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(Livejournal friends, I am still obsessing, so feel free to skip over this.)


Several nice people have asked me to expand on my defense of Tarsem Singh’s masterwork The Fall and since I could talk about this movie until my tongue falls out, I am happy to oblige. If you are as insanely devoted to it as I am, come on in and see if you agree with me on desert islands, blue cities and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.Read more...Collapse )
NOTE: Long time, no blog, I know. But I needed a place to publish this, so old friends, don't feel you have to read or comment.

I recently fell head-over-heels in love. With a movie. If you know me, that won't shock you. What might shock you is that it's a relatively recent movie. From 2006, visionary director Tarsem Singh's labor of love, The Fall.

It instantly rocketed to the top of my favorites list, which is saying something considering my top ten hasn't changed in about twenty years and most of the films on it are more than sixty years old. I hadn't been so transported by a modern film in years. Not only that, but it has changed the way I view my role as a writer and storyteller, a quantum shift.

Needing to connect with the opinions of others, I searched out reviews on-line and was staggered by how poorly this film had been received by mainstream industry critics. It has only a 59% aggregate rating on Rotten Tomatoes, ranking it significantly below such cinematic treasures as Talladega Nights and Jackass: Number Two.

So I began to carefully read the negative industry reviews in an effort to understand what it was that the people paid to professionally understand film did not, in fact, understand about this particular film. And what I discovered was this: they are Philistines.

Yeah, I'm sorry, but they are. There's something very wrong when people who make a living watching movies almost willfully misunderstand a film that is all about understanding, provided you have a basic grasp of the universal language of symbolism and metaphor and creative narrative structure. And you would think a film critic would have something of a nodding acquaintance with those things.

What follows under the cut is my defense of the film against the most often-cited issues raised in those reviews. If you haven't seen the film, this won't make much sense. If you have and didn't like it, maybe it will inspire you to try again. In any case, spoilers abound.You have been warned.Collapse )

And the Oscar Doesn't Go to...

Worried that your favorite won't win? Or upset they weren't nominated at all? Comfort yourself with the knowledge that historically, the Academy has been wrong before. Very VERY wrong. Witness:


Perhaps the most egregious example of Academy blinking. Best Picture of 1952 according to the Academy? Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth. You've never seen it? I'm not surprised. Look, I actually have a deep affection for this film, but in a guilty pleasure kind of way because it is a really terrible film. The story of the "tangled skeins" of the lives of circus performers that ends with a literal and figurative train wreck! Overly long with pretentious voiceovers by DeMille himself. Charlton Heston is too young to be believable as a crusty circus boss. Betty Hutton--impressive doing her own aerial work--bellows her songs and most of her lines. And poor Cornel Wilde with a wildly fluctuating and undefined accent was terrified of heights and reportedly goaded to tears by DeMille during filming. Oh, and then there's James Stewart. One can't help but wonder if he asked to be kept disguised by clown makeup throughout the film out of embarrassment.

Not that there isn't stuff to enjoy here. Such as first use of elephant as deadly weapon?

And there's some great snarky dialogue between Hutton and Gloria Grahame. But Best Picture in a year that included other nominees:

High Noon
The Quiet Man
Moulin Rouge

And films that weren't even nominated for Best Picture:

Pat and Mike
The Bad and the Beautiful
Singin' in the Freaking Rain, for godssake!

Greatest film musical ever made and it wasn't even nominated and lost out to a circus train wreck!

Yeah. It doesn't get a whole lot worse than that.


Not quite as egregious but still very very wrong, the tedious Around the World in 80 Days wins over films like Friendly Persuasion, Giant, The King and I. Not even nominated that year? Lust for Life, Anastasia and possibly the greatest western ever made The Searchers.


It's one thing when it's a whole movie, but the Academy screws over the individual, too. One of the worst examples was in 1939, Hollywood's "Golden Year." You can argue that the wealth of fine films and performances played a part in this but it's hard to justify the bland Robert Donat's win for Goodbye, Mr. Chips against powerhouse performances by Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind (he cried, for crying out loud! The big man wept on screen!) and James Stewart's heroic filibuster in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. It was a two-for-one screw up that year.


