DOWNTON ABBEY “Episode 4” Review

DOWNTON ABBEY Series 2 Episode 4 – I’ve been exceptionally slow to cotton on to the rhythms of this season’s Downton Abbey. Every episode has featured a slosh bucket of plots literally thrown at the screen, many of which have been discarded halfway through an episode (hello Edith and the farmer), many of which have been peeling off only to be stuck back on with spit and bubblegum by a very determined romantic (hence the reason why the Mary and Matthew triangle thing is still a thing, despite the entire world having lost interest around the time of the Turkish lad).

It’s of course a testament to the writing and acting that I’ve fallen hook line and sinker for so many of these characters: Mrs Patmore, Daisy, Sybil, Dowager Countess, William, Thomas, Ms Hughes, Mr Carson, Ms O’Brien (I’m beginning to realize that the ratio of enjoyable upstairs to downstairs characters is pretty thin). Because I love so many of these characters, Julian Fellowes could (and has) literally give them a storyline about terrorist soup and I’d still be interested. But really…what the hell was this episode?

Now, I’ve never been in any war, I’ve never broken a bone, nor have I ever had my hand blown off. But I have had toothaches and I was once bit by a dog, so I know what a little, teensy weensy bit of pain feels like. And I think I’d be right in saying that those soldiers forced to hear Mary sing, and then endure a duet – a spontaneous one at that – between Mary and Matthew must be clawing their way for the trenches now.

It was a shockingly bad episode, and not bad because of the writing or acting-the acting was good as always, the writing was fine, if lacking the crispness of previous episodes (though the scene between Isobel and Cora was just bad, and poor Hugh Bonneville has been given absolutely nothing to do in these past few episodes), but the amateur directing and intrusive, anti-climactic editing really just put the nail in the coffin. There were scenes which should have gone on far longer – Mary confronting Sybil about Branson, and then later, the Branson and Sybil scene which, welcome though it was, was far too disconnected to feel at all organic – were ruined by quick cuts and the editor/director/writer (I’m not sure whether it’s a decision taken at script-level or in post-production) seems to think the audience suffers from severe ADD in their incessant need to make every scene last no longer than two minutes. It’s seriously annoying.

Hopefully next week’s episode will be less hectic and more steadfast in its direction. This season hasn’t offered nearly half the enjoyment of last year, and I’d hate for a show with such talent and brains and heart to be a one-hit wonder.

What did you think of this episode? Sound off in the comments below.

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