|If you squint really hard the chair kind of looks like Matthew is giving her a hug.|
Lady Mary is one drop-waisted dress short of an 80s elementary school class photo. While Anna is performing the highly technical task of taking off Lady Mary's necklace, our ice-cold heroine monotones about her worry that she has to choose a second husband without knowing everything (ahem) about him. My loyalty to Lady Mary is wearing thin ... she talks about wanting to have a trial-run tryst with all the passion of someone talking about oatmeal, she treats motherhood like a post-tea-time game of Scrabble, and she's lost the icy fire that played so well against Matthew's warmth and good humor. "I've been reading about crop rotation" is her most exciting line of the episode. Gah. Hopefully Charles Blake will make an appearance in Episode 2 because he at least gets Mary out of autopilot. But what about Lord Gillingham ... ? He gets his own paragraph.
Lord Gillingham has lost his marbles. How convenient that he's decided to offer Mary a scandalous week away, right after she voiced such an interest to her maid! It's almost like Julian Fellowes was hiding under the bed, eavesdropping, while Lady Mary shared her secret wishes with Anna, and then he traipsed right over to Gillingham's place to spill the sordid beans. Gag me. And Mary practically agrees to it! I know "times are changing" in this episode, but call me old fashioned--I like characters who have a lot of lovely tension, steal some kisses, go through some drama, and then overcome all odds to get married. No calendared illicit getaways. Lord Gillingham may be a "gentleman," but he is no gentleman. Also, he is as exciting and mysterious as oatmeal.
Baxter reveals some of her shady past (hint: it's the only shady past lady's maids ever have: stealing jewelry) to Lady Cora in order to free herself from Thomas' extortion. Lady Cora delivers a scathing reprimand to Thomas for his snakiness, but then reverts to her usual dingbat ways and doesn't sack him because he saved Edith after she lit the house on fire. I like Baxter. I like to dislike Thomas.
I want to like Tom's lady friend, the teacher Sarah Bunting, but she is a total jerk. She has so much potential to add some excitement to the cast, but her lack of manners completely overwhelms her refreshing social views. Watch this episode for a lesson on how not to discuss politics at a party. You don't have to pretend to agree with people to make them feel comfortable, but I also don't think you should insult your host for his views and then insist on traipsing down to his basement after he tells you he doesn't want you to. I don't care how much you want to meet Mrs. Patmore. We all want to meet Mrs. Patmore! And there's something patronizing about how she breezes into the kitchen to thank the staff. "Look at me! I know you're real people down here! I will condescend to the kitchens to ask you useless questions about breakfast trays, feigning interest in your jobs while simultaneously subtly dismissing them as meaningless buttresses to outdated social hierarchies! I am so progressive!" I will give Sarah one more episode's chance before hoping she dies in some Julian Fellowes-concocted freak accident.
What Downton Abbey really needs is an Elizabeth Bennett or a Mr. Darcy. I want some wit, some principles, and some drama. Is that so much to ask for?
What did you think of Episode 1? If you cheated and have already watched the whole season, don't give me any spoilers!