Downton Abbey: Let Me Call You Sweetheart

Posted on January 07, 2013

The trick to watching any episode of Downton Abbey – if one really needs a trick to get through it at all – is to look for that one perfectly “of its time” bit of dialogue and vow to use it in conversation in the coming week. For a second, we really thought “Mama, would you care for one of these new cocktails?” was in the running, and later, “You don’t have to give money after every conversation, mother” stopped us in our tracks with its weary bitchiness.  And certainly, “I feel like one of those bright young people they write about in the newspapers!” momentarily gave us pause, but in the end, there really could be only one. Now, we just have to figure out where, when and to whom we should say:

“I say, have you done something jolly with your hair?”

Yes, Downton Abbey and the Crawley family are back in our lives again and we couldn’t be happier. Show creator Julian Fellowes must have tapped into that feeling in his audience, because the first hour or so of this two-hour premiere consisted of little more than checking in on all your old favorites, giving us a quick update, and shoving a character-appropriate bit of dialogue into each of their mouths. At the end of the day, we think it’s safe to say that’s largely the appeal of the show for most of its audience; it’s a lushly filmed soap opera with an unusually talented cast playing characters you love or love to hate. A lot of critics – especially overseas – find the popularity of this show befuddling, but we tend to think they forget the simple pleasure of pure entertainment.

Because let’s face it: these characters, despite everything they’ve been through, don’t really change all that much. Like most soap operas, the characters are put through the wringer time and again, only to have the “reset” button pushed on them. Honestly, looking at them all swan through the estate, you’d be forgiven for not remembering the War, or the fact that Downton was a hospital, or that Robert had a life-changing (but obviously not really) mid-life crisis, or that Cora found a new purpose in life and impressed herself with her capabilities, or that Mary was tainted by scandal and Matthew was thought to be crippled for life not that long ago. Most of these things were barely mentioned, if at all. The Pamuk thing was especially glaring in light of the wedding. Not that we expect characters to sit around discussing Lady Mary’s sexual history, but it was such a major plot point for over a season that it seemed odd to go unreferenced at a time like this.

But things were kept, for the most part, simple and the characters are mostly indistinguishable from when we were first introduced to them in season 1, except in those instances where the changes can’t be ignored, like Sybil. She’s middle-class and pregnant now, which means her hair looks like absolute shit and her clothes are drab sacks. Almost everyone else could be plopped right back in 1912 at the start of the series and there’d be no difference. And isn’t it a bit amazing how little everyone has aged? Has Daisy even finished puberty in the last 8 years?

Still; no matter. We get to see the Dowager Countess and Mrs. Levenson trade barbs at each other and that makes up for a whole host of niggling details and questions. We had hoped that the much-hyped addition of Shirley MacLaine to the cast would bring in a blast of fresh air to Downton, but alas, her time on the estate was largely pointless and her performance seems strangely restrained, like she wasn’t allowed to bring her essential Shirley-ness to the role. There were a couple of good moments, but for the most part, she was simply an idea wrapped in a costume: Americans, according to both Julian Fellowes and the Dowager Countess, are vulgar in comparison to their English cousins and do such horrid things as to openly discuss money, question the British social order, and talk with their mouth full. It was that last one that really got on our nerves. Mrs. Levenson is clearly not some working-class housewife and would know how to conduct herself at a dinner at Downton. In fact, everything indicates that she would have been raised in such finery herself. Yes, the British and American social orders were very different at the time, but it struck us as silly that she would be portrayed so crassly. There was no doubt in our minds when she was cast in the role that the idea was to contrast her with the Dowager, but there were better, more subtle ways of going about it than this.

Anyway, the wedding of the (early part of the 20th) century is on and the house is abuzz with activity. But uh-oh! Robert’s an idiot who should hand over the reins of the estate to Matthew pronto because whoops! He lost all of the money. All of it. Sometimes this show puzzles us. Looking at it in the long term, you can see that Fellowes has a great love of the aristocracy and likes to elevate it, but in Robert, he devised a character who seems to sum up everything wrong with the aristocracy, which often makes it difficult for the audience to like him. So yes, Downton is lost to the Crawley family and they’ll have to live on the streets of Grantham or something. Obviously, that’s not going to happen (mostly because the name of the series isn’t “The Family Who Used to Live At Downton Abbey”), and the solution to their money problems just happened – in typical Downton fashion – to fall into their laps, only to have Matthew scuttle the idea and throw up yet another obstacle to his wedding to Mary.

And sadly, we find that, despite everything, Mary is still as status and money-obsessed as she always has been. Yes, one could argue that she’s trying to “save” Downton and prevent her father from being humiliated, but that’s clearly not the main reason. As she told her mother, who seemed quite willing to accept their newfound status, the Countess of Grantham sits in Downton Abbey and she’s going to be the Countess someday. It’s not about her father; it’s about her. And while we wouldn’t have wanted to see this wedding delayed a second further, we thought Matthew had good reason to turn to her weepy face and say “You know what? This shit’s not worth it.” But he didn’t and the wedding went off without a problem.

The “role” of Downton was a big part of this episode and it appears to be a major theme going forward. At this point in history, the importance of these large country estates was starting to wane and the show is trying to reflect that. We think that’s a fine theme for a show like this, but history has also shown that these estates weren’t really all that important in the end. Yes, they provided employment for large staffs and land for entire counties, but almost all of them declined to the point of being torn down and the world did not end because of it, so history is actually working against the drama here. Additionally, Fellowes does the annoying thing of having the characters speak of this moment in history as if they’ve read about it from 50 years in the future; lots of discussion about the “old ways” vs. the “new ways,” which we suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more of this season.

But enough with complaints. Daisy is cranky. Mrs. Hughes is sick. Edith needs to rein it in. Branson’s still hot but incredibly annoying. Bates is still outrageously noble. O’Brien and Thomas are eeeeeevil. Isobel is stalwart and Violet still knows her way around a bitchy bon mot. Let the games begin.

Oh, and one more thing: Mary’s gown? Huge disappointment. It’s very much of the period, but we can’t say we loved it.




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  • I want to know why we didn’t get the wedding!  And the reception! Imagine all the finery we missed!  /sob

    • BayTampaBay

      Did the UK get the wedding or was the wedding just done period?

      • They did not; what we saw last night was actually the first 2 episodes. Episode 1 actually cut right after Mary got to the altar and said her line about hating to be predictable. 

        But honestly, it was a morning wedding. There would’ve been a huge luncheon after, and everyone would’ve worn the nice but not staggeringly fancy frocks they had on at the church. 

        I could’ve used a bit more time with Mrs. Levinson’s feathered wedding hat, though. 

      • MsALVA

        Yes, they smushed the first 2 episodes of the UK series together. 

        The PBS version we see here in the US is very much edited for time to fit our time slots, and to take into account that we see it on a channel with no commercials. To fit the 2-hour time slot, PBS added in parts of the UK episode 2.

      • There was no wedding i the UK either. I guess they figured that after everything leading up to it, the wedding would be anti-climactic.


        • Topaz

          I think it’s Fellowes trying to use the nineteenth century literary convention of never actually describing the major events, just having loads and loads of tense build up and then lots of people talking about something dramatic happening after the fact. He so badly wants to be Anthony Trollope. But he so isn’t.

    • Yeah, that was really strange!

    • sweetlilvoice

      After 3 seasons (I’ve already watched the UK version) I’ve learned that almost every event you want to hear/see is not shown. My favorite example is when Robert finally learns about Mr. Pamuk dying in Mary’s bed. It’s like a Bronte novel.

      • luciaphile

        Contrary to the Dowager’s quote “I hate Greek Drama where everything happens off stage,” Julian Fellowes seems to love it.

      • JosephLamour

        I also wanted to see Mary’s face when she learned about losing all the family money, since I’m sure it was exactly the opposite reaction her mother had. 

        Also… what is with British shows and having the music swell and end abruptly when the scenes change? There’s like no transition. 

        • MsALVA

          Because we’re watching it on PBS where there are no commercials. When it airs in the UK, it cuts to commercials when the music swells, and the next scene is abrupt because that’s how they start the next segment. So what we see looks abrupt but that’s only because we’re skipping the ads.

          • JosephLamour

            Yeah… but there’s no fade to black or anything, which I guess usually happens here in the US. I only watch television on my computer without commercials (I have ways), and I only notice it on Downton and Misfits. I guess I would need to actually watch it on a television in England to know how it is really. Anyway… just another thing for me needlessly ponder, LOL.

          • Actually, I think we’re lucky to get it here on PBS so it’s not interrupted by commercials. That allows us to really be absorbed into it. The commercials wouldn’t allow that.


          • JosephLamour

            Very true. And since the show isn’t American we don’t have to hear during the show how much Lord Crawley loves Bush’s baked beans or that Sybil found affordable yet durable Samsonite luggage. It’s just the editor in me asking maybe, since I do it for work from time to time. Actually… for PBS last time (An African Election what what?) LOL. Coinky dink. 

          • not_Bridget

            Viewers in the UK bitched endlessly about the adverts. The BBC has spoiled them a bit for their commercial stations…

          • Topaz

            Okay *nerd face* There’s a few reasons for this: In the UK shows aren’t paced so specifically to fit with the ads – we don’t always have an obligatory four act structure to an episode and the directors may direct the episodes as a continuous episode, even knowing there are ad breaks. This is in part because schedulers are much more flexible with episode length, and that gives the writers a little more wriggle room to play around with pacing and structure. For example most British crime dramas spend 2-4 hours on a single case, often spread over 2 or 3 nights in a single week, and individual episodes can be 1-2 hours or anything in between. Because the stories are developed so much more slowly it’s quite hard to shove in a cliffhanger or major revelation every 10-15 minutes. So when writing for a channel with adverts the writers sometimes just write the episode as they want to and the editors put in the adverts where they think they’re not too distracting (yes, I’m simplifying) without really changing the flow of the drama. It’s a bit weird if you’re used to watching US TV but British viewers expect it. 

            There’s also a general distaste for letting advertising intrude on a programme because the BBC is so prominent here, so that might have something to do with it, but that’s pure speculation.Then again, if you’re watching TV episodes you’ve downloaded off the internet before the official release in the States, then it’s probably just the result of a shonky amateur editor. Misfits, because it aims at a younger audience who watch a lot of American TV, does tend to follow the 4-act structure and will include proper fades in and out for ad breaks, so in the case of that show that’s the more likely explanation.

      • suzq

        I suspect they haven’t the budget to outfit everyone to the nines for weddings, parties, etc…

      • Izzy D

        Well thanks for the spoiler alert. Oh wait. You didn’t give us one. Good job.

        • sweetlilvoice

          The event I’m referring to happened at the end of season 2 during the Christmas episode.

        • lchopalong

           What on earth are you doing reading a recap of an episode’s comments if you don’t want spoilers to things that have already occurred on the show?

    • Isn’t there a superstition that a lot of actors have about saying wedding vows when acting?  A lot of wedding scenes are cut short, I believe for that very reason.

      • lilibetp

        Hmmmm.  Never heard that.

  • High points and low aside. Its Such A Relief to be back at Downton.  Whew.  (and just between us, I loved Lady Mary’s wedding dress).

    • Jecca2244

      I loved her gown too! But maybe because I have my own wedding on the brain. DA is one of my favorite hours of the week. no reality tv. no real mystery to solve. i can watch it with my BFF and groan with love over the clothes and the formality of a dinner and not have to worry about the modern world. 

      •  What I loved most about her wedding dress was the unrelieved modernity of it.  Yet it still gave a nod to tradition and class distinction.  I thought it subtle, and perfect for her.

        • Pennymac

          Total agreement. I loved it!

        • GorgeousThings

          My old voice teacher was married in 1924, and her gown looked almost exactly like Mary’s, which I thought was stunning. The big difference was in the veil. Janet’s was mantilla style, trimmed with lavish lace, not at all plain like Mary’s. 

          • As you say, that mantilla style veil was all the rage in 1920.  Your old voice teacher must have been an ultra stylish bride!
            Really, the only nods to older tradition were the length and positioning of the veil, and the hem length.  At that time, fashionable wedding dresses had hemlines climbing to mid calf in some cases.  Her’s was at the bottom of the ankle.

