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Downton Abbey S3/E8: Now Available in Plaid

Lana
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.)

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
onegrapeshy
Feb. 19th, 2013 06:55 pm (UTC)
Is JF writing this show singlehandedly? (I'm too lazy to look this up myself) Usually with ensemble casts there is a host of writers to ensure the characters, um, stay in character. This could very well be the problem.

Also, in case anyone DOESN'T ALREADY KNOW THIS: You can't "be friends" with someone who's lusting after your body, regardless of sex. DUH.

I'm still addicted to it, though. That final scene. I totally cried.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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