An early example of "beautiful, glamorous woman scrubs off her makeup, dons dowdy clothes, wins award as serious actress" in which Grace Kelly overacted the oppressed wife of an alcoholic singer in The Country Girl to win over Judy Garland's transcendent career-defining performance as a different kind of wife of an alcoholic in A Star is Born.

country girl

So. Who else got shafted by the Academy?

*Will not get into Peter O'Toole's shafting in 1962 because I know of at least two people who will hunt me down and hurt me over that one.
Tonight's episode opens with research data dumps and exposition, just in case you didn't know what stalking was.

And once again, DA is bustling with a full but anonymous staff. Where were these people in seasons one and two? And they still don't get to eat with the staff who have actual names.

"High spot of his lordship's calendar" which we never heard one little whiff of in all of the years this show has covered.

Doughboy is the last person on this show who ought to get snide about Shrimpy's nickname.

Lord help us, it's Cordelia Flyte! Speaking the way English speakers speak to non-English speakers.

Having Mrs. Patmore say "owt" once in three years does not a Yorkshire accent make.

After having been informed at the outset that stalking does not require guns and therefore guns should not be taken along, interesting that they're now all going to go practice their shooting. Or is this ironic? I can't tell.

Wild child Rose who last week could not bear the dullness of upperclass life and had to go whoring about in the jazz clubs of London is now a tad bit too excited about a picnic by the loch and a ghillies ball. I thought she hated it here.

"Can't spoil his last treat before fatherhood claims him." First of all, this is the high spot on her father's calendar, so apparently, fatherhood never kept him from enjoying this particular treat, well except for that one time when one of his kids died. Second of all, like this baby won't be whisked off immediately by a nanny. Third of all, it is abundantly clear that the only reason they are having this child is to secure the succession. Never once have they talked about it or the possibility of it as something to desire in and of itself. You know, like normal human beings with human feelings. So I don't see this child as hampering Doughboy's lifestyle all that much.

The drama of silver polishing, hair dressing and the horror of Anna being called by her first name!

Rose is smoking! One cigarette does not a rebel make.

"My whole childhood would seem impossible to you, my lady, but I survived and so will you." Nice set down, Bates. By that same token, one might say that the childhood of an enslaved child laborer in Sri Lanka would seem impossible to YOU, so just shut up already, okay?

What would Lord Peter Wimsey have to say about Dr. Clarkson's ill-fitting shirt front.

"Just be as nice as you are," Doughboy to his unpleasant wife. "You think me nice, but nobody else does." Maybe that's because you are a copper-bottomed bitch.

Ah, but Doughboy clarifies. The real test of niceness is nakedness. There you have it. You know, Doughboy is one of those men doomed to think the first woman to admit him to their favors is the most wonderful woman in the world. Poor sap.

Anna's clothing very chic for a lady's maid.

The idea that bitchy, saggy baggy Susan who hasn't yet been able to exert herself to say a pleasant word to anyone could "teach diplomacy to experts" and therefore will serve well at Shrimpy's side in his diplomatic outpost is beyond idiotic and displays the kind of disconnection between the writer and the characters he has created that is rampant on this show.

So Susan and Shrimpy don't like each other. Just that. Nothing more. God forbid we should explore the collapse of a marriage any more deeply than that. I mean, I know it does happen that people discover they don't like each other. But is it interesting? Is it the stuff of great theater? No.

Ah! What conversation the ladies have. "How lucky we are." "Yes, we are lucky."

And evidently, Susan doesn't like Rose, either, but again, we're not going to get to know why. It's a sure bet diplomacy has nothing to do with it.

Wilkins and O'Brien, a promising friendship of thirty seconds with a future of precisely one episode ruined over hairdressing envy!

"You are horrid when you want to be." "But you love me anyway." Why? WHY? WHHHYYY??? She can't look THAT good naked.

