution. I do think she’s made a big mistake bringing the baby back to England, but that is drama — making the audience tense when a bad decision has been made. I do think the Gregson storyline is hard to buy. His disappearance seems poorly planned. The explanation that Nazi’s beat him up seemed tacked on and implausible. Even in the ’20s I’d believe that the British were keeping tabs on the Brown Shirts and other beatings and disappearances would have been noted. It seemed contrived.

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Yes, Mary the stories could be better

Now Bates must have killed the rapist. No one can take the stand to say he’s innocent. As horrible as rape is, we now see that Bates doesn’t trust the justice system and it makes me think he’s a thug when push comes to shove. I also now think he probably would kill his first wife. I’d have preferred Anna finally summoning the courage to report the crime and seeing how the legal channels and family would have dealt with it. Certainly, such trials were rare and the outcome probably unjust, but it would have been highly dramatic.

The story about the Prince of Wales’ scandalous letter getting stolen by the card sharp and Lord Grantham, Rose, Mary and Bates feeling responsible for stealing it back was too far fetched for me. Mary got it right when she speculated that it’s the Prince’s character and his own doing that caused the trouble and that in the end would cause him more trouble. This plotline bordered on farce.

I like that Tom fits in better at Downton and is starting to reignite his interest in politics. Early on his moping about not fitting in seemed overdone. Do something, Man! People have a lot worse problems over on the Emerald Isle. (By the way isn’t it a pity no one will invite his relatives to see their grandchild. Does he get an allowance for spending?) Yet Thomas’ storyline did improve by the end of the season.

I have still loved the clothes and am glad Fellowes didn’t immediately give Mary a suitor. I prefer Blake, the man who helped her save the pigs, but the sudden discovery that he’s rich and aristocratic again, seems contrived. Fellows seems to have lost his touch. I hope he regains it for season 5.

Downton Abbey: Season 4, Episode 3

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I see Julian Fellows as still finding the story. I suppose it’s harder because history in 1922 isn’t providing a definite event to build a plot on. I still enjoy Downton, the acting is just superb, but last night we just saw life carrying on.

Anna was the main figure for me as she soldiers on after being raped by a servant from a visiting Lord. Though I’m sure it would entail great hardship, I do wish she heeded Mrs. Hughes’ advice and contacted the police. It’s a false dichotomy to assume that if she speaks up Mr. Bates will kill the rapist and get imprisoned again. I know that in this era women didn’t speak up, but some might have and I’d like to see how that process was conducted – even if it was patently unjust. How would the Crawley‘s and the servants respond? By keeping silent, Anna also cuts herself off from the support of those around her. For now she’s keeping Mr. Bates away because she feels “dirty.” Understandable, but to move back to the main house without allowing time to heal seems hasty.

I’m glad Mary rejected Lord Whoever’s proposal. It’s just too soon. There’s no urgency in getting married for her. Though the pool of available men is smaller due to the war, I’m sure Mary can find love in time.

I’m concerned about Edith signing whatever paper the editor Mr. Gregson gave her. Yes, he showed his worth by beating the card sharp and getting all the aristocrats’ debts cleared, but he seems to be up to something. The convoluted marriage problems with his wife who we’re told is mentally ill are so dubious.

Looks like Alfred may take a big test at the Ritz to get into their prestigious training program. Good for him. It did take his seeing Ivy kissing Jimmy to spur him to action.

Poor Tom has been ruminating on Edna’s assertion that she expects him to marry her if she’s pregnant. What a nightmare that would be! Good thing Tom was smart enough to turn to Mrs. Hughes who put Edna in her place and convinced her to leave. Mrs. Hughes is wonderful! Downton would not survive without her.

Looks like Rose will eventually get herself into romantic trouble. She was bound to from the start. Still we only have some hints. In London she was deserted on the dance floor when the black singer sprang into action and took his place. Rose was very impressed, while her chaperone Aunt Rosamund warned her to be careful. It would be good to see more of Lady Rosamund.

So a lot did happen, but for some reason the plot doesn’t have the same momentum.

