I read a great article in TIME this week about why binge TV watching can be so unsatisfying. After screening the entire first season of Orange is the New Black in a week, the writer was disappointed that new episodes aren’t even shot yet, much less available to watch.
Besides the lack of instant gratification, part of the fun of good TV is sharing the experience with others. I used to love going into work the day after a great Sopranos episode and analyze the story with my friends. Now everyone watches shows at a different pace. The temptation to watch a whole season at a time is often too strong to resist. (For more on the TIME binge watching article click here.)
If I had to hear one more time how amazing Downton Abbey was from other TV addicts, I thought I’d poke my eye out with a tiara. Determined to catch up, Wilson and I tackled seasons 1 through 3 in the last few months and were good to go when season 4 started in January.
The best way to binge is right before the new season of your show. Great for continuity and dishing with fellow fans. So let’s get to it! (Spoiler alert! Don’t read on if you’re not caught up.)
There are so many things I love about the show— the excellent writing, sets and costumes, and the peek into a world of extreme wealth and privilege. But it’s the characters that set the show apart. Despite the stuffy English exterior, they’re complex and convincing.
What fascinates me most about Downton is how everyone knows their place. The staff accepts their status and shows very little aspiration to do more than service. The Crawleys have no guilt or awkwardness about their leisurely lives and often treat the servants as their closest confidantes. One of the best lines of the whole series was when the Countess asks “What is a weekend?”
The concept of rags-to-riches and working hard to improve one’s lot in life– the American dream itself– does not exist in that British era. In fact, when Tom, the chauffeur runs off with Sybil, the servants are as aghast and embarrassed as the family.
This is Lady Edith’s season. Perpetually in the shadows of her beautiful sisters — spirited, clever Mary and compassionate, fearless Sybil– Edith was overlooked and even ridiculed. It bothers me how even Lord Grantham can be so cruel and presumptuous when it comes to Edith trying to make her way. But no one’s putting this lady in a corner in season 4. Her clothes and makeup are sexy and stylish and she has a cavalier confidence we’ve not seen before. One virtue she’s always possessed is her self-awareness and candor about her circumstances. I’m not sure her new suitor is on the up and up. He may just be in it for the money, but I’m hoping Edith will shine no matter the outcome.
Lady Cora has lost some cachet. In the first two seasons, she was so strong but she seems meek and insignificant lately. I don’t like it. Especially since she’s the American. She needs to represent!
Is there sexual tension between Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes? Wilson thinks these two are gaga in love. I say their affection is platonic, like a brother and sister. If anything, Mr. Carson has the hots for Mrs. Hughes but is too uptight to do anything about it. I don’t think she sees him that way.
The Anna storyline is horrifying but I like the realness. I was so shocked when Anna was attacked, but the way they set it up– during the opera singer’s performance and after Anna had been nice to the brute– felt authentic. Her response has been compelling to watch. Mr. Bates finding out is inevitable, which adds to the drama.
Who’s your favorite character? My mother loves every bitchy line Dowager Countess Violet utters. (For some of her best click here.)
Wilson loves the no-nonsense way Mrs. Pattmore’s runs the kitchen and would enjoy a spot of tea with her.
I can’t choose between Lady Mary and Mrs. Hughes. Lady Mary is such an obvious choice but I can’t resist her wry spunk and modern sensibility. I also love her hats.
Mrs. Hughes is the den mother who looks out for everyone. Her ability to anticipate the actions and reactions of both the Crawleys and the staff while managing the house would make her a successful CEO in another time.
Please share your favorite character and any other Grantham goodies in the comments.