Okay, this fuss over Branson being "high and mighty" and whether he is a member of the family and therefore above the servants now is more nonsense since he HAS A JOB, a legitimate job that indeed places him well above the other servants. So this plot point is plot pointless.

When did Daisy and Ivy become friends? Did that whole bland romantic quadrangle resolve off screen?

Morris dancers! Look! Morris dancers! I think there is a law that any British period drama with a scene at a country fair must include Morris dancers.

"We're not in a novel by Walter Scott." No, you most certainly aren't. (Whatever the hell that means, anyway.)

Mrs. Hughes went to the fair to scowl and disapprove of everyone. She might be my favorite character.

Like they wouldn't have tested the block size on the ring toss game ahead of time.

So the dude who wants Mrs. Patmore is making no secret whatsoever about why. "Take orders from me." "Cook for me." And she's swooning? Whatever.

So Jimmy's in the middle of nowhere when the thugs attack him and Thomas is right there. So Thomas was stalking him. And nobody remarks on this.

And Dr. Clarkson's proposal is cut off at the pass by a polite but firm negative from Mrs. Crawley and there goes another bit of nothing. The drama of five minutes history defused with little effort.

"Leg-o-mutton sleeves" hardly synonymous with sluttery.

"Why is Susan so hard on Rose?" "Perhaps Rose reminds her of me, or what I used to be like." This is such ridiculously throwaway dialogue. Is one to assume that Shrimpy was a weepy flibbertigibbet with a screechy voice and a secret cigarette habit, then?

Anna can dance a reel. And everyone thinks she's marvelous. She's okay, I guess.

Mrs. Hughes tells Mrs. Patmore about what a douche the dude who wanted to marry her is and Mrs. Patmore....is glad. So there goes that, too.

Was that whiskey or crack Wilkins put in the punch?

And there's Tom shirtless. Well, if this is the best you can do, Downton Abbey, this is the best you can do. But he looked better with the shirt on.

Pretty rich of Mrs. Hughes to tell Tom what to do and how to act in one breath and then turn around and tell him to be his own master and call his own tune. Again, Fellowes is writing this shit without even thinking about what he's saying.

The hats are entirely too nice this season. Edna's hat far more dashing than a woman of her station would have worn, even an uppity snip with ideas above her station. For one thing, she couldn't have afforded it.

Robert finally appreciates Matthew being so horrible to him for the last six episodes. Dun dun DUN! Matthew will die within the next ten minutes.

Shrimpy wants Rose to learn that family can be a loving thing. So why exactly is he sending her to Downton Abbey, then?

Edna is fired. Because any character capable of exciting drama of any kind must be immediately exorcised.

Dr. Clarkson suggests he was only about to propose to Mrs. Crawley because he was drunk. How gallant. He is now officially as awful as almost everyone else on this show.

"I feel as if I'm only half myself without him," Mary says of Matthew's absence. Too bad we have seen no evidence to support this assertion. And too bad it's not the bitchy half. Oh wait. Mary's wholly bitchy.

This may be a failing on my part but I find it impossible to follow this shift in Thomas's characterization. For me, it simply was not earned on screen. He went from conniving bastard to selfless sweetheart without any explanation other than he was somehow altered by his deep grief over Sybil (a relationship we were never privy to) or the charm of Jimmy's pretty face. Either way, it's all empty and unearned.

And so Mary produces the heir and "Downton is safe." For what, exactly? Safe so that this godawful family may continue into the future with their godawfulness? Well, thank heavens for that!

"You are going to be such a wonderful mother." "How do you know?" Fellowes has to stop having his characters ask the logical questions for which his writing provides no satisfactory answers! ("You're such a wonderful woman" isn't an answer, it's a punch line.)

Considering how bitchy Mary was to Edith just the day before, I'd say Edith has every right to her "version" of Mary Crawley.

