Downton Abbey season 4, final episode

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If I can sum up the season finale into one word, it would be “sweet”. The parting glance of Mrs. Hughes holding Mr. Carson’s hand as they waded into the water at Brighton Beach was a lovely note to end the season. Not that I believe the two of them would kindle anything, but who knows. Friends oftentimes turn into some of our best lovers…

Lady Edith is on a quest to reclaim her daughter to bring her closer to Downton. I have to admire her for doing that. It will be interesting to see where that story goes next season. And I am enjoying Branson meeting up with Miss Bunton the teacher, that should prove to be a story with legs, as should the building acrimony between Branson and Thomas. Seeing Thomas’ clenched fist as he attended Branson in the dining room revealed the hatred seething towards Branson.

Lady Mary’s menage a trois should prove to be interesting. It blows me away how civilized the men are acting in all this, giving each other rides and sharing space with her in the same room. Truly gentlemen, something that is quite foreign for American women to behold. I think now that the game has changed since its been revealed that Mr. Blake is quite the millionaire. I am glad that Mary decided to throw the one piece of evidence into the fire, linking Bates to Lord Gillingham’s valet’s death. Loyalty is a virtue that should be more pervasive. I am glad no one told Anna of this, so she can continue to move forward from her trauma.

Lady Cora’s mother and brother Harold’s appearance in the last episode were interesting. I think her brother began to grow on me by the end of the episode despite his pursuit of a much younger woman. I think her mother always provides such comic relief, albeit crass!

And Lady Rose’s coming out was a series of spendid events. I do hope she finds a good man that can love her and above all, handle her! Daisy proved that she is still a desirable mate, with Harold’s valet pursuing her to come to America. She refused but Ivy said she would go in her place! I’ll bet that next season Alfred will return from cuilary school in London and sweep Daisy off her feet and move to Mr. Mason’s farm hehehe! And of course Lady Violet was in fine form dispensing zingers with the utmost of love, to all. It will be interesting to see if her friendly nemesis, Mrs. Crawley hooks up with Lord Mehrten.

That’s all for season 4. Tune in next year, and in the meantime, peruse the Downton Abbey wiki to keep up to date on the Crawleys. http://downtonabbey.wikia.com/wiki/Downton_Abbey_Wiki

Now, bring on season 2 of Mr. Selfridge!

Downton Abbey season 4, episode 7

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The Dowager Countess is like an eagle that swoops in on her prey – she picks up on the subtlest of cues and then goes in for the kill. She got it out of Lady Rosamund and Lady Edith the real reason for their trip to “learn French” in Switzerland. She picked up on Lord Merton’s interest in Mrs. Crawley, and her ongoing sparring with Mrs. Crawley makes one bust out laughing. She has returned in full form.

And as I predicted last week, it did happen, Lord Gillingham’s valet is dead. And Mr. Bates disappeared from Downton, with permission, on the day it happened. I think too many people know, so it will be interesting to see if the secret keeps. Now I get the feeling that Anna is not happy with the outcome and seems to question Mr. Bates’ integrity.

I am loving all the other pairings too: Mr. Molesley and Miss Baxter, the “menage” pursuing Lady Mary, Branson and the teacher Sarah, love is definitely in the air. But not for Rose, her pursuit to prove a point has left poor Mr. Ross with a broken heart. Not for Alfred either: Ivy turned down his proposal of marriage and has left him broken hearted as well. Unrequited love is so hard, but it is better to have loved and lost, than not to have loved at all. I predict Alfred will resurface again…

Lord Grantham has returned, and it is now evident that he is quite the force and steward of the estate. It was evident in his absence how much he holds it all together. I want Lady Mary to marry a strong man to take his place. I would like to see Mr. Blake win out in the end. They can’t keep the audience on tenter hooks for THAT long until Mary decides who will win her heart.

So next week is the season finale. I hope it holds some good story, without the devastating cliffhanger. Tune in next week…

Downton Abbey, season 4, episode 6

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All I have to say is one thing – Bates is going to kill Lord Gillingham’s valet. And if he does, I wonder what the collective response to a murder will be? Mrs. Hughes confronted him and I’ve never seen such wrath come from her lips and body. She is quite empowered and wise beyond belief. 

