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The Televangelist: 'Downton Abbey,' Season 2, Ep. 2

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  • PBS
  • Besties. Total Besties. Totally. not!



If you think about it, a lot of the dramatic tension that makes TV shows and films and novels thrive comes from misunderstandings or lack of communication. I was struck last night by how calm, competent and communicative the residents of Downton are, and unfortunately, because of that, there is very little drama or discomfort in need of resolution down the road. For instance, early in the episode Irish chauffeur Branson makes some cryptic and worrying remarks about his (rightful) dislike of the British army. He offers to serve dinner and, in a series of escalating close ups and a tremoring orchestral soundtrack, we were all made to clutch our pearls as disaster was ready to strike. However, just upstairs, the maid Anna spots a note on Lady Sybil's bed that reads "I'm sorry." Does she ignore it? Of course not! She reads it, then rushes to give it to her superior (Mrs. Hughes), who reads it and passes it along to Branson's superior, Carson. There are multi-billion dollar businesses that could learn from the efficiency of the household staff at Downton. Carson puts an end to "the murder plot" before a glove is raised, and the worst thing to come of it was Mrs. Hughes' deep dissatisfaction at having to serve a cold soup. "To hell with it!" she cries, as the rest of us breathe easy that Branson did not in fact plan to murder the British General, but instead just hoped to pour a black slop upon him. Later, Carson (over tea, naturally) reasons to Mrs. Hughes that it would be more work to get rid of Branson than to keep him, which seems to be the philosophy behind Thomas' endless promotions elsewhere on the estate.

The worrying bit about all of this is the whirlwind nature of the season so far. We have already spanned three years since the end of last season, and almost everything besides Mary and Matthew's "will they / won't they?" plot seems to get sewn up in a single episode. Anna sees Bates, and within a few TV moments we see Mary has communicated with Sir Richard to find out Bates' exact address. Anna sees him, they have a quiet exchange (as if he didn't tell her last time we saw him to forget him forever? Meanwhile he lurks in the village to see her and continues planning his divorce? And then he so easily tells her Vera's plans which he could have done ages ago and saved her some grief). Lavinia's conversation with Sir Richard in the bushes from last week was put away quite easily (even though, "my dear I don't know any people who threaten me behind the laurels," as the Lady Violet pointed out). It played for some light tension before Lavinia flatly said to Mary the fragment statement about him, "we were lovers?" which put any question of them being lovers out of the realm of possibility. No, in fact, despite the desire of her aunt and granny that Mary spill the beans to Matthew and get Lavinia out of the picture for good ("if only we could gobble her up..." Lady Violet muses), The New Mary (as opposed to Season One Spoiled Brat Mary) remained calm and dignified, and confronted Lavinia instantly on the subject. In return, she was treated to a frank and honest discussion in return. All is as it was, and Matthew continues to know nothing. Tea, anyone?



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