Monthly Archives: January 2014

Life Goes On, Downton Abbey, Episode 4, Season 4 Review

Spoilers follow…

This week, we seem to have finally moved beyond mourning Matthew’s accidental death.  Since this show has always been all about Mary, let us start with her first. She seems to have gotten over Matthew’s death, and was having pangs of regret about declining Lord Gillingham’s proposal after finding about his engagement. Frankly, I am a bit worried about Lord Gillingham.   Every man Mary has kissed so far has ended up dead. The show began with her fiancé’s death on the Titanic, Pamuk died after a tryst with Mary and her husband is dead.  Are Gillingham’s days numbered since he has kissed the ice princess?  Evelyn Napier, who brought Pamuk to Downton Abbey in the first season is back and Mary’s is glad to have another man hanging around her.  It has taken her less than a year to get over her supposed once in life-time love. I don’t want Mary to be in mourning forever but seven months does seem awfully quick to get over what was supposed to be an undying love.

Middle child aka  Chopped Liver Edith is most probably pregnant, we saw her visiting a doctor in London. As expected, Gregson seems to have vanished without a trace.  Also visiting London was Alfred, hoping to gain a cooking apprenticeship at the Ritz.  It was Top Chef, Downton Style. Unfortunately, he did not make the cut.  Jimmy intercepted the letter from Ritz, so I am still not sure whether Alfred really got rejected or if Jimmy changed the letters. We will see.  In other staff related news, Mrs. Patmore ever the traditionalist does not want a fridge.  Daisy and Ivy are were there too, but as far as I can see Ivy hardly serves any purpose.  If they got rid of Ivy and Rose, I bet no one would even notice.

Now focusing on people who actually run Downton, Mr. Carson was pretty rude to clueless Mr. Moseley.  At first he offered Mr. Moseley Alfred’s job, which Moseley was reluctant to take, since that would mean a step down for him.  When he finally deigned to accept the job, it was no longer available, as Alfred is not going anywhere after all.  Is this supposed to be funny? Am I the only one who sees no humor in poor Moseley’s situation, even though I must say that he is plenty annoying himself.  Or is the subtle message that pride and stupidity is a luxury only the entitled and the rich can afford?

Mrs. Hughes, figured prominently in the continuing saga of Bates and Anna. As expected series creator Julian Fellowes has made Anna’s rape all about Mr. Bates, who found out this week what really happened to Anna from Mrs. Hughes. Except for the tiny detail of the identity of the perpetrator.  Since Mr. Bates was not born yesterday, he has a good idea of the identity of the suspect.   Both Anna and Mrs. Hughes keep insisting that they did not know who it was, since Anna is afraid that Mr. Bates might fly into a murderous rage and kill the rapist.  For now Bates and Anna have reconciled.

In the other downstairs stories, Thomas has found a substitute O’ Brien, the lady’s maid now that Edna is gone, her name is Baxter. Somehow she doesn’t seem as evil and conniving as O’Brien, I wonder what dirt Thomas has on her.  Cora, that is Mrs. Gullible was won over by Baxter with a glass of orange juice, why is she so trusting, I wonder.  Lord Grantham took a break from being pompous and was gracious to a tenant farmer on the estate.  However, since gracious in this case meant being unwise about money, I am betting that this graciousness is going come back to bite his Cluelessness  in the ass, later.  Tom Branson, who is stuck in the nowhere land between upstairs and downstairs is contemplating going to America where he and his daughter can make a new beginning.  Can’t say I blame him.

Saving the best for the last, Isobel is back to being a benevolent busybody.  She  and the Dowager Countess were back to trading snarky and intelligent insults.  I love those two and I could watch them for the entire hour.

Full IMDB credits here

Grade : B

Links to reviews of previous episodes;  episode 1 and  episode 2 and episode 3.

