This episode is channeling Season 1 but bringing way more drama. It’s great to see the return of the snarky, passive-aggressive Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) we love to hate. She’s back to becoming stone faced and staring into space, viciously insulting her sister, and getting the best suitors. She’s not the only one back to their Season 1 personas. Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) is back to scheming and has enlisted some help. Plus, the moment you have been waiting for ... the peace between the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) and Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton) is over. Full shade ahead!
Evelyn Napier (Brendan Patricks) stops by the Abbey. If you’ve forgotten him, he is the suitor that introduced Mary to Mr. Pamuk (Theo James). Mr. Pamuk was the guy that de-virginized her and died in her bed. Napier is working on a survey of how the war has affected Aristocratic manors. Speaking of manors, Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) is dealing with the death of one of the estate’s farmers. Mr. Drewe (Andrew Scarborough), the farmer’s son, has inherited a significant amount of debt. Lord Grantham kindly pays the debt in exchange for Mr. Drewe working it off. The Lord is back to keeping secrets from fellow estate runners, Mary and Tom Branson (Allen Leech). Branson is threatening to move to the U.S. to escape the stuffy life of an aristocrat and spare his daughter any embarrassment.
Edith Crawley (Laura Carmichael) is lurking by the metaphorical mailbox waiting to hear back from Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards). It doesn’t look promising for him since he just moved to a pre-Nazi Germany. Drunk Liza Minnelli Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern) adjusts to her new lady’s maid and tries to convince Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) that they need to buy a refrigerator.
Isobel takes an interest in a young neighborhood boy, Peg. She convinces the Dowager Countess to hire him. However, when an antique letter-opener goes missing, the Golden Girls clash over the boy’s guilt. It’s witty barbs and loud sighs. Here’s hoping they have a fight in a fountain like on Dynasty.
Alfred (Matt Milne) seems adept at cooking. He’s selected to apply for the apprenticeship at The Ritz. Everyone in the kitchen is excited but he’s nervous. Meanwhile, with the prospect of Alfred leaving, Carson (Jim Carter) offers the footman position to Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle). Despite willing to take any odd job in the village, do with that what you will, Molesley’s pride is hurt at the prospect of being demoted to footman. Alfred ends up not winning the internship so Molesley ends up red-faced when he returns for the job. Looks like Molesley is one step closer to suicide.
The disturbing Anna Rape storyline continues to get more depressing. Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) has been super icy to Bates (Brendan Coyle). Bates overhears Anna talking to Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) and he devises a plan to find out what happened. He threatens to leave unless Mrs. Hughes comes clean. Thinking on her feet, she invents an assailant that raped Anna during the concert. However, Bates is convinced it’s Mr. Green (Nigel Harman). This is where things get dark. To this point, Anna has not known his name was even Mr. Green. Also, Bates is getting very scary and murdery. His violent inclinations and Anna’s fear make it seem like he could be abusive. Here’s hoping the writers don’t go in that direction.
Style & Sass: Best Lines of the Night
Not the first time you have had the wrong end of the stick. –Mary to Edith
I wonder how your halo doesn’t grow heavy. It must be like wearing a tiara ‘round the clock. –The Dowager Countess to Isobel Round I
Mrs. Patmore, is there any aspect of the present day that you can accept without resistence? –Cora
Well M’lady I wouldn’t mind getting rid of my corset. –Mrs. Patmore’s response
What would you prefer that I invite the local criminals to drop in strip the house bare? –The Dowager Countess to Isobel Round II
If you haven’t started Season 4 of Downton Abbey beware of major spoilers.
There are only two episodes in Season 4 and, so far, we have seen a major character die and one of the series’ most lovable characters brutally raped. Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) was in a car crash last season and the season premiere proves he didn’t survive. In episode 2, Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) gets raped by Mr. Green (Nigel Harman), Lord Gillingham’s vallet. What’s next? Are Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) and the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) going to get into a fight in the salon? Are these topical stories or are they gratuitous soap opera shock moments?
This is a huge departure to some prior storylines. Sure, there have been some scandalous activities at Downton. Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) lost her virginity out of wedlock to a man who died in bed with her. But the issue was handled more like a comedy of errors and the film Clue than a graphic body disposal. They didn’t chop up his body and hide it in a silver chafing dish. Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) did have an affair with a secretly gay member of the aristocracy. But it was more about Thomas’ struggles in society at the time. However, Anna’s rape was violent and intense. It seemed to come out of left field. Is it gratuitous?
Granted, this is topical for aristocratic society because it is very possible for a rape to go unreported when it’s a servant that is raped. However, wouldn’t a servant raping another servant be hastily dealt with? It may have been more topical had Anna been raped by a member of the aristocracy. It wouldn’t make the crime more permissible. However, it would give a voice to the great number of victims that were raped by members of a higher class and forced to stay silent. Instead, Anna stays silent because she fears Mr. John Bates (Brendan Coyle) will go wild and kill him. Bates may be a convicted criminal but he isn’t a murderer. What’s scary and unexpressed is if Mr. Bates is so wild and crazy is he beating Anna? If not, why shouldn’t she tell someone what happened?
