Downton Abbey

'Downton Abbey' in-laws become outlaws

Jan. 21, 2013 at 8:40 AM ET

First off, hooray for Edith! After  being left at the altar, the Jan Brady of the "Downton" sisters got a little bit of her own back. A newspaper published her letter about women's suffrage and despite her father's horror, she's on her way to moving away from that crushing jilting at the altar and becoming her own woman, as her grandmother encouraged. And she did it without having to take up gardening.

Joss Barratt / Carnival Films /
The Dowager Countess feels certain Edith can find something to do with her life. As long as it's not gardening.

And now, Branson. What in the name of Maud Gonne is he doing? He wants an independent Ireland, but he's also married into a titled family with an enormous country estate.

Did he think it wouldn't get back to them that he was involved in the burning of a castle owned by their friends? Did he think they wouldn't flip out when he left his pregnant wife behind to flee the trouble he'd  gotten into? (Thankfully, she made it to Downton unscathed.)

Branson's ideals may be admirable, but marrying Sybil is looking more and more like a disaster. In 47 years, some mop-topped countrymen of his in-laws are going to sing "All You Need Is Love," but in his case, they might just be wrong.

The slowest plot in "Downton" has to be Bates in jail. Time kind of stops when we cut to that grim British prison, and it's here that we feel the most need for English-to-English subtitles. Is Bates' cellmate named Craig? Greg? Greig? (It's Craig. We think.) When the guard told Craig, "You'd better come with us," it came out to our ears as, "You bear commie osprey." Short version: Bates is back on the good side of the guards -- except for one -- and the backlog of mail between Bates and Anna was finally delivered.

Do-gooding Isobel, Matthew's mother, is helping the nation's fallen women, but she can't save them all. Her heart broke when former "Downton" maid Ethel gave up her young son to his dead father's family. Our hearts broke too, but we're hoping Grumpy Grandpa Bryant will eventually break down and let Charlie's mother be a part of his life.

Joss Barratt / Carnival Films /
Can we move the Bates in jail plot along, please?

In another slow-to-develop plot, Matthew's discovered that Robert (who is no fan of Catholics, we learn, in a bizarrely random slur that the show had better revisit) isn't exactly the Warren Buffett of 1920s England. In short, Downton's finances are a mess.

Perhaps it wasn't such a smart idea to hire that new hunky footman James-call-me-Jimmy-no-you're-James, not to mention Ivy, the new kitchen maid. Daisy would sure like to get rid of Ivy, who caught young Alfred's eye just as Daisy was deciding she was interested in him.

But perhaps Matthew should worry less about money and more about wife Mary's baby situation. She's got to be having trouble conceiving if that brief nursery conversation is any clue. Can no Downton daughter ever be happy? You know the answer to that. Would we watch if they were?

Best Dowager Countess quotes:

  • "Well, no one can be as desperate as that." -- When Edith suggests taking up gardening.
  • "Maybe they do, but no family is ever what it seems from the outside." -- When Robert bemoans that other people have normal families.
  • "He looks like a footman in a musical revue." -- About the new hottie footman, Jimmy -- er, James.
  • "Well, obviously, if you've turned to me." -- When Matthew admits he stymied by  Downton's financial mismanagement.

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