We open on Mary and Matthew’s wedding rehearsal. Noticeably absent are the pregnant Sybil and Branson, who claim to be too poor to show up. Lord Grantham is totally okay with this, because his daughter married the help.
However, our favorite Lord has made some bad investments and like many families in England after World War I, it seems the Crawleys are flat broke. Lord Grantham confesses to Cora, and then to Mary, because a few days before a wedding is probably the best time to tell a bride and her mother that they need to watch the budget.
Matthew is all set to move towards a simpler life post-wedding, which I dunno, probably means planting a garden and wearing a potato sack held up by suspenders. Seriously, if Matthew had his way, Mary would have a side job harvesting local organic honey. This is all big talk for Matthew, who I hate to say it, totally gained weight since last season. It’s easy to talk about simple times when your gullet is full of Beef Wellington and whiskey.
Our dear dreamer Matthew has come into some money thanks to the father of his dead fiancé Lavinia (RIP). Obviously, he feels like a douche, considering he made out with Mary (who let’s not forget is his cousin) while Lavinia was slowly dying of the Spanish flu. You know, when you say it out loud it sounds horrible but true love prevailed. Sorry we’re not sadder you died, Lavinia. But Matthew is still feeling guilty, and not really ready to turn over his potential fortune to save Downton. Though the two manage to mend their ways when Matthew comes back groveling to the only woman he knows he will ever really love.
Sybil and Branson end up coming for the wedding, thanks to the Dowager Countess sending them the money. Sybil got a haircut, or maybe she sold her hair to help pay for her unborn child a la Les Mis, but either way, she looks fab as always. Branson, as revolutionary as ever, hates coming to Downton because the folks upstairs give him a hard time. This is proven when a friend of the family slips him some sort of turn of the century roofie. But the Crawley gals jump to his defense and Matthew asks him to be his best man. And while everyone is smiling, Branson sways and sweats like he just finished a two day bender. A beautiful Kodak moment for all. Seriously though, I though Branson was gonna vomit.
We finally got to see Shirley MacLaine make her debut as Cora’s mother, Martha Levinson. “When I’m with her I’m reminded of the virtues of the English,” says the Dowager Countess. Fellowes clearly writes Martha to be a forward-thinking progressive foil to the conservative traditionalism of the Dowager.
O’Brien uses her powers of manipulation to get her nephew Ron Weasley Alfred a job as the new footman. The job was left vacant when Thomas was promoted to valet. Alfred isn’t really experienced enough for his job, and his character is really annoying. Even more annoying is that they involve Thomas in this silly plotline, in which Thomas tries to get Alfred fired.
Edith, the desperate old maid that she is, decides to pursue Sir Anthony once again, even though he is old and got a weirdo hand. Her spinster status was solidified as all of the Crawley women plus Anna gathered with Mary before the wedding. As the ladies made veiled references to their sex lives (the scene played like an uptight Sex and the City), but Edith was clearly left out of the conversation. She must have felt inadequate because her wedding wish to her sister was so lack of any emotion, she might as well have been saying something nice to a leaf. The woman has become so desperate she forces Sir Anthony to keep coming over for dinner,.
Everyone sees that Edith shouldn’t be dating Sir Anthony, and I mean everyone. Sir Anthony himself says he would rather stay away from her, but she keeps coming over. Eventually Edith gets her way, and next week, it looks like the two are getting hitched. If she gets a happy ending, there really is hope for all of us.
By far, the highlight of the premiere was the wedding, and from Mary asking Mr. Carson if she “will do” to fine, even Edith’s false hope of being the next to marry. But back to Mary, our very lovely Mary, who the whole town came to see as she got married. Seriously, the folks in the village know how to make a girl feel important.
Only Fellowes could follow up a wedding with prostitutes and a cancer scare. Cousin Isobel is working to help sex workers get back on their feet, one of which she discovers is Ethel, the former housemaid who got knocked up and eventually fired. Mrs. Hughes found a lump in her breast, and confides in Mrs. Patmore, who takes her to the doctor.
Last, but not least, Mr. Bates is still in jail for allegedly murdering his ex-wife Vera. His new wife, Anna, is doing very well living as the lead in a Lifetime original as a woman on the hunt for justice. She’s following leads while he is protecting himself against his new cellmate. I can’t wait to see Connie Britton in Justice for All: The Anna Bates Story on television next year.