Book Review – Bombshells vol. 4: Queens

  • Title: Bombshells vol. 4: Queens
  • Author: Marguerite Bennett
  • Artists: Mirka Andolfo, Laura Braga, Marguerite Sauvage (art & colors), Richard Ortiz, Sandy Jarrell, Pasqualle Qualano, Matías Jarrell,  J. Nanjan (colors), Wendy Broome (colors), Jerry Lawson (colors), Wes Abbott (letters)
  • Characters: Batgirls, Batwoman (Kate Kane), Renee Montoya (The Question), Hawkgirl, Catwoman, Vixen, Cheetah, Wonder Woman
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/12/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Bombshells is DC Comics’ alternative history World War II series starring an all-female superhero team. I love the concept and usually really enjoy the series, but I must admit that this volume was confusing and disjointed.

The first story is short and fairly straightforward. It features the Batgirls, the young girls and teenagers who were inspired by Kate Kane’s Batwoman to protect Gotham City, especially anyone who is dispossessed. They have taken in Harvey Dent, and the story opens with Dent and the Batgirls watching a baseball game. At the game, Dent is attacked by The Reaper. The Reaper makes it clear they want to kill Harvey, the Penguin, Killer Frost, and Dr. Hugo Strange. The Batgirls decide that as bad as those villains are they belong in jail and shouldn’t be killed so they go to warn them. They warn Penguin first, but Reaper follows the Batgirls (and Harvey Dent) and kidnaps Frost. The Batgirls are able to rescue Frost and to arrest Penguin who offers up info in exchange for Frost being rescued. But during a conflict with the Reaper they find out he is a she, and Harvey is attacked with an ice blast and his face is disfigured. But the Batgirls convince him it’s what’s on the inside that really counts. Lois goes after the Reaper who escapes and is after Dr. Hugo Strange.

The second story is about Vixen, Zambesi, and Hawkgirl. I had to read it several times because it was very confusing and hard to follow. In addition, there were several flashbacks which filled in the backgrounds of the characters – except the placement of the flashbacks were weird – characters would be in the middle of a battle and suddenly they are thinking of their childhood as an orphan. It’s like, huh? For example, towards the end, Wonder Woman shows up in the middle of a big battle between the Bombshells, some Thangarian mechs, and Nazis – but instead of seeing her battle everyone, we get a flashback to Supergirl on Thermyscira mourning Stargirl and Diana and Steve Trevor trying to figure out how to comfort her. It’s interesting and follows up to Supergirl losing Stargirl in the last volume but it has nothing to do with the current story, it interrupted the battle, and it really didn’t make sense to be in the book where it was. And the majority of the flashbacks were like that – they were interesting, and by themselves, I liked the mini-stories, but they interrupted the flow of the novel making it even harder to figure out just what was going on.

Mari McCabe, Vixen, competes in the 1936 Olympics – beating the Nazis super soldier, despite said soldier trying to trip her during the race. That night, she and Hawkgirl break into Hitler’s office and are attacked by a mechanical hawk. Mari steals Hitler’s dog, Blondie, and some plans and heads back to Zambesi with Hawkgirl. Mari remarks they have about five years to figure out a plan. Later, at a dig in Zambesi, Kate Kane, Catwoman, Renee Montoya, Hawkgirl, and Mari (Vixen) are investigating another mech – this time a giant rhino. It seems inactive, but then Cheetah shows up and it goes on a rampage.

The Bombshells are set against Cheetah, the Baroness, the Snakegirl (Whisper A’Daire), the mechs – which turn out to be from Thanagar, and miscellaneous Nazi troops. The primary characters are Vixen, Kate Kane (Batwoman), Renee Montoya (the Question), Wonder Woman (at the very end), Hawkgirl, Blondie (the dog), and Catwoman. When Cheetah, the Baroness, Snakegirl and the rest show-up, Catwoman briefly appears to be still working for the Nazis – but it’s a ruse. We also briefly see Alexander Luthor, who gives Wonder Woman Kryptonite and seems to be controlling the strings, especially in the case of Catwoman.

The Bombshells defeat the Thanagarian mechanical beasts – and Wonder Woman offers the recipe for Greek Fire to truly destroy them rather than bury them again. The Nazis and their allies are driven out of Zambesi.

I like the Bombshells series – it’s just fun to see so many female heroes working together. And I really like the friendships between the various characters. I did like the background stories in Volume 4 – Queens. And the modern-day story of extremely old alien tech being uncovered and causing trouble for everyone (the Nazis and their allies think they can control the Mechs – they are wrong) I also liked. But the presentation was extremely confusing. The time jumps were hard to follow, and as interesting as the background information was – it often seemed to interrupt the “present day” story rather than add to it. I still highly recommend the Bombshells series. This is an excellent series for teenaged women to read and to get introduced to comics too.