So after a season of Doughboy and Mary sniping at each other, it takes more than three minutes of "I love you more than blah blah blah" to make a tragedy out of what happens next. Not to mention, I can't help thinking how different this scene would be had Mary had a girl. What would Doughboy have felt he had swallowed, then?

And Doughboy crashes the car and kills himself because that's just the kind of idiot he's always been. The end.

The thing is, I've never particularly bought Matthew and Mary's tepid pairing. Since season one, I have seen little to convince me that Mary's feelings were not driven almost entirely by her fear of losing her home and her social standing. She was far too ready to dispense with Matthew when it was thought her mother was carrying an heir. And so now that Matthew has served his function as far as Mary is concerned, I don't think anyone need feel too badly for her. And so that's where I leave it.

* A note on Peter Egan: Oh Peter Egan, Peter Egan, you ought to have been a major star! Where did the universe fail you? Let me know and I will slap the universe for you! But here you are, in a thankless add-on role in this piece of tripe, weighed down by brainless dialogue. Not even you, Peter Egan, can illuminate this darkness, and that is a shocking thing. Did they have to make you play a man named Shrimpy? Sigh. I still love you, if that helps.

(Wish to witness Peter Egan in his glory? Start at 19:15 here, where he plays Oscar Wilde to glorious perfection. Unfortunately, this clip cuts off Francesca Annis's snippy response of "No, I came in a cab from Eaton Place," which makes Mr. Egan chuckle delightfully.)

Do I really have to recap this thing? Because my Lord, that was so boring! Two bloody hours of WHAT? Blah blah blah money blah estate blah estate blah estate blah BLAH homophobia blah baby blah christening blah cricket blah de blah blah blah?

Twenty minutes in and I'm thinking "Doughboy, dude, if you kill Robert right now I will never make another uncharitable remark about your jawline because I cannot watch this grown-ass man throw one more little girly tantrum because you took his Barbies away."

But no. Nobody killed anybody and everyone continued to be absolutely and completely horrible. Seriously, you people who like this show, who are you rooting for? They're all awful.

So what happened?

Robert was mad. But now he's not.
Bates was in jail. And now he's not.
Ethel was a problem. But now she's gone.
She couldn't see her kid. But now she can.
Tom was going to leave and take the baby. Oh, now he's not.
He didn't have a job. Now he does.
Mary and her Doughboy can't have a baby! But now they can.
Thomas is in disgrace and is fired. But now he's not.
Georgina--I mean Rose is messing around with a married man! Not anymore.
Edith can't write for the newspaper! Oh, go ahead. Nobody cares what Edith does anyway.

And on and on. This is what I'm talking about. How can you get invested in any of the problems on this show when you know that it will be resolved with very little effort, pain or even deep thought within about fifteen minutes, thirty tops? I've seen episodes of Sesame Street with more dramatic tension than this show!

Random thoughts:

- Suddenly there are hall boys and names for a couple of the background maids.
- What does Julian Fellowes have against the Irish? Was his mother frightened by an Irish setter while carrying him?
- Edith's new boss looks exactly like her ex-fiance except for having two hands. And probably about the same age. Oh, and he likes Edith but he has an insane wife locked up somewhere. But he is no Mr. Rochester, so I will make no predictions about the burning down of the abbey because that would involve someone taking initiative and that ain't going to happen.

A note on the homophobia:

Carson and Alfred's reactions, repellent though they may be to our modern ears, are correct for the time. Everyone else pooh-poohing them and shrugging it all off, not so much. Particularly completely unbelievable that a hidebound traditionalist like Robert, who hates Catholics and won't let his daughter write for a newspaper would have such a cavalier attitude towards homosexuality. He'd be right there with Carson, handing out torches and pitchforks. With him, it wasn't so much historically incorrect as it was out-of-character and that's bad writing.

