Category Archives: Television

DOWNTON ABBEY Season 3

DOWNTON-ABBEY_320x240Beware of spoilers.

I believe that writers can develop what I like to call a god-complex. They become so intimately involved in the practice of creation, of breathing life into characters, that they can become calloused and begin to enjoy the act too much when the pen doubles as the Reaper’s sickle, wielding the duel power to take life as well as give it.horrible-things-on-downton-abbey-season-3-epi-L-V6yWah

Julian Fellowes is the brilliant writer / creator of the globally renowned television show called Downton Abbey. What Fellowes has done in this third season is make us care. Well done. We are like sled dogs, he holding the mushing reins. When he gives we rejoice, and when he removes we mourn. That is good writing.
When this season ended in the UKAmericans had barely had time to dream over Lady Mary’s would-be wedding clothes. And I had to wait until March to see what Britain calls its “Christmas episode.”PreviewFile.jpg

Screenwriters are taught to add “gap” or elements of surprise into scenes. No amount of gap could compare to the final moments of this third season. Matthew who has seen so much death on and off the battlefield, who finally marries his dearest love, who accepts his title and position and saves the estate he is to inherit, and who meets his very own son is suddenly wiped from the storyboards. Matthew gone. Matthew immortalized as Mary’s perfect love.

Ah ha! The writer, a British Lord himself, playing dice with his universe?

130205_TVC_MENTENNISDA.jpg.CROP.multipart2-mediumI heard once that “fame is secular man’s grasp on immortality.” In Greek mythology, the true hero tests the fates and moves to make a mark on history in order to become legend, for only in legend can he become immortal. Matthew was in this sense immortalized before he could be deemed less lovely.

n the special features of Downton III, the writer claims that he allows Mary to have her perfect love. Is it divine punishment to offer true love and then take it away in its prime? I suppose it fits, mythologically speaking, but the true test here is how much an audience can take.

My theory is simple. Despite the ensemble drama, Mary is the main character, the hero of this story. She is central. She is fixed. All others play foil to her tale. Certainly she could die and the role of hero would be replaced, but for now she is left to carry on through tragedy. Great heroes have great dreams unfulfilled, great flaws to overcome, and and great hurdles to cross completely alone.

We shall see how it plays out for this hero despite the looming thunder of Downton’s Zeus.da3-s3-index_scale_1024x2000

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Filed under Drama, Historical Drama, Television

DOWNTON ABBEY – - TV Series (2010-2012)

Pronounced “Dow’tn,” it’s a place and a people. This castle is the Crawley family home. The proper lines are drawn between the titled and the subordinate, and rarely in film or TV do the twain meet. Here at Downton, however, the lives of the separate sets intersect in all ways proper and improper.

Just give in already. Everyone, from your sister and your co-worker Jim to your friend’s great Aunt Ruby, has been telling you to watch it. This once small show about a large English estate and the hierarchy of its inhabitants has become a delightful pastime, another family to feel for, a set of characters that you don’t have to feel guilty for judging.

Cast perfectly, they all seem normal and somehow more tangible than most period characters. They are real people from a surreal time in history. Each lasting character has proven him or herself flawed in some way or another so we become kindred, drawn in.

We relate, celebrating  triumphs and weeping loss along with each one. Certainly some characters feel less so, almost cartoon, existing as entities completely evil or entirely good. And a few storylines wane exhaustive while others hold us, keep us paying for Netflix, keep us wondering if Matthew and Mary will ever figure it out.

Go ahead. Get sucked into Downton for a little while. You’ll see a different take on historical events like the sinking of the Titanic and WWI. You’ll gain perspective for a culture that we anglofiles already glean from and emulate. We know who we are. We woke up at 4am to watch the wedding. We care about the pomp and propriety. We long for a bit of that in our lives. But, when it comes down to it, we haven’t really decided which side of the estate we can see ourselves on. Would we bear the boredom, the censure, the responsibility of those who stand still to be dressed for dinner? Or, would we wear the worker greys, sweep the soot, and serve the food with snark and sass in each step up those creaky Downton steps.

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Filed under Classic, Drama, Historical Drama, Television