Justice League Season 1 Review

  • Series Title: Justice League
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes:  26 (12 stories)
  • Discs:  3
  • Network: Cartoon Network
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, George Newbern, Susan Eisenberg, Carl Lumbly, Phil LaMarr, Michael Rosenbaum, Maria Canals-Barrera (Credited as Maria Canals)
  • DVD: Standard, Blu-Ray (R1, NTSC)

Justice League was the first of the DCAU series that I ever saw and even nearly ten years later the series still stands up. The members of the Justice League are: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz), Flash, and Hawkgirl. The individual episodes of Justice League are 30 minutes (well, 22-25) but in this season every story consists of two or three parts. This means that it’s more like watching a series of short movies than a normal animated television series. The stories have plenty of time for characterization and in-depth storytelling. Justice League also doesn’t waste time on traditional “origin stories”. The first episode, “Origins” has Batman and Superman confronting an actual alien invasion, including a first shot of the tripod-like invading machine that’s reminiscent of George Pal’s War of the Worlds. Superman is telepathically attacked but finds Martian Manhunter being held in a military prison. He and Batman free Martian Manhunter and learn his name is J’onn J’onzz and that he’s the last survivor of Mars. J’onn tells him the beings that threaten the entire Earth had attacked Mars and destroyed their entire civilization. Other leaguers-to-be, including Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Flash, and Wonder Woman join the fight against the alien invaders, eventually defeating the alien menace. Batman proposes building a satellite Watchtower to warn of future invasions. Superman proposes a permanent league of superheroes. Flash asks, “What a type of superfriends?” to which Batman replies, “More like a Justice League”. This sets the stage for the series.

Green Lantern is given an in-depth story, “In Blackest Night” in which he is put on trial for destroying an entire inhabited alien planet while in pursuit of a space pirate. Once the league discovers what’s happened, they rush to his defense. Martian Manhunter and the others are able to prove the planet’s destruction was an illusion orchestrated by the Manhunters (different Manhunters than on Mars, these are androids from Oa the home of the Green Lantern Corps, and the Guardians first attempt at a benevolent galaxy-wide police force). The league frees Jon Stewart Green Lantern and the Flash, who acted as his advocate, clears John’s name, then defends Oa from the Manhunters with the aid of the Green Lantern Corps.

“The Enemy Below” is a modern Aquaman story, and although Aquaman doesn’t formally join the League, he is recognized as the King of under the seas.

“Injustice for All” has Lex Luthor bringing together a group of supervillains to fight the Justice League, especially Superman. It doesn’t go well for Lex.

“Paradise Lost” sees Felix Faust attack Thermyscira, turn all the Amazons to stone, and bribe Wonder Woman to find a McGuffin in three parts – the Key to the Underworld. Wonder Woman and the League find the key but are very worried about what Faust will do to it. Faust releases Hades, who then drains him of life (not the reward he was expecting). The Justice League is able to defeat Hades and return the Amazons to life. But Hippolyta decides to follow Amazon law to the letter and banishes her daughter for bringing men to the island.

“War World” is a slugfest with Superman forced to fight in the War World arena for Mondo.

“The Brave and the Bold” has Gorilla Grood taking over Central City after a scientist accidentally reveals the location of Gorilla City.

“Fury” has a refugee who was raised as an Amazon on Thermyscira reviving Luthor’s Injustice League and launching a biological attack on the world’s men. But Hippolyta reveals that Aresia was actually rescued by a man who got her to Thermyscira before dying.

“Legends” has the League transported to a parallel Earth where the heroes resemble Golden Age comics heroes and John Stewart (GL) recognizes the heroes as heroes from the comics he read as a kid. The “Justice Guild of America” is locked in battle with the “Injustice League” but something doesn’t seem right. J’onn J’onzz keeps having telepathic flashes of a disaster. One of the League members finds the graves of the entire JGA. Eventually, they discover the entire dimension was destroyed in a Nuclear War and a telepathic mutant had re-created the “perfect” world of years ago. The story works both as a story and as a comment on the good and the really bad aspects of older Golden Age comics. After the illusion is broken the League members are able to find a way back to their own Earth.

“A Knight with Shadows,” tells the story of Jason Blood, Etrigan the Demon, Morgaine, Merlin, and Modred. It’s as close to a traditional origin story as season 1 of Justice League gets. But it’s also a great story full of Arthurian lore, magic, demons, etc. For the most part, only Batman is in this story, though the rest of the League lend a hand at the end. I enjoyed the story very much.

“Metamorphosis,” tells the story of Rex Mason who is turned into the Element Man – rather than an archeologist, he works for Stagg Industries and is rich and accomplished, but when he and Sapphire Stagg decide to marry, her overprotective and cruel father decides to use Mason as an unwilling human subject in his plan to create artificial workers who can withstand any environment. Mason and John Stewart are also old friends, having both been in military service together. Although Mason’s origin is substantially different, it’s a great story, and very enjoyable.