But I also felt manipulated by the way that particular part of the story was handled. From season one, Thomas has been a reprehensible snake-in-the-grass. He is a rotten person and there has never been one single glimpse of any other side of him (not counting the unearned head-scratching "You adored Lady Sybil and she adored you" moments.) And in season one, he is shown using his sexuality as a tool without so much as a twinge. Yet all of a sudden, we're supposed to feel....what? Bad for him because he's gay and got rejected? I felt like Fellowes was flinging this in the viewer's face, saying "Go ahead and keep hating on the gay guy, I dare you!" Sitting Thomas outside in the cold in a weepy heap doesn't change the fact that he's awful and doesn't make me care about what happens to him, whoever he prefers to have sex with.

But by all means, this troupe of idiots trip over themselves to retain a servant who has caused them no end of trouble and promises more of the same because...this show is crap.
Lady Violet starts this episode off with the inspiring line that "Grief makes one so terribly tired." That must be why Tom hasn't moved from his spot in the drawing room. Either that or someone has glued his shoes to the floor.

Downstairs, in between being creepy, Thomas continues to don the mantle of chief mourner for Lady Sybil. Refresh my memory: just how well did he know Lady Sybil? We did not see this on screen and therefore this is not earned. Anna and her grief too, for that matter. She has primarily been shown as close to Lady Mary.

And now the downstairs is buzzing with unfamiliar faces again. Where do these people go when there isn't a wedding or funeral? Do they just pop up like mushrooms when needed?

Anna and Bates are still talking about the poisoned pie. Stop talking about the pie! It still makes no sense and it is still SILLY.

I don't think Lord G listened to the doctor because he was fashionable. I thought he had good reasons to listen to him. Is it all that unreasonable to seek the advice of a specialist, titled or not?

And did Lord G really think he was going to get lucky the night of Sybil's funeral?

Is someone speaking? No, it's just Edith.

Matthew has perfected his "Robert is an ass" expression. Takes one to know one, Doughboy.

So it took a death to get Carson to treat Tom decently. Nice. "Sorry your wife died. Here. Have a plate."

Robert, you are wrong about everything and everyone hates you.

"Presumably it will be his influence that governs her upbringing." Presumably because he's her FATHER?

Lady Violet may not have a heart but she knows that they--uh--well--inconvenient things, hearts.

Ethel is going to prepare a salmon mousse. Am I the only one who immediately thought of this:

When one of your characters has to underscore the point of the last two minutes of dialogue between four other characters, you have some serious writer doubt going on. Thank you, Mr. Fellowes, but we are not all morons. We get that this footman likes that kitchen maid and that kitchen maid likes this other footman and blah blah. It's not exactly a Gordian knot you have tied for us.

Tom, perhaps if you kept a shamrock in your lapel and minced about with a shillelagh, you wouldn't have to keep reminding everyone you are Irish.

Anna doesn't want to discuss religion because it will only lead to arguments. In a way, Anna is the soul of this production. God forbid drama should develop. Anna will do her best to stamp it out.

"Your heart's in the right place. Can't say the same for everyone under this roof." Says the man who won't let anyone talk to the ex-prostitute.

I'm trying hard to follow Doughboy's logic here. So Robert wasn't given Downton by God's decree. Though in a way, he was. It was given as a right of birth. And if you believe in God at all, well then, how else did Robert end up where he was except for God's decree? That aside, if Doughboy is so contemptuous of the whole feudal set up, then just LET IT GO and stop trying to fix it. God, man.

Michele Dockery's wig so very apparent in bedroom sequences.

Ivy and the footmen talk about dancing and nobody ever anywhere in the entire history of mankind has ever had a conversation like that.

"The foxtrot makes you glad to feel young" "The light from the gaslamps made a kind of halo around her." Julian Fellowes was smoking some good stuff this week.

"Thought I'd spend my life in service." Dream big, Daisy! Though far more realistic attitude than the aging farmer who suddenly develops unbelievable prognostic skills and predicts the downfall of the great houses. Given that he enjoys a happy and clearly prosperous relationship with a great house, not believable that he would so eagerly anticipate their demise. Not a man of his generation. Not to mention, here he is warning Daisy away from trusting she will have forty years of employment in the great house and yet urging her to take up the farm, which is granted to him in a tenantry agreement WITH THE GREAT HOUSE. Perhaps he has lost his mind. That might explain why he cherishes the delusion that a dimwit like Daisy could run a farm AND a jam-and-jelly start up at the same time.