          • 3boysful

             And the–sort of, slightly–dropped waist.

          • MRC210

            I think that sort of “mullet” style wedding dress (with the short hem in front and the long train and/or veil in back) was popular a little later, though, in the mid-1920s.  

          • BayTampaBay

            Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mothers’s wedding dress looked much like Mary’s.  She was married in 1920 I believe.

          • MRC210

            Yes although fortunately the veil and tiara were higher off Mary’s face.  The Queen Mother’s veil was half-way down her forehead, held in place with a headband that circled her head, and ended just above her eyebrows.  It looked like a combination lace curtain and keffiyeh and it was not flattering.  

          • knitnorth

            This is why I loved Mary’s dress! Such a nod to Queen Elizabeth (queen mom) especially the headpiece – absolutely stunning

          • AmeliaEve

             Looking at photos, the Queen Mum wore the dress with a more bloused bodice, which gave it a real pre-Raphelite quality. Mary’s dress could have been styled that way, but she wore the waist higher and more stiffly. To me the waistline was betwixt and between – not at her natural waist but not truly dropped, either. An awkard compromise.

          • The Queen Mother’s dress wasn’t quite dropped waist either, though. I think it probably ought to have hit where Lady Mary’s dress’s waistline did, but the Queen Mother was notoriously dowdy and her dressmaker was less than chic.

          • No, it didn’t. They’re both very twenties in terms of style and superficially similar in that sense, but that’s all. The Queen Mother’s dress had short sleeves, a busy lace design, square neckline and a low- (but not necessarily drop-) waisted blouson bodice with a weirdly sloppy fit. Lady Mary’s dress had long sleeves, a bateau neckline, subtle lace design, and a low-waisted, slimmer fit bodice (not tight, but not quite blouson either). 

          • BayTampaBay

            I like a lot of the vintage clothes I have seen from the 1920s.  However, Lady Mary’s, The Queen Mum’s and Princess Mary’s (the sister-in-law of the Queen Mum) wedding dresses were the three ulgliest wedding frocks I have laid eyes on.  I would even throw Edwina Ashleyt Mountbatten’s 1920’s wedding frock on that same funeral pyre.

          •  Yes! Mary’s dress is almost exactly like my great-grandmother’s, except that the overlay on my great-grandmother’s dress was much more lacey looking and her veil was mantilla style, and pinned closely to the head to give that roaring 20s cloche look. I remember thinking as a kid that her wedding attire was kind of weird/boring.

          • Lyn

             I heard that!

          •  Haha! Hi, mom.

          • I have wedding pictures of my grandmother, who got married in 1923 and her dress was similar to Mary’s (except it had cap sleeves).


        • Stubenville

          Really? I thought it was too severe and unadorned for a filthy rich heiress (but the tiara was stunning.)  Tomato, tomahto.

          • if you can find a few of the up-close pictures online, you’ll see that there was a lot of detail (beading, etc) that didn’t show up on screen. it’s actually really intricate and beautiful. 

          • librarygrrl64

            Yes, it did not photograph well on screen.

          • The wedding gown was disappointing , but I think in line with what she was. THey were titled, but later on we hear that Cora was on a dress allowance from Martha. They were hanging on by their fingernails living in lavish surroundings but probably nit anywhere near as wealthy as they looked – like many ‘old’ families like that (both there and here). And she was a country girl as well as a Lady.

            Still, it would have been nice to see her in something less like a sack.–GothamTomato

        • Corsetmaker

          I think they were trying to make it appealing to modern eyes but still period correct. Some of the dresses from that era were pretty ugly. And fussiness would’ve looked wrong on her.

  • teensmom99

    Shirley rules.  I loved her and loved her clothes!

    • not_Bridget

      The coat Mrs Levinson wore on her arrival resembled one worn by Sylvia Tietjens in Parade’s End–coming to HBO at last in February.  Many garments were leased for both shows–probably from the same costume houses.  

      Paul Poiret is the designer; he also invented the harem pants that Sybil wore to shock the family back Before The War.  More Poiret coming in Parade’s End….

      • librarygrrl64

        I ADORE Paul Poiret. The Met did an exhibit of his stuff several years ago, and I was in heaven. 🙂

        • Lilithcat

          The catalog from the exhibit is now on sale:

          • librarygrrl64

            Lil, you are bad for my budget. 😉 

      •  For other lovers of Paul Poiret’s work: Vogue had a fashion spread inspired by his work a few years back. It’s super gorgeous (Pretty of the Day, heh).

  • I’m loving this whole Thomas vs. O’Brien thing…I hope we see more!

    • Blood is thicker than water!

  • SewingSiren

    *I often try but fail to do “something jolly with my hair” so’s I loved that line. 
    * Hated the Shirley MacClaine character , top to bottom. Very cartoony and bafoonish. 
    *Loved Branson’s drunken outburst at the dinner table.
    *Loved Lady Mary’s Wedding gown.

    •  MacClane’s character was overwritten and stereotyped, but as T&L noted, strangely underplayed. If she’d carried it into the realm of caricature we might have had something.

      • SewingSiren

        I seriously expected her to ride to the wedding on a unicycle wearing a rubber nose and carrying a goo-gaa horn. And I wasn’t far of the mark either.

      • librarygrrl64

        I was waiting for some MAJOR scenery chewing.

        • BayTampaBay

          I think we all were.

    • TheDivineMissAnn

      They portrayed MacClaine’s character as The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

  • andrea36608

    Martha Levinson’s character disappointed me, as she was written. I realize that Edith Wharton was writing about NYC society that was 30 years in the past relative to DA, but those society people she characterized were way more uptight than British aristocracy ever had any need to be.  The Dowager Countess is probably the truest-to-life character on the show, since she does what she likes and tells everyone else to go hang; but I was mad at Julian Fellowes et al. because Mrs. Levinson so obviously embodied the British ideas of what Americans are–and they weren’t even accurate. For a culture that has such an obsession with class distinctions, you’d think they would read some American literature and realize those distinctions exist here, too, and in fact we can be even more rigid.

    • Jecca2244

      YES! The whole American stereotype killed me, especially at about the time Americans were so intermarrying with the Euros. These Americans were cultured, had done the grand tour, were educated, and would certainly know not to talk with their mouth full. and clearly martha levinson’s family (or husband’s family) has had money since probably before Cora was born…

      • Elizabetta1022

        I also think Mrs. Levinson would care more about the fate of Downton. As I understand it, rich Americans were hellbent on getting their daughters married into the aristocracy in England at that time. Obviously they must have been enthralled with all the trappings of the titles and estates. Shirley’s response to the loss of Downton was more, “Oh well, tough luck.” Didn’t ring true to me.

    • SewingSiren

      Yes. She was more Stella Dallas than a society widow lady from Newport via Cincinnati, Ohio.

      • Stubenville

        Haven’t heard of Stella Dallas in ages. I remember my mother citing her as an example of a wealthy vulgarian.

        • SewingSiren

          Have you ever watched the movie with Barbara Stanwyck? It’s worth your time if you like oldies.

    • BayTampaBay

      I agree!  I did not like the way the Martha Levinson character was written.  It was a waste of all the talent of Shirley MacLaine.  The only good “Martha” scene was when she was holding Edith and looked at Robert and said..”He has a house, money, position and title…everything you people profess care to about….WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!”

      I agree.  The Martha character did not make sense and was nothing like any self-made rich American character ever dreamed up by Edith Wharton.  I few the self-made Americans more in the Sir Richard Carlisle mode.

    • Hell, “The Two Mrs. Grenvilles” takes place in the 1940s and the New York high society Mrs. Grenville could take on the Dowager Countess with little effort.

      I enjoy Downton Abbey, but it makes me think of all the 1980s bodice ripper novels set in the antebellum South- a whitewashed (no pun intended) romantic notion of a period, with no real attempt to be all that accurate, other, perhaps, than in the costuming.  The fact that Branson is portrayed as a boor for caring about the freedom of his people, rather than the guests being portrayed as the overprivileged twits they are, a pretty glaring example.  But it’s okay! He was just drunk!

      • Elizabetta1022

        I agree. I thought that was strange–it seemed we were supposed to be embarrassed for him, not for the ignorance of the British aristocrats. I was also expecting Sybil to stand up for him and say something–she lives in Ireland now, after all, and knows what’s going on. It’s pretty clear where Mr. Fellowes’ sympathies lie.

    • I loved Mrs. Levison. She was the character i liked most. Perhaps it’s been too long and i lost my Downton glasses, but Mary and Lord Grantham were awful. The stuff of nightmares. Were they always such awful people?

      I’m probably giving Fellowes too much credit, but I like to think that Mrs. Levison was doing was being a boor on purpose, because she doesn’t like them. We’re clued into this by the maid, who says outright that she makes fun of them. It is messed up that her family’s inheritance would have gone to some stranger if her haughty son-in-law hadn’t lost all of it, because he’s not the wise steward he believes himself to be. On top of all of it they have the nerve to sit around eating food (the remainder of) her money had paid for and make fun of her. The chewing with her mouth open was a purposeful sign of disrespect and I agreed with it.

      • Tally Ho

        And yet she allowed her daughter to enter a loveless marriage with a titled aristocrat. It makes one wonder why Cora married him. Was she just after the position as Robert was after the money? Apparently it wasn’t until a year or two later that they finally fell in love with each other. 

        There were plenty of rich Americans who didn’t care for the British aristocratic way of life but Martha Levinson wasn’t set up to be one of those Americans, which is why her whole personality didn’t come off perfectly. I still enjoyed her as a comic foil but not as someone historically accurate. 

        • We know about Grantham’s POV for the first year, but not enough about Cora’s. You could just as easily assume that Cora was genuinely in love and her parents could see through Lord Grantham, which would also explain why Mr Levison tied up the money to make sure Downton didn’t get more of it. If that’s the case, it’s not out of character for this woman would dislike these people immensely.

          • Tally Ho

            Not if she was pretentious enough to own houses in Newport. That itself is a pretty big clue as to the kind of woman she should be. 

          • Plus I just remembered that she spoke French and recognized the problem with the shirts on the spot at the big party (“I feel like I’m at a barbecue!”). I think we’re in agreement that her character would have the background to know better. Where we disagree is that I believe she was ill mannered on purpose because she dislikes them so much. She pretty much blamed WWI on the sad clinging to tradition, so I think her feelings on the aristocracy would be strong enough to make her go the extra mile to show her dislike. I hope they don’t talk her into bailing Grantham out next week.

        • BayTampaBay

          Cora’s father was the one who wanted his daughter to marry an English peer.

      • And when Cora said she didn’t think it right that her brother should have to split his share of the inheritance with her because Robert had lost all of her money- I’m not sure Fellowes was aware of it, but I was thinking, “You know, Americans have a much greater sense of fair play that overprivileged British nobility.”  Also that Cora seemed pretty mellow about the whole thing, and aware that it would just mean moving into a smaller house.

        Of course, that TOTALLY contradicts her character in Season One, who was all about maintaining her fortune and the property, but when did Fellowes ever care about internal consistency of character? 😉

        • Frank_821

          Actually I’m not sure how out of character her reaction is. She’s known from the beginning Robert courted her primarily for her money to keep DA afloat and she’s been prepared to deal with the entail. She’s known the real possibility she’d have to move out when Robert died. Also it’s one thing to encourage a romance that maintains Mary’s legacy, it’s another to be asked that her family yet again save Robert’s hide. I never got the impression that DA was important to her as it is the Robert, Violet and Mary. Ultimately it was  place to live and there’s more to a family legacy than that.

      • librarygrrl64

        They tried to make Mary a little more (rapidly, and thus unconvincingly) likable last season, but I never warmed to her. I also thought that she and Matthew had zero chemistry, other than their fight in the hall.

        •  In real life there’s every chance Mary would turn into a hard edged bitch.

          • Tally Ho

            Mary is a hard edged bitch. She cares immensely about being rich, having a title and preserving DA at all costs. She’s never been particularly nice. When Mary’s 80 she will be just like the Dowager Countess. 

