Monday, January 7, 2013

Downton Deliberations - Season 3 Episode 1

In this inaugural Downton Abbey blog for Season 3, I have been joined by The Suburban Princess. Here we will share our thoughts on each episode. I hope you will indulge us and feel free to share your views in the comments section below. EG

This episode begins with everyone preparing for the big wedding and Cora worrying about Mr. Travis, the minister – it seems he has done all the work while the bishop gets the glory.  The village minister, as we know from last season, falls under the Earl’s riding as it were, and as much as he would answer to them, they also are pandering to the church and its reputation.  The church was such a part of village life, one wouldn’t dare offend the minister if one was not in a position to make his life miserable.

There is worry of Sybil having ‘run off with the chauffer’ and while she feels caught between her family and her husband, the women want to make sure Tom behaves properly, and Violet is determined to make sure he does.  It’s interesting that Isobel is in a position, and chooses to side with Tom.  She knows and respects the middle class very well as she has been a part of that culture her whole life.  Isobel has always thought the Crawleys are a bit ridiculous, hasn’t she?  

The men are tense with Tom, but the women seem to rally to make him feel welcome.  He proves himself powerless when it comes to Crawley women, going along, albeit reluctantly, with Violet’s plan to have him dressed properly, realizing his survival at Downton depends on the women being on his side.  His discomfort is palpable as he tries to straddle both his upstairs and downstairs lives.  Carson all but shuns him and Thomas refuses to dress him.  In the end it’s Mary who promises to know and value Tom, while Violet comforts him, telling him he wasn’t the first drunk in that dining room.  It comes out that Violet sent Tom and Sybil the money to come to the wedding, stating she wanted Sybil ‘and her husband’ there.  It’s moments like this we see the grandmother in Violet and not just the cane stomping matriarch.  Ultimately though, it’s when an old flame of Sybil’s speaks out against Tom, the men all together stand up in his defense.  Robert doesn’t like the situation but he is softening and realizes Tom must be considered one of them now.  In the natural end Matthew and Tom team up, because when all is said and done, love trumps caste.

Bates is languishing in prison, which by the looks of him, is more of a restorative spa.  How does one look tanned and more handsome while serving a life sentence for murder?  No wonder Anna is so determined to get him released.  Bates doesn’t believe there is hope, but Anna won’t give up and vows to contact everyone in Vera’s recently discovered address book.  Her undying devotion to his innocence is what is keeping him going, along with the prospect of hearing about her adventures in France.  I would like to meet Anna’s mother, she seems to dish out some very good advice and Anna tries to make sure Bates keeps on the nicer side of his new cell mate, quoting her mother ‘never make an enemy by accident’.

Mrs. Levinson swans in and makes her mark before anyone has had a chance to take a breath, seeming like a caricature of herself.  Would someone of her place really come to Downton and speak so candidly while sitting in judgment of their traditions?  Regardless of what she thinks, her American ways or her fresh ideas, it’s surprising her manners don’t include refraining from insults while in someone else’s home.

The women of Downton are pillars for the men, Anna keeps Bates’ spirits up, as well as comforting Mary and being a confidant for Edith, Cora assures Robert she will cope and everyone will be just fine after he loses all of their money, Edith is putting a smile on Sir Anthony’s face, Mary has Matthew backed into a corner over Mr. Swire’s estate, and Violet simply runs the show from whichever chair she has chosen.  

All in all a wonderful start to the new season full of hustle and bustle, tense relationships, laughs, tears, and gasps!




In this first episode of the third season, with the men, we have major explosive dynamics between both the generations and the classes. Lord Grantham must begrudgingly become a peer with Tom, his former chauffeur. Not only is he of another class entirely, but also he is Irish, to boot! This resolution is accomplished by an intervention by Matthew Crawley, who himself was somewhat of an outsider and of a younger generation.  Tom’s cold shoulder reception from Carson illustrates the resentment crossing class lines can evoke. The white water, as one would expect, quiets down once the new pecking order is established, understood, and accepted. Perhaps the message here is that nothing stands in the way of progress, especially artificial class barriers where a draconian lifestyle based in excess will eventually crumble like the greed based fortune it is based upon. Civility allows the true gentleman to emerge.

Matthew asking Tom to be his best man symbolizes the solidarity theme of the episode, which is further brought into question when Matthew is seemingly set to betray the Granthams in a complicated financial upheaval. It is Tom who intervenes this time and convinces Matthew to reconsider his rigidity. One might take away from this that we all face survival on one level or another no matter what our circumstances or perceived station in society. The voice of reason prevails however, and putting our own pre-conceived self-interest aside, a more civil reasoned conclusion may be reached. 

Meanwhile, the evil Thomas gets his ears pinned by Carson when referring to Mr. Bates as a murderer. Thomas, always looking to upset any apple cart handy, goads Daisy into a work slowdown, highly irregular and perhaps a harbinger of things to come. The age-old defense of fighting fire with fire may well be Thomas’ downfall. Struggling with living a lie, he is determined that his unhappiness will be suffered upon others – a surefire path to destruction. 

But as with all great men, they are supported by great women. Anna is always bolstering Bates as he steadfastly holds onto his innocence; and Cora is a pillar of strength for Robert, who becomes a broken man, having lost both his and Cora’s fortunes. Both men are emotionally transparent to us only as a result of their vulnerability to the women whom they love. 

How are you enjoying the start to the new season? Please share your observations in the comment area below.