How does Lady Mary deserve the honor of all these eligible bachelors throwing themselves at her? Its a bit of a stretch, I can maybe see two, but three? Its like The Dating Game.

I am glad Lady Edith chose to not go through with getting an abortion. Now all we need is for Mr. Griegson to show up. I wonder what her mother’s reaction will be.

One person I want to find true love is Daisy. Hope she finds a nice man. And I hope Thomas gets laid while on the ship to America, lol!

That’s all I got in me for this week, see you next week…

Downton Abbey season 4, episode 5

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Well guess what – Lady Edith is pregnant! And oh no, Mr. Griegson has gone missing! Poor Edith is a wreck, and we got a sneak preview of next week’s episode in which she confides in Lady Rosamund – we’ll just have to see where it goes next, or if Mr. Griegson reappears. Personally I think he’s a spy for the British government and has gone deep underground. I just hope Lady Edith doesn’t do anything rash. I so truly want Edith to triumph, she more than  deserves it.

The footman Albert got a second letter from the Ritz, offering him a spot in the culinary training program. Of course Daisy is now brokenhearted and Ivy is the recipient of everyone’s wrath. And James went a bit fast on her on their last date, so now the downstairs romances have had a huge bucket of ice water thrown over all of them. Also in the big chill still is Anna and Mr. Bates. They are struggling to recapture their magic, but I am starting to have my doubts. The long suffering Mr. Molesley seems to have won a position as Albert’s replacement, and I wonder if a romance buds between him and Mrs. Baxter the new ladies maid for Lady Cora. Thomas is still pressuring Mrs. Baxter for information, but she is starting to have misgivings. I can’t wait to find out the bond between those two and exactly what Thomas has hanging over her head.

Lady Rose’s birthday surprise for Lord Grantham seemed to have been a hit. The jazz band certainly livened up the Abbey. But Lady Mary found her and the bandleader kissing downstairs at the end of the evening. Rose is playing with fire flirting with all of these different men, I hope she doesn’t get into trouble like poor Anna. Lady Mary is still planning for the future of the estate and a new man has entered the scene, the handsome Mr. Blake. So far he and Lady Mary seems like oil and water, unable to mix properly and sniping at each other. We’ll have to see if he becomes smitten with her too: Mr. Napier visiting alongside Mr. Blake, certainly seems like he is still smitten with Mary.

Lastly the tug of war between Lady Violet and Mrs. Crawley forges on, and a welcome witness to those two fighting is Dr. Clarkson. It is a hoot to watch him roll his eyes while they spar. The butler Spratt is added comic relief and his facial expressions are priceless! I do believe that the battle royale this week was dominated by Lady Violet, “game, set and match” according to Dr. Clarkson.

Cora’s brother Harold is in trouble financially, and seems to be drawing in Lord Grantham. That story line promises to be interesting. So just when I was losing hope, Downton becomes more intriguing, leaving us hanging on for more. Until next week…

Downton Abbey season 4, episode 4

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Well sheeeeeee’s back! The Dowager Countess has returned from hiatus and is freely dispensing zingers and bon mots. The halo comment made me bust out! And now she has taken to giving a very sinister chuckle after she dishes it out which makes me laugh even louder. I must give Lady Violet credit though, the recipient of most of her slap shots was Mrs. Crawley, and mercifully she has been quite gentle with Isobel early on, but now that Isobel is emerging from her grief and immersing herself again as a good deed doer, the Dowager is unleashing her tongue once again. But I dare say, I suspect she unloads them wrapped up in a bow of love…with a spoonful of mischief! Charlotte posted below one of her best lines all season!

So on to the Bates-Anna saga. Mr. Bates coerced Mrs. Hughes into disclosing Anna’s secret, and Anna frankly seemed relieved now that he knows and has reacted favorably, but in Mrs. Hughes presence Mr. Bates swore that this is not over. When he did that it made me very uncomfortable that he seems to be hell-bent on revenge, and even though Mrs. Hughes and Anna covered up the true perpetrator, I know that Mr. Bates will find out. Will be interesting to see where this goes.

Lady Edith has not yet heard from Mr. Griegson who has left for Germany. Its taken every bit of willpower not to search for the answer to her fate on the internet, but I shall remain in the dark. She did however pay a visit to a physician in London, based on the ruse of going to Mr. Griegson’s office. Could she be pregnant? Maybe Lady Rosamond’s prediction will come true, Edith may very well be feeling sorry later for her lapse. 

