I’ve taken over Downton blogging duties from Biondino, because he’s doing obstetric jokes over on the Call the Midwife blog instead (or at least he will be when it starts).
This series kicks off with people looking glum in a church, but believe it or not, this is for the wedding rehearsal, rather than a funeral. Sybil and Branson are conspicuous by their absence, apparently because they can’t afford it (we’ve all tried that one with things we don’t want to go to, haven’t we?), a rather convenient scenario for Lord Grantham who is still exceptionally miffed about their whole affair, so much so that he refuses to stump up any cash to help them.
This lack of financial assistance has nothing, absolutely nothing you understand, to do with the fact that he has for some reason invested his entire fortune in a dodgy rail scheme which has now gone bust taking all of his money with it.
Naturally he hasn’t bothered telling anyone about this, but when he is forced to, Lady Cora is surprisingly blasé about it for a woman who may shortly find herself relegated to a semi in Pickering, and says that they should just enjoy the last days of Downton (whilst forking out even more money for the wedding, presumably).
Whether this is because she secretly has a plan to turn it into a luxury hotel or a celebrity rehab centre, or whether she’s just been sampling the wedding booze haul, remains to be seen.
So, we’re in a fix here, aren’t we? What we need are some hastily-contrived plot twists to sort things out. It turns out that Sybil and Branson can come to the wedding after all, because someone has slipped them some cash, and it also turns out that the now-dead father of Lavinia, (who Matthew was meant to marry before she snuffed it from Spanish flu), inexplicably named Matthew as the third beneficiary in his will – meaning he may well inherit a shitload of money as the first beneficiary is dead and the second has gone AWOL– convenient huh?
Even though he knows he might not inherit at all, Matthew naturally feels a bit awkward about this, especially as he was in love with Mary while he was engaged to Lavinia.
Mary, though, doesn’t care one bit as she knows this money could replace the fortune her father frittered away on the trains. She later throws a massive wobbly about this on the night before they marry – could the wedding be off? She seems to have overlooked the fact that not marrying Matthew isn’t going to restore the Crawley bank balance either, making it seem all the more superficial, but there you go.
Anyway, the undoubted highlight of this episode is the arrival of a distant (and not unattractive) relative called Larry who it seems once had a thing for Sybil. He decides that it might be fun to spike Branson’s drink. As we know, Branson likes a good old rant about Irish politics over dinner at the best of times, so you can imagine what happens when the two are combined.
Matthew clearly thinks that shouting things about republicanism and bombs might make for quite a good after-dinner speech, so rather than banishing Branson from the house, he bizarrely asks him to be his best man.
The ‘stag do’ consists of a heart to heart between Branson and Matthew about how Matthew should do as Mary wishes with the possible fortune, because otherwise he’ll lose her. This is about as far from Branson’s usual moral and social compass as imaginable but that doesn’t seem to have stopped the scriptwriters from running with it.
And if you thought Lady Mary was going to spend her last night as an unmarried woman learning to Charleston and being sick out of the side of a hansom cab then you’d be mistaken too. She spends most of it mooning (not that sort of mooning) and crying because of Matthew’s decision about the money. Cue a horrific scene where, after his heart to heart with Branson, he comes to see her and because they’re not allowed to actually see each other on their wedding eve they make up and kiss with their eyes closed (except Mary secretly looks, the tart).
I’m afraid that this scene is only rivalled in its cheesiness by the time they inexplicably burst into song in the last series, which is still a recurring nightmare of mine. The episode ends with the start of the wedding ceremony, which they clearly decided not to save to heighten anticipation for episode two, so it’s a bit of an anti climax. The reception had better be a riot.
It’s hard to decide what to highlight after this rather odd mish-mash of an episode, so I’ll wait ’til next week to resurrect Biondino’s ‘xxxxx of the week’ feature.
Though if this instalment is anything to go by, I’m afraid there’ll be some serious contenders for ‘wistful glance of the week’.
Oh yes, we should really mention ‘them downstairs’. Nothing too dramatic has happened with the servants this week, although there is a clearly a footman rivalry brewing and everyone is miffed about having to kowtow to Branson now he’s no longer just a chauffer but is now Mr Fancypants.
Bates is still imprisoned in his own sub-plot, trying to think up evidence to prove he didn’t do the crime there is no evidence of him committing. We’ve also now got Lady Cora’s mum (Shirley McLaine) staying, who looks set to provide some excellent bitching over the rest of the series.
That’s all for now, but if there’s not at least one Crawley sister wearing spats and a monocle to dinner by the next episode, I’ll refuse to believe it’s the twenties.