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B*tch Ranking "Downton Abbey": Hellloooo New Footman Edition

By Joanna Robinson | TV Reviews | January 21, 2013 | Comments ()


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In lieu of a standard recap, we'll be doing a Monday morning b*tch rank for the rest of the 6 episode run of "Downton Abbey" on PBS. Although many of you have somehow seen the rest of Season 3 already, I'll ask that you refrain from spoiling any Americans in the comments section below. So please feel free to discuss everything up to and including Season 3, Episode 3 of the PBS version of "Downton Abbey." But, before you do, here are this week's b*tch rankings.

5. Mr. Bates' Cellmate...I Think?: Is anyone truly following and/or caring about this plotline? I used to cluck and fret over every bruise on poor Mr. Bates' mangled leg and now I cannot be bothered to understand the finer workings of this Jazz Age version of "Oz." Why does Bates' cellmate hate him? How does that translate to guards hating him and withholding his letters? What did they find in the cellmates' bunk? Damn if I know or care. But if we're talking b*tches, I don't suppose we can afford to overlook the prison set.
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4. Turny Button Things: Was there anything more delightful than Carson's shock and horror at this bit of technology Mrs. Hughes brought into the house? After the cancer melodrama of the past few episodes, here was a lovely bit of domestic comedy. Carson's fuddy-duddery can be less hilarious when he applies it to ideas of class and gender (see: Lady Edith below), but his toaster-related consternation was simply amazing. At any rate, that turny button thing lied to Mrs. Hughes. Same as it ever was.
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3. Mr. Bryant: The man even had a mustache to twirl. It's not that I adore Strumpet Ethel, but the Slutty Major's father was pretty clearly a dyed-in-the-wool villain. The logic behind giving poor Charlie away appears to be that he'll receive all the advantages of the upbringing his late father had. I'm not sure that's wise, the Slutty Major wasn't exactly a model citizen. I didn't love Isobel Crawley's fussy judgmental attitude either. But, then again, I rarely do.
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2. Lord Grantham: Someone's on a roll! Having just ruined her marriage prospects, Edith's father proceeds to sneer at and then explode over her burgeoning writing career. I understand time and place and gender roles, but when your daughter is inconsolable and self-pitying, let's not rain all over any and all parades that might come her way. Thank goodness Edith has such lovely and supportive brothers in Matthew and Tom. In fact, I much prefer "Matthew the brother" to "Matthew the lover and husband." And, lest we forget, Lord Grantham said some super bigoted things about Catholics. That was fun.
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1. Tom Branson: That being said, Branson tops the list this week. I'm usually a Branson sympathizer and I know he honestly cares for Sybil, but leaving your pregnant wife to get her own *ss out of Ireland? Not okay. I hate that Branson made me side with Lord Grantham. So yeah, cry your little b*tch eyes out, Branson, that was a horrible move. To add insult to injury he had the effrontery to fling a petulant "well I never told you I didn't" at Lady Sybil when she asked him why he hadn't told her about attending firestarter meetings. Bad form, Branson.
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All I'm saying is that getting a WTF-face from Lady Mary is par for the course, but when Matthew starts throwing shade at you, you might want to look at your life and look at your choices.
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Best Line:
"There must be something you can put your mind to."
"Like what, gardening?"
"Well, no, you can't be as desperate as that."
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Most Heartbreaking Moment: Like I said, I'm not a huge Ethel fan, but this goodbye reminded me too much of this scene, and, thus, my heart was broken.
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Best Dressed: Why, new footman Jimmy/James of course. Even Thomas approves. Purely on a sartorial level, of course.
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Joanna Robinson is not prepared to call the new kitchen maid a b*tch, but she will, for Daisy's sake, give "timing" an honorary b*tch mention. Daisy+Edwardian Landry 4ever.


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • chanohack

    Oh, come ON. Mrs. Bird was such an incredible bitch in this episode. At least Mr. Bryant told Ethel he didn't wish her ill.

    But I think you're totally right about Bates' cellmate perhaps not being quite so bad. They are being deliberately vague about what's happening in prison (not even saying what the burlap thingy is that keeps being hidden in people's beds), and a "Bates was behind the whole thing" reveal wouldn't shock me at all.

  • I feel like, since the beginning, Branson is the Marius Pontmercy of Downton Abbey. He's all about the revolution, the fight, etc., and with good cause, but when the fire starts and people are killed, he's suddenly rethinking his life choices (as said above re: Matthew throwing shade). It's good that Branson thinks it's terrible to burn castles and houses and chase families from their homes, but he has nothing else going for him in terms of personal character development. He's a character set up to react to things, but he's becoming someone who won't take blame for anything he's done in his past.

  • maureenc

    I just realized that Julian Fellowes is cribbing half of Branson's characterization from Lady Mary Wimsey's douchey Socialist boyfriend in "Clouds of Witness". Unfortunately, we probably won't get the Inspector Parker analogue.

  • petitesuissesse

    How do we not know that Cybil came up with "the run away to Daddy's" (sorry, Papa's) house? It's hard for the Poor Little Rich Girls of the world to really break from their privilege.

  • The only thing Bates is good for now is a good, over the top, tear jerking death scene. Make it happen Downton Abbey.

  • Bodhi

    I cried so damn hard when little Charlie left. I'm not the biggest fan of Ethel either, but my God what a heartbreaking decision.

    I find Irish revolutionaries incredibly sexy, but even I was pissed at Branson. The Catholic Church counts sins of omission too, Tommy.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Disclaimer: I don't like children. However if they were to make little Charlie a series regular, I'd be very happy about it. Look at him!