Alfred got his chance to test at the London Ritz for a full scholarship to culinary school, however despite much practice, he did not get in. I dare say though Daisy is quite pleased that he will remain. And the hapless Mr. Molesley missed yet another opportunity for employment at the Abbey while Alfred was away, by taking too long to make up his mind to work as a footman. I hope he eventually gets a break, but it makes for a continuing story line having him endure all the hard knocks.

We have yet to find out the connection between Thomas and the new Ladies maid, Mrs. Baxter. He certainly has her in his clutch, we just have to find out why. 

Mary had a visit from an old love interest, Mr. Napier, but it seems like he brings with him some rather distressing reasons why he and his boss are in Yorkshire. Lord Grantham continues to be the advocate for the old ways, bestowing a lease on the heir of one of the estates tenants, and while Branson was pleased, hopefully the tenant will pull his weight to support the estate. Mary remains skeptical, but a healthy dose of skepticism is a good counterbalance to her father’s pollyanna. We’ll see where it goes.

So that’s all for this week, until next time… 

 

Downton Abbey season 4, episode 3

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If I can sum up this episode in one word its PUSHY! Lord Gillingham was pushing Mary to marry him (my if this only happened in real life maybe more people would couple off and marry!), lady’s maid Edna got Branson drunk and pushed herself on him in his bed, then Mrs. Hughes pushed her right out of a job, my my (to quote Mrs. Hughes) what tangled webs they weave. And what’s to happen with Lady Edith? She has fallen from grace and now we are left to wonder if she has left herself flapping in the wind with Mr. Griegson leaving for Germany?

The relationship drama downstairs is starting to devolve into a circle of repetition: while cute, we want them to make up their minds! Yet we have the Bates and Anna saga, with poor Anna now scared of her shadow and rejecting Mr. Bates affections. For once, Lord Grantham has words of wisdom for the aching Mr. Bates, comforting him and reassuring him that yes its a relationship with ups and down and that this too shall pass. I certainly hope so I hate seeing Bates emasculated like this. And I miss the bubbly Anna.

For one, I’d like to see a story line develop for Lady Rose, and watch a suitable mate hunt her down. The bandleader Jack Ross saved her virtue after her partner wobbled off in a drunken stupor, and he was quite chivalrous towards her despite the fact that he couldn’t sing a lick!

The Countess dowager is reemerging and she is ever at the ready with a sharp quip. Check out this website for some cool quotes to remind you of her wit.

In all the chaos, the one person that holds it all together is the beloved Mrs. Hughes. She is such a rock for that estate, everyone including Mr. Carson that I shudder to think what would happen if she was not such a bedrock of stability. She is an honorable woman, but I would like to see her obtain a level of personal gratification, instead of giving of herself to everyone else. Maybe that is her satisfaction, being the stable force that everything else swirls around. I hope she gets her due, in a good way.

Can’t wait for next week! If you want to refresh this past episode, you can watch it here

Downton Abbey season 4, episode 2

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For  a one hour episode, there sure was a lot of drama packed into the episode! The highlight was a house party at Downton Abbey, but I say there was no forewarning for it in the previous episode (maybe I missed it). From the list of guests we meet a potential suitor for Lady Mary, Lord Anthony Gillingham. Quite the dashing figure, he come in and subtly reawakens Mary’s spirit. But alas, he is engaged, however we all know that Julian Fellows likes to blow up conventionality for love…

Lady Edith continues her romance with Mr. Griegson, and with the house party in full swing, has him blend into the festivities. Several attempts to bring him and her father closer together fail, but in the end a card game in which Mr. Griegson wins back all the money lost to the card sharp, including Lord Grantham’s finally elevates him to be acknowledged. I’m sure Lord Grantham may have much to say if it comes to pass that Lady Edith moves to Germany to be with her intended. I am happy for her, she deserves the love in her life…

