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Downton Abbey Review: Many Noses Will Be Out Of Joint

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It can be a little embarrassing watching Downton Abbey when you don't know your foreign history to the extent you should - and I experienced a bit of that with episode 303.

Thankfully, instead of Tom Branson's involvement with events in Ireland having any deep meaning, they were introduced more as a way to instigate trouble between Tom and the Grantham family and question whether Sybil's decision to run away with a man she barely knew was the best idea she ever had.

Sybil and Tom

As it happened, Tom ran pounding on the door, in the rain without a coat no less at Downton Abbey, having left Sybil, a pregnant woman, behind in Dublin to fend for herself after Tom was present at a castle burning. Given the conversations Robert was having with his pals about the Catholics, I can only surmise the two matters are related (as I do know enough about Ireland to understand the Protestant/Catholic issues). It wasn't Tom's politics that got him in trouble, however, it was his treatment of Sybil.

Despite the fact that some poor folks were cast out of their home and it was burned to the ground, Violet managed to make merry of the situation by pointing out that the house was ugly, even if it wasn't an excuse for his actions. An entire post could be written with only Downton Abbey quotes and I don't think anyone would be disappointed. The end result was Tom and Sybil have been banned from Dublin, lest he want to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Given his love of country, I foresee a future in stripes for Mr. Branson and Sybil raising her child with family.

Speaking of prison, it was good to know that neither Anna nor Bates has discontinued their letter writing to each other, and it was his status as "out of favor" that kept the mail from flowing. At first it appeared he has stopped writing to her because he hadn't received any letters, and I was about to blow my top. I was happy to be wrong, but still not all that interested in their story. Could their love story have taken a worse turn? I don't think so. Even his dealing with prison is barely digestible. 

There were a couple new faces at Downton, a footman and a Kitchen maid. We got to know the footman a bit because he was a handsome little bugger, and Mary decided he would be made lead footman to make the maids happy and give them a Valentine. It was kind of a shame, because despite his relation to Miss O'Brien (as Carson also pointed out) he was asking for help to be a better footman and he's charming, to boot.

Daisy even realized his better qualities and decided to make a move, just as she was promoted to assistant cook and Alfred took note of the new kitchen maid. Seriously, Daisy has some bad love karma floating in the ether. Another delightful new addition to the household was Mrs. Hughes' electric toaster. I was in awe of Carson comparing the acquisition to harboring a dangerous revolutionary. 

It's very sweet what Isobel is doing for the woman who have found themselves working the streets, and it's a nice tie-in that we get to see the way it's working out through Ethel. Not only did Isobel disagree with Ethel's decision, she did the same with Mrs. Hughe's comment that Ethel was on the road to ruin and there was no way back. I have a feeling Isobel will save Ethel. I don't know how or when, but it seems Ethel's redemption is in Isobel's hands. It always seemed Ethel got the short end of the stick, so it would be nice for her to get just a little happiness out of her hard life.

Edith stopped her whining and found something to do, much to Robert's dismay. She decided if American women were getting the vote, then so should the British and she found the courage to write her opinion to The Times. Robert thought there wasn't a snowball's chance they would publish it, so she was chuffed to bits when he read aloud the headline mirroring her thoughts.

Has Edith finally found a calling? She surely deserves to find something to satisfy her busy mind and to keep her from falling for another unsuitable man. She's better than that.

Finally, poor Matthew was expecting a different conversation when he was called to what was formerly the nursery by Mary than the one he received when he arrived. She had decided to turn it into their own sitting room. Let's be honest, they barely knew each other despite all the love they tossed back and forth. Did they ever discuss children? Apparently not.

Matthew also threw his money into Downton without having a look at the books first. Now that he has, he's seeing how horribly it's being managed and went to Violet for help. Her suggestion was to get people's noses out of joint and do what has to be done. Good advice really. How many times can Downton fall onto hard times before the mismanagement pounds them over their collective heads? Unless I'm wrong, it's Cora who manages Downton, isn't it? That should guarantee at least three noses in suffering in short order. 

It was a nice stepping off episode, gathering up for some coming storms. The Downton finances, Edith's possible future in the suffragette movement, a couple marriages in peril and the regular household staff drama. Share your thoughts in the comments!

Review

Editor Rating: 4.7 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.4 / 5.0 (43 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.

