After Season 2 of PBS' drama Downton Abbey everyone, myself included, seems to have a problem with this drafty room that smells faintly of ash and the lost innocence of scullery maids. Critics rapturously adored the first season, where we learned about the people above and below stairs at a Gothic country estate. (I mean in terms of architecture, not that it listens to Coheed and Cambria and shops at Torrid). But the second go-round was a rushed affair where plots came and went like fired butlers and every action seemed to have little to no consequence. To have both amnesia and a miraculous healing before the third season is something that usually doesn't happen outside of the manic mind of Ryan Murphy, who probably would have thrown a serial killer in too for good measure.
So as we embark on Season 3 of this gem (who thought that, in 2013, PBS would have a bona fide hit even as the Big Bird hunters of the right tried to kill it off?) the show is a love it or hate it proposition. Or maybe we hate it while loving it or hate that we love it so. Anyway, there are only two emotions it inspires so we're going to break everything down.
Lady Edith: I'm just going to put this out there: I will forever be #TeamEdith. I love her and she is my favorite character on the show, mostly because everyone treats her like such trash and she's just totally misunderstood and needs someone to love her. That might as well be me. (Also, as a middle child, we are essentially the same person, so hating her would be a self-torture like lashing myself on the back with a cat of nine tails or subjecting myself to another season of Glee.) So hurray that she has something to do this season, at least a little bit.
Everything Lady Mary Wore: The wardrobe department killed it dead. It's more deadly than all the mustard gas that we got to see during the war last year. Everything Mary had on from her traveling clothes to her stunning wedding dress was just absolutely perfect. Look at the ensemble below. She's just waltzing around in that every day like it's no big thing. "Oh yes, I'm Mary and I'm just absolutely effortlessly amazing." And don't get me started about when she wears tiaras or jewels in her hair. I just damn died. See, they killed me dead.
Alfred: Well, hello to the new footman who is about 1700 feet tall and has red hair that will set your crotch on fire (that's why they call them fire crotches, you know). If I were a Lord, I would want Alfred to be my valet, so that he could come into my dressing room, untuck my shirt and then stand behind me and put his arms around me while he took out my studs and I would just relax my head into that little crook between his shoulder and his bulging bicep and then he would spin me around and kiss me square on the mouth like he did with that little American hussy and then we would be in deep and unabiding love forever.
Matthew and Tom's Bromance: No one is on the side of poor Tom, Sybil's crazy Irish husband, except for Matthew and I find it quite endearing. When Matthew and Mary are about to not get married (ugh, do not get me started before the HATE portion of this recap) it's Tom and Anna that need to talk some sense into the pair. Yes, it's the servants who have to set these stupid aristocrats right. Can't they do anything on their own?
Hobbledehoys: I don't know what this is, but I like when Carson says it.
Being "Ruined": I don't want the Granthams to be poor, because that would be a series called London Apartment and there wouldn't be nearly as many people and no one would want to watch that (unless it is an apartment where Alfred is naked all the time). But just the idea that one could lose all his money on one "scheme" and be financially "ruined" is kind of quaint and amusing. Then I remember Enron and Bernie Madoff and all that horribleness and maybe it's not that quaint after all.
Clive Poolbrook: This is the man who has to die so that Matthew can inherit a huge fortune that he doesn't deserve. We never get to meet the poor sucker before he kicks it but we find out he got to go to India and visit tea plantations and had heirs (probably lots of illegitimate ones) and it sounds like he never saw a buckle that he didn't want to swash. What a glamorous and adventurous life he had. It's like he was Indiana Jones before such a thing even existed. I think that this Mr. Poolbrook needs a spin-off series of his own. He dies at the end, however. #SpoilerAlert.
Violet's Quips: The top one was when she accused her son of looking like a waiter in his tuxedo, but she does nothing but spout bon mots for the entire episode, from asking if Tom is "quite done" after his objections about wearing a morning coat to telling Mary that "nothing succeeds like excess." My personal favorite though was when someone said, "They've given Tom something so that he will appear drunk!" and she asked, witheringly, "Was it drink?"
Cora's Brother: Thank you for just blithely mentioning that Cora has a brother who is obsessed with yachts. When do we get to meet this clown? Season 4? Can he be played by some amazing American? Tom Selleck? Please, let it be Tom Selleck.
Mrs. Hughes Cusses Out Carson: He so deserved it. And so does Lady Mary. Thanks for lashing out, Mrs. Hughes. We didn't think you had it in you.
Sir Anthony Strahlin: I always thought he wasn't good enough for my Lady Edith, but at the dinner with Greys, he put that Larry Grey right in his place and stood up to him when he slipped that mickey in Tom's cocktail. He did the right thing and stood up for a drunk Irish person instead of his annoying neighbor. Huzzah.
