Welcome back, friends. How are you doing? I mean, like, emotionally? Are you still having those harrowing flashbacks every time you drive smiling down a sun-dappled country road? When your friends are even a little sick, do you immediately yell, “Take her to the hospital! Her ankles are usually so slender!” Well, it’s time to move on. We’re in this together. Another season starts now. SPOILER ALERT. Cue the music.
We return to Downton ominously. Did all the inhabitants of the Abbey become vampires so they could live eternally together? Are Sybil and Matthew back from the dead in a True Blood Tara-style twist? Michelle Dockery was born to play a vampire queen.
Sadly, it looks like the vampire hypothesis is proven false as Lady Mary allows the cool light to brush her pale cheeks. It’s 1922 and the downstairs team is all aflutter. Someone is gone. Who is it? So much for suspense: it’s O’Brien! What will we do without her conniving sideburns?!
Upstairs, Token American Mom Cora can’t believe O’Brien would do something as cruel as leave her without a lady’s maid. Well, I guess we just won’t mention the whole baby-murder thing. Water under the bridge. Soapy water. We’ve got enough babies now to keep this series going for 30 more years! And they’re half orphan babies too! What drama (pronounced in the Canadian way please: “draaama”).
To the breakfast table, where the actual family members have been replaced by a Dreamy Irish Chauffeur, I mean, Grounds Keeper or "Agent" or something, and a Modern Trouble Maker. Just look at her youth! She’s harboring a few plot points up those chic sleeves, you can be sure.
On another note, good old Edith looks happy. We all know she doesn’t deserve it, what with being unmarried and all, but good for her.
You know who’s not looking happy? Mary. Woo boy. That girl is a downer. “Orphan” is not an appropriate pet name for your son, Lady. And would it kill you to smile once or get some color into your outfit? You’re like Wednesday Addams at summer camp but 100 limes less fun.
But no matter! Here’s a fun mourner! The Dowager Countess is on the scene! Any good graveyard jokes for us, Violet? No? Moving on.
Back at the Abbey, the head nanny is either a homophobe or just a jerk and Thomas may be a good guy now? I hope so because he’s d-r-e-a-m-y and now that Matthew has shuffled off his mortal coil, I’m going to need more men to objectify (sexism, I’m working on it).
Downstairs, the love birds Bates and Mrs. Bates adorably call Mary’s baby “Master George,” even amongst themselves (oppression, nobody’s really working on it).
The Irishman and Lord Grantham do a little political exposition as they walk along the grounds, explaining for those of us not in 1922 why Mary is really in mourning: she now is basically penniless.
Downstairs, Town Drunk Molesley seems sober but is as pathetic as always. Carson loves babies so I’m surprised he isn’t more tender with him.
In the drawing room, it is clear Edith is a common tramp. She’s going to a party?! Thrown by a man? With literary people?? Robert would disown her, if he wasn’t so busy not caring she existed.
I’m not buying that Matthew the Lawyer had no will. How is that possible? He’s the kind of goody goody who gets a will drawn up the second his wife gets pregnant because he’s so responsible, and everyone rolls their eyes at him, but he has a 401K so who’s laughing now, guys? But maybe he wasn’t as responsible as we all thought. No will. Terrible at driving.
The truth is finally revealed: Robert is trying to push his own daughter out of Downton. I hope Cora doesn’t stand for that.
Downstairs, the Hughes/Carson will they/won’t they romance is heating up again!! Which is good because this Anna/Bates thing is getting oooold.
Wednesday Addams comes downstairs, perfecting her rain cloud impression.
A major plot point, meddling, appears as Hughes begins interfering in Carson’s affairs. No no no, Hughesy! This is not the way to his heart! Ignore this guy! He’s bad news! He was in vaudeville for crying out loud.
But! To London! Where Edith finally has a man so is therefore complete. Sure, he’s married, but he clearly wants to drop the zero (insane person) and get with the hero (star of the hit show Downton Abbey).
Back home, Wednesday Addams hates babies.
During a meeting of the Older Wisecracking Ladies of Downton Abbey Club, Violet tells Isobel: “It’s the job of grandmothers to interfere.” Odd, I haven’t seen her around her grandkids lately (in the last however long this episode has been on so I'm gonna say hour). Maybe this is foreshadowing?
Molesley the Sad Panda cannot catch a break. He’s going to be drunk on the streets in no time. First Matthew, his pity employer, dies and now no one wants him as a butler because let's be honest he is a horrible butler.
At the literary party, Edith looks entrancing in red. Her boyfriend Michael can’t handle her hotness and wants to take her to Germany where he can properly ravish her, get a legal divorce from his lunatic wife, marry her and ravish her some more.
Downstairs, Hughes and Carson have so much sexual tension you could cut it with a knife. Put down that candle holder and rip her dress off, Cars0n. If they drag this out for the next 5 seasons, I’m going to be pissed/super emotional when he runs after her at the airport, right before she boards her plane.
