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Seduced by Downton Abbey

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Earlier this month I wrote this on Twitter:

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But it turns out that I’m very bad at having a man cold; I spent the entire day knitting and watching Downton Abbey for the first time. Did I mention that it was also Super Bowl Sunday? That is how bad I am at having a proper man cold.

How is it that I, a public media supporting Seattle dweller who knits, managed to not watch Downton Abbey up until now? Simple. I overdosed on period dramas in my past life. With the exception of a few variations on Pride and Prejudice, I have been avoiding them ever since. You see, I was an awkward weirdo in high school and predictably fell in with the drama crowd. Being into Shakespeare and Merchant and Ivory films made me feel sophisticated and intelligent. I worked as a page in the local library and our collection included all of the Masterpiece Theater productions on VHS. My preferred movie for a teenage-hormone-fueled-cry-fest was Lady Jane. (If you have not seen it I insist you look it up. It stars Helena Bonham Carter, Cary Elwes, Patrick Stewart, period lute music and a mostly true tragic story of being the queen of England for nine days–so dramatic!). I entered college to study costume design for theater, and to this day I take pride in my ability to sew a perfectly matched set of inset sleeves. I met my now husband while I was co-founding an outdoor Shakespeare festival. People, I was all in.

Then came the cold fact that theater doesn’t make money. Shocking, I know. Around that same time I learned to build websites which, at the time, was making a whole lot of money. And with that the allure of class-divided tragic romance of yore was buried under shiny newness.

So when people declared their love for this new show (Downtown Alley was it?) about a rich family who occasionally talks in modern phrases but really it’s a soap opera set sometime after the Titanic sinking and blah blah… I wasn’t all that interested. I have to admit that besides being sick and having the first season of Downton Abbey on Netflix streaming, the thing that really got me to watch it was an upcoming trip to England.

It took me a few episodes to get into it but I was hooked after not too long. The meaningful looks! The scandal! The silent pauses that mean so much! I watched the entire first season in a weekend. At the time I had the worst cold of the year but I have to admit not all of the tissues were for my nose. And then I decided to binge and watch every season before the trip. I put seasons two and three at the top of my Netflix queue and watched the expected delivery date with the intensity of an addict. Because I’ve watched the show in the course of weeks instead of years I’m finding that I have not forgiven some of the characters for past actions. I’m still angry with Mary for thwarting Edith’s proposal, and I know we are supposed to sympathize with Thomas in season three but I still see him as pure evil.

As I write this, the last episode of season three will be airing on PBS here shortly. I managed to watch all the way to the end of season 3 and I am SO EXCITED to see the reaction to the (not a spoiler) big, dramatic thing that happens just as the season ends.

Downton fans are really good at not publishing unavoidable spoilers but there was a moment where I spoiler-ized myself and I think I’ll never forgive myself for it. This is what happened: I was watching it on DVD and accidentally saw the start of season three episode six when I meant to be watching episode five (Downton fans you know what I’m talking about). It was a “gasp out loud and then use swear words” moment.) It took ten words of dialog into the episode and I was all caught up, which is a hallmark of soap operas. As a kid I watched Days of Our Lives, but only in the summer and only when it was bad weather out. I skipped years while I as in college and it only took one episode to catch me up on the fact that one of the characters had been possessed by the devil for years and Beau and Hope still hadn’t figured it out. But of course.

But let’s get down to it. What did you think of how season three ended? Are you outraged? Did you see it coming? I didn’t see it, but there was a moment where everything was suspiciously good and I said out loud, “One of them is doomed.” How will we all survive until season four starts?!

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