The final story in season one is the three-part “The Savage Time”. All of the Justice League but Batman are returning from a mission in space when there’s a flash on Earth below them and the Watchtower disappears. Green Lantern lands the Javelin spacecraft (which was apparently out of power because he’s towing it with his Ring). The Justice League discovers the US is now a dictatorship under the power of a mysterious Leader. They walk into a resistance attack on the military police of the leader and run into a different version of Batman who is the leader of the Resistance. Working with Batman, they discover a time tunnel anomaly. The League, minus Batman, enters the anomaly and finds themselves in World War II. There they join the allies, the Blackhawks, Easy Company, Steve Trevor and other forces to help the allies and defeat Savage before he can become a world dictator. “The Savage Time” is a brilliant story, and also a lot of fun to watch. (Savage in the future sent a laptop and plans for weapons and communications equipment to Savage in the past.) This is a much more menacing Vandal Savage than the one in Season 1 of Legends of Tomorrow.

Overall, I really enjoyed Justice League (the animated series). The regular and guest casts are wonderful, and the series features many well-known and excellent guest actors. The animation is hand-drawn and beautiful and has that traditional DCAU square-jawed look. I highly recommend this series. Even if animation usually isn’t your thing, or you’ve tried the live action DC film Universe and been unimpressed, this series overcomes many of the faults of other versions of DC Comics in both older animation and in live action.

Note: For some reason, the Blu-Ray discs auto-play the first episode whenever a disc is put in the player. You can get a list of episodes by pressing the “Top Menu” button and then choosing the episode you want to watch, but it’s still annoying and results in a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on the disc.

Book Review – Star Flight

  • Title: Star Flight
  • Author: Phyllis A. Whitney
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/08/2019

In junior high I discovered Phyllis A. Whitney’s romantic suspense novels in a library somewhere – it may have even been a school library, and I became a devoted fan, scouring used book stores for her novels. But my tastes changed and I stopped reading them. Star Flight is a novel that sat on the shelf for years and I finally took it down and read it. And actually, it’s pretty good.

Lauren Castle is the granddaughter of Victoria Frazer and Roger Brandt two movie stars who had a hot and steamy film set romance that resulted in the birth of Lauren’s mother. But it also resulted in Victoria Frazer’s mysterious death (or disappearance). The death was considered suicide but the body was never found. Lauren’s estranged husband, Jim Castle, was a documentary filmmaker who decided to make a film about Victoria, Roger, and Roger’s wife, Camilla. He died and never finished the film. When Lauren receives a note suggesting her husband and her grandmother were both murdered, she travels to North Carolina, the site of all the happenings, to find out the truth.

Lake Lure in North Carolina was home to many movie stars and films in the 1920s and 1930s, and more recently with films like Dirty Dancing and The Last of the Mohicans, well, recent at the time of the novel, anyway. Victoria and Roger had filmed Blue Ridge Cowboy there but an on-set romance developed. Things did not end well.

When Lauren arrives she lets people she meets know her as “Jim Castle’s wife” rather than as Victoria’s granddaughter. She also runs into an old flame, the type of “what might have been” relationship, Gordon. In the end, she choose Jim, what she and her mother deemed a “practical choice” instead of Gordon – a more romantic free spirit. Lauren’s marriage to Jim was on the rocks before his mysterious death, thus the two-year gap before she decides to find out once and for all what happened.

Lauren meets various people, all of whom have an opinion on Victoria, Roger, the affair, and even the local movie business. There’s Natalie, a woman who paints dramatic paintings (including the painting, “Star Flight”, which gives the book its title), and who sent Lauren the note bringing her to Lake Lure, but who seems not particularly helpful once Lauren arrives. There’s Gretchen, Victoria’s sister who runs the local gift store and seems obsessed with finding good uses for the weed, Kudzu. There’s Betsey, Victoria’s dresser, now ancient, but still sharp, devoted to Victoria, and in possession of an awful lot of information. There’s Roger, himself, who seems content to not stir up the past. He’s angered when Victoria finally tells him who she is. There’s Camilla, Roger’s beautiful Spanish wife who stood beside him even through his various affairs, including the one with Victoria. There’s Ty, Victoria and Gretchen’s brother, who’s made a name for himself as the local “mountain man”. And there’s Gordon, Lauren’s old beau whom she thinks she can’t have a new happy relationship with. There’s even an older, retired actor who was in Blue Ridge Cowboy with Victoria and Roger. And there’s an author who wrote a book called, The Firefly about Victoria.

