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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

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

February 11, 2013 at 11:57 AM

Downton Abbey Monday

First off, am I the only one who’s noticed that the Married London Editor currently romancing Edith (I’m just going to call him Mr. Rochester, due to his madwoman wife) looks a LOT like Sir Anthony Strallan, who left Edith at the altar a few episodes back? And does anyone else agree that “Sibby” is such a cute nickname for that incredibly camera-ready baby? Anyway.
Lots of intrigue in this two-hour episode, with the biggest surprise being the sudden return of an event from Season 1: O’Brien’s most evil moment, when she deliberately caused Her Ladyship to slip coming out of the bathtub and thus miscarry what would have been the Grantham male heir which would . . . well, now that I think of it, completely changed everything about this show. (Should we, on behalf of Matthew, thank her?) In a really excellent series of who-told-what-to-whom, Bates used this information (though it seems he didn’t know what it meant) to spare Thomas a dismal fate by politely blackmailing O’Brien, whose nephew saw Thomas putting the moves on an unwilling Jimmy, thus bringing about the first truly liberal thing Lord Grantham has ever said. And while I didn’t quite believe this character, who’s been a real stick-in-the mud this entire season, would actually have said it, it brought about a desirable outcome: Thomas will stay as underbutler (a title I only know from “The Remains of the Day”), which means that he now outranks the well-meaning Bates, who seems to have an awful lot of time to stroll the fields and indulge in interior decorating with Anna. Curses! Bring on the Bates/Thomas feuding in Season 4! (A last word on this particular plotline: Though beautifully acted by all, I’m not sure how true it was to 1920. Would Thomas really have been able to keep his job? But I’ll leave that to the historians to discuss. Rob James-Collier, who plays Thomas, gave a delightful interview to Vulture this week, describing his character as “an Edwardian sex pest.”)
Meanwhile, Ethel is finally off to live near her son (and why didn’t this development happen several episodes ago?), a teenage Grantham cousin has been unearthed to show us what all the young people were doing in 1920, and the Dowager Countess has never heard of Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” but denounces it as “most unsuitable,” with that delicious Maggie Smith diction. And next week brings the “Christmas special,” which — spoiler alert — does not actually take place during Christmas, and which takes the Granthams and some of their staff far afield.
I’ve enjoyed this season, but overall I don’t think it compares favorably to the show’s remarkable first season. (By the way, for those who loved Season One: “Downton Abbey: The Complete Scripts, Season One” is now available in paperback, and magically turned up on my chair at work this morning. Can’t wait to dig into it; it looks full of explanatory Julian Fellowes footnotes, and I do love a good footnote.) Are you happy with this nearly-complete season? Did last night have a little too much cricket for you? Did you find young Rose most unsuitable? And wasn’t it nice to hear the Dowager Countess admit that she is, indeed, always right?

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