Either Lady Violet stole that chair in her office from the Abbey or this show is cheaping out on props. Because Robert was sitting on it in his own parlor earlier that morning.

"Have we nothing in common?" Lady Violet asks the doctor who refuses to lie for her. Well, not gratuitous perjury, obviously.

Sometimes Fellowes weirdly writes like he isn't British, overemphasizing while not-quite-appropriately using Britishisms like "a wide berth" the way an American writer would.

"Robert is referring to Ethel's work as a prostitute." Ah ha ha ha ha!!! Best line of the entire series. "I like to keep my work as a prostitute separate from my work in accounting." Heh.

All of these people are far too keenly aware of the slow, uneventful Gotterdammerung heading their way.

Mary reminds her father of how much Sybil loved Tom. Something we all need to be reminded of because God knows we never saw much of it on screen.

That is one HUGE baby. No wonder Sybil died.

So all of the drama in the last episode surrounding Lady Sybil's delivery was in the disagreement between the two doctors regarding her treatment. Now the country doctor is saying that everything he said that night may not be true. Only he's saying it by saying the EXACT SAME THING HE SAID THAT NIGHT! Only he's not because then he keeps talking and he contradicts himself THREE TIMES and I can't even follow this anymore, it's so stupid.

And yet, everyone else somehow manages to accept this as some kind of proof and now we're all happy again and POOF goes another source of tension and drama.*

And Bates is being released because there was a PIE or something. I don't know. But you know what I do know? That whole time he was in prison, NOTHING HAPPENED. Even this stupid thing with the pie. First Mrs. Whatsis wouldn't say what they wanted her to say. Oh, but now she will. So now that's over.

On a more serious note: Anyone else having a problem that the gay character on this show is depicted in such a negative fashion? Or do we all just accept that gay men are given to unwanted advances. It's what they do. They simply can't help themselves. After all, Ivy is constantly making unwanted advances of her own, and that-footman-whose-name-I-can't-remember isn't interested in her, either, but isn't nearly as skeeved out and never complains about her.

*You will note that I called this last week, that the tension between Robert and Cora would last precisely one episode.
Because Sybil died! And OMG, it was sad. Because she was just the kindest of all beings yet spawned. Kind to all living creatures, including hook-nosed spinsters and gay footmen. The way everyone carried on, I fully expected little birds to fly through the window and cover her corpse with flowers and little sad-eyed bunnies to weep at her beloved feet. Let's take a moment to listen to every single blessed member of the cast weigh in on how wonderful she was:

She was sweet.
And kind.
Yes, kind. She was kind.
So kind.
She was kind to me.
And me. Nobody else was kind to me except her.
Nobody else was ever kind to anyone ever ever ever except her.
There will never again be anyone so remotely kind.
Indeed, kindness has now left the world.

Okay, yeah, she was nice, but jeez, can we maintain a little perspective? Maybe I missed the episode where she cured cancer or something. Anyway, now that we don't have to worry about anyone being nice anymore, we can get back to the stupid:

For me, doughboy continues to take the prize. I guess you have to give him credit for not wasting an opportunity just because his sainted sister-in-law is dying. Put it down to his sense of middle-class economy to buttonhole the two visiting professionals who are there for other reasons and pump them for his own needs. I hope they both send in hefty bills later, it would serve him right. But did he really have to have the discussion about his wonky willie right in the middle of the front hall?

Lady Violet is first runner up. In the event that doughboy cannot continue to be a jackass, she will fill the void nicely. Here her precious angel of a granddaughter is in great physical distress to the point of death and she can't resist the opportunity to continue to take pot shots at the social standing of the girl's husband. Well played, Lady Violet.