Victoria basically interviews everyone she meets, at times pretending she’s continuing her husband’s project (the film about Victoria, Roger, and Camilla) and at times admitting who she really is and telling whoever she’s talking to that she wants to learn about her grandmother. She slowly finds out more information, but she’s no closer in finding out what happened.

Finally, there’s a masquerade ball – and Lauren goes dressed as Victoria, wearing the costume she wore in the film, a white ball gown with a white turban. Her date is Gordon, dressed as Roger’s cowboy character. At the ball, it’s clear from Roger and Camilla’s reaction that neither had anything to do with Victoria’s death. But Lauren is also affected by the heat, noise, and the confrontation. Gordon goes to get her a drink – at exactly the wrong time. Lauren is tempted outside and kidnapped. She’s taken to her grandmother’s tomb by the murderer and their accomplice. However, the accomplice gets cold feet at being involved directly in a murder – he runs off. Lauren is rescued. It seems she and Gordon will restart their relationship, possibly settling in North Carolina. No, I’m not going to spoil who the murderer is.

This book starts slow, but the final two or three chapters are really good. The attack on Lauren outside the crowded ballroom, and everything involved with the murderer and their accomplice are really well-written. There’s also some beautiful imagery in those pages, especially Victoria’s final resting place. But for romantic suspense, there’s less romance between Lauren and Gordon than there should be. Lauren keeps thinking to herself that it’s too late for them – yet she’s a widow and Gordon either never married or is long divorced, so there’s no reason they can’t get together again. Besides, I have a soft spot for “second chance” romances between older couples. Another issue with this book is it is written in the first person, which I found to be distancing from the story, rather than the intended drawing you in. Also, all the stuff about using kudzu in salads, to make tea, and medicinally smacked of an author shoe-horning in too much research. It did nothing to add to the story. The book ended a bit quickly – I definitely could have seen at least a chapter or coda showing Lauren and Gordon’s happy relationship. Still, the book is better than the last few books I’ve read by Whitney, and those last few chapters were very good. I can actually recommend this book.

Downton Abbey Season 6 Review

  • Series Title: Downton Abbey
  • Season: 6
  • Episodes:  9
  • Discs:  3 (and sampler disc from PBS)
  • Network:  ITV
  • Cast:  Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Dan Stevens, Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan, Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle, Sophie Mcshera, Lesley Nicol, Robert James-Collier, Allen Leech, Samantha Bond, Raquel Cassidy
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD (R1, NTSC)

The final season of Downton Abbey is about facing change and growing up. It’s 1925 and the world is changing, bringing changes for the people of Downton, both above and below stairs. For Mary and Edith, it’s a time of suitors and making decisions about their future. For those below stairs, it’s a time of changing jobs and preparing for a life outside service.

Mary sees more of Mr. Henry Talbot, whose hobby is racing cars. He invites the entire family to a race at Brooksides. Unfortunately, his friend Charlie is killed in a car crash. Mary has an almost PTSD reaction and she drops Talbot flat. It’s Anna who gets a crying Mary to admit that she’s afraid of being a “crash widow” again. Tom tries talking to Mary but she tells him she can’t tell Henry to give up something he loves just to marry her. Tom and Lady Rosamund play cupid and arrange dinners and other meetings between Henry and Mary. Finally, Mary realizes she and Henry are evenly matched, not in terms of rank (Henry has no title), but in terms of personality. The two marry.

Edith spends her time at her magazine and raising her daughter. She even talks of moving permanently to her flat in London and sending her daughter, Marigold to a London school. But she met a land agent, Bertie Pelham, and the two fall for each other. When it turns out Pelham will be a Marquess, it throws a wrench into the works, as does Mary revealing Edith has a daughter before Edith gets a chance to tell Bertie. Despite the ups and downs of their relationship, Edith marries Bertie at New Year and she becomes a Marquess – a higher title than her father, the Earl of Grantham.

Daisy passes her exams. A new footman seems interested in her, but she ignores him. Finally, Mrs. Patmore points out Daisy’s problem is she’s never interested in a young man until he’s no longer interested in her. Sure enough, when Andy starts to ignore her, she gets interested and even cuts her hair. The season ends with an implication the two will get together and Andy will move to Mr. Mason’s farm to be a farmer (he’s already helping out).

Anna finally gets pregnant and has her baby on New Year’s Eve during Edith’s wedding. But Mary, Mrs. Hughes, and Dr. Clarkson handle everything without interrupting the wedding. John and Anna have also finally put their legal issues behind them.

Mrs. Elsie Hughes and Mr. Charlie Carson settle into married life, and Mrs. Hughes uses her old title at Downton to make everything easier for everyone. Mrs. Patmore has a bit of an issue at her bed and breakfast, but Lord Grantham settles it. Lady Grantham gets involved in her work with the hospital board and does well.