          • sweetlilvoice

            I want to be like the Dowager Countess too! I’m practicing already by glaring at small children and yapping dogs.

          • lilibetp

            No, she won’t – the Dowager Countess has a core of kindness.  Mary does not.

          • She really should have married Sir Richard- they have a lot in common and would have been an excellent match- a business partnership, not a love match. He’ll be back. 

    • Introspective

      I dont watch DA (though as a serious Anglophile Im considering getting into it) so my opinion may not even be worth $0.02 here. but I’ll still offer it. Hell thats what TLo’s for right?

      After having briefly lived in England for a while in the late 90s and again in the early 2000s, I noticed that in all of English pop culture of those moments, Americans ALWAYS showed up in Brit representations as loud, crass, uncultured people. Period.  I saw it in theater, on tv shows, movies, music videos, commercials, you name it. I absolutely loved British tv and movies. I felt it was smarter, and more sophisticated than what we had here in the US. The comedy was always darker and forced you to think before you laughed. But I do feel that the portrayal of Americans never wavered however, and was the only thing about British programming that felt knee jerk. Considering TLos (and all the other DA loving BK’s) perturbation about this character of Martha Levinson, it seems that old habits die hard in the UK.

      • Tally Ho

        On the other hand think of the standard portrayals of the British on American television and movies. They’re always either snobbish aristocrats or good-hearted cockney cheeks. So it goes both ways. 

        • Introspective

          Oh, I don’t for a second believe that US tv and movies are somehow  not guilty of stereotyping foreigners–In fact think they derive a great portion of their bread and butter from the sort of crappy old hat stereotypical portrayals of all non Americans as well as all Americans who happen not to be white.

          so definitely snobby or cheeky Brits abound, and to them we can easily add Latina maids and “hot” lovers, black male criminals/thugs, Asians who are either geniuses, wise sages, or ninjas, Arabs who are terrorists, and the list goes on… 

          • Tally Ho

            I would say the British advantage (besides being generally superior actors) is that they’re willing to tackle a much broader range of topics in their cinema and theatres. Take the case of Downton Abbey – can you imagine the American attempt at creating a similar program but taking place in Newport and New York? It wouldn’t fit with the American script that class must not exist in the US and therefore we never had masters/servants etc. It’s odd that Americans are very happy to watch historical programs from overseas but rarely support ones that take place in the US unless it’s something so badly done and contrived like Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. 

          • “It’s odd that Americans are very happy to watch historical programs from overseas but rarely support ones that take place in the US unless it’s something so badly done and contrived like Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. ”

            That’s a terrible generalization, citing a TV show that’s been off the air for a decade. Watch Deadwood or Mad Men or Boardwalk Empire, please.

          • 3hares

            All shows that also feature excellent (often American) actors!

          •  “generally superior actors”? Interesting. Have you not watched much British TV then?

          • Actually, Julian Fellowes has been commissioned to create a series for NBC that takes place in NYC during the Guilded Age (1880’s). The Brits do have an easier time doing costumes dramas for that far back in history simply because they have all those old building that still look the part. But Fellowes is giving it a shot – though  for commercial TV, which I think is harder because the commercials break the spell every few minutes.


        • oat327

          Not the good shows, though. Look at Mad Men, which Downton is often compared to–Lane Pryce was a three-dimensional character, not a cultural stereotype.

    • The thing that disappointed me about Martha Levinson was that, because of her name, and given the history of Highclere Castle and the Rothchild heiress whose fortune saved it, I assumed she was going to be Jewish. But if she was there was no reference made. You could argue that that’s why Fellowes made her such a charicature – but I hope not.


      •  I was wondering about that myself. If Cora’s father is Jewish I’d expect it would have caused some social comment at the time of the marriage, though it would have quieted down by now. 

      • ohayayay

        They did refer to her being Jewish – when her lady’s maid went down to the kitchens and told Ms. Padmore about her dietary restrictions: no shellfish, water needs to be boiled…I assumed this was an oblique reference to her keeping somewhat kosher?

        • No, I think she’s just faddish – it’s accurate enough, there were a lot of diet fads going around in the 20’s. I think the demand for goat’s milk is part of that.

    • VanessaDK

       Fellowes was interviewed on NPR yesterday (Januray 7) and he stated that he saw Cora as coming from “New Money” where they did indeed buy their way into the aristocracy and bought the system “hook, line and sinker”, but also felt that she would be better positioned to move on with the times as the aristocracy became less relevant for power and prestige, as was beginning to happen in the 1920s.  I think that Mrs. Levinson is showing that disregard and expressing the fact that aristocracy isn’t the only way to the top of society anymore.

      Still, she would not have talked with her mouth full…..

  • Angela_the_Librarian

    I enjoyed the episode overall, but I could have done without the characters explicitly stating the themes of the episode (tradition versus modernity, old money vs. new money, Europe vs. America). Maybe it was for the audience’s benefit, but it became almost hilarious how many times the characters mentioned that it was 1920. Otherwise it was a fun episode, and I hope they get around to showing Sybil’s life in Ireland sometime this season.

  • The tiara thing was beautiful!

  • Something I really didn’t understand- the big fancy dinner was planned to show Shirley how important Downton was to the viilage community, and then the guests are all a bunch of lords and ladies? I swear, no one can make me hate rich people like Julian Fellowes can.

    And the scene with Shirley cleaning her plate was totally wrong. Obviously no one has ever told Fellowes what Americans say about British “cuisine.” 😉

    • I had that thought too (about the impetus for the dinner). I mean, if you’re going to beg for money, isn’t it counterintuitive to act like you don’t really need it? Plus with all the smoke coming from the oven, I was sure we were being set up for a fire at Downton, and a subsequent bucket brigade of guests and staff together to quell the flames.

      • VicksieDo

        I thought so too, that there would be a fire.  I’m glad there wasn’t though.

    • Except the period between the wars was pretty epic for British cuisine. The food in the great houses was famously luxurious and delicious.

      • Or so the Fellowes insisted.  Seriously, if he’s going to stereotype Americans as boorish louts, I’m going to stereotype British food as the reason the English drink so much. 😉

        • Tally Ho

          The British aristocracy ate a French inspired cuisine and often had French chefs. A grand dinner party for twenty people in a great English house in the Edwardian days could cost as much a 100 pounds inclusive of the wine and foie gras. A typical housemaid of the time made no more than 40 pounds a year. 

          So, yes, the rich English ate very well. The poor English ate dreadfully. Not too different from the current eating habits of the United States when one thinks about it. 

          • Someone was watching the PBS special on Highclere! 😉

  • Sobaika

    Edith was so thirsty!! I was cheering her on. Get your man, girl! Don’t let The Man stop you.

    • Girl_With_a_Pearl

      The only part that irked me (slightly) was the Edith part in that suddenly the family has a problem with Sir Anthony Strallan.  They were all set to accept Edith marrying him in season 1.  Edith’s parents and the Dowager Countess would have been very aware that there was a lack of eligible men after the war.  She was having trouble finding someone even before the war (poor Edith).  I think they would have been thrilled to marry her off to someone who had money and a title.  But I forgive because characters need to have obstacles to overcome and because I’m so excited that this show is back!

      • librarygrrl64

        The writers STILL don’t know what to do with this poor girl. 
        “Oh, wait, we forgot to give Edith a story line.”
        “Well, since Grantham lost his money, we need a way for him to get all of his daughters off his hands, and for new money to come in.”
        “Hey, wasn’t there some old guy that we wrote off before?”
        “Yep. Let’s just get them back together in episode 1 and have them hitched by episode 3. Then we won’t have to worry about writing anything for Edith for a while.”
        “But he has been discouraged before. How can we make it happen so quickly?”
        “Hmmmm….okay, well, Edith’s the ugly, desperate one, so she can just throw herself at him. People will believe that.”
        “Done. Call that old guy’s agent and tell him he’s back in.”

      • siriuslover

        Yeah, and in Season 1 they were foisting Sir Anthony onto Mary. It’s like they want to doom her to having no life whatsoever.

        •  Even Cora “Oh, don’t listen to Edith,” dismissing even the kind words of her own daughter. Sure, they had a little sting, but it’s no worse than the thousand things Mary has said.

    • Montavilla

      I must say, I root more for Edith than I do for any other character on the show.  

      • Sobaika

        I present to you: Edith With Googly Eyes!!

      • lilibetp


        I identify a great deal with Edith, knowing what it’s like being the “plain” daughter in a family of beauties.  No matter what she says or does, it’s wrong, because she’s just jealous.

        If Edith says something mean, she’s jealous, but if Mary says something mean, it’s because Edith’s jealousy has driven her to it.

        If Edith says something nice, it’s because she’s jealous but she’s trying to pretend she’s not, but if Mary says something nice, it’s because she’s a little angel.

        If Edith says something clever, it’s because she’s jealous and showing off, but if Mary says something clever, it’s because she’s beautiful and clever.

        If Edith finds something she does better than Mary, she’s showing off because she’s jealous of Mary.

        If Edith gets a man, it’s because Mary wasn’t available so he only took what he could get.

        Ya know?

        • Montavilla

          Mary, Mary, Mary! (<—- Jan Brady voice)

      • Lilithcat

        You and me both.  We middle sisters have to stick together!

    • MRC210

      Loved Edith’s hair and clothes and kept thinking that she could do better than Sir Anthony, then she reminded us that all of the eligible men her age had died in the war.   I wish she wasn’t quite so desperate, I thought at one point she was going to start humping Sir Anthony’s leg, but obviously he wasn’t going to be the one making the first move.

      •  Loved that gray suit with the multi-teired skirt, that was as fabulous and chic as she’s ever looked. I’m all for her forcing herself on Sir Anthony, I don’t see the problem. It doesn’t have to be her only or last marriage, after all.

      • Lilithcat

        kept thinking that she could do better than Sir Anthony

        What’s wrong with Sir Anthony?  

        •  He’s a bit awkward, but does seem to be a man who warms up on closer acquaintance. I think that both of them are a bit desperate to marry, and Edith is making it rather obvious. I think Sir Anthony questions if she loves him, or is just grasping at an available man.

  • Not a fan of Mary’s dress – though of course very ‘of the period.’  I was SORELY disappointed by American Grandma’s accent!! I was so excited for a broad old New England dowager Kennedy-dynasty HALLO DEAH! And instead got a midwestern flat.  Missed opportunity. 

    •  I believe it’s been stated that the Levensons are from Chicago. T.

      • How did the Levinsons make their money? Beef?

        • SewingSiren

          Dry goods/ Department store. I thought it was Cincinnati, but if it’s Chicago I wonder if they are basing the Levinson family on the Marshall Fields.

        • Angela_the_Librarian

           I thought they made their fortune in tin (or some other mining operation).

          • Tally Ho

            Yes. I think Cora is modeled after Mary Leiter, daughter of a dry goods millionaire, who married the Marquess Curzon of Kedleston Hall (a house far grander than Downton Abbey). 

      • GorgeousThings

        I was confused about that. I thought at some point they said the Levensons were from Chicago, but Mrs. Levenson told Mary and the DC that they could visit her in New York and Newport. No mention of Chicago.

      • She constantly mentions living in Newport, though. That started to bug me because Newport, RI was where rich people had their summer homes for a few weeks a year, not their year-round residences, and it was already declining by 1920; after income tax began to be collected in 1918, summer homes were often closed to save money.

        • Tally Ho

          It’s normal for the very rich to mention living in multiple houses. After all they sort of do. A few months in this house, a few more months in that house and a few months in France. If you look at the old social registers from the time people do list several different residences. 

          •  Lord & Lady Grantham have a house in London as well- when he went to town Cora asked if he wanted the house opened up. If they had to sell Downton they would all probably live there- very comfortable but much lower on the social scale.

          • Can’t Rosalind give some money to her bro? Does Rosalind have any kids?

          • 3boysful

             Good point–a missed plotline.  She has enough from her late husband that that no-good scheming guy wa after her last season.  But I guess if we save Downton, there’s no conflict for this season to resolve.

          • Tally Ho

            She’s supposed to have a son and daughter but no mention was made of either in all the seasons. I’m surprised we didn’t see her at Mary’s wedding. 

