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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

January 9, 2012 at 11:24 AM

I’m back — and so is “Downton Abbey”

Back from vacation, just in time for the return of “Downton Abbey” on PBS last night. I feel as if I should be conveying my feelings about this show in impeccable handwriting on monogrammed stationery, to be delivered to each of you in time to read over breakfast. (Did you notice that the Crawleys get mail over breakfast? And how much time they save by not having Facebook?) Anyway, ’twas a pleasure to return to this very high-toned British soap opera, with Matthew and Mary still picturesquely pining for each other, yet plighting their troth (more or less, at this point) to lovely Lavinia Swire and vaguely sinister-looking Sir Richard Carlisle. Surely I can’t be the only one hoping Lavinia and Richard soon race off for a dirty weekend. Elsewhere, the perpetually doomed below-stairs love affair between Mr. Bates (I know he has a first name, but I can’t bring myself to use it) and Anna continues, as does Thomas’s scheming from afar, O’Brien’s meddling, Cousin Isobel’s do-gooding (is that a word?), and Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham’s way of scaring everybody to death just by showing up. Lovely stuff. A few observations:
— Did Elizabeth McGovern forget how to act over the break? Cora suddenly seems a little cartoony, especially in her response to the suggestion that Downton Abbey be turned into a convalescent hospital.
— Conversely, what a pleasure to be reminded that Joanne Froggatt, who plays Anna, has such an enchanting way of conveying simple joy. She truly draws us into her character, without saying much; Anna has quietly become the soul of the show.
— A new villain: Bates’ wife Vera, who looks like she could give O’Brien a run for her money in the scheming department, and then some. This woman looks like she’s got ice behind her eyes.
— Interesting to note the ways life hasn’t changed at Downton Abbey despite the war — they still dress formally for dinner, and the daughters still don’t seem to have much to do (which Edith and Sibyl seem to be rectifying) — and the ways it has. Maids serving at the dinner table? Preposterous! Poor Mr. Carson. (And may I also note that the marvelously rumbling-in-the-basement voice of Jim Carter, who plays Carson, is another of this series’ many pleasures.)
I should confess here that I’ve actually seen a fair bit of the season, as PBS was kind enough to send me a preview. (No, I haven’t seen the ending, so I don’t know how the Matthew-and-Mary drama will play out.) I’m carefully avoiding spoilers here, as most of us stateside will be watching the show unfold over the next few weeks, but I will say this: Several characters die in this season of “Downton Abbey,” and they aren’t necessarily the ones I was expecting to do so. I’ll say no more, as I’m all at sixes and sevens today (as Anna would say) due to an upcoming office movie. We’ll get back to movies soon.

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