In the kitchen, Mrs. Patmore is feeling threatened by electric beaters. As the kitchen staff occasionally does, she anachronistically predicts the future saying, “Before too long, her ladyship could run the kitchen with a woman from the village. With these toasters and mixers and suchlike, we’ll be out of a job!”
(I got a mixer for Christmas so I am now officially a ladyship who runs her own kitchen. I still don’t have a toaster though so I use two village women.)
The footmen or whatever are fighting over Ivy again. Baffling. Can they not see the dream that is Daisy? Cutest Person in the House, 4 years running.
The battle between Thomas and the Nanny is heating up. I can’t wait till Sybbie takes sides. She’s going to be all Thomas, all the time, and Nanny’s going to be sorry she ever messed with him.
In the drawing room, Tom Branson tries to get Christina Ricci to take an interest in something besides her disembodied hand friend. She tries to fake being a human for a minute, but Gomez Addams likes to encourage her to be as sad and morbid as possible so he shuts the whole conversation down.
Also, let's not forget: he’s trying to steal her money.
I wonder if Jessica Brown Findlay and Dan Stevens understood that their wanting to do other projects would mean all of the TV watching world would be subject to so much extreme mourning. Should we write them letters? It just seems like everyone in black, 2 deaths of important characters and 2 half orphan babies is 2 much.
Downstairs, Branson the Upstart Irishman shows he wasn’t just putting it on for Sybil: he’s a real feminist! He wants Mary to be part of running the estate. And he’s engaging a well-known Mary-lover in his campaign for gender equality at Downton: Carson.
In the kitchen, Jimmy is trying hard to corrupt Ivy. Is he trying to make Daisy jealous or something? I’m still very confused by his motives.
In the drawing room, it’s high noon and there’s gonna be a showdown. Upstairs v. Downstairs. Nanny v. Thomas. Evil v. Evil. Unfortunately for her, no one notified Nanny about Thomas and his nefarious ways. Oh, well. Maybe they’ll replace her with a hot male nanny love interest for Thomas?
Carson approaches Wednesday Addams in her chambers. A little glimmer of the old Mary shines through when she dresses down Carson like an impudent child. Honestly, I like the dead eyes more. At least she’s quieter and less mean to the people who like her. Spoiler alert: Mary is my least favorite character on this show. O’Brien is better. Molesley is better. Pamuk is way, way, way better. Luckily, Carson knows how to deal with Lady Baby Mary.
At dinner, Baby Mary throws a baby tantrum. I bet it’s cuter when her actual baby throws a tantrum (hint to the writers: more baby screen time please). But later, on the lawn, whiny Molesley gives her a run for her money for most downer character of this episode.
But the theme of meddling is back and it looks like Violet is going to fix all the sad sacks this episode. Including Gomez, I hope.
Back in the kitchen, Jimmy the Bad Guy got Ivy drunk at the pub. Surprise surprise. Alfred the Good Guy continues to suffer the fate of good guys throughout history. Too predictable. Too boring. Always there to help you when the bad guy gets you wasted and then leaves you in some random parking lot.
Downstairs, Bates and Anna flirt disgustingly. Get a room, guys, so we don't have to sit through your boring romance. Ugh.
Rose and Cora interview a new and mysterious lady’s maid. Yes, she seems great, but does she throw soap on the floor when soap needs throwing on the floor?
Molesley, the Saddest Man in the World, looks foolish at his covert job interview because, well, he’s the Saddest Man in the World. Seriously. Would it kill the writers to give him one day that doesn’t involve total humiliation? I know the actor's face sort of begs for it but really!
In London, Edith is wearing aqua now. Being the good sister suits her. I’m a bit distressed, however, to find out that her beau’s crazy wife’s name is Lizzy. Just to be clear: I’m no one’s institutionalized wife. That isn’t a twist at the end of all this. Oh, wait! Michael, the love interest is going to move himself and Edith to Germany?! Just in time for WWII? Don’t do it, Mike! Pick Greece!
If Hughes doesn’t like this new lady’s maid, there must be something wonderfully sinister about her. I cannot wait.
Truth: the fact that Mrs. Patmore sent Daisy a Valentine made me tear up a little. Those two just melt my cold, Lady Mary-esque heart.
Oh, Edna the Lady’s Maid was the girl trying to hit on Branson? More draaaama! Stay strong, Branson!
Upstairs, it looks like Nanny West actually was a horrible person. How can you call Sybbie a wicked half-breed? She’s the most perfect baby in the world. For the second time: I demand more baby Sybbie screen time!
Gomez and Wednesday have a passive-aggressive off in the drawing room that ends with Wednesday apologizing to Carson for her bad behavior. One gets the feeling this isn’t the first time she’s abused and then apologized to old Carson. He’s clearly her spirit dad, since her biological dad is trying to force her into life-long mourning in order to steal her fortune.