          • not_Bridget

            Rosiland was left very well off but I don’t know if she has enough extra cash to underwrite Downton Abbey.  

            After all, she was the daughter; even if she’d been older, there was no way she could inherit the place. She got a marriage settlement & was sent on her way. In an earlier season, it was mentioned she liked to have produce sent from Downton on occasion. And it seemed she was begrudged that gesture….

      • BayTampaBay

        Mrs. Levinson came from Cincinnati and her father was a very-very successful dry-goods merchant. She married an even more successful Jewish dry-goods multi-millionaire from Chicago.  I have seen this scenario many time in all the “fake bios” I have read of the Martha Levinson character.   

        • rainwood1

          I found it odd that the Levinsons (or at least Mr. Levinson) being Jewish wasn’t an issue for the Crawleys before Robert and Cora’s marriage given how anti-Semitic the British aristocracy was.  And that it’s never been mentioned in any way also seems odd.  

          •  That bothers me too – all of these early 20th C. characters with early 21st C. sensibilities. If a footman was suspected of being Homosexual no one would make an effort to cover it up unless they liked him- and the staff does NOT like Thomas.

      • But they have houses in New York and Newport.  C’mon – everyone in Newport ran around screaming HALLO!!  HALLO?? JOHNBOY?? HALLO!!

      • At one point they’d said they were from Long Island, but that may have changed.


  • buffalonian

    So disappointed.  I was sure that when MacLaine/Levenson said something to the effect of “You English don’t change” that that was going to be your theme of the week. 

    In general though Fellowes has never seen a deus ex machina he didn’t love.  How many completely out of the blue unexpected inheritances can one character sustain in a lifetime?  This is two and counting for Matthew. 

    • decormaven

      What is Matthew Crawley’s birthday? I’m going to play his numbers; that fellow has a four-leaf clover tucked in his vest pocket.

      • Girl_With_a_Pearl

        And he never seems to want any of these inheritances.  At first.

    • Matthew has all the luck.

  • I too was disappointed with Lady Mary’s dress, even while admitting it was completely period-appropriate. Loved the veil. Loved all the hoo-ha from the townsfolk. Loved that she arrived in a carriage while others came by car. Loved all the old cars! (Especially that burgundy colored number that Shirley arrived in.) Matthew is being henpecked from day minus-one, so I imagine that while he will cave and use his timely inheritance to save the Crawleys, there will be a lot of petulant payback for his “sacrifice”. Agree that Mrs. levinson was far too crudely drawn in every way, up to and including her straight-from-the-bottle hair color and horrid, almost vulgar, hats. I did like how she masterminded salvaging the dinner party……, the Crawleys needed a lot of saving this episode, didn’t they?

  • VicksieDo

    I had a jolly time watching all of it~!  I thought Mary’s gown was the perfect dress for HER.  If you’re that thin, you’re the only person who could wear such a simple straight gown, and she’s playing that up. It was tasteful, and the bit of sparkle at the dropped waist was gorgeous to me.

    Poor Edith, she’s just forging ahead, missing so many cues that Sir Anthony isn’t that into her.

    Sybil and Tom – what did they expect really?  That the clan would be happy about their poverty and celebrate it?  Duh.
    One of my favorite scenes was where the Countess made Tom wear the frippery even after he said he’d rather not. LOL!!

    Cora accepted their impending poverty a bit too easily I thought, barely a reproach for Robert. I do hope Matthew saves the day with his latest inheritance though, all the Lavinia talk was so boring.  Mary won’t let it go elsewhere!

    Downstairs was good too.  Poor Carson, he’s going to just hate the changes coming.  If he’s scandalized that there was a hole in Matthew’s good jacket, he’s in for a lot of scandal in the less and less fussy ages to come.

    I had my big laugh from the Countess being flummoxed and asking Robert for a drink!  So funny. 

    I wish I didn’t know the spoilers to come, but alas…

    • Angela_the_Librarian

       Even if they do lose Downton they won’t be impoverished. Cora even said that they would just move to a smaller estate. I agree though that she should have been angrier at her husband for squandering her entire fortune. 

      • I suppose that the women of those times couldn’t be bothered with finances. 

        Even today, some of my college education girlfriends turn over financial responsibility to their hubbies and have no idea what’s going on with the money.

      • VicksieDo

        You’re right, I had forgot about the smaller estate thing.  To me, once you’d lived at DA, I would be BEREFT to move out.  But then again, it’s a lot of work to run it and stay relevant…so there’s that.

        • Tally Ho

          Imagine owning a grand hotel with no other guests except you. That’s pretty much what living in a big stately house like DA was like. 

          There’s something to be said about having a smaller and more intimate place. 

    • That was my favorite part, when the Countess asked Robert for a drink, exclaiming “I thought you were the waiter”  I laughed out loud. She is hilarious.

    • 3boysful

       I think Sir Anthony does like Edith–he’s just very self-conscious about his bad hand.

      I am waiting for that awful Sir Richard to sell them–“at a profit; I usually do”–the estate he’d purchased for Mary.

      • Spicytomato1

        Yes, Sir Anthony clearly liked Edith in Season 1. They were getting along famously until Mary vindictively decided to interfere.

    •  I love any time Isobel and Violet team up, even if it’s just to get the boorish new relation to dress nice for the wedding.

  • I loooved Mary’s bridal look — especially her veil! 

  • Judy_S

    Nice analysis. Julian Fellowes also wrote Gosford Park and the Americans in that were pretty bizarre, too. I was disappointed in Shirley, though perhaps if they had hyped her role less that would not be the case.
    I did kind of hope the smoking stove would lead to having the house burn down, which would have solved some problems (esp. if there was insurance money!) but the picnic option was kind of cute.
    Did anyone else notice that Bates actually admitted to being a murderer, sort of, in the scene with his cellmate? Of course he had every reason to bluff, but….
    I need to do something jolly with my hair.

    • twocee

      I wondered if that was a bluff by Bates or if we (the audience) were just told the truth.  I’d like Fellowes to go the route of Bates being a murderer — it would make things much more interesting for that story line.

      •  Having Bates be noble and falsely accused would be just too expected. If he IS innocent I hope they don’t find the evidence & he hangs.

  • Hetha Innis

    Loved that moment when the Dowager ‘mistakes’ Robert for a waiter/servant and asks him for a drink! Also very disappointed with the wedding gown!

  • I was sad to see Shirley McLaine’s inexpressive Botoxed performance. She is an amazing actress who used to convey so much with her fantastic face. Too bad and an underwhelming performance.

  • jenno1013

    I love Downton Abbey for the acting and the visuals, but the writing is too often crap.  I put up with it because it’s gloriously wrapped crap, but so often last night I wanted to scream at the TV, “Oh COME ON.”  What saved it time and time again was the delivery of line or a look that made me want to give the screen a high five.  Best plot of the night was the four-way dance with the dress shirts and Thomas being confronted with “Are you not well liked downstairs?”

  • twocee

    I swear, I did a dance when the opening credits started. 

    I loved Mary’s dress.  Disappointed we didn’t see the actual wedding.  Agree that Shirley was somewhat ill-used.  Thought that Cora’s reaction to Robert losing their money redeemed her character for every annoying thing she did last season. 

    I do understand Mary’s reaction to Matthew not wanting to use the money to save Downton.  In order to love the show, I have to watch it with the understanding that the Crawleys’ problems are in no way realistic (kind of like how celebrities lead different lives than us). So, although I know that the Crawleys wouldn’t, as Cora said, be sent down the mines, I can accept that losing the only home she’s ever known because her husband-to-be is too damn noble to use an inheritance to save it is going to send Mary round the bend.  I’m SO happy that Fellows didn’t have this hold up the wedding and that they still love each other, but I do think it creates a nice tension between them.

    Yea!  Downton’s back!

    • Spicytomato1

      I hear you on Matthew’s windfall, but on the other hand I can understand why he feels so uneasy. When it was bequeathed to him, it was with the understanding that he would be married to Lavinia, correct?

      • twocee

        I believe you’re correct on the timing. 

        I can understand his unease as well, but it seems like his potentially guilty conscience is a poor excuse for not preventing his now-wife, her entire family, and all of the servants who depend on Downton from being displaced.  Now, if he doesn’t want to give them the money because he is uncomfortable with the lifestyle or he thinks the Crawleys need to start living in the 1920’s instead of the 1820’s and this is the only way to do that, then I think that would be valid.  His character has the background for that to be believable even.  But he’d have to convey that motivation somehow for me to be more on his side than Mary’s.

  • lilibetp

    I HATED the wedding dress!  I’ve seen lots of really pretty gowns from the time, but that one just wasn’t.

  • nannypoo

    I liked the dress. Simple, flattering and pretty. I loved Daisy’s little strike. Shirley MacLaine was sort of a dud I thought. And the idea that this lazy bunch of slackers would expect her to contribute even more money to support their opulent lifestyle after they lost the first boatload of it was pretty annoying, but I guess it all needs to be seen from their viewpoint in order to make sense. I’m so excited to be watching it again that I can forgive them anything.

  • I thought they did reference the Pamuk scandal when Mary said, “I’m more experienced than you were” to her mother, when Cora asked if she had questions about her wedding night.

  • I love the show but found Shirley McLaine’s dialogue really disappointing. I get what they were going for, but it was so overdone it felt like every line was delivered with a hammer to the head.

  • Mende Mendelius

    “It’s the most terrific fun” Best sex talk in history!!!

    • Billie_Dawn

      But it was followed by the ultra-awkward scene with Mary and Matthew returning from their honeymoon. Robert asked how their trip was, and Mathew said, “. . . A revelation” in the way that another person might say, “Dude, I totally banged your daughter.” And Robert smiled! I was waiting for them to high-five and do a touchdown dance.

      • Mende Mendelius

        Ah, in the UK that conversation between Matthew and Robert happened in episode 2… so I was a whole week thinking in “The most terrific fun”… actually that sentence makes me think of Robert in a new perspective…. kind of…

  • Pennymac

    Mary coming down the stairs in THAT GOWN and the looks on her fathers and Carson’s face was the high point of the episode for me. I have a picture of my own grandmothers European 1920 wedding dress and it was heinous! Mary’s dress was beautiful!

    • Pennymac

      Also, I am roaming the halls of my office, waiting to call someone a “hobbledehoy”!

  • MilaXX

    It took all of 5mins for me to remember why Mary, and to a lessor extent Mathew get on my nerves. She just always comes across as so self righteous and stuck up.

    Robert, on the hand hit an all time low in dumbness this week, sputtering indignantly how the one basket he put all his eggs in was such a sure thing.

    Then we have the ever faithful Anna & Bates.  Of course Anna would visit faithfully and continue to try and prove Bates innocence. I just found a twitter feed that is a mashup of The Wire & Downton Abbey called Downton Wire. There aren’t a lot of post (less than 100), but it’s pretty funny.

    • siriuslover

      I liked seeing Robert’s dumbness because it shows really how he has no business acumen whatsoever. At the end of the day, he’s a gentleman living in a crumbling system (it had been shown during the war season when all of these “neighbors” had to move out and new classes of people–Richard, for example–were moving in).  As Cora said, who would actually put all of their money in one rail line?  If he has no business sense, and his life has been devoted to maintaining a system (caretaker, I think he put it) that is in decline, what is left to him?

      •  In the era of the show Lord Grantham would have had a hereditary seat in the House of Lords. I shudder to think of what idiotic decisions he could make.

  • Karen Maslowski

    Is it possible that Cora has been hitting the laudanum? She is so simperingly laidback, even when confronted with losing every penny of her moolah.

    Or she could also be channeling Scarlett O’Hara: I’ll think of that tomorrow.  Hair toss.

    • sweetlilvoice

       And also yell fiddle de de. Couldn’t resist, I just re-read the book.

    • librarygrrl64

      It’s the simpering VOICE I can’t stand. It grates, Ms. McGovern, it grates.

      • Spicytomato1

        Big time. I cannot for the life of me figure out what she’s going for with that tone and delivery. It’s oddly childish. Simpering, as someone described it above, is a good way of putting it.

