Downton Abbey Open Thread

January 31, 2011 @ 4:29 pm | Filed under:

It’s that time again…and the last time for a while, sadly. What did you think of the season finale? Lots of cliffhanger plotlines. Suspense makes me grumpy.

Spoilers in the comments.

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20 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Melissa Wiley says:

    Once again the 7-episodes-recut-into-4-episodes thing made for some jarring transitions. Just me, or did the bit about William’s mother seem to come out of nowhere?

    And the jump to July (which was, as Michele mentioned in the comments of last week’s open thread, the beginning of the 7th and final episode in the original cut) was quite abrupt. A lot of important and suspenseful decisions were put on hold for the whole London season: Thomas’s fate, Bates’s fate, Mary’s answer. Hard to imagine *all* of those issues being tabled for a month or more, seems to me.

    Things I loved: the Dowager Lady G’s eventual reaction to Cora’s bombshell—and Cora herself, her matter-of-factness, her straightforwardness. I really enjoy that relationship. The allies-not-quite-friends, but the ever-growing respect between them. You can see how slowly and probably painfully that must have developed.

    I’m very curious to see where O’Brien goes from here: whether her guilt will magnify to self-loathing and perhaps even drive her to suicide, or whether she’ll work to redeem herself by trying to earn the esteem and trust the Grantham women place in her.

    Mary and Edith. So very sad and really quite despicable. How casually, effortlessly, they can act to destroy each other’s happiness and hopes.

    Much of this last episode seemed to center on that idea, actually: the ripple effect, how one small action can dramatically alter a course of events, affecting a wider and wider circle. Kind of neatly underscored by the ripple effect of the assassination of the Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand, I suppose. Mosely witnessing Thomas messing with Carson’s jacket: this ripples out to clear Bates’s name & spur Thomas to get while the getting’s good. O’Brien and the bath. Mary and the delayed answer. Mary’s cruel remark to Edith’s beau. Edith and the letter. Even the sudden reversal of attitude in the dueling cooks: one small remark from the housekeeper and suddenly they are firmly united and fast friends.

  2. MicheleQ says:

    I think the relationship with The Dowager Lady G and Cora is my favorite part. I just love the back and forth and the way it’s developing. Oh and I was in tears with Lord Grantham about the baby. So sad.

  3. Charlotte (Matilda) says:

    Oh…. I hate cliffhangers too! I’m not sure I can watch it now. πŸ™‚

  4. Karen@CandidDiversions says:

    Loved this series! I happily loathed both O’Brien and Thomas the entire time until the last episode and then, the actress made me actually care about her. I told my husband I was afraid she would just walk into Downton and hang herself. I’m thankful that didn’t happen – at least, not yet.

    Loved Mr. Carson practicing his telephone skills. Loved the cooks banding together against Mrs. Hughes. Love the quiet but real feeling between Mr.Bates and Anna.

    Didn’t like that it ended and we have such a long wait to see more!

  5. Charlotte (Matilda) says:

    Oh, okay… I watched it. I was really disappointed about the baby but glad to finally see something come back at O’Brien. She was wicked and I didn’t like her at all but I was pleased to see her reflection, even if it was too late to help Cora. I’m willing to give her a chance, but not a big one. Thomas is another story… I know you aren’t supposed to like him, but he’s the kind of character you don’t love to hate, you just hate. The jumping from one episode to the next was really obvious in this one! And I’m still in love with Bates and Anna. He played the scene with Molesley so perfectly! For some reason, the Lady Sybil, Gwen and Branson plotline was kind of “meh”… a little anticlimactic. Does anyone think they were hinting at a little infatuation on the part of Lady Sybil towards Matthew, especially now that he seems to have given Mary up?

  6. maria says:

    I did enjoy Mr. Carson on the phone. hee hee That was fun!

    Melissa, I completely agree w/the choppiness of it all. At least we knew why, or it would have been all the more confusing. I want to see th whole UK version!
    And oh the horridness of Mary and Edith! Yes, so sad.

    “For some reason, the Lady Sybil, Gwen and Branson plotline was kind of β€œmeh”….”
    I agree. It seemed too modern when they all hugged so openly excited like that. Esp. Gwen and Branson. I know they both have modern ideas, but it just seemed rather odd…..if Sybil would have hugged Gwen and Gwen been taken by surprise a bit, hesitating to return the hug, and if Branson would have just shook Gwen & Sybils hands, but a group hug? Just seemed off & as I said, too modern.
    Also I so wish Lord G. would have at least looked at Cora or something to reassure her(even if she did not know why at the moment) before he announced the war to everyone. That seemed odd. Rushed even. Maybe things like this will seem to fit better upon viewing the uncut/UK version.

