Downton Abbey Series Blog- Episode 4: A NEW HOPE

by Biondino

"Mrs Patmore, you seem to have forgotten something. Salad is usually served in a bowl"

After allowing  the plot only the briefest glimpse above Highclere Castle’s parapets over the last three programmes, Sunday’s episode had an awful lot of catching up to do, and flicked from plot strand to plot strand at a rate likely give older viewers (i.e. me, you, everyone else) epileptic fits.

At Downton, the motto continues to be “plus ça change, c’est la même chose”.

Roles flutter and swirl as war and social change turn everything on its head. And yet, and yet… The coarsening of the Grantham family continues apace this week. The scheming O’Brien somewhat surprisingly transforms Lady Cora into a Menial Labourer when she reveals the existence of the illicit soup kitchen, which, by my count, leaves Lord G as the only proper toff standing.

Or does it? When Sir Hugh hears that Bates has been spotted in Kirby Moorside, he can finally act on the guilt that’s been quivering his upper lip since episode one. Indeed, the intimate and frank conversation the pair share may be the most (b)romantic moment of the week. Has the last social barrier been broken?

Of course not, not when the Dowager Countess still breathes (I’m a bit dubious that she actually does; if so, it’s probably through her skin).

When Lady Mary explains, with wincing pragmaticism, that Sir Richard Hitler-Murdoch will be able to buy a title at the end of the war, you can see Dame Mags visibly deflate (by the look of her face, she’s been deflating for a while) at the thought of the downfall of the nobility.

Something I obviously have to mention, yet am really struggling to find any humour in, is the will they/won’t they/no, they won’t/¡viva la revolucion! dalliance between Lady Sybil and Branson.

It could be the drama is only just beginning; it could be that Branson as a character is one-dimensional, slightly creepy and (failed general-gungeing shenanigans aside), hasn’t done anything to actually impress the object of his affections.

Or it could just be that, depressingly, the two most “modern” and politically aware characters have had their emotion and humour shorn to ‘make a point’. Shame.

The most surprising moment of the episode, though, was the tie-in with the X Factor. Honestly, ITV, you’re *shameless*.

I wasn’t blown away by the Crawley Sisters performance – cute outfits, but a bit leaden.

This new girl group don't have the Ecks Factor

The song choice was bafflingly dated. However, they blew me away with their backstory: turns out that the pretty one was pining for a beau missing in action, and then (not at all scripted, oh no) the blighter turns up!

Even Dermot was in tears, and I had a bit of a weep at the subsequent Twinings ad (true), so I think they’ll make it through to next week. Don’t fancy Ethel’s chances much though: those “up-duff staff muff gaffe” headlines may have torpedoed her Lusitania.

“Would they really have said that?” of the week: “Randy” – and yes, they would have – it’s from the mid 17th century. You’re welcome.

Neologism of the week: To annabate: to stoically, even wilfully, choose sexual abstinence despite temptation; E.g “In the crowded trenches, William annabates himself to sleep thinking of his beloved Daisy”.

Unwelcome mental image of the week: Mrs Patmore’s special area. *frown*

Cynical production meeting comment press-ganged into the script of the week: “Downton has become a second-rate hotel where the guests keep arriving and no-one seems to leave”.

Phrase I intend to use in everyday conversation of the week: “I may not be a woman of the world but I don’t live in a sack”.

Reviewer’s mistake of the week: following the #downton Twitter feed. All the best jokes can be found there, hence this bunch of second-rate “quips”.

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Downton Abbey Series 2 is on Sundays, 9pm, ITV1

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About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at Hilary3@gmail.com.

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