Downton Abbey, Season 2

Seriously, Downton? An Amnesia Plotline?
Talking television.
Feb. 6 2012 11:45 AM

Downton Abbey, Season 2

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Amnesia? Really?

Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Cora, Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham, Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary.
Armistice at Downton. Not pictured: Li'l Crawley.

Nick Briggs/Courtesy Carnival Film & Television for MASTERPIECE.

See our Magnum Photos gallery on the English countryside.

Dan Kois Dan Kois

Dan Kois is Slate's culture editor and a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine.

Dearest Abbeyances,

Oh my! Let it be known that at the very instance of the Armistice, Matthew Crawley felt an unexpected but most welcome stirring. Given the date and time it seems likely, Seth, that Matthew went from six to 11; nonetheless, it’s a great moment for watchers of the show. I’m truly delighted to know that Li’l Crawley “shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields.”

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Add “paralysis that doesn’t stick” to the list of soap-opera tropes hauled this episode from a dusty trunk in Julian Fellowes’ attic, right next to “implausible amnesia” and “mysterious stranger.” What else? Why, murrrrrrrrrderrrrrr, of course. Bates’ field trip to London—before which his face was set in so murderous a scowl that even O’Brien blanched—ended, somehow, in his wife’s death, and while I’m reasonably certain that Bates himself didn’t do the deed, I’m immensely pleased that it done got did. Like you, Seth, I wouldn’t put it past an enraged Mrs. Bates to off herself just to eff her ex. But probably it was Thomas, his formerly icy feelings towards the valet transformed in an instant simply by seeing this photo of Brendan Coyle holding a baby.

(Some other notes on that amazing—and spoiler-free!—set of photos of Downton actors in modern dress: Of course Ethel’s done a shoot for a ladmag. She’s not going to be a sob-story supporting player forever, you know! She has dreams! Also, Mrs. Hughes looks great, though not as great as her bewhiskered, zoot-suited date at whichever premiere that picture was taken. It’s illuminating to compare Mr. Carson on his bike to Branson in that scarf—one is going about his business while the other is out for a night on the town dressed like a guy who wants everyone to say, “Are you in Downton Abbey or something?” Finally, OMG Thomas. That is all.)

Where were we? Oh yes, last night’s episode. I really love/hated it more than ever. New maid Jane’s awkward enthusiasm when Lord Grantham offered to write a letter for her son! (They will bone soon, I’m certain.) Carson’s sad goodbye to Mrs. Hughes! (I worry that they will never bone.) Sir Richard’s shocking kiss, sealing the deal as far as he’s concerned but maybe digging that relationship’s grave! The Return of Lavinia! The dowager countess somehow jujitsuing Isobel into rushing off to help refugees and leaving Downton to return to its former glory! The moment of silence for the fallen troops, which maybe doesn’t deserve an exclamation point but which I’ll give one anyway because it was so sad yet laughable given how on this show the war has been viewed mostly through the lens of how the deaths of millions might affect the number of footmen available to serve dinner!

Anyway, it was great. June, you realize that P. Gordon is a gigantic fake, right? “Fräulein Kelda,” indeed.

With a face like thunder,

Dan

Editor’s note: For the benefit of American readers who haven’t yet seen Season 2 of Downton Abbey, please do your best to avoid spoilers when commenting.

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