Downton Abbey Recap

TVLine's Performer of the Week: (tie) Michelle Dockery and Laura Carmichael

THE PERFORMER Michelle Dockery and Laura Carmichael

THE SHOW Downton Abbey

THE EPISODE | “Episode 8” (Feb. 21, 2016)

THE PERFORMANCE | Maybe it’s because Downton Abbey fans have patiently waited six long years for human punching bag Edith (Carmichael) to finally stand up for herself, but there was just something deeply satisfying about watching her give Mary (Dockery) the business in Sunday’s penultimate episode, employing all the eloquence of a Jane Austen novel and all the brutal honesty of a Real Housewives reunion.

By the time Edith finished tearing into her “nasty, jealous, scheming bitch” of a sister, it was like she’d put Mary through an actual shredder. All that remained were a few strips of what was once Mary’s face, each boasting the same stupefied expression; she didn’t expect this from Edith any more than we did, and quite frankly, I’m not sure Edith expected it from herself, all of which added an extra layer of potency to her words:

Yes, Edith was furious at Mary for revealing Marigold’s paternity to Bertie — and rightfully so — but the rage she channeled went far deeper than that; every snide remark and condescending comment Mary ever tossed her way served as a foundation for the well-deserved tirade, and Carmichael wore those six seasons of torment like an anchor.

The sisters’ follow-up scene, in which they basically resigned themselves to a life of attempted tolerance, was equally affecting, albeit for different reasons. Dockery and Carmichael fully embraced their characters’ emotional indifference towards one another, resulting in a somewhat disheartening best-case-scenario for the feuding family members.

POTW1HONORABLE MENTION | Broad City‘s Ilana Glazer is a one-of-a-kind comedic force of nature — this much is known. But Wednesday’s episode of the Comedy Central series — in which Abbi and Ilana were forced to switch places for a day — gave us a much deeper appreciation for her partner in pantomime Abbi Jacobson, whose imitation of Ilana resulted in one of the most uproarious installments to date. As Abbi pretended to be her best friend for a few hours at the local food co-op, Jacobson committed 100 percent to becoming her on-screen other half, from mimicking Ilana’s signature “Yaasss queen” to spontaneously twerking on the wall (and crashing to the ground just seconds later). No matter how physical or weird the comedy, Jacobson completely went for it in every frame. No one does quirky quite like Ilana, but Jacobson’s attempt at filling her BFF’s shoes had us in stitches.

Rick and Michonne RomanceHONORABLE MENTION | Even before we realized where The Walking Dead was taking Rick and Michonne at the end of “The Next World,” we marveled at the lesson in chemistry that Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira were teaching. Their rapport in the characters’ EOD catch-up was so easy that, although they had never flirted, they nonetheless already seemed like two people in love (and, even sweeter, two people who’d been in love for quite a while). When at last they held hands, Gurira breathed deeper to reveal that her alter ego was just as nervous as we were. But by the time Rick and Michonne’s kisses went from tender to passionate, the warmth that shone from Gurira and Lincoln’s eyes had made their counterparts’ coupling feel not only natural but joyously inevitable.

11/22/63HONORABLE MENTION | Prior to the introduction of Josh Duhamel‘s Frank Dunning in this week’s episode of Hulu’s time-travel thriller 11.22.63, we’d already been warned he was a violent sociopath who, in just two days, would murder his wife and two of his children with a sledgehammer. But instead of merely focusing on his character’s monstrosity, Duhamel allowed us to see Frank’s slick, sickening charm — right up until he lured James Franco’s protagonist Jake to a slaughterhouse and tried to make him finish off an incapacitated calf with a mallet. Thankfully, we were spared the sight of Frank eventually doing the deed, but the scene still left us shaken, thanks to the way Duhamel brought to life the puffed-up swagger of a sadistic bully protected by the era in which he lived.

