It’s amazing how all the horrors of the world seem to dwindle into insignificance when Downton Abbey returns. When the series is finally axed, or writer Julian Fellows decides the time has come to end the saga of the Crawley family, I’m sure we will enter into a nationwide depression. People will drift aimlessly in the streets, overwhelmed with grief and despair, mouthing the words ‘Mary, will you marry me?’, and ‘I love you Matthew’ with tears in their eyes.
It’s now 1920, and as I’m sure you already know, Lady Mary and Matthew, the Posh and Becks of Downton, have finally decided to get married. At the start of the episode the whole thing promises to be bigger than the Royal Wedding. There is something distinctly Kate Middleton about Lady Mary, I have to say. Not looks, exactly, but the way she talks and carries herself. Her joke about being taken up the aisle naked may have been a little too topical for comfort perhaps, given the present penchant for nudity within our upper classes.
Of course, this being Downton, disaster is just around the corner. In this episode, it’s all about money (when isn’t it?), and Lord Grantham spends most of his time looking like the Churchill dog before it’s about to be put down. His wife’s money has been lost in a bad investment, and the power to save the situation rests with Matthew, who may or may not have been left a fortune. But Matthew, always one for self-flagellation, doesn’t want the money, as it is connected to his relationship with Lavinia (Downton’s answer to Princess Diana), who died at the end of the last series.
In other news, Lady Sybil returns with her left-wing Irish chauffeur Tom and stirs the place up a bit, Matthew and Tom start a cute bromance, and the American Granny (played by Shirley MacLaine) arrives to bicker with the English Granny (Maggie Smith, on top form). Lady Edith (the token-ugly sister, though now she’s actually looking quite pretty), is still continuing her infatuation with Sir Anthony Strallen. It’s a very sweet little thing they’ve got going on, but it’s made a little creepy by the fact that she’s about nine and he’s 102. Well, perhaps I exaggerate the difference in years a little, but there is still a massive age-gap between them.
In the kitchens, Anna is still on the verge of tears in every scene due to the incarceration of her convict husband Bates (did he murder his ex-wife? Who knows?!). There is also a bit of bother about a new, very tall footman, and Daisy, the kitchen maid who has been 16 years-old since 1912, is on strike. She doesn’t feel her services are appreciated and wants a proper promotion. Bless her.
Overall, it was a far stronger episode than last year’s series opener, and I can’t wait to see what other delights are in store for us as the series builds to its now traditional Christmas special. Downton Abbey is a television show at the top of its game, and I hope it continues to be as warm, charming and entertaining for the foreseeable future.
Downton Abbey airs on ITV1 HD and ITV1 on Sunday nights at 9PM.