Tom does return about halfway through the season. He and Mary form a strong friendship and he’s influential in getting her to realize that marrying who she loves is more important than making a successful match for money and position. Tom and Henry start a car sale business in Downton in the last episode of the series. Mrs. Crawley finally marries Lord Merton – despite opposition from his son, Larry Grey and his new wife (who is a real piece of work).

Mr. Molesley passes a general knowledge exam set to him by the headmaster of Downton school. He is invited to teach part-time. Although his first class is a bit of a disaster, he gradually improves and takes to teaching like a duck to water. He’s invited to teach more classes and live in a cottage near the school. Mr. Molesley accepts the position, resolving to leave service. He and Baxter are also clearly good friends.

Thomas Barrow tries to be a bit nicer and also looks for a new butler job because he fears for his job at Downton. He’s constantly rejected which leads to some unpleasantness. However, he ends up accepting a job he’d rejected, which isn’t exactly what he envisioned. However, when Mr. Carson is forced to retire due to shaking in his hands. Barrow is invited back to the position of butler. Carson will only help by organizing major events.

Rose and Atticus return for Edith’s wedding from their year in New York. However, since their nanny kept their daughter in New York they will go back.

Overall, everyone ends up happy and with exactly what they want. Both Mary and Edith are married and happy. By New Year’s, Mary is expecting her second child. Both George and Marigold have their futures assured. Tom and Henry are starting a new business. Daisy will work at Downton as long as she’s wanted then go to her father-in-law’s farm, no doubt married to Andy. And Baxter and Mr. Moslesey will probably settle down together. John and Anna Bates have a child, a son. Even Thomas is happy for once.

I had to wonder what would happen to Edith’s magazine business. Surely as a Marchioness, working in London wouldn’t be allowed, even in 1926. And no one knows another war is coming in twelve years.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 1.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 2.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 3.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 4.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 5.

If you are interested in learning more about the lives of servants in Victorian, Edwardian and early modern England, you may want to read Below Stairs, the memoir that Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs is loosely based on.

Downton Abbey Season 5 Review

  • Series Title: Downton Abbey
  • Season: 5
  • Episodes:  8, plus “A Trip to the Moors” special
  • Discs:  3
  • Network:  ITV
  • Cast:  Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Dan Stevens, Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan, Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle, Sophie Mcshera, Lesley Nicol, Robert James-Collier, Allen Leech, Samantha Bond, Lily James, Raquel Cassidy, Matt Barber
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD (R1, NTSC)

This review contains Spoilers for Season 5 of Downton Abbey.

When last we saw Lady Edith Crawley she was determined to return to Switzerland to bring home her illegitimate daughter. Much of this season focuses on Edith and her daughter, Marigold. Edith reaches out to Mr. and Mrs. Drewe, tenant farmers on the estate. Edith had met the farming couple when she helped them during the war, and she got along well with Mr. Drewe, although there was more friction between Mrs. Drewe and Lady Edith, due to Mrs. Drewe’s misplaced jealousy. Lady Edith sees Mr. Drewe privately at Downton Abbey and explains how a “friend” of hers had died and left behind a child, whom she wanted to care for – but her mother didn’t approve of this friend, so she wanted the girl to stay at the Drewe’s farm and she would sponsor the child. It’s as thinly-veiled a story as it seems, but Mr. Drewe accepts it, telling Lady Edith he wouldn’t judge her. He also says he’ll tell his wife that a friend of his had died and named him and his wife as guardians for his child.

Marigold now lives at Yew Tree farm (the Drewes farm) and Edith visits frequently. Unfortunately, Mrs. Drewe again becomes jealous and tells Lady Edith not to come. Meanwhile, the investigation into what happened to Michael Gregson continues. Gregson’s publishing company learns that he was attacked by brown shirts, and finally he is officially reported as dead. This sends Edith into a tailspin. She takes advantage of the entire family being at a steeplechase outing and goes to Yew Tree farm where she takes Marigold and runs off to London. Having inherited Michael Gregson’s publishing company, Edith is about to run it and raise Marigold on her own. Cora, Rosamund, and the Dowager Countess go to London to bring Edith back. Marigold is brought into the house formally, though officially the child is the family’s ward and not Edith’s child. But Edith can still raise and care for her daughter, though at the moment she can’t acknowledge her. Cora learns the truth about Marigold. At the very end of the season, both Tom and Lord Grantham figure it out.

Mary is still being courted by several suitors, though Tony Gillingham actually breaks off his engagement to Miss Mabel Lane-Fox to court Mary. Mary finally decides she needs to spend some real time with Gillingham, so she arranges for them to spend a week together in Liverpool including sleeping together. To make sure she doesn’t get pregnant, she sends Anna to a pharmacy to buy a diaphragm. Anna is extremely embarrassed but does it. Both Mary and Anna read a book about “Married Love”.

