Downton Abbey: S3, E1

matthew & mary

Before I start this recap, full disclosure is required: I’ve seen all of Downton Abbey’s third season, having watched it online last fall. But, I held off on writing these recaps until the show started airing here in the US, and I promise not to spoil anything with my knowledge of what’s to come. And though I must admit that I don’t think Season 2 or 3 lived up to the brilliance of Season 1, there’s still a lot to love about this show. So let’s get down to business…

Last night, we met our first new major character of the season, Alfred, the nephew of everyone’s favorite scheming ladies maid, O’Brien. In typical O’Brien fashion, she secures a position for Alfred by tricking Cora who is, as ever, completely oblivious to the fact that O’Brien is manipulating her. Alfred arrives at Downton and promptly displays his defining character trait thus far: he’s tall. Like way tall. Per the Dowager: “I thought you might have been walking on stilts.” Anyway…something about Alfred’s arrival seems to anger Thomas, who decides to start a feud with O’Brien, his former BFF. I was unclear why exactly Thomas and O’Brien suddenly decided to be so mad at each other, but the idea of the show’s two biggest schemers turning on each other is intriguing nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Downton is aflutter with preparations for Mary and Matthew’s wedding. One minor hitch: Sybil and Tom can’t afford to come home for the wedding. Robert (ever the pompous tool) suggests that this development is for the best. After all, who would want all their children present at their daughter’s wedding? Despite this, Sybil and Tom soon arrive, with mystery surrounding who exactly paid for their journey (it’s later revealed that the Dowager, never one to resist intrigue, sent them the money). After a hella awkward family dinner (seriously, Robert, shut up), Tom and Sybil head to bed and look super adorable while doing so. That is, super adorable until Tom says, “Don’t disappoint me, Sybil,” which seems a wee bit harsh. I get that Tom has to be true to all his grand, principled ideals but maybe he could also try being sympathetic to how awkward the situation is for his wife, right? Or maybe not. Freedom for Ireland!

We also learn that Robert, Earl of Stupidity, lost all the estate’s (aka, his wife’s) money in a single bad investment. When he tells Cora that her fortune is gone, her reaction is pretty zen, which is…not how I would react if I were married to Lord Douchenozzle. Meanwhile, in a not-at-all-coincidental turn of events, Matthew finds out that Lavinia’s father left him a huge sum of money. Rather than gleefully pocketing the cash (like a normal person), Matthew continues to be far too noble to handle, claiming he won’t accept the money as it’s “tainted” by his betrayal of Lavinia. Lady Mary is none too pleased, leading to a fight on the eve of their wedding. Ever-wise Anna (as if she doesn’t have enough problems of her own!) and newly-minted best man Branson work their magic and convince Matthew and Mary to forgive each other. The wedding of the twentieth century is ON!

shirley

But before we get to the grand event, a few other recent developments to report. Edith repeatedly runs into Sir Anthony Strallan, positively throwing herself at him on each occasion. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, will someone (anyone!) love Edith already?!…Cora’s mother, Martha (aka Shirley MacLaine), arrives, bringing her sassy American ways with her. Guess who’s not a fan? The Dowager Countess, naturally. Pointed, yet oh-so-civilized, sparring ensues…Daisy, meanwhile, is super cranky because she wants a kitchen maid to work under her. She decides to go on some sort of silent protest, which Mrs. Pattmore quickly squashes…And Matthew, to everyone’s chagrin, continues to not-so-subtly hint that he’s ready for some wedding night sexytimes.

Luckily for Matthew, the wedding day arrives. Edith seethes with barely concealed jealousy as Mary gets ready for her big day, while good old Carson beams with pride when Mary descends the staircase in her wedding gown. We get to see approximately two seconds of the ceremony (seriously?!? I feel cheated) before flashing forward several weeks to Mary & Matthew returning from their honeymoon in a fancy new car. They’re greeted by the family, including Robert, who makes a comment about enjoying the honeymoon that is FAR too creepy when the honeymoon in question is your freaking daughter’s.

Last night’s episode was two hours long and jam-packed, so even after the climactic wedding, a ton of other stuff happens. Namely…Mrs. Hughes has a cancer scare. Dr. Clarkson tells her that her initial test is inconclusive but that he “doesn’t think” it’s cancer (Then again, this is the guy who “didn’t think” Matthew would ever walk again, so I wouldn’t hang all your hopes on his fine diagnostic skills, Mrs. H)…Robert encourages Strallan to ditch Edith. Strallan dumps Edith via snail mail, crushing her. Granny Martha (she’s a progressive American, did you notice?!) takes Edith’s side, and the two eventually convince Robert to allow Strallan to resume his courtship with Edith….Thomas sabotages Alfred, giving Alfred his first lesson to working at Downton: Never trust Thomas. Ever. O’Brien responds by sabotaging Thomas right back…Ethel, who we learn has been pulling a Pretty Woman, visits Isobel’s charity to ask for help but chickens out before she can ask for it…Anna, aka British Nancy Drew, compiles a list of people to talk to in the hopes of proving her husband’s innocence. Meanwhile, Mr. Bates meets his new cellmate, who’s a jerk and also kind of terrifying…And finally, during a dinner party, the oven dies, providing an opportunity for Martha to save the day by suggesting an impromptu “picnic” instead (she’s a plucky American, remember?). The evening is a huge success, and we leave Downton…until next week.

Dowager Countess Quip of the Night:

i thought you were a waiter

Fashion Moment of the Night (tie): Sybil’s New Haircut & Mary’s Wedding Dress:

sybil + mary

I really wanted to give this award to Sybil, because her new haircut was awesome (very 1920s, sensible-nurse-in-Ireland chic), but it seemed wrong not to mention Mary’s wedding gown, since that was clearly intended to be the episode’s big statement piece. My verdict? I was a tad disappointed. I adored the veil, but the dress itself was so plain. I know Mary is a proper lady, but would a little bedazzling on the bodice really hurt her?

Acting MVP of the Night: This week’s MVP award goes to Maggie Smith (as almost all of them surely will). In the battle of cranky old ladies, her wit beat out Shirley MacLaine’s…by a mile. Or a kilometer, I guess, since we’re in England and all.

Best Moment: I’m a sucker for romance, so I’ve got to go with Mary and Matthew’s pre-wedding kiss. Don’t we all just want those kids to be happy?!

Worst Moment: Everything involving Anna and Mr. Bates. This whole prison plotline is DULL like whoa. Wake me up when Mr. Bates inevitably regains his freeeeedom.

Tweets of the Night:

dan stevens tweet

seth meyers tweet

patton oswalt

sklar brothers

TLO

patton oswalt

Burning Questions for Next Week: Why do O’Brien and Thomas suddenly hate each other? Is Mrs. Hughes going to be okay? Wouldn’t the Anna/Bates storyline be a hell of a lot more interesting if Bates actually were the murderer? Now that Mary and Matthew are doing it, will they finally stop talking about doing it in the creepiest possible terms? Will Edith ever find love? And when will Robert get a clue and stop being a jerk?

(Images via Huffington Post, Entertainment Weekly, and Nina Garcia’s Twitter Feed)

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