Lady Mary arrives at a luncheon with the men and the Addams family disappears in a puff of a purple sweater.
Downstairs, there’s a letter from Gwen! I love Gwen! Bring Gwen back!
Everyone commits mail fraud by opening Mary’s package of Matthew's belongings. Obviously it contains a will because like I said, he was really responsible. Lord Grantham continues to pretend he isn’t trying to steal money from his own child, but even his mother can see through him.
At Isobel’s house, the ladies continue to save Carson’s acting buddy, even though Carson won’t see him. What underlying issue is this?
In town, Molesley is doing something very demeaning that looks like shoveling asphalt. This is what happens when you die, Matthew. Are you happy now?!
In his own drawing room, Robert tells all his family that he is a horrible person and will not honor his dead son-in-law’s wishes. Court procedural time! Later, they go to dinner, and he continues to alienate his entire family. It’s as if he doesn’t realize that he is always surrounded by women and the one man in the family is his former chauffeur who he has never been really nice to. Mary’s moving up in the rankings. Sadly, Robert is moving down.
Anna goes room to room helping everyone get their lives in order, while the next morning the music is a bit cheerful-ominous and it appears Edna is going to be just as tricky and underhanded a maid for Cora as O’Brien was. Somehow, Cora seems to deserve it.
Carson gets nostalgic about a girl named Alice. Hey, Carson: talking about old girlfriends in front of the girl you are trying to woo is not a good tactic. I don’t care what Mystery said about negging.
The meddling meddlers keep meddling. This time it’s Bates meddling for the Sad Panda’s benefit and Thomas meddling to Perfect Anna’s detriment and the Dowager Countess meddling on behalf of the whole world. “There can be too much truth in any relationship,” the Dowager says to Tom and Mary. Preach. Robert has shown us that he’s not capable of handling the truth. Maybe you should have been a better mother.
The top-class meddler Isobel meets with some resistance to her Carson-based meddling and oh my god is this show still going?
Somewhere in London, Edith is amazed by a man who can boil water.
Mary takes a car ride down a sun-dappled lane. She must be terrified!
In some sort of den of sin that serves special tea and plays the one step, Trouble and Perfect have their first adventure. Jimmy Jam shows up, up to no good probably, and takes Anna for a twirl around the dance floor. Anna, how could you?! Bates can barely walk, let alone dance. He will be overcome with jealousy. He may poison your pie. JK, he’s been cleared of all charges.
At the dance, things get violent because Rose is the prettiest flower in the whole garden and the farm boys can’t handle her jelly.
Because they are a couple of perfect human beings, Bates gives Molesley money to make Anna happy. Oh, Bates, Mosley needs more than just money. He needs a lobotomy.
Back at the Abbey, Gomez Addams gives Bates the best line of the episode: “Look, I didn’t want to make a thing of it.” Neither do I, Robert, neither do I.
A stranger with great cheek bones approaches Downtown. Oh, it’s one of those farm boys Rose entranced at the dance. Rose is going to do a little slumming, maybe? As a disguise, she dresses up as an absolutely stunning maid. I’m kind of surprised she and Jimmy don’t start up a beautiful people thing, like a make-out club or something. Isn’t that what pretty people do?
As the episode ends, Mary takes the reins of the estate, the Bates have a new enemy in Edna and the music swells. Carson appears through the steam of a train, friendships are mended and the Hughes/Carson romance gets ready to ignite as they walk home together from the station. Romance! Season 4, here we come!
As always, I think it's important to think of everything as a competition. To that end, I will rank the top five characters every episode and we will total it up at the end and see who really won this season. Last year, Edith won. Can she do it again?
5. Mary: I am LOATHE to include Mary/Wednesday in the rankings, but she comes in this time for standing up to her no-good father and getting way into the color purple.
4. Daisy: Okay, I know I have a thing for Daisy. But everything in this episode -- her strange love for Alfred (a dead ringer for her dead husband, by the way), the graceful way in which she received the news that Patmore was her actual Valentine, her ability with the electric beaters -- proves she more than deserves this spot.
3. Hughes: Oh, Hughes. As much as I disagree with your behind-Carson's-back tactics, somehow they worked. Also, I continue to love your relationship with Patmore and I am so hoping you and Carson have a late fall romance.
2. Patmore: Here are some reasons Patmore is almost the winner of this episode: her Valentine to Daisy, her inability to use electric beaters, her red hair, the way she holds the kitchen together, her friendship with Hughes and, of course, her attitude.
1. Branson: Branson takes home the gold this week for standing up for the cause, even when the cause isn't his cause and it means going against the ever-worse Lord Grantham. Also, he's Sybbie's dad. That alone will probably get him extra points forever.
Good work, team. See you next week!