Downton Abbey, Season 4 Week 3

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I see Julian Fellows as still finding the story. I suppose it’s harder because history in 1922 isn’t providing a definite event to build a plot on. I still enjoy Downton, the acting is just superb, but last night we just saw life carrying on.

Anna was the main figure for me as she soldiers on after being raped by a servant from a visiting Lord. Though I’m sure it would entail great hardship, I do wish she heeded Mrs. Hughes’ advice and contacted the police. It’s a false dichotomy to assume that if she speaks up Mr. Bates will kill the rapist and get imprisoned again. I know that in this era women didn’t speak up, but some might have and I’d like to see how that process was conducted – even if it was patently unjust. How would the Crawley‘s and the servants respond? By keeping silent, Anna also cuts herself off from the support of those around her. For now she’s keeping Mr. Bates away because she feels “dirty.” Understandable, but to move back to the main house without allowing time to heal seems hasty.

I’m glad Mary rejected Lord Whoever’s proposal. It’s just too soon. There’s no urgency in getting married for her. Though the pool of available men is smaller due to the war, I’m sure Mary can find love in time.

I’m concerned about Edith signing whatever paper the editor Mr. Gregson gave her. Yes, he showed his worth by beating the card sharp and getting all the aristocrats’ debts cleared, but he seems to be up to something. The convoluted marriage problems with his wife who we’re told is mentally ill are so dubious.

Looks like Alfred may take a big test at the Ritz to get into their prestigious training program. Good for him. It did take his seeing Ivy kissing Jimmy to spur him to action.

Poor Tom has been ruminating on Edna’s assertion that she expects him to marry her if she’s pregnant. What a nightmare that would be! Good thing Tom was smart enough to turn to Mrs. Hughes who put Edna in her place and convinced her to leave. Mrs. Hughes is wonderful! Downton would not survive without her.

Looks like Rose will eventually get herself into romantic trouble. She was bound to from the start. Still we only have some hints. In London she was deserted on the dance floor when the black singer sprang into action and took his place. Rose was very impressed, while her chaperone Aunt Rosamund warned her to be careful. It would be good to see more of Lady Rosamund.

So a lot did happen, but for some reason the plot doesn’t have the same momentum.

Downton Abbey, Season 4 Begins

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Mary with a rare smile in episode 1

I’ve seen the first two episodes of Downton Abbey and thought I’d weigh in with my thoughts and opinions. First it’s just so nice to see these characters again after a ten month break. I was eager to see what Julian Fellows would do with them, what everyone would be wearing, how Mary would cope with Matthew gone and what year we’d be in for season 4.

I was surprised and oddly disappointed that O’Brien’s gone. Of course, another villain can always pop up, but O’Brien hit the right note of despicability. Her relationship with Thomas also made her more of a danger. So now we have Edna, which annoyed me. I so wanted Cora to listen to Mrs. Hughes. Actually, I couldn’t believe she didn’t put more trust in Mrs. Hughes’ wisdom of giving Edna a good reference to work elsewhere. No wonder Cora wound up with O’Brien to begin with. She probably disregarded a servant in the past. Cora, I’m sure you’ll regret this.

The first episode seemed rather poorly structured. It didn’t make sense to bring in a troublesome nanny just to get rid of her so quickly. Why is it that getting a new nanny for two children isn’t a major concern at Downton when getting a new lady’s maid was? I can accept that Cora needs a maid as we’ve been shown that in that era it was crucial, but it seems the nanny would really be needed too. Today childcare is the one area where we still need extra paid help.

I thought Mary’s grief made sense. She would be deeply saddened by Matthew’s death and in time people would want to push her out of it. I think a culture signifying mourning through clothes’ color and defined mourning periods is wise. It cues people to be more respectful or patient with someone and while imperfect since grief will vary from person to person it does provide a norm, which helps loved one’s more or less know when it’s time to try to encourage someone to move on. Both Carson and the Dowager’s prompting were well done, though I’ve heard experts say a butler would never have addressed Mary as Carson did.

The question of inheritance was a big matter. No one knew of a will or any document that gave Mary any power over Downton. It looked like Lord Grantham would manage his portion and his grandson George’s, which doesn’t bode well since he has such a poor track record with money. The idea that as a lawyer whose life has been radically changed due to inheritance didn’t have a will was implausible (though Fellows does eventually address this). Luckily, due to some deux ex machina magic, a letter from Matthew expressing his desire that Mary inherit does arise. Perfect! Now Papa will have to listen to Mary, whose ideas differ. There’s sure to be some conflict and tension from this arrangement.

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The house party

The second episode shown in America revolved around a guest party at Downton where a famous Australian opera singer was invited to perform. Even the kitchen servants got to listen. The times they are a’ changing!

Throughout the three day party Tom Branson was very ill at ease with his clothes and making small talk. Violet gave him the occasional tip, but I wish others had done more. Edith, rather than focusing on how your father is ignoring your sweetheart, why not include Tom in a conversation. Both men are of lower social status and they’d probably have plenty to discuss. I’m sure Tom feels out of place, but everyone has his problems and this one isn’t that bad.  Edna’s the only one giving Tom much attention, which makes me nervous. I see her as an opportunist and big trouble. I do hope Tom’s character develops beyond the “fish out of water” character. Give him something to achieve. Show him as a remarkable father.

Edith’s beau did save the day by winning back poker money all the upper crust lost. Lord Grantham lost an unspecified amount, but it seemed hefty. The poor man has no luck or skill with money it seems.

A childhood neighbor came to the party and seems like a candidate for Mary’s heart. He is engaged, but that just adds some conflict to the drama. I’d be surprised if she found someone immediately after mourning Matthew, that seems way too convenient and life’s rarely like that. Also, while he’s handsome, he lacks that je ne sais quoi required of a suitor for Mary.

The biggest event of the party revolved around Anna. One of the guests’ servants was very jovial with her and Bates tut-tutted about the impropriety. Bates just took a disliking to this man. Rightly so, it seems because during the concert, when Anna stepped out for a drink, this miscreant followed her and raped her. It was a shocking scene well presented in that viewers could see how it played out and how no one was downstairs to possibly help. Yet the scenes weren’t graphic. Viewers know what happened to poor Anna, without explicit scenes, which is good since young girls do watch Downton.

I wish Anna didn’t feel she had to hide this crime fearing that Bates would kill the man and wind up in jail again. Anna, there is the option of having him arrested. I would have liked to see how such a crime would have been handled.

Spare Me: International Women’s Day

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, which is sort of a silly day anyway. It doesn’t have to be, but in my experience it just is.

It’s not a big deal in American, in fact, it gets less attention than say Secretary’s Day.

On campus the university sponsored an event with games races in which participants see who can carry an egg on a spoon the fastest. Really? Is this something women need? What are they commemorating?

Most women I know would like more time or money. I think a great way to celebrate would be to give all women around the world a day off with pay. Let’s see what happens then.

As I’m doing my homework today, I run across this blog post on Ogilvy’s Asia website encouraging women to surround themselves with more flowers. Come on.

Really?

Really?

Talk about demeaning. I think we’re better off without the day. Teachers here were encouraged after a day of work, before going home to more work, to run around with eggs on spoons and to try to pick up ping pong balls with chopsticks. I am not making this up. I did not participate. I could not bring myself to watch such a spectacle.

The Ogilvy article links to some videos of women skipping and leaping through fields of flowers.

Earlier today I was troubled to read an article on Al Jeezera about child brides and another on the prevalence of gang rape throughout the world! One in four men admit to raping women in the Asian Pacific region. One in four.

Why don’t we focus on these problems on March 8th?