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The Empty Hearse, Sherlock Season 3, Episode 1 Review

Sherlock is back after a two year hiatus, it was a long wait, but was it worthwhile? We last saw Sherlock tumbling towards what seemed to be a certain death in the epic confrontation with Moriarty in the season finale.  We knew that the consulting detective survived, because we caught a glimpse of Sherlock at the cemetery when an inconsolable Dr. Watson was visiting what he thought was  Sherlock’s grave.  So  how did Sherlock defy gravity and survive the fall that should have killed him. The show gave us three likely scenarios two of which ended in a kiss, knowing Sherlock my guess would be that the most plausible scenario was the one without the kiss.  Who were the lucky recipients of the lip lock with Sherlock? Molly Hooper and Moriarty, poor Watson-Lock shippers were left high and dry.

Anyway, the highlight of the show was not the mystery behind Sherlock’s survival  nor was it the detective story . It was  how Sherlock’s friends  react to his return from the dead.  Present day Dr. Watson is not as forgiving as Conan Doyle’s Watson.  I can’t say I blame him. Mrs. Hudson was shocked while Lestrade was so happy that he hugged Sherlock. Not quite what I had imagined, but it worked.  Sherlock’s reunion with his co-conspirators Molly Hooper and Mycroft was memorable as well.   Sherlock and Mycroft definitely have some childhood sibling rivalry issues that they haven’t worked out  yet. His reunion with Molly was sweet, he was actually nice to her.  We also got to meet Sherlock’s parents and Dr. Watson’s fiancé.

Sherlock’s fall  has made Anderson, Lestrade’s crime scene investigator a bearded conspiracy theorist. If you remember Anderson and Sherlock were barely civil to each other. He, along with the other members of the Empty Hearse Club believe that Sherlock is not dead and keep trying to come up with alternative theories of how the detective survived.   Donovan, the curly haired detective who has always been skeptical about Sherlock’s abilities was nowhere to be seen.

The episode was thin on the story and high on camp, the subway bomb plot was too slapstick for me to enjoy.  I also didn’t quite get the Guy Fawkes Day plot and the kidnapping of Dr. Watson.  Also, watch out for Mary, I don’t think she is what she seems.  She could crack a code that lead Sherlock to Watson’s whereabouts on the fly. Very suspicious!

Overall it was a funny and an engaging episode, loved the interaction between Martin Freeman’s Watson and Cumberbatch’s Holmes.    The rest of the cast including Rupert Graves as Lestrade,Louise Brealy as Hooper, Una Stubbs as Mrs. Hudson were wonderful as usual, as was series co-creator Mark Gatiss as Mycroft.  You can get the full credits here.

I am hoping that the the next episode has a mystery that we can sink our teeth into.

Grade:  B

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He Had it Coming

I had a human

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All Hail Mary, Downton Abbey, Season 4, Episode 3

WARNING: Spoilers follow..

Where  Downton Abbey is concerned, its all about Mary, all the time. This week yet another man, falls for her icy charms. There was Pamuk, Matthew of course, Carlisle, even Anthony Strallan found her irresistible when she briefly flirted with him to get even with Edith back in Season One. Now it is Lord Gillingham’s turn to fall at her feet.  Gillingham was one of the invitees in last episode’s house party. A party organized especially for who else, but Mary.

Some of this week’s action took place in London.  A new character was also introduced, a handsome black Jazz singer named Jack Ross.  Any guesses on who is sweet on him after he rescues her from an awkward situation on the dance floor, of course it has to be Rose. Aren’t you glad that the Titanic has already sunk about twelve years ago? Also in London but not at the club is  Edith, she is with Gregson.  She got caught sneaking up the stairs next morning by her aunt’s servant and was given a stern talking to by her aunt.  Poor Edith, damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. Gregson also had her sign some papers. Fishy! This is headed for disaster.

Anyway coming back to our Lady of Downton, after only two meetings, Lord Gillingham is so taken with Mary that he behaves like a lovesick school boy, following Mary all the way to Downton after their evening of dancing and merriment to propose marriage. I fail to see what makes icicle Mary so irresistible. Can someone please explain?  In case you were wondering she refuses since she is not over Matthew yet, but is  later shown having  some second thoughts.