  • PDamian

    Lady Edith finally gets her groove on! Oh, now I have such high hopes for this season! I'm so tired of Mary and her bitch-lady-of-the-manor routine, and Sybil is also starting to grate. The show may name-check Maud Gonne and Lady Gregory, but she's not up to that standard -- and the show would have been hella better if she were.

    I'm growing tired of Grantham's attitude. I had some pity for him during the first season, when he talked about not wanting to be the Earl who lost it all. But now, it appears that his great plan to preserve Downton is to marry money, and whether it's him or his daughter marrying the money doesn't matter much, as long as Downton gets paid. Mary's notion that money = "on our side" isn't much better.

    And now I want a resolution to the Bates/Anna storyline. It's dragged on long enough.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Not to mention "someone's" been mismanaging Downton's funds... can't imagine who that would be after that poorly conceived investment venture.

  • BWeaves

    hahahaha, so true.

  • upstate

    The BEST exchange of the evening was the Dowager Countess excusing the burning of the Irish castle because it was hideous.

  • It's true. That was a gem. Completely inappropriate and delivered with signature straight-faced judgment.

  • Tinkerville

    Matthew's WTF face is absolutely priceless. I'm going to practice it so I can throw it at my boss the next time he makes an idiotic request. Which should be in about five minutes.

  • Eva

    Does anyone else thing Bates is guilty? I know in the end something will random appear to prove his innocence, but, I think he did it.

    I always thought Branson was a self-centered ass. He loves Sybil, but, he loves his ideals more. In the beginning he was annoyed Sybil wouldn't immediately abandoned her entire life and potentially lose her family to be with him. He had zero sympathy. Later, he bitched relentless and was an ass about the hold wedding tux issue. He couldn't even set aside his ideals for just one event that he knows is important to his wife. I especially loved when they were talking about the tux in bed and he gives her a strict "don't change" warning.

    Is anyone really surprised he'd ditched his wife?

  • Kala

    This is exactly what I've been trying to saying since the beginning of the Sybil/Branson storyline. I've just been deficient in Vitamin Eloquent. Thank you.

  • BiblioGlow

    Vitamin Eloquent...I am stealing that.

  • Three_nineteen

    I think the only flaw in the "Bates did it" theory is that Bates would have beaten Queen Catherine to death, not poisoned her.

  • draeton

    If you will recall Anna's visit to the friend of the former Mrs. Bates, the friend made two incriminating remarks:

    1) Mrs. Bates was washing and scrubbing her hands furiously, which suggests some contaminant (most likely poison)

    2) She observed a glow around Mrs. Bates's head (suggesting radiation)

  • Eva

    1) He had a motive

    2) Knew about the poison, since he bought it

    3) He had a scratch on his face after seeing her

    4) He said things would be better if she were dead

    I think the best explanation would be that he went to visit Vera to get her to leave him alone and get the divorce. They get into a minor physical fight, which leaves him with a scratch. He leaves to a pub to calm down, goes back later but she's gone and he slips her poison thinking he could get away with it. He later comes to regret what he's done which is why he tells Anna to move on and accepts his fate. It'd be more interesting and realistic if he did poison her. I think it'd be more in line with his character. He's constantly verbal beaten down Vera, Thomas, and O'Brien. He's initially given the job out of pity and nearly gets fired. He finally has something he really wants, Anna, and wife is fighting him to the biter end. He just snaps.

    But, considering Matthew can't turn around without falling ass backwards into a fortune, I'm assuming Bates will be found innocent.

  • Branson is an example where I want to get in the writers' room with some sort of medieval weapon that bludgeons and breaks things. While the juxtaposition between his political ideals/beliefs and his genuine feelings for Sybil presents an interesting dramatic setting, they seem to simply have him repeat the dumb duality rather than reveal any character growth or struggle. He's just all Id, acting out rather than internally grappling with the choice he's made and the life compromises he must face as a result. What could have been a compelling thread is in danger of losing any real impact because of the shitty job of writing that's being done.

    Another example, they've simply set up this Matthew and Robert conflict over the 'mismanagement' rather than illustrate how real, educated and empathetic people might work through such a situation. I can already tell the conflict will feel hollow and childish, because of the writers' inability to trust the audience to understand nuance, show that lesser conflicts can mask larger issues that the characters may not themselves understand.

    I still want to watch, but it's becoming increasingly hate-watching because of the bad writing.

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    Tomas, I so agree about Branson. It seems to me l like Julian Fellowes lets some personal class beliefs permeate these characters, because other than laziness there is no other reason that Branson should be written as such an enormous brat unless it were to validate some a pre-existing class bias. I always thought his early interactions with Sibyl were a little stilted and non-persuasive as though the writers just thought "oh he's a lower class bad boy and girls like that" without really giving him any appealing personality traits whatsoever. There are plenty of politically passionate people who are not house burning wife abandoning assholes and I'm just hugely disappointed in how this story line is shaping up.

  • Fellowes IS a British Baron after all. Bashing Irish Republicans is written in his DNA. Not that this is any kind of excuse mind you. It's boring, incredibly childish, and it's ruining what could have been a great plot thread.

  • Genevieve Burgess

    Did anyone else think that hot Footman Jimmy James looked strangely like baby Simon Baker? It's the hair or the smirk or something.

  • It's *everything*. The second I saw him I thought the actor who plays Jimmy (Ed Speleers) looks like a Simon Baker clone.

  • prairiegirl

    That is TOTALLY who I thought it was at first. Maybe it's his baby brother. How long until Thomas hits on him, is the question?

  • BWeaves

    Yes, Simon Baker, and about 2 seconds before Thomas hits on him.

  • Skyler Durden

    THAT'S who it is. I couldn't place it.

  • I will only care about Bates again if he morphs into Prison Mike.

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