        • librarygrrl64

          She kind of did it in the BBC version of The Scarlet Pimpernel from a few years back, too. I wonder if it’s unintentional, or an age thing, or just her “an American living in England” voice.

          • Trish Ryan

            Isn’t that kind of just the way she talks IRL??  Sadly annoying.

    • rainwood1

      It was the “I’m an American.  Have gun, will travel” line that befuddled me.  All I could think of was the old TV series with that name and went WTF?

    • Elizabeth Davis

      Scarlett wouldn’t have been so laid back about the loss of money. After Ashley Wilkes and Tara, it was the thing her heart most desired. 

  • MilaXX

     I liked Bates being a bit of a badass.

    • Judy_J

      Me, too!

      •  He just might be guilty.

        • librarygrrl64

          That would be an interesting twist.

          Brendan Coyle plays implied violence very well. He did it in North and South, too.

        • Spicytomato1

          I don’t know. Even his badassery seems to come from a pious place to me.

        • rainwood1

          I think he’s not guilty, but his cellmate will somehow be able to use Bates’ words against him during the appeal as an admission of guilt. 

          •  I think Mrs. Bates was murdered and if Bates is innocent he knows who did it.

  • >Oh, and one more thing: Mary’s gown? Huge disappointment. It’s very much of the period, but we can’t say we loved it.

    Who are you and what have you done with Tom and Lorenzo?

  • MilaXX

     That is her role in life sadly. I felt embarrassed for her.

  • There was a tiny reference to Pamuk — when Mary was getting ready for the wedding and there was the super-awkward “facts of life” discussion with her mother and Sybil, and Mary was like, “I don’t need the advice, Mom.”

  • siriuslover

    I HATED that dinner scene where Mrs. Levenson was eating as if she hadn’t had a meal in weeks. Then when you go to the home for demoralize women and Isobel is talking to the woman shoving food in her mouth, there seems to be a connection: lesser breeding.  And there was really no development in Isobel’s new occupation except to show the hungry poor girl and what’s her name (Ethel? I can’t remember the maid’s name). God it bugged me, and I’m glad you pointed it out. Those are the kinds of stereotypes that bug me about the show.
    The one thing I really liked about Edith’s character this week is how she recognized how the war decimated an entire generation. This wasn’t known as the Lost Generation for no reason. What did England lose, something like 1.6 million men? These were men who could marry Edith or Daisy (as we saw with William). She was right to point out not only how much she liked Sir Anthony it’s also about the choices she now has after the war. Who else could she marry? That jerk who nicked some drug in Branson’s wine? And wasn’t that an interesting scene? With that guy’s father being so forceful about his son’s impropriety after Strallan very nobly called him out for it.
    I felt they also could have developed the loss of money a bit more as being tied to the war and war time investments and then link it back to the fact that US money began to filter into Britain after the war (and if they take this up to the depression…with no one aging at all…this would be necessary since the US recall of loans to Europe hastens global economic decline after the market crash).

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to next week and I actually do hope that Edith gets married. Lord Strallan’s character can use some development and I’d love to see his less mousy side (ie, how he behaved at that dinner in standing up for Branson) come out rather than his “poor me I can’t move my arm and I’m 45” schtick.

    • librarygrrl64

      Man, oh man, was that young snotty guy (Larry?) a raging stereotype or what? He was more of a P.G. Wodehouse character without the humor.

    • Spicytomato1

      The spiked drink plot device seemed strangely contemporary to me. It was hard to imagine people slipping Mickeys into drinks back then. Even Mary’s use of the word “pill” seemed jarring, I guess I imagined it would be more of a “potion.” Maybe it’s an older practice than I’d imagined.

      • Lilithcat

        People have been spiking other people’s drinks probably since alcohol was discovered.  Ever hear of a “Mickey Finn”?  That term dates back to the beginning of the 20th-century.

        Pills have been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

  • I think I will be using “have you done something jolly to your hair?” to the cat this week.

  • AuntieAnonny

    I wonder if Julian wanted Shirley’s character to be the Ben Franklin of Downton Abbey. Like, how Ben would wear coonskin caps to Versailles and play up the “settler” stereotype. Shirley be trollin’.

    • MilaXX

       good point! Sadly it didn’t come across that way & as mentioned upper class Americans were not that crass.

  • carolie_king

    My favorite (though hokey) line was the one about the men in black tie being dressed for a barbecue.

  • Judy_J

    I was somewhat surprised that with all the hoopla leading up to the big wedding, we didn’t get to see the actual ceremony at all.  Kind of a letdown, really.  I’m happy to see the cracks develop in the unholy alliance of Thomas and O’Brien.  I’d love to see them go at it hammer and tongs.

  • How come no one met Mrs. Levinson at Liverpool?

    Did she rent, buy, or bring over that red car?

    • Stubenville

      Hired I believe. The dialog was something like she “engaged it.”

  • Fast girl – loved Daisy’s comments to Tall Footman about the American maid.

  • Judy_J

    One thought…if Matthew takes a pass on the inheritance, who would get it?  Wasn’t he third in line?  And I think Lavinia would want him to have it, her being so noble and all, dying so that Matthew and Mary could get together.  Maybe this is her wedding gift from the grave.

    • siriuslover

      Yeah, maybe I’m just a greedy person or something, but I felt like he should take the money. His nobility is bordering on Bates level of idiocy here (and I am not saying Bates is an idiot. I love the character. I am saying that he carries his nobility of actions to such an extent that he refuses to stick up for himself). I’m so noble I cannot do this to save my family (and I’m definitely NOT siding with Mary here because she came across as shallow and spoiled). I guess he could donate the money to his mother’s charity.

      • AnneElliot

        I agree — and if he HAD married Lavinia Swire, isn’t it likely she would have used the money to save Downton, as the future Countess ??  (although Mary would probably have end up marrying the evil Richard Carlisle.)

        Matthew’s fake moralizing is getting on my nerves. 

        • lilibetp

          At least Richard Carlisle had a personality.

        • not_Bridget

          Sounds like a more interesting story.  Lavinia & Matthew run Downton. Mary & Ser Richard oversee another great house nearby. Sparks fly!

    • EEKstl

      That’s probably how Matthew will end up spinning it for himself when he hands it over to Robert.

  • Lilithcat

    When Mary came down the staircase in her wedding gown*, I was struck by how much she looked like Cora.

    *which may have been a disappointment, but I am stealing every single one of her coats.

    • twocee

      Me too.  The resemblance was a little spooky.

  • Sybil, dear.  That dress.  That hair.  The husband who doesn’t own appropriate dinner attire.  This is why we don’t marry down.

  • Stubenville

    I thought “Boris Karloff mummy” when I saw the wedding dress. Disappointingly plain for a filthy rich heiress, with the exception of the tiara.

    And I was also disappointed at how wan the zingers were between the dowager empresses, but I suppose the series isn’t played for comedy. 

  • Tally Ho

    Really, what can I say about the first episode (or rather, the first two episodes that PBS kindly combined into one)? Ok. I enjoyed it. but I had to enjoy it as someone who likes nitpicking all the flaws. Here’s a few:

    1. Robert losing the family’s money? Come one. This is a dude who’s shown during the first two seasons as someone who’s deeply conservative and cautious and whose entire function in life is to be Earl of Grantham and the preservation of the Downton Abbey estate. Is this the kind of man who would have suddenly gambled the family’s fortune on a single stock scheme? Heck, no. There’s got to be a more plausible way for the disappearance of the fortune, say such as most of it being tied up in Russian industries and railroads before WWI, and we know what would have happened to that. I get the need for the money to disappear as a plot device but surely Fellowes with all his creativity could have thought of a more plausible means….unless the Canadian railroad collapse has something to do with the potentially missing heir from Canada that we saw in Season 2. 

    2. Martha Levinson. Ok. I liked the character as a comic relief and a foil, but she was badly typecast and hardly historically accurate. She was described to us in the previous seasons as owning houses in New York and Newport, so she’s clearly a very rich widow of a major American robber baron. While there was a variety of American rich (then as now) the ones who owned houses in Newport were a particularly pretentious and snobby group who sought to emulate the European aristocracy by building mock replicas of French chateaus and English castles as summer houses and who pushed their daughters into loveless marriages with broke aristocrats (oooh…Cora marrying Robert). A real life Mrs. Levinson would have been very well mannered, easily impressed by show and grandeur, scandalized at a granddaughter running off with chauffeurs (note to Fellowes, Americans did have servants and plenty of them back in the day), and yes, pushy and bitchy. Really, Fellowes, you need to look up women like Alva Vanderbilt when creating your Martha Levinson. That would have been a perfect character combining the wealth and pushiness of Americans with good manners and pretentiousness suitable for Downton Abbey. By the way, Martha’s got to be at least 65, which means in 1920 she would have been born no later than 1855, and which means she’d have far more in common with the dowager countess than any modern flapper. I’d have found it more original and amusing for Martha Levinson to combine good table manners with crass materialism by offering to buy the artwork and family portraits of Downton Abbey and ship it back to New York when it was clear the Crawleys were broke. Anyway, Martha made clear her money is tied up too so she can’t just hand over another chuck to the Crawleys, which is acceptable enough. 

    3. Matthew Crawley? Good god. How many nice young fellows fall heir to two major fortunes in their lifetime, and you’re probably not even 30 yet? Yet you wanted to reject both of them? I get your moral hang-up, really, I do, about Reggie Swire’s money, still the whole thing is just so contrived and convenient. Robert’s gone broke and suddenly Matthew’s inheriting lots of money so he can save the day? We know you’ll take the money at the end so don’t spin this out too much in one long boring moral problem. 

    4. Sybil and Branson. Sigh, sigh, sigh. Fellowes, I know you like this couple which is why you keep them together despite the historical odds. Branson is an Irish revolutionary at a time when Ireland is on the verge of a major breakup with England and when the English were despised, so you have him not only agree to be a chauffeur, in England, to an English lord, you have him run off with his daughter? Ok, fine, that’s already been done, but I still find it implausible that Sybil would have so easily settled in Dublin when she’s 1) English and 2) obviously well-bred. You know, the Irish revolutionaries were at this point about to start burning down the great houses of Ireland belonging to people of Sybil’s class. There’s got to be more tension between the two despite their love. And if they are indeed in love, then why is Branson still so domineering over her? 

    I also found the dinner party scene when Branson is drugged poorly contrived. What was the point? Have a loutish toff drug him only to be rescued by a gentleman toff? 

    5. Thomas! Thomas, Thomas, come on, you know better to defy O’Brien. Big mistake. Why must you be so nasty? Fine, be nasty then why are you still at Downton Abbey?

    6. Isobel Crawley. I actually should be able to relate more to Mrs. Crawley than any other character as we’re both from nice educated middle class (actually upper middle class) backgrounds. Look, you’ve always had servants, just not as many as the aristocratic Crawleys. You’ve always had a nice, comfortable lifestyle. So what gives you the right to keep harping about the Crawley’s lifestyle being obsolete especially when you apparently can’t do without your own butler and cook. Anyway, I see you’re about to have something to do with rescuing poor Ethel from prostitution so good for you. Let’s see what you do. Where’s that baby, by the way? Did it finally go to his grandparents, where he should have gone in the first place or is he dead? 

    7. Edith. I have a feeling you aren’t going to end up with Strallan. I really hope you do because he’s nice and titled and has a lovely house. But Fellowes has never been good to you and he’s going to have you struggle for a long, long and long time. I hope he rewards you at the end (Season 10?) with a duke because you’ll deserve one by that point but there will be too many heartaches in between. 

    8. Bates. You were a nice guy in Season 1 with a mysterious past. That was neat and interesting. But now you’re just boring. Fellowes better solve this plot line soon otherwise it’s only going to become tedious. Anna, by the way, how do you keep finding the time and means to run off to London and to visit Bates in prison? You’re a maid and aren’t you supposed to be working 24/7 at the behest of the girls and doing all the, you know, cleaning and whatnot? 

    Conclusion: Season 3 starts off on a much stronger note compared to all of Season 2. It’s hardly realistic and doesn’t have the fine tuned subtleness of Season 1 but if you accept it simply as a glorified soap opera it’s good entertainment. 

    • sweetlilvoice

       Well said! And I also fear nothing good lies in store for Edith….