    Overall I enjoyed it a great deal!!!!!

  7. Melissa Wiley says:

    Maria, if I understand it correctly, there weren’t any scenes cut out of the US version, it’s just that the 7 UK episodes were recut into 4 US episodes. All the same scenes but different stopping and starting points for the episodes, if you see what I mean.

    If that’s the case, though, I do think some plotlines were a bit rushed or undeveloped. For example, if we could have had just one brief bit with Mary in the village overhearing something about William’s mother, her illness wouldn’t have seemed to come so out of the blue.

  8. Sheila says:

    Wasn’t the scene when Maggie Smith wobbles in the chair (in Matthew’s office) WONDERFUL? (Must every day involve an argument with an American?) I could have watched that several times over. She is SUCH a fabulous actress. Also loved watching Carson practice his phone answering skills. And watching Sybil kick her father out of the study – oh! and watching Carson’s former acting friend get cut down to size by the Earl of Grantham…so many examples of sublime acting.

    I was a little perplexed at Mary’s final scene with Matthew – she seems too, well, no-nonsense to be dithering about like that.

    Hated the intersistene fighting…it was easily my squirmiest moment.

    (dare I confess this?) Got a little tired of the Bates Stiff Upper Lip bit by the end of it.

    If you read Rebecca Eaton’s comments on the website, she mentions (rather sotto voce) that 25 minutes has been cut from the US version. Which might account for the choppiness you remarked on.

  9. Robin says:

    Love Maggie Smith! I saw an interview with Hugh Bonneville (Earl of Grantham) on You Tube where he talks about his scene with her and the electric lights. If you notice, she keeps her fan up the entire scene to “shield” her eyes from the “blazing” light. So funny.

    I already told my husband I want a butler like Carson, but then I’ve loved that actor since Cranford. I’ve also loved Brendan Coyle (Mistah Baaaates) since “North and South”.

    I agree that the editing seems choppy. As I mentioned in the other thread, they kept talking about “Sybil’s party” in London but we never saw it. If it wasn’t filmed, I think it was mean to keep mentioning it. πŸ˜‰

    And I believe Mary’s dithering was because she truly loved Matthew but was struggling over telling him about her loss of virginity (and I respect her for making a point of wanting to tell him, as mentioned to Violet).

    Favorite Violet part: at the flower show when she insults Mrs. Crawley, who says she’ll take it as a compliment, and then says, “Ooh, then I must have said it wrong”. She started out soooo snobby in the beginning, but then shows she has real heart.

    The Hubs couldn’t believe how nasty two sisters could be to each other. He also really liked Lady Sybil until she turned out to be a feminist. -snort-

    Lastly (really!) I think they should have sacked Thomas, and not just let him leave. I can see him poisoning people at the hospital that don’t fit into his evil plans.

    Ok, I’ll sit down now. ;o)

  10. Mary Lee says:

    Suspense makes me grumpy, too. In fact, my direct quote when the note about the rest of the series being “in production” was, “Oh, MAAAAaaaan!!”

    Best compliment I can give the series — kept me up way past my bedtime on a school night! (and I totally agree with Robing about Thomas…he’s the only one of the lot that seems to be pure evil…)

  11. Lesley Austin says:

    It is so interesting to read everyone’s thoughtful comments! I woke up this morning and thought about it a bit before rising and my main feeling is the same I had last night after watching our recorded episode-too much drama. I’ve really enjoyed watching this and will look forward to watching the second series, but…I lost my attachment to it when the young Turkish man rather inexplicably died and from there the little and big dramas just seemed to be piled on. The soap by the tub and the inevitable fall and miscarriage really annoyed me. It may just be me, but I think there is plenty of drama and humor and everything you want with the romantic possibilities, the relationships between and amongst the “upstairs and downstairs”, the entailment, the period in history. There is so much there, I could do without the extreme behavior (Oh! When Mary said what she said to Edith’s potential husband! In a good story, the man wouldn’t leave it at that and I hold out a slim hope that he won’t in this one, but don’t really have faith that it will go that way-less drama, you see. It would be a relief to have Edith safely and happily out of the picture…perhaps they are building to some reconciliation brought about by the trama of war?). Do you know what I mean? It would be enough to watch Bates and Anna slowly brought together with the natural hindrances of their positions and their reserve without all of Bates’ past.