Mr. Green, the valet who attacked Anna, is now dead, from an apparent hit-and-run. The police harass and interview both Mr. and Mrs. Bates. While both have plenty of motive – neither have any opportunity, with Mr. Bates having spent that day in York and Anna having been in Downton for the church fete. However, the police persist and it’s actually Anna who is arrested. Then they receive a letter, a confession, but Mr. Bates goes on the run. By the end of the season, the family and servants at Downton are able to prove Mr. Bates innocent and he returns at Christmas.

Mrs. Patmore inherits some money and buys herself a retirement cottage. The village puts up a war memorial but doesn’t include Mrs. Patmore’s nephew Archie. However, Lord Grantham has a special memorial to Archie placed on the church. Lord Grantham’s dog dies from cancer. Mr. Carson suggests to Mrs. Hughes that they also buy a house, rent it out for now, and then retire there. Mrs. Hughes goes along at first, but then reveals she has no money because all of her spare wages go to support her younger sister who isn’t “right in the head”. Carson proposes at the end of the season.

William’s father suggests that Daisy should take over his farm, but she realizes she doesn’t know how to run a farm. When she looks at math books, she gets confused and feels stupid. Ms. Bunting, the local school teacher tutors her. Ms. Bunting is also interested in the widower, Tom, but although they get along well, they are not romantically suited for each other – and every time Ms. Bunting does attend a dinner or cocktail party at the house, she ends up getting in an argument with Lord Grantham. Daisy also starts to parrot back what she’s learned from Ms. Bunting. Daisy even briefly considers moving to London to get a good chef’s job but changes her mind when she realizes that would leave Mrs. Patmore alone.

Throughout the season, Tom talks of moving to the US with Sibbie, his daughter. His brother in Boston contacts him and invites him over. Finally, his brother offers him a partnership in a business venture. Tom decides he will stay at Downton for Christmas and leave in the new year.

Mary, meanwhile decides that Tony doesn’t suit her. She also meets Mabel and realizes Tony really should marry her because they are well-suited to each other as a couple. Her conversations with Tony accomplish nothing. Finally, Mary and another of her old suitors arrange for Tony to see Mary kissing this other man at the Cinema. This gets Mary off the hook.

Lady Rose meets a young man by chance in the rain. They take an immediate liking to each other, and before long they are engaged. Atticus is Jewish, but the Granthams’ don’t mind because Lady Grantham’s father was Jewish. There is friction against the marriage from Lady Rose’s mother and Atticus’s father but the marriage takes place at the registry office as planned.

The season finale has the Crawley’s go to a shooting party at a castle owned by Atticus’s father. And it is an impressive locale. Mary meets someone who doesn’t even know she was married to Matthew and upon between told she’s widowed, he assumes she lost her husband in the war. She tries to correct this notion but they are interrupted. After the shooting party, the group returns to Downton Abbey for Christmas, including Atticus who is introduced to new customs. Tom again states his plan to leave. At one point, Mary, Tom, and Edith are all hanging stockings for their children in the nursery and they say a prayer of remembrance together for Sybil. Mary is a widow with a son. Tom is a widower with a daughter. And Edith is single, has a child, and lost her lover to violence in Germany.

I liked Season 5 of Downton Abbey, though at times it feels very much like a soap opera (Why can’t Anna and John Bates be happy? Why does Edith have to have such a complicated life?). I like Edith, though. Some times she seems to cry or whine more than she should, but it makes her more realistic than some of the other characters. The storyline with Ms. Bunting and Daisy felt extremely forced. Daisy’s constant talking about how she feels “oppressed” and that just seeing art at the museums in London makes her realized what she’s missed. (Mind you, the museums are free and Daisy could have gone to them whenever she liked. Daisy also has been one of the kinder and sweeter characters, though she’s nasty to the kitchen maid, Ivy, when she thinks Ivy is after the footman she’s sweet on. This footman, of course, has no interest in either Daisy or Ivy.) It just felt off. Daisy wasn’t like Gwen who wanted to move up in the world. And Daisy wasn’t like Alfred who had only taken the footman job because it was what his mother wanted and who had always wanted to be a chef. Daisy wasn’t even like Thomas and O’Brien who resented serving the family and were therefore nasty to everyone else. It was like the show decided to shoehorn in a plot without really making it suit the character, so it came off as being badly written. In a similar fashion, Ms. Bunting’s arguments with the family and their guests, especially Lord Grantham were very ill placed – there is no way a woman in 1924 would be so rude to an Earl. It just wouldn’t happen. But the show is still quite watchable. If Tom does disappear next season, I’m going to miss him a lot – he’s another character who has grown and is more realistic. I still recommend this series.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 1.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 2.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 3.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 4.

