Much and all as I enjoy Downton Abbey - we're about half way through the second series here - I have to say that last night's episode just about took the cake for draining the last bit of sentimentality from the situations. Mr Bates and Anna were reunited - in a manner of speaking - and had a little love scene out in the half-dark of one of the many yards at Downton, but much more over the top was the ongoing on/off relationship of Lady Mary and her cousin Matthew Crawley.
Mary, who's wonderfully played by Michelle Dockery (I love the way she brings out the sardonic in her lines, in that deep mezzo voice) is constantly torn between deciding to marry Matthew or marry some other bloke (we know this other bloke is no good, but Mary, who also knows this, hasn't yet been able to get past that problem). At first she was having to marry Matthew in order to keep Downton in the family. Then when she fell in love with him, he'd fallen out of love with her - or given up on her out of frustration; I can't remember now. Anyway, he's not only gone and got himself a fiancee (who's so wispy that she looks as though she'll float away before the series finishes) he's also over in France fighting the Bosch (along with William, the rather doughty young footman who's proposed to Daisy, the rather dopey young kitchenmaid - she's accepted, but not really - it's fearfully complicated).
So of course Matthew and William go missing in France. Mary, who's practically the last to hear this piece of news, nearly faints at the prospect of him possibly being dead, but trouper that she is, she goes ahead and sings (with the sister she's invariably at odds with accompanying her, which gives her the chance to offer yet another sardonic remark) to the soldiers who are recuperating in the Abbey and causing their own havoc.
Right in the middle of the song, of course, who should turn up but Matthew and William. And Matthew manages to join in the song (with a rather dubious voice - was he dubbed?), and Mary is beside herself, but not for nothing has she been trained in the art of stoicism, and she manages somehow to contain herself. Just.
Meanwhile, the increasingly nasty Thomas (we felt marginally sorry for him early in the second series, but it didn't last long) and O'Brien - who caused her own bit of havoc in the last episode of the first series, but seems to have had a bit of a change of heart - are conniving in their usual fashion, and dropping hints of nastiness to come. But the curious thing is that O'Brien doesn't seem quite to know her own mind any more. Having Thomas repeatedly saying: You've changed your tune doesn't help. It just points up the degree to which O'Brien seems to be heading for good one minute and heading for disaster the next. And boy, can she put a damper on things. If there's any chance of offering the put-down, she'll take it. Why is she such an enjoyable character, you have to wonder? Keeps us on our toes, I suppose.
I think Downton Abbey is tosh, some to the time, but the assembled cast is so capable, and so artful, that we skip over the tosh and just enjoy the way they delineate these characters. All thirty or forty of them...