    And I am disappointed we were done out of Sybil’s “season”. Even one ball would have sufficed. I think that period is the most lovely as far as fashion is concerned and as irritated I get sometimes with the over-dramatized bits, when everyone gets dressed for dinner and we see all the ladies in their drapey dresses and soft colors moving slowly off towards the dining room…I am soothed.

    I am sorry it is over already, so the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. And I could pick it apart for a long time, but I am missing Maggie Smith and many of the other characters and will look forward to seeing them-exasperating or not-whenever we again have that pleasure.

  12. Charlotte (Matilda) says:

    I wanted to add… whoever did the casting deserves tremendous praise for choosing Samantha Bond (Lady Rosamund) as Maggie Smith’s daughter. Those two actresses really do have similar features and an almost exact profile! Maybe I only noticed it because it has been bothering me that Laura Carmicheal (Lady Edith) really doesn’t look like any of the other cast members; not enough to be a believable sister. It’s not a big deal… I’m willing to suspend my disbelief.

  13. Irene says:

    I was sad to see it end without tying things together a bit more. It was a surprise to me to find that it would be continued in another season, so I was expecting everything to come together the other night.

    On the other hand, I remember reading an article in the Washington Post about the series before it began, and I recall that the original airing in England was 8 hours long. It was cut down to 6 hours here, so we lost 2 hours. The article mentioned that much of the cut material centered around British inheritance and the entail –that’s the correct term, right? — things that we American’s wouldn’t be likely to understand anyway. Even so, I was surprised at what seemed like huge jumps in the last hour and half on Sunday.

    As for the things that disappointed me, I have to agree with Leslie on almost all the points she made. I wanted to see a ball too! But I still thoroughly enjoyed watching the show.

  14. Sheila says:

    Has anyone here ever watched Gosford Park? It was also written by Julian Fellowes, and if you get a copy with ‘extras’ you MUST listen to the writer’s commentary: Julian Fellowes talks his way through the movie, listing all the things from his family memories that made it into the movie, and how. It’s strangely gripping.

    Maggie Smith makes an appearance in this film as well: she has some KILLER lines (“Green is such a DIFFICULT colour”). I think she’s JF’s muse!

  15. Melissa Wiley says:

    HUGE Gosford Park fan here. And Maggie Smith, I adore her so. Last night it struck me that one of the marvelous things about Dame Maggie is that she seems to positively revel in her age. What a delicious character to play (reminds me a bit of Joan Plowright’s wonderful character in Enchanted April), and you can see that Maggie Smith is thoroughly enjoying herself.

    Leslie, I understand what you mean about the somewhat superfluous nature of the uberdrama—Pamuk’s death specifically. There is so much inherent drama and tension in the entail storyline and the upstairs/downstairs worlds, all those clashing personalities, that the Pamuk part seems a bit over the top. As I continue to ponder it, though, it strikes me that that incident really did propel a great deal of the action from that point on. Edith’s actions, Mary’s, Cora’s, even Daisy…ripples rippling outward. I think Mary would have (maybe? probably?) accepted Matthew’s proposal if her sense of integrity—believing she would have to tell him about Pamuk first—hadn’t somewhat paralyzed her.

    And as painful as it was to see Cora lose the baby (and I grant the soap-slip is a rather hackneyed device), I think the miscarriage did bring in a legitimate and devastating tension that is interesting from a story perspective—especially the effect it had on Matthew and Mary. But what I think is that it was too rushed, not at all a nuanced or layered plotline. “OH MY! She’s pregnant! What if it’s a boy? This changes everything!! OH NO! She lost the baby! This changes everything.” —too rushed, too convenient. (From a moving-the-plot-forward perspective, I mean; it’s rather awful to use the word ‘convenient’ in the same sentence as miscarriage, in any context. You understand I’m looking at it strictly in a made-up-story context, where everything that happens is the decision of a writer and is intended to serve a purpose. I felt the same deep discomfort about “giving” a character a stroke in one of my novels years ago, like some callous god. And yet it was right for the story.)

    I was shocked that the garden party continued as planned. Seems unlikely, no?

  16. Nancy Piccione says:

    I love following the discussion here and enjoying it with everyone else, since we have to wait until who knows when for more.

    My favorite lines seem to be mostly Maggie Smith. One: “She reads too many novels.”

