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Reviews & Ratings for
"Downton Abbey" Episode #3.1 (2012)

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23 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

"If we're mad enough to take on the Crawley girls, we have to stick together."

Author: Leonard Bast from United States
20 September 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Hard must have been the hearts that did not rejoice when the snowflakes fell from the night sky and Matthew Crawley at last dropped to his knee and proposed to Lady Mary in the final episode of Downton Abbey's second season, an episode that marked a return to the superb storytelling we had come to expect from Julian Fellowes and that had, to our mild disappointment, sometimes gone awry during the turmoil of the First World War. Now Downton is back for a third season, and the return to form is very much in evidence.

The Edwardian era is fading, and it feels as if we are finally entering the recognizable world of the twentieth century. We've seen it coming with the arrival of the telephone and electric lights, with the upset applecart of a war that made nurses of ladies and nursing homes of manor houses. We've seen it in the ideals of middle-class progressives Isobel and Matthew, not to mention freethinking Lady Sybil and revolutionary Tom Branson. In episode one Lady Mary, a pragmatist herself as her fiancé points out, is poised to marry Matthew, and Sybil and Tom are beginning their life together, venturing through uncharted territory within the tradition-bound landscape of Downton. The world has changed, and the forward-thinking moderns have taken center stage. They are joined by the delightfully outspoken Martha Levinson, Cora's wealthy American mother, whose Gilded-Age brashness was bound to irritate at least one old aristocrat. Watching Shirley MacLaine as Martha, all furs, waved hair, and plumed headpiece, sweep theatrically into the forecourt of Downton is to suddenly know that the rules of the game have changed. The century of the Brits would soon be over, the century of the Americans about to begin.

How the various characters accept change is one of the chief pleasures of Downton Abbey. Most challenged it seems is Robert, Earl of Grantham, who, despite his innate good sense, struggles quietly against progress (along with his acerbic mother and his lovable butler, both doomed to live, it seems, in a perpetual state of frustrated nostalgia). That Lord Grantham is also facing financial ruin adds a straw to the camel's back. That his one-time chauffeur is now his son-in-law does not help. But Robert will change, will slowly realize that the values he holds can expand and extend without suffering dilution. It's a pleasure to watch the subtlety with which Hugh Bonneville portrays him.

In fact, much of the conflict of the first episode centers not, as we might have expected, on Martha's arrival or on Mary and Matthew's upcoming nuptials (though there is drama to be found circling both events), but on the elevated status of Tom Branson, sympathetically portrayed by the talented and cuddly Allen Leech. A former servant now sits as an equal at the dinner table of an earl. The modern world has, indeed, arrived and it is compelling. Matthew responds in a way that makes us admire him all the more. "Bravo, well said!" his mother exclaims as he rises to the occasion in support of Tom. The burgeoning friendship between these brothers-in-law should prove a future pleasure to watch. Sir Anthony Strallan, awkward but decent, also comes unexpectedly to Tom's defense. Housekeeper Mrs. Hughes, played with steady understatement by Phyllis Logan, expresses sympathy for Tom, something not found amongst most of his former colleagues, the servants being, as Isobel once pointed out, even more conservative than their employers.

Other questions loom. Will Sir Anthony and Lady Edith find happiness together? (We hope so.) Will American wealth once again rescue the Old World, or will it be Matthew in the form of an inheritance from the unexpected Mr. Pillbox or Mr. Pumpkin—as Mary variously refers to him? (We hope he's sufficiently dead in the jungles of India.) And what of Mr. Bates' and his steadfast Anna, the perpetually thwarted downstairs lovers? Does she have a plan, and will they be reunited when he is finally exonerated? (We hope she does and he is and they are.)

Downton Abbey is a soap opera, a lavish costume-drama serial for moderately intelligent, historically minded, wistfully nostalgic souls who like their entertainment free of cynicism (and who don't mind a well-appointed drawing room when one presents itself). It's a soap opera in the same way that Dickens' novels are: first-rate story-telling, filled with twists and turns that keep us longing for the next episode and caring about the characters. Downton has its moments of villainy, but it's mostly about good people dealing with the unexpected choices and often hard turns that life throws at them: Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, Robert and Cora, Mary and Matthew, Anna and Bates, Edith and Sir Anthony, Tom and Sybil, Mrs. Patmore and Daisy, the unexpectedly resilient dowager countess (an unparalleled Maggie Smith), and, yes, even the scheming O'Brien and Thomas. That damask covers the walls and tea is poured in the library and newspapers are ironed each morning are all the more reason to fall back into your chair and lose yourself in this luscious bit of escapism. To echo Mrs. Crawley, bravo, well done!