Buccaneers

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Adapted from Edith Wharton‘s last, unfinished novel, Buccaneers follows the lives of four rich young women from  New World families (three from the U.S. and one from South America). None of the girls can penetrate New York’s staunch, established society so they head for England to find husbands.

While not on par with Downton Abbey, this five part BBC miniseries, takes place when Cora would have been looking for a husband in England. The story does not feature the servants’ lives and the wit doesn’t compare to Julian Fellows’ dialog. Still it’s an enjoyable period piece that helps Downton fans make through till season 4 begins in January, 2014.

Downton Abbey: Season 3 Episode 6

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Can’t believe Robert and Tom are side by side outside an RC church

Can we already be at week 6 with only one more week of Downton?

Believe it or not, yes.

The black of mourning for Sybil has been replaced by violet by the second hour. My very well read aunt said that after they wore black, mourners could change to gray or violet. Yet, I’m not sure why Edith was wearing whatever color she wanted, creme or red while Cora, Mary and I think Violet stayed in black.

Sybil is baptized Catholic against Lord Grantham’s wishes. He does attend the baptism and manages a forced smile when photographed with the baby, his mother and the priest. Tom’s brother, a real Irish rebel, who’s a bull in a china shop, comes to Downton and plunks himself down to hold court in the servants’ hall until Tom drags him upstairs.

The big story was with Thomas who falls into O’Brien’s trap and creeps into James’ room and makes a move on sleeping James, who wanted no such action. All hell breaks loose. No matter what your orientation sneaking into someone with whom you have no intimacy with and kissing them is not welcome, cool, or smart. Thomas learns that the hard way.

Alfred catches Thomas with James and soon Carson’s told. Dismissal with a good reference is the plan till O’Brien convinces James he better insist that Thomas get no reference, which means no chance of future employment (unless he goes to North America or Australia). I was surprised by how accepting all the characters were of this validation of Thomas’ sexual orientation. Only Carson was steeped in conservative thinking. But at the end all’s well and Thomas will stay. Considering how disloyal and plotting Thomas was, I felt they lost an opportunity as a staff. If Carson and Lord Grantham were wise, they’d let him go with a good reference. I really couldn’t believe that Bates went the extra mile to save Thomas, a man who’s plotted against him time and again. Given time, Thomas is sure to pay him back with deceit.

Edith’s editor flirts with her so just a few months after Sir Anthony has jilted her, Edith already has a good occupation and the possibility of love. Well, poor Edith’s cursed and she learns that the editor is married. He explains that his wife is in an asylum. Since she’s read The Scarlet Letter, we can assume Edith’s read Jane Eyre. How I hope she has the good sense to send him packing. Be strong, Edith! Be the first young woman who’s sisters outshine her who actually has the gumption to distance herself from a flirtatious married man who’s spun a good tale.

Robert eventually agrees to implement Matthew’s ideas for improving the management of Downton. It wasn’t easy, but everyone except Jarvis, the manager who wants to run everything as he did when Victoria reigned, join Matthew’s camp.

Rose, a cousin from London, is sent to stay with Violet. Violet’s happy to have a new project, I mean guest under her roof. However, Rose soon tags along with Edith and Matthew to London. She slips out and meets up with her married lover at a dance club. She’s a handful to put it mildly. She’ll no doubt replace Sybil as the lively young beauty, but while Sybil was into social justice, Rose just wants to be social. Here comes trouble. Soon after arriving, Violet’s figured out how to get Rose to leave early.

I was glad that Tom has decided to stay on rather than to go up to Liverpool.

Extras

Mourning customs in Edwardian England

For those nerds out there:

Bedikian, S. A. (2008). The Death of Mourning: From Victorian Crepe to the Little Black Dress. Omega: Journal Of Death & Dying57(1), 35-52. doi:10.2190/OM.57.1.c
N.B. Victorian era predates Edwardian when Downton Abbey is set.

 

Downton Abbey, 3 Episode 4

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If Thomas (a.k.a. Mr. Burton) cries during an episode of Downton Abbey, you know there’s tragedy. I happened upon news of Sybil’s death last fall when I did a search for some other Downton matter and a British site popped up.

Still as Bresson asserts in good drama knowing the outcome won’t diminish the engagement with a story. I know how Casablanca ends and yet I get caught up in the story time after time.