There is continued drama downstairs and it seems like Jimmy is finally falling for the sweet Ivy. Now if only Albert would set his eyes on Daisy, but for now, Albert has his eyes set on rattling pots and pans in a high class restaurant. The new lady’s maid, Edna is silently stalking Branson, and I don’t know if you caught this but she silently slipped into a bedroom at the end of the episode and I’ll bet you dollars to none she forced herself into Branson’s bedroom. She wasn’t the only one forcing herself: Lord Gillingham’s valet forced himself onto poor Anna, with a horrid rape scene at the end while Dame Kiri Te Kanawa was singing upstairs and all the kitchen staff were out of earshot to Anna’s screams. I knew about this happening, and read about the huge outcry in England against the graphic portrayal of a rape scene. But I don’t know that there will be such an outcry here in the states; haven’t read any kind of online protests as of yet. This is not to minimize the fact that rape is a brutal crime against nature, because Anna certainly did not deserve being brutalized. I fear that the fallout from this will drive a wedge between her and Bates, it seems to have already begun. Slate had an interesting take on this, with a story exposing the continued mistreatment of the Downton Abbey female characters. I just hope that Anna can pull herself out of this tragedy.

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Lady Violet continues her background manipulations, correcting poor Branson’s interactions with the Duchess for one, but I saw in her a soft side. Isobel continues to mourn Matthew terribly, and the dowager has been quietly supporting her in her grief. Can it be? The dowager has turned the corner to become an old softie? I for one am glad to see it, this makes her character even more lovable.

The episode is online to stream if you’d like to watch again, I know I certainly will before Sunday nights. The next episode airs on Sunday January 19 on WYES at 8pm with a one hour episode. And while you’re at it, leave the TV on the same channel afterwards, Masterpiece Mystery Sherlock season 3 begins right after.

Downton Abbey Season 4, episode 1

I really cannot put my finger on the reason for the obsession with Downton Abbey. Its like an addiction to anything: an opium fix, double chocolate fudge cake, sex with someone you really click with, the fixation on Downton Abbey ranks right up there with them all. It was evident in the fall building up to last Sunday’s premiere: searching for any news on the cast, trying to avoid all the spoilers (there are some very shocking events in store!) and the cast tour of America and all their interview videos, I couldn’t get enough!!!

But the wait is now over and I watched it Sunday night, the Tuesday night repeat and this morning I watched it again online – its hopeless for me!

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Please stop reading if you haven’t see the episode yet, but if you haven’t, where have you been hiding under a rock for the last 4 years (lol!)

The show opens with O’Brien, Lady Cora’s ladies maid, leaving the Abbey in the middle of the night to go to India to work for “gasp!” Lady Cora’s cousin Susan Flincher. The search then commences to find a replacement and Lady Rose intervenes and who turns up but Edna Braithwaite, the tart that tempted Branson last season. Now Edna has received a “proper training” and manipulates her way into Lady Cora’s boudoir. Poor Branson, I hope he doesn’t get caught in Edna’s spider web again, but for now she is weaving a nest alongside Barrow the underbutler to trap poor Anna and Bates. She fit quite nicely into O’Brien’s wicked shoes.

But back to Anna – it seems like she is becoming a bit more deceptive in her role. Previously playing by the rules, she has taken a twist and it may come back to haunt her. She is embroiled into helping Lady Rose, the dowager’s great niece staying at Downton to behave badly. Anna took Rose to a dance hall, where Rose met a handsome worker to dance with and by the end of the night there was a fight erupting over Rose. Needless to say, the young man later marched right up to Downton’s back door wanting to see if Rose was OK. Anna then helped Rose change into a maid’s uniform to have a secret tete-a-tete with the young man, but when would you have thought Anna to pull off such a ruse! Jimmy the footman bore witness to all the events so I suspect there will be more with all of them and the smitten young village man.

There continues to be more secret crushes in the downstairs milieu, what with the episode opening on Valentines Day. One of the more interesting unrequited love stories involved of all people Mr. Carson and a long lost love of his. A man from his past surfaced and Mrs. Hughes took it upon herself to assist him and try to arrange a meeting between him and Mr. Carson via the help of Mrs. Crawley. The episode ended with Mr. Carson coming to terms with his old friend, despite the fact that the friend wound up marrying the love of Mr. Carson’s life. In parting the friend shared that this woman had died, and at the end she confessed to loving Mr. Carson and regretting not being with him. How sad that this happened to him, its shows how missed opportunities in life can haunt someone until, if they are lucky can get some kind of closure – definitely ending the episode in tears.