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Loved it!

Author: cbsodile from United States
6 January 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The times, they are a changing - Lord Crawley's bad investments have depleted Cora's money! The new son-in-law was their chauffeur, and he's Irish, and he doesn't have formal dinner clothes! Her parents don't approve of Edith's love for an older man (although he does have a title and he's rich, duh). No one likes Cora's brash American mother, except all of us Americans! Downton Abbey is back, with our beloved old friends and a few new (tall) faces. Just as impressive, engrossing and entertaining as ever, with all the happy/sad story lines we've come to expect. The acting is brilliant, the costumes and the Castle are amazing, and it's as good as ever. Who will rescue Downton Abbey? Mrs. Levinson? No, her money's not as liquid as we thought. Matthew, with his inheritance from poor Lavinia's father? No, he says it would be criminal to accept it (duh, again). Perhaps Edith's fiancé? Tune in next week because we can't wait to find out what happens, to Bates (who has a scary new cell mate), to Mrs. Hughes, even to Molesley (who looks exactly like my ex-husband). I LOVE this show!

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5 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Downton Abbey Episode #1

Author: dalydj-918-255175 from Ireland
16 September 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Back to Downton in the and it is the booming spring of 1920 England. We get back and the plans for the marriage of Mary/Thomas is underway, also it seems Bates has his enemies and supporters. Also Sybill may not come to the wedding as flights were to expensive for someone back then when your husband worked as a driver. New employees are coming in but as everyone knows when a new character is introduced to work they usually do something bad that's gets them fired from the force. Downton is facing some money problems and it seems Robert Crawley is not OK with this, will we lose our special Downton, only if he can find away to save it as Cora no longer has any money. Well the worst sister Lady Edith is still around as I forgot she was still on the show, as she is very under used. At the dinner party we get to have some more of Violet's one lines and of the funniest comes at the expense of Cora's mother. Jokes about the new footman's height must be made and it seems as usual the new guy is the but of all the jokes. The next day Sybill returns with her husband to Downton and the men are unhappy while the women do a much better job at hiding their unhappiness. The dinner of awkwardness continues as no one wants to hear what Sybill's husband has to say. The Crawley's can be very mean especially when they do not respect him because they feel he married into class. Daisy is a winy woman as all she has she still finds some way to complain about things she does not have. At this point the tone has gotten very dramatic with all the cat fighting and worries about the future, it seems we may not got any laughs only when Violet uses her skills of comedic timing. Anna is not giving up on Bates so she has a theory I feel will play out all season, that she thinks someone else knew of his ex-wife's death. This week we get a lot of small moments with characters who over the last two seasons have developed the relationships that make the show what it is to me. Another party and Tom is unhappy with people picking on him about his views on the world. Just when it seems Tom did not fit in we find out that they actually really do like him and Matthew is looking out for him being married to a Crawley girls as well. Bates may have become more violent locked up in that prison so that's what makes me wonder if he gets out of if he survives what will Anna think of the new Bates. Tom comes to meet Violet and it seems she can forgive him by giving him a new coat. New music plays and we get are first introduction of Shirley MacLaine playing Cora's mother, who makes a great first impression showing us that we need an American to cause some dramatic trouble. Thomas now knows of the troubles of Downton and he will not use what he has to save them and Mary is not a fan of how he is acting, not the best way to act the day before your wedding. Anna and Bates together is less and less because she will barely see him as Prison times are hard to figure. Smith and MacLaine together for the first time is a great scene as the two are great comedians and these two characters were created to clash against each other. Mary is having a hard time especially since she may not be able to survive without her money unlike her sister. Just when the wedding plans were going bad a kiss between the two mixed with the music makes me love the way Julian writes love scenes. Wedding Day and the wedding dress is stunning especially for the time the show is based in. It seems when the audience waits for a wedding the whole town cannot wait too. The production of the whole episode including costume design, hairstyling and much more were fantastic. So excited it is back.

EPISODE GRADE: B+ (MVP: Michelle Dockery)

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