    • Jana hughes

       Exactly.  Rich Americans of the time were probably more conscious of all the formalities because they were considered arrivistes by the English aristocracy.  Mrs. Levenson didn’t ring true at all—just a foil for the Dowager Countess’ best lines.  Cora’s attitude also didn’t seem right, most of the Americans married to peers became very conscious of what a family seat meant and it was her money that had saved it.  Edith will continue to be Fellowes’ victim–she’ll never have a happily ever after.

      • NilBlur

         Agree.  Wouldn’t it have been fun to see Maggie Smith play off someone who was more uptight and formal than herself?  Also, I think Strallan is going to turn out to be closeted, which would be lame and disappointing but Fellowes-y.

        •  Mrs Levinson should have been played by Angela Lansbury- she knows how to play upper class women with a bitchy streak.

        •  I’m hoping there’s some secret with Strallan that Robert and Violet know, otherwise it’s just illogical.

  • zuzululu

    I’m so very sick of plotlines revolving around “omg, will we Crawleys lose Downton?!”  It’s just so tedious waiting for these plots to get resolved since we all know the show isn’t going to kick the Crawleys to the curb.  Plus I can’t get invested at all–I don’t see how losing Downton and living in a more modest place would be the end of the world (Cora’s attitude toward that was refreshing, at least).

    The Bates-in-prison scenes are also quite tedious.  Partly because I just do not get the appeal Brendan Coyle and his eternally  expressionless, pudgy face  (I rooted for his character to get executed  last season, though I knew that was too much to hope for.) But also, we all know he’s going to be exonerated so please, just get on with it already.  We’ve seen enough of him shuffling around sadly in his gray prison garb.  And the evil sodomist cellmate cliche isn’t making this plotline any more compelling. 

    • librarygrrl64

      I disagree on Coyle, whom I happen to like. I blame the writers.

      • DeTrop

        I agree. It’s one way to keep him in the story by giving him his own storyline. It is tedious, however.  (If you have ever seen the  ‘North and South’ mini-series, based on Elizabeth Haskell’s novel, BCoyle was dynamite).

        • librarygrrl64

          Seen it? I practically have it memorized. That’s where my Coyle love began. And, as we know, based on that, he is capable of more if the writers will give it to him.

  • Carla_Charlton

    Yes, there were some eye rollers, but I liked the ambiguity about Bates’ guilt.  I also like it that Mary is showing some of her original character — I was feeling like she had been overly redeemed by the end of last season and I missed her unlikeability.  I also think Branson’s character, while annoying, is being developed in a way — finally– to show why Sybil loves him. Agree about Mrs. Levenson — she didn’t add that much and it was tiring to hear her constantly disparaging the English and their traditions.  But DON”T YOU LOVE MAGGIE SMITH?!?

  • librarygrrl64

    Re: Mary’s gown, I couldn’t agree more. Period (and perhaps even character) appropriate, but kind of dull. I guess we were supposed to be as awestruck as Grantham and Carson, but I was just, “meh.” The veil and hair ornament/tiara were lovely, though. I have more to say about the costumes and hair, but I assume you will be doing a separate style post, so I’ll wait. 🙂

  • BayTampaBay

    Moved comment

  • So- if Mr Levenson is Cora’s father (and not her mother’s 2nd husband) would that make Cora at least part Jewish? I can imagine that would cause some social comment.

  • I’ve already seen this season but my intention is to re-watch and follow on twitter.  I missed most of last night (though I DVR’d it) but I was amazed at how fast the tweets for #DowntonPBS zipped by.  I couldn’t keep up.

    I thought Mary’s dress was kind of blah.  I love the bromance happening with Branson and Matthew.  

  • dress_up_doll

    Overall, I enjoyed the episode, but like others, expected more from Mrs. Levenson. I also agree with you guys on Mary’s gown. I love that era and expected something with more exquiste details and a killer veil. The dialogue was good and there were certainly plenty of amusing bits of dialogue. Next week looks good!

  • Tally Ho

    Another question that perhaps someone can answer:

    Season 1’s plot was DA suddenly having a new heir as the entail meant Robert can’t leave his estate and the fortune to the girls. Thus Robert’s control over both the estate and the money is legally curtailed due to the entail and its terms and stipulations.

    In Season 3 we are told DA will have to be sold. Doesn’t this violate the terms of the entail which presumably says the house and estate must go to the next male heir (Matthew)? 

    • Rosalind’s BF in Season 2 lost all his money and had to sell everything. If he had an heir, the poor boy would have just inherited the title and debts.

      I suppose in the older times, like when Henry VIII took away your estate, the entail didn’t matter, because there was nothing to give to the oldest son.

    • Lilithcat

      He couldn’t sell it, unless the entail were broken (which would require Matthew’s agreement).  However, he could lease it on a very long lease.

      • jeeplibby02

        The entail says that the money goes with the estate.  Male primogeniture says that the title (and the estate) goes to the next male heir.  They are two distinct issues that Fellowes never did a good job of untangling for the viewer unfamiliar with such things.  If there is no money to support the estate, it can be sold to pay off debts, just like any piece of property one finds too expensive to maintain.  All the discussion in Season 1 about “breaking the entail” concerned detaching Cora’s family money from the estate, because the women did not think it fair that  some distant cousin would inherit the title, the estate, AND the money.  Nothing could be done about the first two (and that wasn’t even discussed), so they tried to strike at the third.  

  • jw_ny

    I laughed so hard throughout Martha Levinson’s serenading of the Dowager Countess.  Violet’s napping and then the glaring looks thrown at Martha…what a hoot!  I saw a lot of similarities between Shirley Maclaine’s portrayal of Martha and Kathy Bates’ Molly Brown from Titanic.  Rich crass American woman stereotype.  I figured Martha had to have married money/been nouveau riche…was she not?   I assume not, now after reading TLo’s assessment of her character. 

    Edith…get that horny girl married quickly!  The spiking of Branson’s drink…how odd and pointless.  Daisy’s strike…girl’s getting some spine…but no match still for Mrs. Patmore.  lol.   I think Mrs. Patmore is my favorite character.  😉

    • librarygrrl64

      “I saw a lot of similarities between Shirley Maclaine’s portrayal of Martha and Kathy Bates’ Molly Brown from Titanic. ”

      Oooo, yes, good call! I also LOVE Mrs. Patmore. In fact, I usually find myself much more interested in the below-stairs action. It was the same with the original Upstairs, Downstairs.

    • Tally Ho

      Molly Brown isn’t a bad model for Martha Levinson. Fellowes should have had Martha be the widow of a mining magnate living in the American west who isn’t impressed by titles and grandeur and knows the value of hard work and admires self-made people working their way up. 

      But once he gave her the whole Newport/New York society background which is at odds with how she portrayed herself on screen, that’s when her character stopped being believable. 

    • not_Bridget

      Everything we’d been told about Martha’s character made me expect a more refined person.  She was never described as some saloon girl or barmaid who married well. Even middle class American ladies of that time would have had better table manners…..

  • MsMajestyk

    I’m going to try to work in Carson’s line to Alfred about the “staring into the chaos of Gomorrah”.  It’ll be the new fiscal cliff.

  • Robert greeting Matthew when they came back from the honeymoon was one loaded little bit of conversation – “How was the honeymoon?” “My eyes have been opened” and Robert says something like “Tell me about it”. !! 

    I’m in the “liked Mary’s dress” camp, for its total dignified elegant restraint. It worked ON HER, which was everything.

    Shirley MacLaine was disappointing. I kept waiting for her to really get going, but it never happened. I hated her make up. I kept thinking her lipstick was going to rub off on things.

    Sir Anthony – I don’t understand at all why he’s not a suitable catch anymore. Poor Edith.

    Matthew – GET OVER IT ALREADY. Take the money you nitwit. “Oh, more money, really? I can’t possibly, don’t you see? Please, take it away, it pains me to think about it.” Bloody fool. (But of course he WILL take it, and it will save the day, so I’m curious to see how that comes about.)

    Mrs. Hughes. :~(

    • mmc2315

      We don’t think Matthew was a virgin on his wedding night, do we?  

  • schadenfreudelicious

    Shirley’s character was such a disappointment, almost as if they writers didn’t quite know what to do with her, such a waste of MacLaine’s  talent…and yes, the scene with her shovelling in her food like a hog at the trough was ridiculous and felt totally false.

  • Krafty_L

     “…look for that one perfectly “of its time” bit of dialogue and vow to use it in conversation in the coming week.”

    My mission is to use “hobbledehoy” in a sentence at least 5 times this week.

  • BayTampaBay

    No!  Robert, as the lease holder for life, can do what he wants(i.e. manage the estate) with the estate but cannot break it up without an act of Parliament due to the entail.  Robert did not mortgage Downton Abbey to go into the railroad stock business.  He used the “liquid capital” of Cora’s money “entailed to the estate” to invest in the stock market.    If Robert cannot pay the taxes or upkeep on Tara…I mean Downton…it will be sold.

    • Tally Ho

      Actually in this scenario the estate probably wouldn’t have been sold. Under such circumstances the family would have leased the house to someone like Richard Carlisle as they no longer had the income to maintain it. But if the estate itself was unencumbered by debt or tax liens it wouldn’t have been sold.  Taxes on land in Britain were always fairly low and wouldn’t have exceeded the estate revenues. It was death duties, especially after WWII, that was devastating. 

      The lessee usually assumed a repairing lease on the house and had the rights to enjoy the house and the parklands but the rest of the estate and its farms (and revenue) remained in the control of the lessor. Anyway, this itself is a major clue that the Downton Abbey estate is smaller than the family”s title and status infers, which implies that the original earl probably came from a line of modest country gentry and rose through the ranks of politics or the army/navy to land himself an earldom. 

      When the going got tough the house would eventually be demolished and the family would then move into the dower house, which is what happened on a large scale after WWII. Many of the estates where the houses were demolished are still owned by the family. Apparently a third of the land in Britain is still owned by the aristocracy.

      • twocee

        Thanks for the interesting history lesson.  Nuggets like this make watching British TV even more enjoyable.

  • suzq

    I’m not so sure about Bates’ nobility….

  • Nancy Dunn

    I love you guys. Jolly hair. That is all.

  • ChaquitaPhilly

    I loved the wedding dress!
    My second favorite moment (after the wedding) was Bates going all murderous in his cell. Oooo…what if he actually DID IT!

    • Girl_With_a_Pearl

      I think that line that Bates is innocent, but that line he said about possibly murdering his wife to his cellmate is going to come back to bite him at some hearing. 

      • Coco Cornejo

        My thought exactly. Looks like Bates’ cellmate is “selling” information, possibly to the newspapers? Hmmm…

  • nan13

    I thought Matthew answer to Robert when he asked “How was the honeymoon and Matthew replied “my eyes were opened” was a very subtle reference to Marys’ affair.

    • Coco Cornejo

      The father’s comment (Don’t I know it!) seemed a bit unseemly. I wouldn’t expect Lord Grantham to comment on his own daughter’s sexual prowess. 

      •  I took it they were commenting on their own shared status as married men, but it was pretty weird.

    • 3hares

      How would it reference the affair?

    • piccoloprincess

      I assumed that Matthew’s comment was a reference to discovering Mary’s domineering personality.

      • not_Bridget

        I agree, but it was awkwardly phrased. For a moment, it seemed as though Matthew was discussing his sex life with his father in law.  Which he would never do….

      • That’s kind of what I was thinking too. 

  • Was anyone else as freaked out as I was by that scene of Tom and Sybil in their bedroom? He says, “dont disappoint me now, Sybil,” and she allows herself to be kissed and folded into his arms. What the hell? I’ve always feared that he would be a little too dominant in the relationship and I’m not sure whether that scene was meant to showcase that; in his scenes with Matthew I’m inclined to like Branson a lot, but his relationship with Sybil gave me the creeps before they were married and it still does.
    While there are obvious plot deficiencies here (Robert losing ALL the money, Matthew being left yet ANOTHER fortune) it was so good to get back to Downton; if only to gaze at the drool-worthy gowns!

