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"Downton Abbey" Season 3, Episode 7 Recap

Episode 7 Recap

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  • PBS
  • A bittersweet occasion



PBS aired two hours of "Downton Abbey" back to back last night - click here for my recap of the second hour.

A trusted friend and TV advisor informed me this week that PBS is combining (and therefore editing down) so many episodes of "Downton Abbey" for February sweeps, but I still can't see why they would want to burn off so many episodes so quickly when there are, in the end, so few. Even during last year's embarrassment of a season, the world that series creator Julian Fellowes has conceived is one that should be lingered in and appreciated for its resplendent beauty (if not always for its storytelling). On that note, every hour of the series is so jam-packed with plot that to run two hours together is really overwhelming. How is one to process all of the Dowager Countess' one-liners before the next episode is shoehorned in??

Last week, I praised the series for slowing down and giving us the emotion and nuance that we both deserve and crave - the show is not a sweeping epic, it's a soap opera, and it's the relationships between the characters that really make things interesting. Having said that, this week's first hour was the closest the show has ever come to a filler episode. Old ideas were rehashed, major events (Branson's brother Kieran's arrival, Thomas' inexplicably bold action toward Jimmy) were glossed over and solved pretty quickly. That is, of course, the show's way. As one commenter pointed out, "Shirley MacLaine's character didn't even return for the funeral?" Indeed, I had nearly forgotten she existed.

What this episode really solidified was the show's eternal struggle between tradition and modernity. Battles were won and lost on both sides. Edith triumphed by being allowed to go to London and meet with an editor (more on that in a minute), and received her grandmother's support. But to get that support, she had to help scheme against Isobel, who won out slightly in making Ethel's life better by bringing her back into society, but needed to let go of her to let her truly blossom. Robert and Jarvis fought against Matthew and Murray (and everyone else) regarding the future of Downton, which wrapped up nicely (and obviously) with the running of the estate's farm going to Branson.