Head-scratcher line-of-the-episode goes to the lawyer who said something like "Middle classes have their virtues and husbandry is one of them." What exactly did the British middle classes have to husband in 1920? Nothing, that's what! What a dumbass thing to say.

And there was the usual reminder that No Man Will Ever Touch Edith with Matthew's sad insistence that Edith should be allowed to pen her pretty notes to the newspaper because "Edith must do something." The clearly unspoken corollary being "because no man will ever touch her."

I think we are supposed to find Mary delightfully bitchy when Edith, wild with grief (weirdly, hers was the only grief that struck me as real) asks Mary if they might try to be nice to each other and Mary off-handedly says "Let me think about it, no" with as much feeling as she might decline cream in her coffee, with the blue body of their exalted sister stiffening beside them. Yeah, that's entertaining. And speaking from a storytelling standpoint, it's really a waste. I mean, that's actually kind of an interesting moment there, but Fellowes sticks his anti-tension pin into it almost immediately and it goes pop. Wouldn't it have been more dramatically dynamic to have the remaining sisters actually try to be friends and have it blow up in some awful way? But why make an effort to build something like that when you can just end the tension with one quick line?

And the Bates thing....I don't even know what to say at this point except POISONED PASTRY? Really? REALLY?

Burning question:

How long will Cora stay mad at Robert? (Answer: one episode. Question extinguished.)

Will all of the kitchen maids henceforth be required to have botanical names?
Too bad it was to a character we hardly know. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So end of last episode, Edith is a sodden heap of unmarried nothingness. This episode, she seems pretty okay apart from the fact that she's bored. Not one single word about the loss of the man she insisted she loved. She just can't think of anything else to do. So instead of taking up the horror of gardening, she embraces the suffragette cause by writing a letter to the newspaper.

Because that is where suffragettes come from, you see. Mildly unattractive women who can't get husbands. Thank you for that history lesson, Julian Fellowes. And I hope you weren't expecting to actually be let in on Edith's specific views on women's rights because that would mean the screenplay would have to go beyond plot point level so no. Sorry.

And then Sybil's tediously hostile little husband burns down a castle. But no, you don't get to see that, either. Instead, you get to see him blubbering about leaving his pregnant wife behind in Ireland and everyone's all pissed at him but then Sybil arrives safe and sound* so nothing happened there, of course. Except now it looks like they're stuck with the grumpy leprechaun because he can't go back to Ireland.

But then there was that one big thing that actually happened. Remember Ethel? The maid? The maid we didn't know very well? She had a baby with that guy we didn't know at all? Well, now the maid we don't know very well wants to give away the baby of the guy we didn't know at all to the grandparents we really don't know. Isn't that sad? It might be, if we knew who these people were.**

Other than that, this was a pretty drab little episode. So what else did we have:

Matthew being his usual doughy ass of a self over the damned money he never wanted in the first place.

Anna and Bates separately sniveling over letters. The waterworks were on full blast in this episode.

Then in a move employed by no lady ever in the entire history of running a large household, Mary actually instructs Carson to hire a hot new footman*** because the maids will like him. Dear merciful goodness. Yes, let's deliberately set up as much conflict amongst the servants as we possibly can because it will be so amusing and won't upset the household one jot!

And boy were the anvils falling fast and heavy over Mary re-doing the nursery. (Only a complete moron like Matthew would have bought that line about hay fever.) We're going to have an old fashioned soap opera conception drama with a miracle pregnancy. Mark my words. God forbid there should be no heir and this appalling family should not continue into the next generation. What a loss to mankind that would be.

*Except for her hair, which looks worse than ever.

**Not to mention, it was all a little too reminiscent of Violet giving away Tizzy in Flambards for me.

***And really, he's not even all that good looking. Though he doesn't have a lot of competition among this pasty bunch.
So someone asked me if I was going to do a recap of eppy two of the third installment of this endless parade of blah. I had plans for one but really--more so than ever--nothing happened in this episode!!!!

