Downton Abbey, Season 2

Jane Is Downton’s Manic Pixie Dream Maid
Talking television.
Feb. 13 2012 1:08 PM

Downton Abbey, Season 2

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Jane is Downton’s manic pixie dream maid.

Clare Calbraith as Jane and Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham.
“Refresh your virility, m’lord?”

Nick Briggs/Courtesy © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE.

See our Magnum Photos gallery on the English countryside.

Seth Stevenson Seth Stevenson

Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.

Uppity minxes,

A moment of silence for poor Lavinia. Even she seemed to realize she was merely a plot contrivance. Her existence had meaning solely to the extent that it provided an obstacle for Matthew and Mary. When the script at last dropped the sword, Lavinia meekly excused herself from the series and urged the resolution of the Mattharyfest Destiny.

Advertisement

At least we understood what Matthew saw in her. She was a fetching, chipper, loyal, selfless gal. Some of the other Downton romances are far less fleshed out. For instance, I still can't fathom why Jane the housemaid would have the hots for Lord Grantham, yet with just a few shared glances they were off and running. Jane shows up at Downton, bats her eyes at Lord G, absolves his every weakness, makes him feel virile, and then leaves with no fuss when he suddenly relocates his conscience. Is she Downton’s manic pixie dream girl?

I've also lost track of what Sybil sees in Branson. Early on, he was a driven fellow who kept aware of the world, had dreams and goals, and walked with a swagger—certain he was destined for something more. Lately, he sits around the garage waiting for Sybil to decide if she likes him or not. He isn't particularly funny, interesting, thoughtful, or charismatic (though he does have a way with a hip caress).

Were you two amused by the fact that Branson's new gig as a content producer is spun by the Crawleys as a possible fig leaf for his downmarket background? Or, as Sybil puts it: "He's a journalist now, which sounds better for Granny." Later, the dowager countess gets on board, too: "He's political, a writer ... surely I can work with that." I guess it’s nice to know that if I ever go back in time and elope with Lady Sybil, I won’t completely scandalize the aristocracy.

This episode truly belonged to Dame Maggie Smith. The D-to-the-C was on fire this week. Sure, she can zing like an in-his-prime David Spade. But she also shows so much wizened heart—her sit-down with Matthew was chock-full of the caged British soulfulness that is really what I most want out of Downton dialogue. "We will not have a falling out over this," she assures Matthew, before making a strong case that he should choose carefully in marriage because "there's no getting out of it—not for our kind of people." This felt like the first time she allowed that Matthew was indeed her kind of people, and yet it was with subtlety and emotional restraint that she acknowledged his new standing in her eyes.

So next week's PBS finale of Downton Season 2 (can this be the end in sight? I'll miss our little club!) aired in the U.K. as a "Christmas Special." Viewers over there had to wait two months after the end of the regular season before receiving this splash of brandy on their figgy puddings, so perhaps we should be grateful we need only wait seven days. June, as our resident Brit, can you explain: What's the deal with this tradition of Christmas specials? The only nonrerun TV Americans get on Christmas is NBA games and the evening news. How popular does a show have to be before it reaches Christmas Special status? Like, Dr. Who popular? Or only Skins popular?

I'll stick to the chaise longue,

Seth

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 for next week’s finale when commenting.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.