"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Downton Abbey Thoughts

Well, the premiere (in the US) of Downton Abbey has come and gone, and here are my quick thoughts:

  • Mary's grieving for Matthew was moving, but predictably so.   She's dressed in black, she's wasting away, she stares off into the distance.   Wouldn't it have been more interesting to have her veer off into some behavior that was out of character for her?   Let her be the wild one for a  change in the Roaring Twenties, which would mean you wouldn't need...
  • Cousin Rose.   The wild young cousin Rose is a stock character, but one that makes little sense in the show.   By now we've had Mary's lover die in her bed, Sybil run off to Ireland with her chauffer boyfriend, only to die in childbirth, Bates be imprisoned for murder, Lord Grantham blow his fortune twice, etc., etc.    This family ought to be immune to shocks by now, and who exactly would have the complete lack of self-knowledged as to criticize her for being wild in such a conventional way... the pretty stupid girl who wants to go to dances and meet strange men?    
  • Speaking of Lord Grantham... it was not just predictable, but truly repetitive to have him once again purport to "take charge" of the business side of the estate.   Why would anyone listen to what he has to say about business for five seconds, after he's blown the family's money so many times?
  • Anna and Bates moon at each other like newlyweds throughout.   Where are those characters supposed to go now?   We like them, but their story is at a dead end.
  • The discovery of Matthew's will making Mary his sole heiress... sheesh, could they really not think of a better plot device?   Thinking back to the completely banal grieving Mary was doing... wouldn't a better storyline have been to open with Mary already in charge of the estate because Matthew had already left it to her in his will and apparently not grieving at all, and everyone criticizing her for (a) not knowing her place as a woman, (b) neglecting her child, and (c) not grieving with suitable publicity?
  • The other downstairs dramas are also completely predictable and, frankly, not memorable.   I think there was a new maid with a past who is going to conspire with Thomas... blah, blah, blah... I don't care.
  • A few good things... I very much like what appears to be a very cautiously budding romance between the elderly butler and the elderly head maid.   I also continue to like the story of Edith's romance with the married newspaper editor who may have to adopt German citizenship in order to get a divorce.   Those seem at least to be stories that I haven't seen a million times before.  
All in all, though, I thought it was barely good enough to make me want to keep watching for one more week.   But it's swimming pretty close to the shark.

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