Downton Abbey: Series 2 Episode 5 Review

DOWNTON ABBEY: Sunday 16th October, ITV1, 9pm

“But you gave me your word!!” said Bates after discovering that Vera still planned to screw him, his lovely lady and the Crawley clan over in this week’s Downton. As a man who bleeds principles, it clearly hadn’t occurred to him that his relentlessly deceitful and inexplicably viscous wife (who probably won’t be short of offers come pantomime season..) might be.. you know.. fibbing.

Speaking of Her Evilness, it’s hard to know what to make of her. We must assume that she was slightly less horrid when good old Batesy married her, so why is she such a nasty piece of work these days? Fellowes certainly has some backstorying to do there. It’s almost as if she’s a two-dimensional antagonist simply dumped in the middle of the story to.. oh.

Yes, it’s become incredibly fashionable to batter Downton of late.. All we hear is TV aerial this, rubbish scripting that, or dodgy dialect the other. “I still watch it..” wrote one fan online “but I no longer love it.” Comments like this might explain why the show still holds more than healthy viewing figures in the face of an impressive broadside from Spooks (8.7 million at last count) but the one thing viewers seem to be getting very vocal about is the way the episodes get through the years faster than they do advert breaks (and that’s saying something).

Things might be moving rapidly in some areas, but nothing’s happened between Branson and Keira Knightley for about a month, which as we know, is two years Abbey time. Every single one of their scenes has been EXACTLY THE SAME for some time now. Yet it’s a testament to Branson’s chat that we even reckon these two might be an item, because Knightley couldn’t look less interested as far as I’m concerned. Aside from his rampant socialism, he’s pretty under-developed despite all his time on screen.

While those two continue with the longest and most uneventful courtship in history, the rest of the cast are pushing through 1918 and real tragedy is finally hitting Downton. After dipping his toe in at the shallow end with the suicide of Thomas’ love interest, at last Fellowes hits us with a death of someone we’ve known for longer than 10 minutes and it couldn’t have happened to a more affable chap in William (didn’t Miss Isobel do well getting him conscripted!) and the paralysis of Abbey heart-throb Matthew.

As you can imagine, after popping back from the Somme every weekend for Sunday lunch (how much leave can one man have?) it comes as a shock when Matthew finds that he can no longer father children, which brings us full circle in many respects. Maybe that’s karma paying him back for the his cringeworthy mid-concert entrance last week, but every shell blast has a silver lining and he cleverly uses his trauma to ditch his betrothed Lavinia (“Think of me as dead!”) Advantage Lady Mary.

Much has been made of the way Mary has been sashaying from one mood to the next this series and she was forced to deal with that whole Mr Pamuk incident again this week. Somehow, despite the fact that every man and his dog in a 50 mile radius of Downton is in on the secret, Lord Crawley remains in the dark, which is probably best. She gets Murdoch’s grandad to sort it all out, but in true soap opera fashion she’s making herself a bed that she certainly won’t be lying in. Oh well, as long as everything’s fine at the end of the episode, who cares if it all goes to sh*t five minutes into the next?