    • Snailstsichr

       I covet the rugs and furnishings, in addition to the clothes. And Mary’s tiara – le sigh – I loved it.

  • Girl_With_a_Pearl

    I didn’t mind the Shirley Maclaine character as much as most on here.  BUT, her character could have been even more fun if she was even more snobbish than the Dowager Countess.  Kind of like an american Lady Bracknell.  

  • Dear Tom & Lorenzo,
    Would it be too much trouble for you to do a Mad Men style costume analysis of DA?  I’d like some more specifics on Ms. McClaine’s hats, please.

  • No tricks needed for me; I’m hooked from the moment the music begins … the way it doesn’t fit a lot of the scenes it’s used for …. the shortness of all scenes and plot developments … the genius of the actors immersed in that place and time … they haven’t rung a false note yet for me …

  • Elizabetta1022

    Somehow that dress didn’t suit Mary. I don’t know if it was the color, the cut or her hair, but it just came off as a bit blah. (Too big on her, maybe?)  Surprising, because I usually think she looks stunning in most everything she wears. I felt like she came down the stairs and said, “Right, let’s get this show on the road.” Carson was the most excited in that scene of anyone there, if you ask me!

    • librarygrrl64

      With her coloring, she should wear white, not ivory or cream, and the dress looked off-white. Perhaps a nod to her “impurity?” 😉

  • 3hares

    Exactly. Would it really be a tragedy if he died soon and she inherited all his money? I didn’t think people in that time and place would worry about him being “too old” for her. It’s not like Edith needs a husband who can go clubbing with her all night.

  • BayTampaBay

    I actually like Sir Anthony’s house more than the Downton monstrosity. 

  • 3hares

    How would it have referenced her affair?

    •  Well, really her one-night fling, but they did mention it, indirectly, a couple of times. Mary has made her peace with it, which is another of the nicest things Matthew ever did: not hold it against her, equating his own sexual history to hers. Don’t know if that’s realistic for the times, but Matthew’s super-empathic to everyone … except his own valet, sadly.

  • Coco Cornejo

    There’s a subtlety to Mrs. Levison that I think is being missed. It’s in her name. I think that her late husband was a self-made man of the Hebrew tribe. To use the lingo of the era. That would color the Grantham’s view of her as uncouth. 

    • 3hares

      Wouldn’t that color his view of his wife as well? And other peoples’ views of his children?

      •  Didn’t it? The Dowager took a long time to warm up to Cora, and it seems her finances were always her principal attraction to the Granthams.

        • 3hares

          But it seems like there’s a difference between not warming up to someone and antisemitism. Seems like the show’s hit “marrying a rich American heiress” pretty hard but stayed away from “marrying the daughter of a wealthy Jewish man.” Not to mention–I’m no expert on US classes at that time but did wealthy Jews summer in Newport? Seems like they’d be frozen out in the US as well due to antisemitism.

          • Tally Ho

            What I’ve picked up is that Cora’s father is from a Jewish background but was not a practicing Jew and Martha is not Jewish. Some of the great American rich families had Jewish origins (Astors for starters) but became more or less conventional Episcopalians. 

            Jews, by the way, were excluded from Newport and the social clubs of New York. They had their own watering holes and clubs. 

            An interesting note – some of the early American brides who married English aristocrats did so because their backgrounds were socially unacceptable to the arbitrators of American society at the time, so they had to go abroad to find suitable husbands who were desperate enough for the money. The mothers usually used their daughter’s new marriage and title as a means of gaining acceptance by the established society of their home cities, usually New York. 

          •  That would be the case with the Vanderbilt family. The origins of their wealth were a bit too well know, and Cornelius & William Vanderbilt were not at all subtle in their business practices.

          • BayTampaBay

            This whole idea for being “too new money” from “whop knows where” was what drove the whole “season in England” in The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton for the St. George & Elmsworth girls.  We are talking in circles here.  Mary & Violet look down on Cora because they are bullies and could never make it America so they retreat into being British (no disrespect to the British as I love the UK).  Sybil, Edith and Matthew’s mother, Mrs. Crawley,  would have no problems in America because they actually “do things”.

            On another final note: Sir Julian Fellows wrote a very crappy part for a great actress resulting in the total waste of the talents of Shirley MacLaine. See “Post Cards on the Edge” for the way the part should have been written for the talents of Ms. MacLaine.

  • Topaz

    Overseas (by which I assume you mean “British”) critics get annoyed with its popularity because it seems to them, as with Keeping Up Appearances in the 90s, that its popularity in the States is largely predicated on the fact that it plays up to every stereotype of “Britishness” that seems to delight the rest of the world but starts to grate for people who actually live here. Sometimes we wish we weren’t SO self-deprecating that we feel the need to play up to every condescending stereotype foreigners have of us. Downton gets away with it at home for now because Britain’s in the middle of a massive recession and it suits us to believe that things made more sense when everyone knew their place, but at times we still have to throw our hands up in exasperation at the silliness of it and the fact that people seem to fall for it. Whether that is remotely why Americans watch it or not, it’s that impression that probably bugs British commentators so much.

    I also was really interested that you felt Shirley Maclaine’s character was being presented as crassly American. When I watched it I felt like Julian Fellowes was writing her as modern and free of the stiff artifice of the British aristocracy, making the inhabitants of Downton look stuffy, stuck in their ways and oblivious to the change happening around them. Her insistence on talking about money seemed done mainly to embarrass the Downtonians, and Brits in general, for dancing around the issue when they’re just as wealth-obsessed as everyone else. Granted her eating with her mouth full was a huge anachronism, but if you’re going to get annoyed with details like that I would buckle your seatbelts for the season ahead because there are some DOOZIES on the horizon.

    • Girl_With_a_Pearl

      Please don’t give even the slightest of hints as to what’s to come or I will have to stick you with my hat pin.

    • librarygrrl64

      I was watching with my Downton-obsessed 75-year-old father last night, and we started discussing the class system, how the middle/merchant class had been rising throughout the late 1800s but really took off after the war, how (due to the economy and politics and corporate greed) it seems like we are unfortunately going back to that binary haves-and-have-nots society, but how at least with the estate system, most of the land owners felt some sort of personal responsibility for the welfare of their servants and tennants, even if it came with a certain obvlivious condescension. How many CEOs or politicians, British or American, feel that level of noblesse oblige these days?

      • Topaz

        Yes SOME had a sense of responsibility towards their staff and tenants, but that wasn’t universal and there was no genuine obligation. Sexual abuse of female domestic staff was rife and still is in countries that still use servants as a matter of routine. I’d point out that someone studying slavery once said to me “everyone goes on about how violent and brutal it was, but that was a minority of cases.” But the number doesn’t matter. People with no control over their lives or power live under constant threat, which, yes, varies depending on the extremity of their indenture. But in every case they live under constant threat of abuse and/or destitution, which leads to an expectation of gratitude when their treated with the vaguest amount of humanity and a mentality of inferiority and deference. The people living and working on an Estate, particularly the service staff, had zero control over their lives and while some might have access to education if their Landlord considered that appropriate (and for a very long time literacy was seen as vulgar in the labouring classes), they only learned what the Landlord thought it might be appropriate for them to know. This is why many of those in service could be far more conservative than the people they worked with. By necessity their outlook was extremely narrow.

        • librarygrrl64

          Oh, I am not trying to glorify the system by any means, nor do I want us to go back to it AT ALL. And not only because I would definitely be on the servant end of things. I’ve taken a few of those “Who are you in DA?” quizzes and I always come out as Tom Branson, so…yeah. 😉

          And my grandmother was once a housekeeper for one of those big mansions on the Main Line. There was care and concern, but there was also condescension and a very rigid hierarchy that could not easily be breached. I do realize that there were kind, forward-thinking landowners in Britain who had integrity, and also that they were probably in the minority. But it was part of a discussion that was interesting to me, and led to even more points being debated. So, bravo, DA for instigating it.

          • The nobility could be kind and paternal towards their servants, but with limits. Letting William die in the house might be plausible because he was wounded in action. If he’d been mortally hurt in peacetime they might have seen that he went to a comfortable hospital, and very probably would have made certain that his father was not in immediate need- but they wouldn’t have had him in the house. 

          • librarygrrl64

            Agreed. Kindness and care was one thing, flouting convention and societal rules and hierarchy was another.

          • When Carson becomes too old to preform his duties the family will make provisions for him- but even though this would be kind it doesn’t mean they would need to outlay a lot of money. If he’s 64 now (Jim Carter’s age) he can probably keep on as Butler for a decade more, delegating the more physical tasks to footmen & under butlers. If he retires at 75 he’ll have a decade (or less) of leisure, mostly just sitting. Medical care wasn’t expensive for the elderly since it was expected that you would die & treatment was primarily to relieve pain. 

          • Topaz

            I know I am SUCH a Branson. Isn’t it awful. Likewise, my Grandmother was the illegitimate child of a servant and a soldier that was billeted at the country house where she worked during the First World War so the parallels in Season 2 were VERY strange for me. The way they dealt with that entire storyline of the servant who had the baby was ludicrous and offensively sanctimonious. Fellowes portrayed her so negatively that the effective suggestion was that she should never have got ideas above her station and that she really brought her misfortune down on herself, and that’s a recurring theme with the servants on the show. You’re right, the discussions can be interesting but the basis of DA is so reactionary and misty-eyed, no matter any superficial suggestion of balance, I get a bit concerned when anyone watches it and treats it as anything more than daft tosh that passes the time on a Sunday evening. 

            Ken Tucker also made a good point in his EW recap, where he hinted that it’s quite risky to keep referencing the Irish struggle for independence because it does make it pretty hard to sympathise with a bunch of frowny toffs worrying about moving into a smaller house when there is a much, much bigger story going on just down the road.

          • librarygrrl64

            Wow, that’s fascinating about your grandmother! My paternal great-grandmother basically got kicked out of England by her parents at about that time for being pregnant and unmarried. Which I guess is a good thing for me otherwise I wouldn’t exist. I agree with you on Fellowes, but I also took it as her being (unfairly but period-appropriately) slut-shamed while the father of her child was basically absolved of responsibility.

            I do have friends who IDOLIZE this show, and I keep trying to balance that by saying, when asked, “Well, I look at it as a pretty much just a glorified soap opera with high production values and decent acting.” No more, no less. I’d hardly call it a “masterpiece,” but, then again, Masterpiece Classic isn’t what it was, IMO.
            Ken Tucker rocks.

          • Topaz

            I had actually avoided watching the show for ages because it looked like it would be so right wing, so only got into it while the third season was being broadcast over here in the UK. And, well, it is right wing but it’s also so silly that it’s hard to get offended because I’m too busy trying to predict absurd storyline outcomes with my Mum. Someone pointed out on another site that Fellowes always seems to come up with simultaneously the most implausible and the most sedentary conclusion to every plot, and it does make it impossible to get really, really worked up about anything.

            Then again, I say that, but actually the main reason I am willing to overlook literally every goofy story, awkward piece of dialogue and excruciatingly cringeworthy post-coital bed scene is the presence of Rob James Collier. If he ever leaves I’m pretty sure the show will be doomed. No wonder they changed their minds about killing him off at the end of Season One.

          •  “The way they dealt with that entire storyline of the servant who had the
            baby was ludicrous and offensively sanctimonious. Fellowes portrayed
            her so negatively that the effective suggestion was that she should
            never have got ideas above her station and that she really brought her
            misfortune down on herself, and that’s a recurring theme with the
            servants on the show.”

            We didn’t get that at all. It seemed to us that the point was being made over and over again that Ethel was a victim of the times she lived in, not that she had brought any of her misfortune upon herself. Sure, she wasn’t particularly likeable before she got pregnant, but once she did, the writing seemed to go out of its way to portray the father of her child (as well as HIS father) as nasty and entitled.

            Later in this season, one character comes right out and says that Ethel would have to live in a very different world (i.e., this world) in order to have any kind of life after having a child out of wedlock. It seems very clearly to be a diatribe against restrictive Edwardian morals and the unfairness of the class system.

