First off, a note: Downton feels like it's lost a lot of momentum. Is that just me? Last year, I'd finished season one just in time to get hyped up for season two. This time, it's been so long since I saw season two, getting hyped for season three took me a bit of effort. (Not to mention the fact that much of season two had been so darned soap opera-y. I was worried going into this season. Would we get more of the same? More coincidences that drove the plot? Or would it be a return to season one strengths--with the setting and characters generating the interest, as opposed to happenstance?)
Having now watched the first two episodes, I can say I've very pleased with the season thus far. Here's a rundown on my thoughts to date. (SPOILERS!!!!)
- Losing the Downton fortune in a bad Canadian railroad deal? Um . . . okay? That sort of came out of nowhere, plot-wise. Suddenly we're just forced to accept the fact that there's been this whole conflict running underground all along, and we only find out now that disaster has struck. That might be a bit of a stretch, but then again, Lord Grantham was hiding it from everybody. So it blunts the blow a tad. Better yet, it doesn't turn out to be one of the Main Conflicts of the season. It's already fixed now, at the end of episode two--setting up a far better conflict (in my opinion)--the chance for Matthew and Lord Grantham to clash over how Downton is tu be run, and what its future should be. Without this Canadian Railroad Deal, Lord Grantham keeps his position of power. Now he and Matthew can be on somewhat even footing, and I'm a fan of that. So it's a net gain, for me. Kind of zany, but whatever.
- Sybil--I still have no idea why she married that nincompoop of a chauffeur, but whatever. The conflict of having the chauffeur sitting at the dinner table? Almost worth all the crap I went through last season. Almost. (But then in the episode three teaser, it looks like he's back to being an imbecile. Sigh. Groan. Please.)
- The American Grandma--Overrated. All that hoopla ahead of time, and Shirley Maclaine ends up to just sort of . . . be there. I was unimpressed, and just as glad as the rest of Downton when she was gone by episode two.
- Edith--Don't Want! What is it about me that dislikes Edith so much? I find her self-centered, simpering, weak-willed, and just a whiny mess. Going into the wedding scene, you just knew she was going to get left at the altar. Didn't you? She's such a leech, sucking the fun out of just about anything she touches. That said, I felt a smidge sorry for her. Then again, I didn't like her fiance at all. What a twit. Hoping to see the end of that plot line at long last.
- The Cancer plot--I approve of this one. I feel like it added weight to the character's lives, and it helped remind us all that cancer is hardly a new scare. Then again, I'm not a big fan of the fact that it's already over and done with. Not that I want Downton people to die, but still--it seems too tidy to me right now, and I wouldn't be surprised one bit to find out Ms. Hughes is lying about being recovered. Because the alternative is that the show just blew a good half hour in two episodes. I doubt the writers would do that.
- Mr. Bates in Prison--Not a fan. What are the outcomes of this plot? On the one hand, he finally gets exonerated. If that's the case, it'll likely be to the efforts of Anna, plucky amateur detective. Downton isn't a plucky amateur detective sort of a show. If he's not exonerated, then it means he's guilty. In which case we see Mr. Bates was a terrible person all along, and who can be rooting for that? I suppose there's the middle ground, where he's exonerated but forced to stay in prison somehow. And that would just suck. No--this whole plot is full of yuck, and it isn't even showing us anything interesting about the prison system at the time. Make it stop. Now.
- Thomas vs. O'Brien--Now THIS is a conflict I can get behind. We get to see both characters being mean and nasty to . . . each other? Evil vs. Evil? Yeah, baby! I have to say I'm rooting for O'Brien at this point, but I kind of enjoy watching Thomas being terrible to her. It's a win/win.
- The new Footman--He gets thumbs up from me for now. We're not deluged with him, and he's not dominating the new plots (like a certain maid from season two who just. won't. go. away. Even now.)
- Daisy--I'm liking her subplot right now. She's not getting to whiny, she's expressing doubts about the changes in her time.
Again, overall I've been enjoying the season. I do find it curious that much of the conflict from episode one is already resolved by episode 2--which is what leads me to think that it's just setting the stage for much greater conflict to come.
What have you thought of things so far? Please share!