Is Downton Abbey veering off course or is it delivering the level of drama you’d expect from the series? So far, nothing is anachronistic. Yes, Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) died of complications of childbirth. And yes, if Matthew got into a car accident he wouldn’t survive. But are all these horrific events gratuitous?
Despite the intensity and randomness of these events it seems like the show is venturing to express life at that time. As the series approaches the 1920s, so comes modernism. As sad as it is to see the utterly lovable Anna violated, it does give her character a storyline that transcends dressing Lady Mary. Hopefully, she is able to tell someone and get vindication for this violation. But I guarantee you that if Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) becomes a prostitute it may be time to stop watching Downton Abbey.
Downton is abuzz with an impending party .. but when are they not having one?
Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) is surprised by the appearance of the newly named Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen). They begin to bond and Mary begins to resemble her former self. Is it too much to hope for the slight-delivering, passive aggressive Lady Mary from Series 1? Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) invites Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards) in the hopes that he will win the respect of her parents. Good luck, Lady Edith ... you’re the 1920’s answer to the Cathy comics. Ack! Terence Sampson (Patrick Kennedy) arrives on the scene and convinces everyone to play cards including Earl Grantham (Hugh Bonneville). Luckily, Mr. Gregson wins back all the money and exposes the dirty dealings of Sampson.
Meanwhile, everyone seems to be really inconsiderate of poor Tom (Allen Leech). A guest asks him about Lady Sybil. Isobel (Penelope Wilton) arrives to the party despite mourning. Then in true shady fashion she complains about her sadness to Tom despite the fact that he’s a widower. Sure, she lost a child but is it anyone’s place to give someone survivor’s guilt? Tom confesses that he doesn’t feel like he belongs with the family. Scheming Miss Braithwaite (MyAnna Buring) brings him a huge glass of whiskey and then shows up at his room late in the night.
The drama: Lady Rose MacClare (Lily James) surprises everyone, including Lady Mary, by bringing down Matthew’s old phonograph. Lord Grantham has Australian opera singer Nellie Melba (Kiri Te Kanawa) dine in her room until Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern) corrects his error. Also, what the hell is going to happen if anyone founds out that Tom slummed it with Braithwaite?
Carson (Jim Carter) is his usually stern self as everyone is working double duty in entertaining mode. Lord Gillingham’s valet (Nigel Harman), known only as Mr. Gillingham, arrives on the scene and befriends Anna (Joanne Froggatt) much to Mr. Bates’ dismay (Brendan Coyle). Trying to impress Ivy (Cara Theobold) Jimmy (Ed Speleers) falls and hurts his hand. A broke Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle), has been complaining all over town how broke he is and taking odd jobs. And yet, when asked to be a footman in place of Jimmy, he complains a lot.
Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) has a panic attack. Alfred (Matt Milne) makes the sauce and discovers a love for cooking. Anna has a headache so she excuses herself during the opera performance. In a disturbing turn of events, Anna gets violently raped by Mr. Gillingham. Too scared to tell her husband, she enlists Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) for help in covering it up. This is a huge departure from Downton's normal drama. Is having lovable and sweet Anna attacked too far or is it the right level of drama for the show? After all, times are changing as we approach the 1920s.
The drama: Anna can’t tell Mr. Bates because she’s worried he will go nuts and kill her attacker. Clearly, he’s a little unhinged. If memory serves he didn’t even kill his wife despite being arrested for her murder.
What does one say to a singer? - Lord Grantham
Screaming in the servant’s hall, singers chatting to his lordship and a footman cooking the dinner what a topsy-turvy world we’ve come to. - Carson
I’m afraid Tom’s small talk is very small. - Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith)
David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
Harry Potter actress Smith has proved a huge hit with TV audiences as the catty Dowager Countess of Grantham, but long-running rumours suggest she is demanding behind-the-scenes.
Producer Rebecca Eaton, who works for American network PBS Masterpiece, said, "Maggie Smith is a handful, it's true. She's very difficult. She knows her worth, and she's tricky on the set, but she delivers when the time comes."
However, Smith's co-star Nicol, who plays cook Mrs. Patmore, insists the 77-year-old screen legend simply needs to rest between scenes due to her age.
She says, "Maggie's a professional, she does really well, working horrible, long hours sometimes for a lady that age.
"She has a rest between takes. That doesn't make her a snotty cow, it just means she needs a lie-down. She's not a diva."
In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
Follow Thomas Leupp on Twitter.
Follow Hollywood.com on Twitter.