          • Topaz

            I’m not sure. I do see what you’re saying. Fellowes didn’t try to just say she deserved everything she got and I was probably overstating my case by calling it offensive. Still, I think there is a general attitude on the show that people, particularly women, should know the world they live in and if they can’t like it and lump it are at least in part the agents of their own misfortune. It’s perhaps an issue of the identity crisis that the show suffers from. Fellowes in part seems to want to write as a twenty-first century person able to sniff or chuckle at the daft and restrictive social mores of the time, and perhaps a lot of the completely out-of-period lines are an acknowledgement of that and a wink to us. At the same time his main literary reference points, and clearly a pet love of his, are Victorian novels that were inevitably steeped in those exact same mores. So the show seems to attempt to both emulate a style he clearly adores and try to say something modern about the period, and so not do either quite right.

          • Topaz

            Eh, listen to me. I’m taking this show way too seriously.

      • Topaz

        Okay forgive all the stupid grammar errors. I wrote this while being told off by my Mum about my washing up skills and my mind was only half on what I was writing.

  • Get rrreaaadddyyy to rrruuummmble… That unholy alliance had to founder once Thomas had a rival in O’Brien’s nephew, she’s Irish, the nephew’s blood, Thomas is TOAST.

    • If he’s a nephew… In the upstairs hall her face was so angry I was thinking secret son.

      • Spicytomato1

        Ooh, I hadn’t thought of that. Interesting…

        • On the surface he doesn’t seem bright enough to hide such a thing.

  • Things I found incongruous:  Thomas had been revealed to be a liar & a thief but now he suddenly has the ear of the Earl again?  I wouldn’t think anyone would accommodate a suggestion from him at this point, much less believe a word he says.  And the refusal by not one, but two people to tend to Branson during his stay.  I wouldn’t think that was an option when you are told to do something by the person in charge of the staff.  And Daisy on strike?  Talk about indulgence-I think it would’ve been, “work or get gone”.

    • librarygrrl64

      “And Daisy on strike?  Talk about indulgence-I think it would’ve been, “work or get gone”.”

      Nah, I disagree. Mrs. Patmore is no fool. She has known Daisy for years and judged it better to indulge/ignore her protest, and knew that it would be short-lived. Plus, they were already short-staffed and it would have been impossible to train up a new kitchen maid so quickly if she told Mrs. Hughes to fire her. Nor would she have wanted to worry Mrs. Hughes about it. She played it beautifully.

      • Mrs. Patmore deferring to Daisy in all things was pretty hilarious, actually. “Should I cook it bit longer you think, Miss Daisy?” Shaming her back to reality.

    • Spicytomato1

      Thomas managed to redeem himself in Lord G’s eyes, at first slowly by pitching in when they were shorthanded and then with the dog napping incident. It sort of backfired on him but still ended up working in his favor.

  • Nothing can dim my excitement about the return to Downton, though the season has started off with the pacing oddities that drove so many of us to distraction in Season 2…I agree with everyone who wanted MORE wedding. And yes, the wedding dress was period, but not very pretty (reminded me of the 1920s sack in which the late Queen Mother married – perhaps an intentional homage?), though Mary’s face was radiant in that scene.

    I agree that Sybil looked astonishingly bad, kind of an amazing (bad) feat to succeed in pulling off with the beauteous Jessica. Loved the dinner party scene when several people rose to Branson’s defence. Lots of corn in that scene, but I liked it in spite of that – or maybe because of it.

    Two plot devices annoyed the hell out of me: Matthew feeling he must spurn Reggie Swyre’s money out of guilt for having broken Lavinia’s heart – for heaven’s sake, Matthew, LET IT GO! – and everyone being so stressed about Edith and Sir Anthony. He’s wealthy, well-born, lives nearby, is liked by the Crawleys, adores Edith, and seems like a good guy. So he’s middle aged and has a bad arm. These seem like ludicrous reasons for Robert and Violet to be so opposed to him. We had Cora and Robert muttering in Season 1 that Edith was the kind of girl who never finds a husband, and I thought her points about Sybil marrying the chauffeur and most marriageable young men having been killed in the war were well made. (On a less elevated note, the 1920s fashions in clothing and hair really suit Laura Carmichael’s looks, and it gets harder and harder to sustain the fiction that she is the “plain sister.”)

    My favourite moment? The dowager, turning to her son in his inappropriate black tie: “Might I have a drink? Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were a waiter.”

    • Jessica Goldstein

       Yeah, I was looking at Edith on the screen all last night and thinking “plain, my ass.” She looked terrific, especially in the green dress with the “jolly” hair.

    • Hahaha!!!  BEST line of the night!

    • librarygrrl64

      “(On a less elevated note, the 1920s fashions in clothing and hair really suit Laura Carmichael’s looks, and it gets harder and harder to sustain the fiction that she is the “plain sister.”)”

      I couldn’t agree more! Next to Cora, and Mary’s red dinner dress, I thought she had the most flattering clothes throughout.

  • Zippypie

    As problematic with plot holes as this series is, it’s still too much fun to bitch about and I enjoyed the hell out of it.  But yes, that wedding dress was a rag, wasn’t it?  I liked the veil and tiara but the dress itself? Meh.

    My wish list:
    – Matthew grows a set of balls.  Enough whining about getting money miraculously dropped into your lap.  It’s tedious. Especially during a recession.
    – Bates, get a get out of jail free card NOW before I have to endure one more scene with Anna that looks like they were all filmed in one day though they are supposed to be on different days.  This storyline has lost any interest.  Vera’s dead.  Move on.
    – No cancer for Mrs. Hughes!!
    – If Anthony Strallen was okay for Edith in Season 1, why the hell is he “old” now?  Please.
    – This isn’t a wish but Shirley was wasted.  I think she did what any good actress should do with a badly written role.  She underplayed it.  If she hadn’t, she really would have looked like a cartoon.  Such a damn shame.

    Bring it on!

  • Heard an interview with Julian Fellowes today; he says that Mrs Levinson is new money, and quite vulgar. 🙂

    • librarygrrl64

      Of COURSE. What a roaring snob he is.

      •  He is not the genius he appears to think he is.

    • Spicytomato1

      I heard that interview, too, and almost wished I hadn’t.

  • Toto Maya

    Ugh for every 2 minutes I get to watch on the PBS feed I have to pause it for 5 minutes to let it load. Really pissing me off.

  • MichaRSB

    IDK what you guys are talking about, Sybil has perfect 1920s hair! Looks adorable!

    • MRC210

      I like Sybil’s hair too and it suits her way of life as well as the times.  Having it cut off at chin-length without styling was the way hair was bobbed in the early 20’s, if you couldn’t afford to have it marcelled the way that Edith has.  

  • I’m liking that tall red headed houseman! 

    • jw_ny

       I was really expecting Thomas to make a play for him.  😉

      •  Thomas would never do such a thing unless he thought it could gain real advantage. He’d also be instantly detected- nothing can be kept a secret in a household like that.

  • You guys are so right. I didn’t see a minute of season 2, and had no problems getting up to speed. Lady Mary’s wedding dress was lovely, but not spectular, and MacLaine’s character was disappointing. Did miss seeing the stunning Sybil in better clothing.

    • not_Bridget

      The Christmas episode of the second series was quite good. Otherwise, you didn’t miss much. 

      •  Which was the finale. But, you know, I felt for the Livinia story; her noble sacrifice to love got to me, big sap that I am.

  • That was much funnier than I expected it to be.

  • Hah, I thought that was the only true “Americanism” as interpreted by the British in this stereotype-filled episode.  It’s the idea that freedom and the ability to defend yourself are all you need to make your fortune.  I know lots of folks who feel that way.  I think maybe the past few years of economic downturn make people forget that picking up and starting fresh somewhere new was a viable option.  You know, the whole “fuckit, I’ll try my fortune elsewhere” mentality.

  • Truthfully I spent more time studying the costumes than following the narrative.  The 20’s is the decade  when Coco Chanel became  famous worldwide and she spent the mid-20’s living in the English coutryside with the Duke of Westminster.  Those cold English castles influenced her sportswear and I wonder if we’ll see that relfected in Downton fashion.  Would love to see Chanel as a character in the show for some contemporary verismilitude

    •  Didn’t Isobel say something about liking new fashion, with softer fabrics, looser fits, more comfort? I took it she’d seen some Chanel tennis outfits somewhere.

  • Is the show cheap?  You don’t do weddings because they’re costly to film. And yes, Mrs. Levenson would know her table manners.  Wealthy american girls have been marrying british gentlemen and titles since the Revolutionary War, dudes.  The lady didn’t get her daughter married to an english squire without prepping for it.  The writer needs to get his dim head around some US social history.

    • not_Bridget

      NBC his hired Lord Fellowes to write a series on the Gilded Age–rich Americans in the 1880’s.   Definitely, he’ll need to do his homework.  He’s also writing a version of Gypsy–a subject even further afield for him. 

      Perhaps the folks in charge will suggest co-writers….

  • DebKleinSanDiego

    Spot on about the eating with her mouth full.  That really got on my nerves too.

  • Aisling Tempany

    Am I the only one who likes Sybil’s clothes? I mean, everyone else’s are a bit ridiculous, but I like the plain cut of Sybil’s and you cut totally get away with it now

  • DeTrop

    Thank you for stating that Mary’s gown was a disappointment. What a let down.  No pearls or adornment. Why?  The slightly lowered waist and overall style were of the period.  The lace overlay was barely noticeable – I don’t have HD.

    I took exception to the way they portrayed and dressed Martha Levinson.  She looked a bit like a floozy imo.  As someone noted, she came from money and she herself mentioned Newport.  Newport, the home of the Astors, Vanderbilts et al.  She would certainly know how to feed at the trough!!!!! This was a bit of slap towards the Americans, whose money was welcome but not themselves. Phooey.  I hope they steady the ship or I’m jumping off.

  • andreawey

    I hated the wedding dress as well, shapeless and an odd yellowy color….. sadly a lot of the characters seem to be turning into caricatures, its still fun though, conflict between O’Brien and Thomas could be entertaining. I re-watched Gosford Park recently and realized what this show is trying but failing to be…..

    • Fellowes wrote Gosford Park, of course. It’s superior but ultimately too clever and dark to be the basis for a Sunday night primetime spot TV series here in the UK

  • Trisha26

    Love Bates & Anna. Very disappointed in Shirley’s character – and it seemed that too, bordering on caricature. Didn’t mind Lady Mary’s dress; of the time, elegant in its simplicity, and all about the head jewels & veil. 

  • A dinner guest, no son in law!, has his drink spiked and the reaction is tsk tsk! how dreadful, carry on? Sybils hair was a distracting ape drape of horror. I hate mr bates. Cora must be on drugs and did you ever get the impression lavinnia swire was from money? I liked richard carlisle a lot, and wish he would marry Edith, move next door and make Mary miserable on her way down to Downton Flat.

    • BayTampaBay

      I always thought Sir Richard Carlisle was the perfect match or foil for Mary. 

      • Definitely- and although he was ruthless he also had moments of real sympathy- standing in that cold empty hallway and asking Mary “Shall we bring it back to life?” Fellowes made him a rotter without sufficient motivation. 

  • BayTampaBay

    Yes! Lavinnia Swire was from self-made upper-upper middle clas money.  Her father was a vey successful London solicitar.  Matthew worked for him when he left Downton Abbey at the end of the first season before he joined the Army or whatever service branched he joined.  Lavinnia’s uncle was a friend/adversary/frenemie of Sir Richard Carlisle.  Lavinnia’s family new their way around London.

    • thank you – I must’ve missed that detail!

  • Bah. I loved Lady Mary’s gown. It was elegant in its simplicity and so perfectly of its time and, more importantly, perfectly suited to the character.

  • I thought the start of Season 3 was better than Season 2, where it seemed too rush. That being said, the Anna visiting Bates in prison scenes are incredibly boring and have to go.

  • I am ringing in ridiculously late on this but only got to watch it last night. Just wanted to thank you men for blogging it and blogging it so joyfully. It really is a ridiculously fun show and, as directed, I have already used, ‘have you done something jolly with your hair?’ 

  • So did Mary really sleep with the Turkish guy? I seem to remember him saying that he wanted to do something that would keep her a maiden for her wedding night? Or is that just a 1912 pickup line?