Okay, I know, Edith was going to get married but then she didn't. But who really didn't see that coming? Even though it is completely ridiculous that people of this class in this time period would have objected to the marriage of a superfluous daughter to a man of reasonable wealth and impeccable background because of a relatively niggling difference in their ages!

Edith's non-marriage aside, this whole entire episode was about whether or not Matthew was going to read a letter. And then when he didn't read the letter (which turns out to be the most conveniently exonerating letter in fictional history), we were treated to a headache-inducing glimpse into the snarl of Matthew's irrational thought processes.

First, this chinless dough ball is stunningly quick to accuse the woman he supposedly passionately loves as much as a dough ball can love of forging the letter. And then when the doughy recesses of his mind finally grasp the fact that she didn't forge it, he wants proof that the dude's daughter really did write to him because maybe someone forged that letter, too? Because...someone knew way back then that Lord Grantham would run through all of his money and the dude's other heirs would die so Matthew would inherit money just in time to save an estate nobody could have known was in jeopardy and this makes sense HOW? And this guy was a lawyer?

And then there was what I suppose we are meant to think of as "intrigue" or maybe "hijinx" going on below stairs, with servants telling masters that other servants are planning to quit. Which resulted in the tense drama of servants saying "Uh, no, I'm not quitting" and masters saying "Oh, okay."

What else happened? Oh yeah. People went to see a house they already own to see if they could live in it. A house they already own. And they picnic on the lawn. Because maybe they forgot the keys or something. And Mrs. Hughes doesn't have cancer. Not that I wanted Mrs. Hughes to have cancer but it was yet another build up to nothing. And then I guess someone accused Bates of something in prison but then that turned out to be nothing, too.

Because nothing is allowed to actually happen on this show!!!

Burning questions left unanswered in this episode:

Who are all of those extra servants? Is it possible there are maids in this house who are even less interesting than the ones whose stories we get to see? How come they never get to sit down and eat dinner? Is there a subsidiary dining room for the really boring maids?

Who paid for the Irish deadbeats' passage this time?

How come the footage is really shaky downstairs but not upstairs where the quality live? Are the floors warped down there or what?

Am I the only person who remembers Mrs. Hughes as Lady Jane Felsham?

Am I the only person who has a hard time with the concept that we're supposed to be over-the-moon with joy that instead of giving the money that he really doesn't deserve--ridiculously unbelievably charitable letters from ex-fiances notwithstanding--to a worthy cause, Matthew uses it to save a house for people who already own several other houses that aren't quite as big as this house?
(Yes, I know that's a double negative but I don't not care.)

In the interests of public service, I have saved you the trouble of watching this slow-mo non-trainwreck by compiling this handy recap of Season Three; Episode One:

Oh no! I've lost all the money!
Wait! Matthew has money!
No I don't. It makes me sick to think of taking that money.
You make me sick!
Are we still getting married!
Of course. I have a great dress.
The new footman is my new unknown son.
I thought I was your unknown footman son.
No, I don't like you anymore.
Sybil is having a very bad hair day.
Well, she is poor now.
Stop calling Lady Mary "Mary!"
Stop calling Mary "Lady Mary!"
How about I call her dirty English Pig Dog?
Go back to Ireland
Matthew? The money?
No. Sick.
You could buy yourself a chin.
I said no!
Let's get married so I can make your life a living hell over this.
Do you really think you should wear white?
If Aurora Greenway and Miss Jean Brodie get it on, this could be the best show ever.
Crawley. Crawley? Crawley is a really terrible name for an ancient noble family.
I lost the shirts.
I stole the shirts.
I found the shirts.
I replaced the shirts.
The stove doesn't work! We have five hundred fireplaces but we can't cook anything!
You can't marry the old dude.
Okay, you can marry the old dude.
I can totally see his hand.
If this show had any balls at all, Bates would have really killed his wife.
Too fine, noble and sick. Sorry.
Why did I marry you again?
It is a known fact that 74% of the audience watches strictly for the hats.
It's like Lidsville. With classier accents.

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