Which come next to the heartbreaker, Lady Mary. After 6 months she is climbing out of the abyss of grief over the death of her beloved Matthew. Her state of mind is palpable and we all want her to “buck up” for the sake of baby George. It takes Mr. Carson to lend a hand to climb out and get back with the land of the living to quote the Dowager Countess. Speaking of, Lady Violet was somewhat subdued this episode, but I expect her to unleash her trademark zingers soon. Meanwhile, I am pulling for Lady Edith, and her happiness, she so deserves her reward in the form of handsome Mr. Griegson.

Aside from some drama with the nanny getting caught treating poor Sybbie badly and being immediately dismissed by Lady Cora, this about sums up episode 1. I know I’ll probably watch the online video 2 more times before next Sunday. Its hopeless…..but in a good way!

Books, TV, Movies: Charlotte’s Lists of Top Fives For 2013

Everybody’s doing the obligatory year-end lists so I thought I’d jump on the band wagon with my top five faves for movies, TV and books. I decided to limit myself to five so I wouldn’t spend too much time on the laptop. lol. Everything is listed from 5 to 1, 1 being the favorite.

First of all: movies. I love Independent film and I rarely run out to see a movie when it first comes out in theatres. In fact, I prefer watching on TV in the comfort of my home.  Just released blockbusters? Forget it. The movies I’ve selected are ones I watched this year but none of them were released this year. All of them I discovered on my own through chance and thoroughly enjoyed. Predictably, all but one are dramas as that’s my preferred genre.

TV: Three of my five favorite shows were on Sundance Channel with two being Sundance Original Series. I love Sundance. It was a little hard narrowing my favorite TV down to five since I am a true child of the TV generation. As with movies, I prefer the quirky, original and creative in my TV viewing. See what you think.

Books: I don’t rush out and read the just-released bestsellers, as a rule. However, four of my five were released this year and I’m pretty sure a couple of them are on the Bestsellers list. (Not sure as I don’t consult any of them.) After reading this article and this article, I’ve decided 2014 will be a year of reading only women writers. It’s long overdue and I urge you all to do the same in support of women’s writing.

Movies

Bonus Pic: ( because I realized after publishing that I have 6 movies listed)
You Can Count on Me – Starring Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Directed by Kenneth Lonergan, 2000
A young mother’s drifter brother shows up back in their hometown after years away and out of touch. The dynamics between the siblings (Linney and Ruffalo), who are complete opposites, makes for a very interesting movie. Not a lot of action here, but a thoughtful unfolding of how differences in perception can create misunderstanding and resentment in relationships. Laura Linney is a nuanced actor and one of my favorites – I’ll watch anything she’s in. Ruffalo plays his well-honed bad beautiful boy that you want to kiss and slap at the same time. Watch this movie if you don’t require car chases and exploding things.

5. The Savages – Starring Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Directed by Tamara Jenkins, 2007
Linney and Hoffman portray two siblings who are juggling caring for their sick father with their own busy lives. Their emotional journey as they watch the deterioration of their father and the subsequent decisions they must make for his care is one many of us in our 40’s and 50’s are familiar with. This movie really touched me in a big way as I’ve recently dealt with this issue myself. Sometimes it’s helpful to see your own struggles played out on screen so you realize it happens to other people too. Linney and Hoffman give skillful, poignant performances and I wouldn’t expect anything less from them.

4. The Darjeeling Limited – Starring Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman, Directed by Wes Anderson, 2007
Hilarious. These are three brothers who travel to India to find themselves and bond after their father’s death. The predicaments they get into will make you giggle, or at least smile. I thoroughly enjoyed this offbeat comedy that also has a few tender moments.

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3. The Deep End – Starring Tilda Swinton and Goran Visnjic, Directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, 2001
A mother struggles to keep her son from being implicated in a murder. Both Tilda Swinton and Goran Visnjic are great in this movie, their casting was perfect. Tilda gives a convincing, heart-wrenching performance of a mother stoically trying to keep her shit together while slowly unraveling as she tries to keep life normal while dealing with blackmailers (Visnjic) threatening to expose her son as a murderer. This movie held my attention from start to finish with a strong story and compelling acting. Highly recommend.

