Snark & Banter

[recap] Downton Abbey – episode 2

this is second in my Dowton Abbey recap/review series.

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Since I just started watching Downton Abbey and I love it already, I’m going to do recaps/thoughts post every time I watch a new episode (or at least, try to!).

You can find my thoughts on the first episode here.

Next, episode 2!

Matthew Crawley makes his first appearance at Downton this episode and he is handsome!  He might not be drop dead gorgeous, but he’s exactly the kind of well-meaning, slightly obnoxious kind of guy you can endear yourself to.

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He seemingly hates village life and wants to reject the title alltogether, but his mother advises him that there is no real way to do so at the moment. Once he is the Earl, he may reject the estate, etc.

I found this a little hard to believe. What man, especially in the early 20th century, when things were still settling down after the war and poverty was certainly a concern, would turn down a multi-million dollar estate? It sort of rings hollow for me, and I think I am proven kind of right when the Countess (Violet) asks him how he would react if the entail was overturned and the estate goes to Mary? He looks uncertain and says he would try to accept it the best he could.

On the other hand, Mary is not entirely off the mark when she says that he is full of himself. He thinks he is above the rituals and superficiality of estate life, and his attitude often comes off as obnoxious and a little ungrateful, especially when he is lecturing poor old Molesley, his new butler and valet. So, in some ways, it makes sense for him to reject a way of life he consider archaic and not worth his time.

He does learn a few things over the course of the episode, though, and in the end, comes to appreciate (as Robert puts it) that “we all have roles to play, and we should be allowed to play them”.

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His mother (Isobel) is similarly progressive, but more understanding. She is polite to the staff and allows them to “play their roles” per se, but still holds her ground in what she wants to do, especially when faced with Violet’s conservatism.

Her struggle in the episode is trying to inject modern medicine into a local hospital (he he pun). Her late husband was a doctor, she is a trained nurse, so naturally, she seeks to find an “occupation” in the local hospital. When she sees a tenant of Lord Grantham’s suffering from dropsy, she asks:

“How can I help? If I am to be in this village, I must be of use. Please, how can I be useful?”

I found that really endearing, almost, and it certainly made me appreciate and like her character. She seems like a sensible woman of character with an independent and progressive streak – just how I like my women! 😛

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In the end, she succeeds in getting to doctor to try the adrenaline treatment, much to chagrin of Violet, and even lands herself a position as the Chairman of the hospital board. Violet’s displeasure (and others’ amusement over this fact) makes for a light-hearted ending to this overall funny episode.

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In house, the servants, especially the nasty O’Brien (as you can tell, I am not a fan of her), gossip about Mr. Crawley and his lack of status and upbringing. Things go a little too far though, when Cora hears O’Brien insulting him and attempts to put an end to it (and put her lady’s maid in her place). Suffice it to say, O’Brien (and Thomas) is not happy with being reprimanded and being told what she can and cannot do. Later in the episode, it is revealed that she wishes to leave this job but cannot because she fears Cora will “ruin her” with a bad reference. Maybe that is why she is so unpleasant most of the times… insight. Thomas himself had sought to remove himself from Downton earlier in the episode as well when he applied to be Matthew’s new butler, but alas, did not get the position. One can’t blame him. After his humiliating experience with the Duke last episode, I imagine he wants to be as far as possible from the place.

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Romantic entanglements develop between Anna and Bates and William-Daisy-Thomas. I really like the idea of Anna + Bates. I think they’re very well suited to each other in terms of maturity and values. Daisy seems to be infatuated with Thomas, but as we found out last week, he is in fact gay. William, however, seems interested in Daisy but she does not seem to notice nor return his affections. Finally, Mary and Matthew get off on a bad start when he jokes that the Crawleys will surely push one of their daughters on him now that he’s the new heir. Their relationship throughout the episode is full of snarky remarks and little jabs, but the sparks are there nonetheless.

Finally, Mary has met a man who does not go overboard to charm her. And Matthew has found a strong (progressive?) woman in the countryside. I think they are two people who are extremely similar in some ways (their personality) and opposites in others (their upbringing/outlook on life) and it’s going to be very interesting seeing them dance around each other. I will be very surprised if they do not end up together.

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For what it’s worth, I think the show does a good job of showing progressivism on both sides – the Manchester Crawleys are surely modernists, but the Downton gang isn’t far behind. I mean, the sheer fact that EVERYONE in the house feels Mary should inherit the estate and that Cora shouldn’t have to give her money to some stranger just because of archaic laws speaks volumes about their ideas on gender equality. Of course, the show also hints that this gender equality may just be applicable to the bourgeoisie.

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Funny moments:

  • Mary comparing Matthew to the sea monster from Andromeda’s story – comparing her family pushing her to marry Matthew to Andromeda being tied naked on a rock for the sea monster. The exchange between to the two hilarious as he points out that the sea monster never came to get and she retorts that it was because Perseus saves her. “The son of a God. Much more appropriate, don’t you think?”
  • Carson is shady all episode and in the end, it is revealed that he has been trying to hide his past as the singing showman part of a troop calling “The Cheerful Charlies”. His shame at the fact is so great that he offers to resign from his position, feeling that he has disgraced the family. Robert, of course, sees the light in the situation and tells Carson he is “rather impressed”!
  • Violet had some of the best lines in the episode, here is a selection:

What is a weekEND? (when Matthew mentions it)

isobel: [about the hospital] Who funds it?

violet: oh good, let’s talk about money.

[about the refurbished room at the Crawly house] “It always seemed rather dark when my Mother-in-law lived here; but then, she made everything rather dark.” 

isobel: what should we call each other?

violet: Well, we could always start with Mrs Crawley and Lady Grantham.

  • Mathew exclaims: “What a reception committee!” upon seeing the servants of Downton lined up to see him. Lol.

All in all, I thought this was solid second episode. It perhaps lacked a little charm and depth of the first episode, but it was also shorter, so they did a great job with it. Really liked the Crawleys’ introduction to the village and the family, and the lighthearted funny moments were a welcome change from last episode’s drama.

Looking forward to the next one!

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