    I am glad that Thomas is gone, but I fear not forever.

    I really dislike the hatred between Mary and Edith–it just doesn’t ring entirely true, esp. because the parents are not pitting them against each other or highly dysfunctional. But I guess it makes for good theater.

  17. MicheleQ says:

    I downloaded the UK version on iTunes, it’s 6 hours so I don’t know about the 8 hour thing –perhaps that was factoring in commercials since it was shown on television? I didn’t watch the UK version from the beginning as I started on the PBS website so I’m going to watch it again with Tim and see what, if any, the difference is. I have read a few commentaries elsewhere that have given me so good food for thought. One person commented that Edith’s betrayal of her sister makes no sense since in that time it would have also ruined her parents reputation and HERS. The way it’s presented is quite 21st century I think. There isn’t any clear dysfunction between her parents or even with the way they relate to her. It is mentioned but never really seen and at one point when Lady Grantham congratulates Sybil on her London season we hear Edith complain that she isn’t told such things and Lady G. grabs Edith’s hand in reassurance. I don’t know, it just doesn’t ring true to me.

    There is a bit too much familiarity between the classes which I think also very modern. The hug was one of those moments for me Even that the toublemakers would have been able to get away with so much seems unlikely for that time period.

    The slipping on the soap/ miscarriage was all too easy and yes way too fast. This is a series, it seems to me they could have taken longer to develop that whole thing. I was surprised when it ended that things hadn’t been wrapped up because of the pace of things up to this point. I am on the last season of a different series and find myself just so ready to be done because of how drug (dragged?) out it is. If they are going to leave us hanging I would have like to have seen much more development of the relationship between Mary and Matthew. It’s not really clear in my mind why either of them would profess to love the other.

    Sorry to be all complaining. I do so like a good conversation Lissa –thanks!

  18. Rebecca says:

    I loved it! I did! The drama, the intrigue, the nastiness between two otherwise decent people (Edith and Mary)–sibling rivalry gone rogue. It didn’t surprise me, considering how the two girls were placed in the family and how each was regarded (in terms of future prospects) by all who knew them.

    I watched it on DVD – in 7 glorious episodes, so perhaps that’s why I didn’t have as many issues with the actual story line.

    There is one scene where Bates says “I’ve been working here two years” and I thought, my! Where did the time go? Also, I’d wondered if I’d fallen asleep somewhere when there were comments about Lady Mary having disappointed Matthew Crawley previously and he wouldn’t likely propose again… something like that. I was all “Wha? When?”. I’ll have to watch it all again. πŸ™‚

    I would have liked it to be a full 12 (or 13) episodes with some of those middle bits filled in… and maybe some more down time between the splashes of high drama. I loved the rivalry between Isobel Crawley and Violet (Dowager Countess)… and how that played out at the garden exhibition. Wonderful stuff.

    The casting was superb all around. I could rave all day!

    Looking forward to Season 2 (although it will be a full year before I get to watch it, I suspect… unless it comes out on iTunes).

  19. lindsey says:

    It was simply amazing!

    …Does anyone else see some potential for a relationship between Sybil and Matthew?

  20. Elizabeth M says:

    Jumping in late because we watched it on Netflix Streaming this past week. We’ve really liked it and are looking forward to more.

    I can’t comment on the timing of the US vs UK versions. But we saw the 7-episode version via Netflix.

    The issue with William’s mother was better explained in this version apparently. Mrs. Crowley came to speak to Cora (and Mary was there) to explain that William’s mother had been in the clinic and was very ill with a heart issue. But she forbade them from telling William because she didn’t want to worry him or disrupt his duties. So it was a dilemma and they decided that they had to respect her wishes, although Mrs. Crowley tried to dissuade her for William’s sake.

    Mary was left feeling that it was unfair to William and eventually defied the official decision to respect the mother’s wishes.

    To be honest, it was another side of Mary in that she was doing it for William’s sake, not her own.

    Did you have the sub-plot of the stolen snuff-box? I saw one post that said it wasn’t in the US version. It really ramped up the tension between Bates and Anna vs. O’Brien and Thomas and brought out their plotting.

    Anyone know what else was edited?

    So many questions:
    I’m wondering if Mary will bring herself to confess to Matthew and, if so, will it make an engagement a possibility? Will he then understand her vascillation? If so, will be be able to accept her anyway? Will we see what’s happened to Bates’ wife? Will he end up with Anna? How will the War impact Downton’s daily life — who will be home who will be in the war effort?