black-ishHONORABLE MENTION | black-ish‘s somber meditation on police brutality this week was a stunning showcase for the ABC comedy’s ensemble cast. But as the Johnsons gathered around the TV for news updates on a grand jury decision in the assault of an unarmed young black man, Yara Shahidi’s performance as eldest child Zoey was a definite standout. While the teenager distracted herself by texting friends and navigating the family’s takeout order, Shahidi’s subtle glances and nervous posture let us know Zoey was absorbing more of her parents’ heated debate than either of them realized. Meanwhile, Shahidi’s end-of-episode breakdown — laced with fear and hopelessness — made believable Zoey’s mom secretly cheering, “I’m just so happy there’s some depth inside her!” And thanks to Shahidi’s keen acting choices, we suspect there’ll be more depth to come.

Which performances knocked your socks off this week? Hit the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. ABG says:

    Wish the final season of Downton would have been more Mary vs Edith and less hospital stuff. This episode was great.

    • Lyn says:

      Miss Hoity Toity vs Miss Yucky Ducky? Hard to pick a favorite between those two as they are repellant for different reasons. This was like Cinderella [Sybil] having died the two wicked stepsisters were forced to destroy one another. I was more satisfied by Tom giving Mary a dressing down.

  2. Mentioning Yara Shahidi (who was great), but not Anthony Anderson (who was absolutely fantastic)?!! His scene about the Obamas during the inauguration was one of the best pieces of acting I’ve seen in a long time.

  3. Now knowing that Michelle Dockery was experiencing the emotions of hopelessness and sadness that the terminal illness of her boyfriend while filming this year’s episodes adds another level of awesomeness to her performance this year. I think she needs to immediately choose a role in which she can play an anti-bitch and allow us to detox and reform another perspective of her as an actress. Laura Carmichael deserves the Emmy nomination this year. Best episode of DA in years.

  4. Zach Appelman and Nicole Beharie both deserve a mention for their performances last night!

  5. Spence says:

    Completely agree about Dockery and Carmichael, and the entire cast of Blackish for the phenomenal episode this week. Props to Danai and Andy on Walking Dead as well. If it weren’t for their great acting, I probably wouldn’t have felt as comfortable with their pairing as I was.

  6. spindae2 says:

    My personal MVP of the week was Grabt Gustin. That boy knows how to bring the pathetic/sympathetic heartbreaking stuff to the surface. He really graduated in self pitty and how to raise above it.

    My heart really breaks in tiny little pieces everytime he faces all that selfdoubt. And kudos to the writers to do it different every single time.

    Honorable mention to Felicity Huffman in American Crime. That show just kills it week after week.

    • Angela says:

      Felicity Huffman is fantastic in “American Crime”. The character she’s playing on there drives me absolutely bonkers, but Felicity still makes me actually interested in what’s happening with her all the same, and makes her a believable character instead of a caricature.

  7. sv says:

    Michelle Dockery deserves a long overdue EMMY Award for Best Actress. She has been consistent in her portrayal of the personality of Lady Mary, all the way to mannerisms, voice, eye movements, personality. Her posh accent is not her normal accent so that’s another layer to her awesomeness as an actress. Laura Carmichael has been one-dimensional all throughout the 6 seasons – she can’t express anything without contorting her face and she can’t be effective unless she shouts. While Michelle Dockery effectively conveys her emotions without resorting to overacting, and can deliver a punchline that hits you without having to raise her voice. Michelle’s role has been multi-dimensional — she has proven her acting range. Especially this season, Michelle Dockery has beautifully portrayed a wide range of states and emotions. From season 1, it has been Michelle Dockery who has carried the show. That’s Lady Mary has become a cultural icon, a pop culture sensation.

  8. Lily says:

    I have one sister, and I love her. We both teared up when Edith spoke about what sisters /siblings are to each other. The shared memories of childhood, unique to us – eventually the only ones who remember. The whole episode was so good, and we thought that interaction between Edith and Mary was beautiful.