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The immediate post WW1 period, in which the current series is set, was a turbulent time in Anglo/Irish politics. Up to that time, the whole of Ireland was under the direct rule of Britain, following centuries of tyranny and exploitation. The landed gentry in Ireland were English by origin, having been awarded Irish lands by various English kings, from which the original Irish owners had been ruthlessly dispossessed. In 1916, an Irish rebellion and war of independence finally resulted in freedom from British rule, although six northern counties of the provice of Ulster remained under British rule because of the wishes of the Protestant majority (setting the stage for further problems that we have witnessed in our own time period). The other three provinces became The Irish Free State, and later The Republic of Ireland. Branson, obviously is a conflicted Irish patriot who has managed to marry himself into the English aristocracy, the very people that had lorded it over the Irish in his native land. The burning of the castle echoes some of the activities that the rebels instigated (rightly or wrongly) to eject their British overlords. I hope helps put Branson into context.

Beverly brooks

I remembered from my own education about the trouble brewing in Ireland and knew it has been slowly building up to try to make a break from England. Still not impressed with Tom's character. To watch Sybil when she found out that he at meetings where taking action was discussed and he had not told her was something to see. She felt betrayed.
Poor Bates thinking his wife no longer cared about him by not writing. I suspected the guards were withholding his mail for their own reasons.
As usual Downton Abbey held my attention for the 50 minutes it on. I found myself wishing it was on for 2 whole hours.

Deann

BTW, it amazes me that the reviewer knew nothing of Irelands "Troubles" during this era when it is a major point of European history! What are they teaching in school these days? I learned about the problems between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland while I was in Junior High School, for heaven's sake.Did no one watch "In the Name of the Father"? Emma Thompson won an Oscar for her role in that movie!
Anyway, I also wanted to say that the new guy getting preyed upon by Thomas the gay valet is inevitable. And I loved Mrs OBriens new toaster! I hope that Daisy finds someone, she seems so lonely, and I also hope that Isobel Crawley saves the fallen maid. Thumbs up for Edith becoming a journalist, too!

Deann

I loved this episode for many reasons, but I have to say that the Dowager Countess's quips were totally on point and hilarious throughout the episode. I was glad to see Bates get back in favor so that he and Anna could exchange letters, but I agree that it is a bit grim to have to view prison life in Edwardian England so often. I have a feeling that Bates will get killed, or he will be released, but either way I am with the viewers who said that it can't keep going on this way, because it is too depressing. Meanwhile, I am flummoxed as to why the Irish get such a rum go in Downton, with Branson being an eejit and leaving his pregnant wife behind in an Ireland boiling with the "Troubles" I can't imagine any man who loves his wife just leaving her like that in such a cowardly way to save his own skin.

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I agree with all who are tired of the Bates/Anna storyline. While they have always been likeable characters, the prison scenes are not interesting or enjoyable. Let's either free Bates and move on, or write him out.
I do think you have some confusion with the footmen, however: James, the new and good-looking footman, is not related to Miss O'Brien, and is not the object of Daisy's interest. That person is Alfred, the somewhat homely footman who is O'Brien's nephew. And he, sadly, appears to be interested in the new kitchen maid, Ivy. Poor Daisy! She does deserve to have a feller! It will be interesting to see how the amoral Branson affects James in his new employment. Nothing positive, I'm sure.

Modwild

Hi @TS - I agree about the characters in focus during the episode. For me, it was what happened because of them that I enjoyed. Robert's hissy fit while still helping Branson and watching Isobel formulate a plan. I've always enjoyed Isobel, but she's much like Edith. Nobody gives her credit for her brain because she doesn't have a man standing behind her. She can be annoying, but she has some very cutting edge ideas. Bates needs to get out of prison or be written off. Just blah.

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Why would M/M need to discuss children? At that time and in their situation, having children would be both expected and desired. (And it wouldn't be "appropriate" for them to explicitly discuss anyway.) I thought it was pretty clear that Mary, in her own subtle way, was telling Matthew that she went to the doctor because she thought she was pregnant but it turned out she wasn't and might not be for some time, if ever. I think Cora runs the household affairs and staff, but Robert is in charge of the estate (e.g. rent from tenants, etc.) where the problems mostly are. The Dowager was cracking me up, but overall I wasn't enthralled with much of this episode, since Branson's, Bates' and Ethel's tragic sagas are my least favorite storylines.

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So I decided to watch this show today.. I was hooked Right away I am halft tru S2 already... I can't wait to catch up.. I am hooked

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I think that Mary should be pregnant. Cora will confront Mr Branson about his wife being pregnant
Mathew and Robert talk about throwing mr Carson out of Downton

Downton Abbey Season 3 Episode 3 Quotes

Edith dear, you're a woman with a brain and reasonability. Stop whining and find something to do.

Violet

Edith: I don't have the vote. I'm not over thirty and I'm not a householder. It's ridiculous.
Matthew: You should write to the Times.
Edith: Maybe I will.