In other non-Mary centric happenings, Anna is pushing Bates away because of the incident last week. I hope that Anna’s assault story does not become all about Bates reaction.  I am not a huge fan of this storyline but Joanne Froggatt is killing it with her haunted and devastated look.  Trouble maker Edna is gone too.  We last saw Edna slipping into Tom Branson’s room after spiking his drink.  Come morning and she has resorted to blackmailing Tom about the night before. The entire episode had Branson going around with a hang dog expression till he took Mary’s advice and bared his soul to Mrs. Hughes, who handled the matter with great aplomb and fired Edna.   On her way out Edna snarled at Thomas, the under butler .  Thomas, and Edna were thick as thieves, just a week ago and now they are trading insults on the stairs. What gives? Mrs. Hughes also did something nice for  Mr. Carson that made him crack a smile. I wish I had a Mrs. Hughes in my corner.

The upstairs Mrs. Hughes, the sensible if snarky Dowager Countess is softening towards  Isobel and her earnestness. Isobel is also trying to cope with her grief by volunteering at Dr Clarkson’s infirmary.  Despite its flaws I think this has been the best episode so far, this season.

Grade: B

Note:  You can find my reviews of episodes one and two, here and  here

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Why is PBS giving Economic Cranks a Forum?

Yesterday while watching Newshour I came across an interview of Chris Martenson by  Paul Solmon.  I had never heard of Martenson before yesterday. Martenson who has a PhD in neurotoxicology and an MBA has taken two apocalyptic strands of economic thinking from the left and the right  and woven them into a rich tapestry of frightening doomsday predictions which has gained him a devoted fan following. Martenson  worries about resource depletion, especially petroleum and runaway inflation. His solution; investing in precious metals,  living off the grid and raising one’s  food.   Like those predicting rapture Martenson has been predicting runaway inflation for a while now, if it hasn’t happened yet its just around the corner. He will tell you how  to avoid being processed for food when the economic apocalypse arrives.  Just buy his DVDs or subscribe to his newsletter, and don’t worry, you don’t have to pay him in gold bars he will gladly accept your worthless dollars out of the goodness of his heart.

Note: Despite what many deficits and debt  scolds have been saying the current levels of debt as compared to GDP are not the highest this country has seen. The debt/GDP ratio peaked just after the WWII and was the  precursor to an era of unprecedented economic growth.

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Melba Toast, Downton Abbey, Season 4, episode 2

Even Maggie Smith and gorgeous production values may not be enough to continue watching the Masterpiece soap, Downton Abbey. Writer Julian Fellowes who is a member of the House of Lords and looks  like a stodgy uncle of Bertie Wooster’s continues with his misogyny and classism in the second episode of the the fourth season.

As I had predicted last week, the Bateses happiness was short-lived.   Anna was brutally raped by a visiting guest’s man servant.  Earlier she had had a mildly flirtatious exchange with him and had some fun and gasp even laughed while playing a card game with the said man and some of the other servants. Something that Bates frowned upon and reprimanded Anna for, in front of everyone.  So what is the message here, if you are politely friendly to a man who is not your husband, you are fair game? What next,  honor killings?

The rapist’s master was a part of the house party organized by Lady Gullible.  What was that party all about? Lord Pompous and Clueless whines about the death duties but does not mind spending lavishly to host another meat market to signal that his grieving daughter is once again on the marriage market? All this while daughter Chopped Liver is cavorting around with a married man who wants to become a German citizen and ditch his wife and who also cheats at cards.  Also, Lord Clueless did not have any time for the cheater boyfriend till he saved his ass by getting back the money Lord Pompous and Clueless had lost at a game of poker the previous night.  Lady Gullible was also having some fun at her hapless son-in-law’s expense who is ill at ease making small talk with the guests whose pedigree rivals those of the AKC pooches.  Poor Tom, unfortunately for him confiding in she devil Edna is not going to end well.

Rose was in there somewhere, dancing and flirting  and pretending to be a servant. There was also a performance by a famous opera singer of the early 20th century, Nellie Melba played a real life opera singer Dame Keri Te Kenawa to  whom Lord  Clueless was a condescending jerk. As the characters keep going through the same recycled story lines, they seem to act stupider with every successive iteration.  May be it is time for Fellowes to let someone else do the writing.

Grade: F for originality.