So I was actually all the more rapt as Sybil lost her life in childbirth. Any viewer could tell the city-fied, modern Sir Whatshisname, was wrong and that Lord Grantham should listen to Dr. Clarkson. It was odd, but believable, that this tradition-bound lord didn’t. I kept thinking, “Listen to the women. Listen to Cora on this, Robert!”

The tone of the emotion was just right. Characters were devastated, but there was some reserve. This is not a telenova. And that’s why we viewers feel all the more emotion. When I see say a Malaysian soap opera everyone’s screaming, crying and flailing about in hysteria. I feel nothing because that “works” been done by the actors. When you witness tragedy and there’s been restraint because the situations so sad that words and actions won’t suffice, that’s when the audience feels the most.

One of the most beautiful scenes in this season so far was when we saw Branson at the window holding his daughter. No words and it just lasted a minute, but we knew (or projected) everything his grieving husband must feel. He’s got to be strong and committed to his daughter in spite of his own grief.

We’re in store for a lot of drama. Branson’s role in the family is even more tenuous. He’s still connected by a female the Grantham’s love, but she’s a baby and can’t act as a mediator. Where will they live? What work will Branson, who can’t return to Ireland, take on that won’t humiliate the Grantham’s?

Bravo to Isobel for hiring Ethel. I can see why Mrs. Bird left, but it’s a shame she didn’t try to stay and work through her prejudices. I think Isobel’s great sacrifice isn’t going to be her reputation, but rather her palate. It’ll take Ethel a while to learn to cook.

Congratulations to Edith for the newspaper column. I hope she surprises everyone with her insights and writing. Edith, yes your father and granny disapprove, but don’t flee the breakfast table each time he does. Women need their rights, but they also need to learn to stand their ground.

Daisy, listen to Mrs. Patmore. You’re becoming too much of a grouch.

Robert, it’s true you didn’t cause Sybil’s death, but to get back into Cora’s good graces, you ought to blame yourself as much as possible.(The trailers suggest you won’t.) If you descend into depression than Cora would probably consider rescuing you her mission. If you aren’t huber-contrite and grief-stricken you’ll be sleeping solo ad infinitum.

Downton Abbey, Season 3, episode 1

Season 3 Cast

Season 3 Cast

I can’t recall anticipating the return of a television show more than I have Downton Abbey‘s Season 3. Perhaps Sherlock, when it comes but that’s way off in the distance. I’ve re-viewed several of the episodes from the previous seasons when they were re-broadcast and noted little details that I’d missed.

At last on the 6th, we got to meet Cora’s mother, the brash American, Mrs. Martha Levinson, played with great panache by Shirley MacLaine. Talk about a bull in a china shop and someone to set Violet’s teeth on edge. How did Cora develop such grace? Her father must have been more reserved.

Julian Fellow’s story drew me in as I wanted to tell Branson, the ex-chauffer to lighten up, put on the Downton clothes and make his case by drawing on people’s sympathy rather than jumping on a soap box every chance he got. I did feel sorry for him when Sybil’s old suitor sneered at him and slipped him a mickey.

Another great story element was the announcement that Lord Grantham has lost his fortune, well, Cora’s fortune. That news, hushed up as it has been, charges every scene with tension. What will all the characters do when they find out? For now only a few know.

Thomas never ceases to devilishly plot and this time he got on O’Brien’s bad side. By making her nephew get in trouble by marring Mathew’s dinner jacket, Thomas became the victim of O’Brien’s prank of hiding all Lord Gratham’s good shirts thus adding to the ruin of the episode’s most significant social event and making the Lord look like a waiter or a Chicago bootlegger, take your pick.

We got glimpses of Bates in jail and Anna trying to do a bit of detective work to get him out. We also see that if he doesn’t keep his cool with his cellmate, Bates may get himself into further trouble.

As usual, the two hours went fast and tantalized fans with great character development and plot points. It looks like Edith’s going to marry Sir Anthony, the old geezer she’s so fond of. He’ll treat her well, it seems, and she is keen on him, but generally when the groom’s so luke warm, that doesn’t bode well for a marriage. Time will certainly tell.

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.