Downton Abbey Season 4 Review

  • Series Title: Downton Abbey
  • Season: 4
  • Episodes:  8, plus “The London Season” special
  • Discs:  3
  • Network:  ITV
  • Cast:  Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Dan Stevens, Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan, Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle, Sophie Mcshera, Lesley Nicol, Robert James-Collier, Allen Leech, Samantha Bond, Lily James, Gary Carr
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD (R1, NTSC)

This review includes spoilers for Downton Abbey Season 4.

Season 4 of Downton Abbey begins with the family recovering from the horrific events at the end of last season’s special. Lady Mary is attempting to recover from the sudden death of her husband, Matthew. Lord Grantham and Tom Branson are trying to keep the estate from going under. O’Brien has suddenly quit for another job, leaving Lady Grantham, the Countess of Grantham in search of a new lady’s maid. Thomas puts forward a candidate, Baxter, and she is hired by Lady Grantham. It’s clear throughout the season that Thomas has some hold over Baxter, and although at first she gives in and acts as Thomas’ spy on the family, it becomes clear she is decent and knows how and when to keep secrets. Moseley, who rejoins the household officially as a footman, not only treats Baxter kindly but advises her to not let Thomas bully her.

The main continuing story is that at the beginning of the season, the Crawleys’ host a large house party when a famous opera singer comes to perform at Downton. A number of people are at the party, some of whom the family doesn’t know well. Those staying overnight also bring their personal servants – lady maids and valets. Anna is nice to all of the temporary staff because she always goes out of her way to be kind to everyone. On the night of the performance, the staff is invited to listen to the performance as well as the guests. Anna decides to head downstairs to take a headache powder. She encounters the valet there and he rapes her. Mrs. Hughes discovers this immediately, but Anna swears her to secrecy. Anna is shellshocked and unable to have a normal, married relationship with her husband, John Bates. She even moves back into the main house, giving the excuse she’s providing lady’s maid services to both Lady Grantham and Lady Mary. Anna’s distress becomes more and more obvious, even to Lady Mary. Mrs. Hughes keeps telling Anna to tell John, but she refuses, worrying he would kill the man if he knew.

Eventually, one by one, Anna tells people who must know – first her husband and then Lady Mary. She insists that she doesn’t know the man who raped her, it was a stranger who broke in the night of the concert. But when Gillingham continues to show-up with his ill-behaving valet, additional truths have to come out. Anna reluctantly tells Lady Mary the whole truth and Lady Mary later tells Lord Gillingham to sack his valet, though she doesn’t tell him why and just asks him to do it on trust. Mrs. Hughes is also the one to tell John Bates the truth about what happened to Anna, again without using the man’s name. When the valet returns, things click for John. Later, Lady Mary receives word from Gillingham that he couldn’t sack his valet because he was the victim of a hit and run in London, he fell or was pushed in front of a car or lorry. Anna, Lady Mary, and Mrs. Hughes are all worried about this but they know John Bates was in York that day, so they aren’t too worried. Later, Mrs. Hughes asks Anna for old clothes for a charity barrel and she gives her one of her husband’s old coats. Out of habit, Mrs. Hughes checks the pockets and finds a return ticket to London. She talks to Lady Mary who seems determined to make the information public. But when Bates does something extraordinary for the family, Mary burns the ticket.

Alfred, a footman at Downton Abbey who’d had an interest in becoming a chef since he was introduced, also gets a full story this season rather being someone for Daisy and the new kitchen maid, Ivy to fight over. Alfred discovers there’s a new cookery program at the Ritz – applicants must take a test and the best four will be accepted into the program, with no tuition costs and a chance at a job after successfully completing the course. Alfred applies, takes the test, but doesn’t get in, though his letter says he was in fifth place. Later, he gets a letter saying someone dropped out and he’s offered the next place if he can get to London immediately. Alfred jumps at the chance and leaves. He later writes to Mrs. Patmore to say he’s gotten a job as a chef.

Lady Edith also gets a story this season. She has accepted the position working for Michael Gregson, and the two also are immediately attracted to each other. But when Edith finds out Gregson is married, she is willing to quit her job as well as break up with him. He, however, explains his wife is in a lunatic asylum, and he can’t divorce her, because she cannot legally agree to the divorce. Gregson does some research and decides to move to Munich to get a divorce there. Michael and Edith share a last evening together and then he leaves for Munich and disappears. Eventually, they learn he was set upon by brown shirts, whom Edith describes as “saying the most horrible things”. Meanwhile, Edith discovers she is pregnant. Lady Rosamund finds out and helps Edith. At first, Edith considers having an illegal abortion but she changes her mind at the appointment. Lady Rosamund then takes Edith to Switzerland to have the child and convinces her to give it up for adoption. When they return, Edith continues to have doubts. Lady Rosamund tries to convince Lady Edith it would be cruel to take the child back from the loving couple that she promised her too, that she’d be breaking her word. Edith decides to bring back the child and have a farming couple take in the child. That way, she’d be able to see her little girl, even if she couldn’t officially be her mother.