2. Brothers – Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman and Toby McGuire, Directed by Jim Sheridan, 2009
Just before a young Marine (McGuire) is deployed (again) to Afghanistan, his younger black sheep brother (Gyllenhaal) is released from prison. The story revolves around what happens in Afghanistan and what happens back home. I have to say I was impressed most by McGuire’s performance as he was not an actor I cared much for until this movie. His acting here was pretty incredible in my eyes. Gyllenhaal and Portman (as McGuire’s wife) give solid performances too but McGuire is clearly the star here. This is a tense yet, in some ways, tender movie. Some of it is hard to watch but definitely worth the effort. Highly recommend.

1. Snow Cake – Starring Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman and Carrie-Ann Moss, Directed by Marc Evans, 2006
OK, movies like this are why I love Independent Film. This is a wacky, crazy, insightful, sweet movie that I will definitely watch again. (I don’t often do that.) Rickman and Moss meet up serendipitously on the road, both returning to their homes after prolonged stints away. Weaver plays Moss’s mother who is a highly functional autistic, Rickman ends up staying with her and the story unfolds and keeps you watching and guessing how it will ever end. If you don’t like this movie then I can’t imagine why not. Weaver and Rickman are great and play two of the most memorable characters you’ll ever meet. Highly recommend.

The movie that most disappointed me: Silver Linings Playbook Maybe it was the mood I was in at the time but Jennifer Lawrence’s character kind of drove me crazy and I wanted to smack Bradley Cooper. I kept looking at the clock during the entire movie.

TV

5. Downton Abbey – PBS – What’s better to take you away from reality than a historical family dynasty story set in another country? The acting is fantastic, the sets opulent, the cinematography bucolic, the fashion glittering and, oh yeah, those dreamy English accents. What’s not to like? It’s worth it just to watch magic unfold from Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess Violet. Eight more days to season 4 – I can’t wait! Squee! maggie

4. Rectify – Sundance Channel –  A young man is released from prison after nineteen years on Death Row after DNA evidence exonerates him. This series follows Daniel as he tries to assimilate back into his old life where he encounters prejudice and resistance as well as support and love. This is a well-written series that makes you think about how opinions that seem so solid can be so wrong.

3. The Returned – Sundance Channel – A French (subtitled) zombie series that isn’t your same old hum-drum, flesh dropping zombie series. I am wild for this series. Basically, it takes place in a small, isolated community in France where deceased loved ones, looking as they did at death,  begin appearing, unaware that they’ve been dead. You can not take your eyes off this show and I can’t wait for Season 2. (Here’s a good synopsis on Flavorwire.)

2. Breaking Bad – AMC – If you don’t know about this series then you’ve been living under a rock. I watched the first four seasons on DVD this year, one after the other, then watched season 5 live. I was shocked by how this show pulled me in with season one. Really, I didn’t think I’d like it, thinking it was all about drugs and addicts and all the shit that goes along with that scenario. In reality, it’s one of the most well-written, well-acted and emotionally compelling shows I’ve ever seen. Now I’m watching re-runs on Sundance.

1. Top of the Lake - Sundance Channel – A  detective returns to her hometown to investigate the disappearance and suspected abuse of a pregnant teenager. The detective (Elizabeth Moss) unearths long-held town secrets and faces demons from her past in this dark, suspenseful series. As with Breaking Bad, this is a well-written and acted show that pulls you in and won’t let go. Elizabeth Moss is riveting in this, playing a much more tortured, compelling character than her gullible Peggy on Mad Men. She was nominated for a Golden Globe and  an Emmy for Best Actress in a Mini-series or Movie and should have won. Filmed in New Zealand, the cinematography is uh.may.zing, winning Adam Arkapaw the Emmy for Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie.

The program that most disappointed me: American Horror Story: The Coven. This show is just too corny. I wanted to like it simply because it’s filmed here and set here and stars Jessica Lange and Angela Bassett but those  facts aren’t enough to make me sit through it one more time.

Books

5. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – The story of the relationship between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. It was fun reading about Paris in the Jazz Age and the antics of the “Lost Generation”. I have to say, though, that if this is really the way Hemingway treated his women then he’s lost some of my respect. One can be a lauded writer but if you treat people like crap it diminishes the work, for me.

4. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri – Set in India and America, this is the story of two brothers, their family and a country torn apart by revolution. It’s a page-turner, for sure.

3. Tenth of December by George Saunders – A collection of short stories every one of which is a gem. I swept through this book in no time and plan to read it again. Highly recommend. the-year-of-magical-thinking

2. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – If you’ve lost someone close to you, this is the book to read – grab it now! It gave me some solace in the year after my mother’s death by identifying and explaining patterns, behaviors and thinking that seemed wacked out but, in truth, is part of the grieving process. Skillfully and lovingly written, Didion walks us through the long protracted illness of her daughter, the sudden death of her husband and her life in the year afterward. You will see yourself in her story. Highly recommend.

1. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini – The best book I read this year, hands down. Set in Afghanistan, this is the story of a poor family, their struggle to survive and the ensuing life of a son and daughter. This is a richly detailed and engrossing story, a book I couldn’t put down. Until this, Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns had been my favorite book. Highly, highly recommend.

The book that most disappointed me: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. After a promising start this book quickly became Bor.Ing. That is all.

I hope you enjoyed my list of Top Fives and maybe feel inspired to read or watch some of these recommendations. Do you have any favorite movies, TV shows or books you’d like to share?

Downton Abbey – week 7 finale

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Please don’t read further if you have not seen Season 3 finale yet

I knew this was coming. I read that another character wanted to leave the series several months ago, knew who it was, but did not know how the character would exit. The final scenes cast a shroud over the entire episode: Lady Mary, serene in the hospital bed holding her newborn son, not yet knowing that her husband Matthew lay dead along a country roadside, killed in a car crash. What a shocking ending to a season already filled with tragedy.

Going back to the beginning of this episode seams anticlimactic in the shadow of the ending, but here goes. The Crawleys are off to Duneagle castle in Scotland to visit with their cousins Lord and Lady Flintshire, the MacClares. Mary decides to go, despite being 8 months pregnant. Lady Edith goes, and her married editor/suitor, Mr. Gregson follows her up there to continue his pursuit. The Bates, O’Brien and Molesley attend to the Crawleys, with O’Brien getting into a tangle with Lady Flintshire’s maid, and Molesley again playing the comic by unwittingly getting drunk at the Ghillies ball. Meanwhile Lord and Lady Flintshire are desperately unhappy in their marriage, about to ship off to India while Duneagle castle is falling out of the family hands because of financial mismanagement. Lord Flintshire confides in Lord Grantham, telling him how visionary he was in diversifying Downton Abbey for the future while he watched Duneagle Castle slip through his fingers. A bit of vindication for Matthew and Tom. An interesting twist ahead for season 4 lies in their daughter Lady Rose coming to live at Downton after her parents leave England.

Back at Downton, while the family are away, Clarkson gives the house staff a bit of time off to attend the local fair. Jimmy gets into a bit of trouble and Thomas comes to his aid, and winds up getting beaten by some town thugs, but in the end, Jimmy and Thomas make peace and become friends even though Jimmy tells him he could never give Thomas what he wants. Mrs. Patmore is wooed by Tufton the merchant, but Mrs. Hughes calls his bluff after witnessing him carousing with several other ladies at the fair. Over tea, they have a laugh and Mrs. Patmore is thankful that she didn’t go any further with him and winding up chained to the stove.

Another interesting plot was the new maid Edna’s unabashed pursuit of Tom. She flirted, created situations she could be with him by inviting him to eat downstairs, and even went into his bedroom and kissed him. This was an accident about to happen when the timely Mrs. Hughes dismissed her from her job. She then had a sit down with Tom to tell him about Edna’s dismissal, and he proceeded to break down again over the loss of his wife Lady Sybil. It is inevitable that Tom will meet someone new, but with the help of Mrs. Hughes, and others at Downton, it is hopeful that he makes a good choice in his next partner and not the latest help at the Abbey.

So despite all the tragedy, it has been a gratifying season 3, and I look forward to next year’s installment. It promises to continue chronicling the trials affecting the Crawleys and reminds us that tragedy, joy, sorrow and happiness all go hand in hand, affecting both rich and poor equally. No one is immune to it, it is the stuff life is made of, so we must make the best of it while we are able. Thanks for reading.