Downton Abbey: series 1 episode 3


SPOILER WARNING: Plot points will be revealed in this episode-by-episode discussion of ITV period drama Downton Abbey.

Written by Julian Fellowes. Directed by Ben Bolt. Originally broadcast: 10 October 2010, ITV.

A Turkish man called Kemal Pamuk comes to visit but events take a dark turn… Elsewhere, housemaid Gwen has secretly been training to be a secretary, Mr Bates buys a ‘limp corrector’, and Mrs Patmore’s eyesight is giving her trouble…

When is it set? During the hunt season. The presence of Mr Pamuk dates the episode’s events to between September 1912 and July 1913.

Where is it set? The local post office, Downton Abbey and the surrounding countryside, the village, a shop in a nearby town, and Crawley House.

Debuts, deaths and guest stars:
* Evelyn Napier (Brendan Patricks) was mentioned in the previous episode. He and Mary have been having a light flirtation, though her attentions are soon on…
* Mr Pamuk (Theo James) is a pretty-boy attaché at the Turkish embassy who comes to stay at Downton. Footman Thomas thinks his luck is in when Pamuk flirts with him, but it’s actually a rouse. Having conned Thomas into crossing a line, Pamuk then blackmails him into helping with a quest to bed Mary. The quest ends badly for Mr Pamuk…

Best bits:
* Cora forgetting that Evelyn’s mother has died and then asking others if they knew.
* The servants bashing away at the unfamiliar typewriter. Mr Carson acts like it’s the work of the devil.
* Mary in a corset. Wowzers.
* “Is that one mine?” Thomas asks Mr Carson when he claps eyes on Mr Pamuk.
* The entire Pamuk storyline, which treads a fine line between drama and spoof. The flirtation with Mary, the bedroom scene, and especially the shock twist are all very entertaining. “He’s dead,” a stunned Mary tells Anna. “I think he’s dead. No, I’m sure he’s dead.” (She’s basically shagged a man to death during her first ever sexual encounter.)

Worst bits:
* They’re still banging on about the bloody entail and who gets Downton and its wealth after Robert dies. He doesn’t seem to mind such a morbid topic being discussed.
* Exactly when has Gwen been secretly practicing with her noisy typewriter? She works long hours, hardly has any time off, and shares a bedroom.

Real history:
* Mr Pamuk is in Britain to take part in talks about creating an independent Albania. The London Conference of 1912-1913 saw Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Italy discuss the issue from September 1912. A decision on borders was reached the following July.

Upstairs, Downton: In an Upstairs, Downstairs episode called Miss Forrest (1973) – which is set in 1912 – characters discuss whether the word ‘typewriter’ refers to the machine or the woman who uses it. No one in Downton Abbey is aware of this ambiguity.

Maggie Smithism of the week: Violet learns of Pamuk’s death and claims, “No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else’s house. Especially someone they didn’t even know!”

Mary’s men: Evelyn Napier, the son of Lord Brankstone, comes to stay. This pleases Mary initially, but he foolishly brings a friend with him. She assumes Mr Pamuk will be a “funny little foreigner with a toothy grin and hair reeking of pomade” – but he’s actually such a looker that she blushes. They’re soon flirting (neither Matthew nor Evelyn like this), then he kisses her passionately when they’re alone. She recoils, but he later brazenly walks into her room while she’s in bed. He seduces her… then dies during the act!

Doggie! The hunt has a posse of dogs running around all over the shop. But no sign of Robert’s lovely Lab.

Review: A dilemma for Downton Abbey viewers is how seriously to take it. The show is a drama, clearly. A strong cast make you believe in and care for the characters. But the storytelling can sometimes be ludicrous – and whether this puts you off or makes you chuckle will determine how much you enjoy the show. This episode has our first big WTF?! plot twist, and it almost becomes a comedy with farce-like scenes of Mary, Anna and Cora carrying a dead body down corridors so the corpse isn’t found in Mary’s bed. It’s outlandish and all the better for it – and like all good soap plots it generates more story for later down the line. Elsewhere, after last week’s know-your-place theme, Gwen’s wish to better herself is a nice change of pace. Sybil, the youngest and therefore most open-minded of the family, even eggs her on and offers to give her a reference. In fact, all three sisters get story this week: Edith makes a point of being friendly to Matthew, but is disappointed when he just asks her about Mary.

Next episode…


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