Introduced this season is Lady Rose MacClare, an 18-year old cousin who’s proved to be too much for her family to handle (we met her briefly last season). Rose is a bright young thing who’d rather go to jazz clubs than attend formal family dinners. Although Rose gets on better with Lady Grantham, Lady Mary, and Lady Edith than she did with her own mother, she is still a bit wild. Rose even takes up with a Black band leader. When Rose tells Lady Mary she’s “engaged” to Jack Ross (the band leader) she goes to see him. Mary is actually nice to Jack and in the end, he decides to let Rose go, especially when Mary tells him that Rose is more interested in shocking her mother than actually being in the relationship.

The season special has Rose presented at court to the Queen and King. One of Rose’s friends had a letter she was showing off that showed the Prince of Wales in a bad light. Much of the episode is a bit of a French farce as the Crowleys’ try to obtain the letter from the same man who proved himself a card sharp at a poker game at Downton at the house party at the beginning of the season. It’s Bates who finally recovers the letter. The Prince of Wales himself arrives at Lady Rose’s coming out ball.

I recommend Downton Abbey. It’s a soap opera, but it’s the best kind of soap opera – the acting is top-notch, the writing is excellent, the characters are great fun, and it’s an enjoyable watch. I also like how this program mixes real historical events and people with its fictional characters. Recommended.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 1.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 2.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 3.

Downton Abbey Season 3 Review

  • Series Title: Downton Abbey
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes:  8, plus “A Trip to the Highlands” special
  • Discs:  3 (and special features disc for set)
  • Network:  ITV
  • Cast:  Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Jessica Brown Findlay, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Dan Stevens, Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan, Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle, Sophie Mcshera, Lesley Nicol, Robert James-Collier, Allen Leech, Siobhan Finneran, Amy Nuttall, Samantha Bond
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD (R1, NTSC) (set is seasons 1-3)

Season 3 of Downton Abbey is the saddest season so far of the show. Sybil and Tom have married and moved to Ireland, but Sybil’s pregnancy and Tom’s trouble with the Finians leads to their return to Downton. As Sybil nears the time for the birth of her child, Robert brings in a new obstetrician who ignores signs of Sybil’s distress. Dr. Clarkson correctly diagnoses preeclampsia and suggests moving Sybil to the hospital for an emergency C-section. The obstetrician disagrees, and before long it’s too late. Sybil gives birth to a healthy girl and then dies. Tom spends the rest of the season trying to figure out his place in the family. Eventually, Matthew convinces Robert to let Tom replace the land agent who has resigned in protest over Matthew’s plans to modernize the estate.

Mary and Matthew marry and Matthew inherits a large sum of money from Lavinia’s father. He argues about whether or not to keep the money because he feels very guilty about Lavinia’s death. Eventually, Mary convinces him. Matthew pours the money into the estate and Robert accepts it on the condition that Matthew is a partner in the running of the estate. Yet, when Matthew suggests changes – Robert balks. Eventually, Matthew and Tom with help from Murray convince Robert that he must modernize.

Mr. Bates is in jail for killing his wife, even though everyone at Downton, especially Anna and Lord Grantham believe him to be innocent. Anna continues to investigate and eventually gets proof of her husband’s innocence. She brings the proof to Murray (the lawyer) and Mr. Bates is released. The reunion of Anna and Bates is one of the few happy things that happen.

Edith is ready to marry Sir Anthony Stallan but he jilts her at the altar, insisting he’s too old for her. Edith is understandably upset, noting that all the boys she danced with are dead. Edith writes a letter to the Times complaining that she doesn’t have the right to vote because she’s not over 30 and a landowner. A magazine editor sees the letter and invites her to write a column for his magazine. At first, she ignores it, but when he writes to her again, she goes to meet him. Edith and the editor, Michael Gregson, get along well and Edith begins to write a weekly column for The Sketch magazine. Michael is quite taken with Edith and she with him – but he’s married to a woman who is in an insane asylum whom, by law, he cannot divorce.

The family takes a trip to the Highlands to visit friends at their Scottish castle and discovers the couple is miserable together but they cannot divorce. Shrimpy has also lost his entire fortune and will need to sell off his property. He’s moving into a government service job in India. Plans are made for their 18-year-old daughter, Rose to live at Downton. Mary is now pregnant. The special ends with Mary giving birth to a son, whom she introduces to Matthew as his heir. Matthew heads home to bring the news to Downton and he is killed in a car crash. This is horrific – for the two to go from the epitome of happiness to such a needless death. It’s still one of the most shocking and depressing bits of the series.

I still like this series, but season 3 is difficult to watch at times.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 1.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 2.