Sir Anthony Strahlin: But I also hate Sir Anthony. Why? Well, first of all, what happened to his hand? Did we miss something? Secondly, how dare he just back off Lady Edith and not fight for her. He's just going to let her father march in there and tell him to bugger off when she has made it clear that she wants a relationship with him? No one heeds Lady Edith, not even the man who is in love with her.
Lady Mary: Ugh, this one drives me up a freaking tapestried wall. Lady Mary gets her monied prince and even then she is still not happy. She wants him to come into gobs of money so that he can save the home that she grew up in, one that doesn't even have a functioning chimney and that her father has managed to lose almost twice. When she stomps off screaming, "You're not with us," I wanted to reach into the television, pull out a chunk of her perfectly-placed hair and set it on fire. And then she launches into that silly scheme to get her grandmother to bail out the house which everyone knows is going to fail before it starts. But no. Lady Mary never listens. She just does whatever she wants and doesn't even listen to the "I told you so"s when she fails.
Wasting Shirley Maclaine: I'm just going to say it, Martha Levinson is a bore. Her character is awful. She's just some American ninny who goes around saying, "Change, change, change. You British people need to change. You need to be like us in America. America is awesome. I am so great and American. Let's do things differently, let's have a picnic. Change!" God, shut up, Martha. The only interesting thing about you are your outfits (I don't know what that jeweled robot helmet she was wearing was, but I want one) and the car you showed up in. And you are going to get Oscar winner Shirley Maclaine to play this awful woman? You have one of the best actresses in the whole damn world and you're just going to waster her? Screw you, Downton.
The Jail: Yes, it is all white and kind of chic, but everything about the Bates in jail storyline is stupid and boring. We do not care about Anna's investigation. We do not care about Bates' cell mate. We don't care about any of this. I think that I am just going to ignore this awful storyline for the rest of these recaps, but if it continues to be this awful, I'm going to have to vent about it some more.
There Is So Much Telling: Remember when things used to happen on Downton? Now we just hear about them. Oh, look Matthew's best man is sick. Oh look, Matthew is going to get some giant inheritance. Oh look, now he's not. Oh look, he is again. Oh look, Isobel is helping old hookers. Oh look, we're all poor. Everything that happens is just told to us. Give us a little bit of establishment, please.
Time Moves So Crazy: We go right from the wedding to the honeymoon months later in one second. What, nothing happened in that time the couple was away? This thing is so Matthew and Mary centric that we don't even get to say goodbye to Sybil or see any of the other goings on in the house. Absolutely nothing happened between their departure and their return? Nothing at all?
Lord Gratham's Naked Flesh: We caught a little glimpse of it through his dressing gown when Thomas lost all of his shirts and I did not like it. It was sort of like seeing a turtle with its shell taken off.
The Indoor Picnic: Oh, shut the hell up Martha with your stupid indoor picnic. We don't want to do things the new way. We don't want modernity. If we did we would watch, I don't know, 90210 or Pretty Little Liars or some shit like that. We don't watch Downton to see the new way of doing things, we watch to see a bunch of people stiffly sitting around an appropriately ornate dinner table talking about things that we don't have anymore like land lines, candle light, and propriety.
Cancer: Did the Susan G. Koman Foundation give a ton of money to PBS or something? Where did this breast cancer storyline come from. I'm sure they had cancer back then, but this seems like a total stretch. Can't you just give her some vague old disease that we don't have anymore, like dysentery or consumption? I mean, what is next, Sybil is going to Skype Cora to ask her questions about parenting.
O'Brien Has Nothing to Do: "Oh, Alfred, thank you for coming. Oh, Alfred, let me help you get ahead. Oh, Alfred, I'm not going to have any story line this season until I tell you that you are the child that I had out of wedlock that I gave to my sister to raise and now I'm helping you get a leg up at Downton Abbey because I finally want to be of some use to you, but I'd be much better served if I had something to do on my own. Right, Alfred?"
Moseley: Just fire this dope already. I'm sick of looking at his stupid bald head.
Daisy: Daisy. A million, jillion headshakes for Daisy. This girl can not do one living thing correctly. She's all pissed that she didn't get a promotion and then we find out Mrs. Patmore gave her a raise and a new title. So what is she whining about? Then Thomas tells her she should go on strike and she can't even do that. She sits there and gets in everyone's way and then she just pouts and when Mrs. Patmore gets mad at her, she starts working again. What was the point of any of that? What is the point of Daisy? All she ever does is oversee and overhear things and then she doesn't even know what to do with the information she gathers. God, Daisy is just the worst. She is the actual living worst.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo credits: Masterpiece]
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