  9. jj says:

    Edith has hardly been a victim throughout the series. She’s the one who ratted out Mary about Mr Pamuk after all. Both sisters have been nasty to each other. One isn’t more of a victim than the other.

    • Liz985 says:

      I think, though, the understanding from the beginning of the series was that Edith was the odd child out and had a lifetime of Mary’s insults and bad behavior, as well as her parent’s indifference, to fuel some of her adult behavior; we viewers stepped into their story pretty late. She was the middle child who didn’t take after her beautiful dark-hair mother like Mary and Sibyl. She favored the Crawley side of the family – attractive, but not startling so. Edith’s story is partly what made Downton Abbey so rich. You want her to have some kind of triumphant moment, but the reality is that she probably will always be in Mary’s living shadow (the beautiful, charismatic sister) and Sibyl’s memory (the beautiful, kind sister). I’m anxious to see how the series ends, but I suspect Edith’s story will always be a bit bittersweet.

  10. JB says:

    Those are all great choices especially the “Downton” ladies and the cast of “blackish”… However, the true Performer of the week was Kelly Clarkson on “American Idol” this week singing the heartbreaking “Piece by Piece”. The performance and since gone viral and she’s # 1 on iTunes. Just stunning.

    • Leo says:

      She doesn’t actually performed well though. She stuttered and can’t finish her song. Though I agree it’s a very emotional song and it’s my current jam, but I don’t think it’s enough for her to be “Performer of The Week”.
      With that said, I want her every week in AI. She’s just amazing.

    • Anthony says:

      I 100% agree with you – Kelly slayed. She sang beautifully and brought all the feels.

  11. Sandy Duncan's Eye on Network TV says:

    Dockery & Carmichael have been pushed into the background by the dramatic story lines of Anna. The tension between Mary and Edith has always come across so real and raw…great writing as well as largely underrated performances.

    As for Blackish…I can’t remember a sitcom in recent history that is so well cast…especially the children. There isn’t a weak link in the group and they deserve some more attention and accolades.

  12. N says:

    Josh was very good!

  13. Sylvia says:

    Personally for me the writing for episode 8 of Downton Abbey is dire and goes for cheap melodrama. Laura Carmichael’s performance doesn’t hold a candle to Michelle Dockery’s. Just because she shouted ‘bitch’ twice and it might be cathartic to many viewers, I found her ridiculous in that scene. In the scene before the wedding, she announced every member of the cast as if she was advertising the box set. She delivered those lines as if reading off cue cards. The most effective scene in the whole episode is the one between Violet and Mary closely followed by Mary and Isobel at the graveyard.

    • Sylvia says:

      *Just because she shouted ‘bitch’ twice and it might be cathartic to many viewers doesn’t mean it’s good acting. I was rolling my eyes and laughed out loud the second time she shouted the b word.

      • SoWhat says:

        Yep I agree. I started out realistic but then headed to more the usual reconciliation you get during a final season. I wanted more thought it would have been more realistic for the tension to continue even though they finally gotten the argument they needed to have.

      • Ivo says:

        Sylvia, your taste is horrible, you don’t know what good acting is… Both actresses were phenomenal, they performances will stand in TV history!

  14. John Davis says:

    I think Black-ish will be nominated in Modern Family’s place.

    • Jules says:

      Let’s hope so. “Black-ish” is so underrated. The kids on that show are everything, especially Marsai Martin who plays Diane.

  15. JT says:

    It’s great to see two of my favorite shows, Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead, listed here. I’m glad to see Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira in the honorable mentions. That was such a rare and tender moment between two of the strongest warriors on the show. The Walking Dead gets an A++ from me.

  16. juliesparkle says:

    Mary and Edith!!! Knocked our socks off!! Edith did it finally gave the bitch what she deserved!!
    However the resignation that one day they, as sisters, would be the last to remember: Mummy, Dad, Sybil, Matthew and of course Granny.. In other words Dowtown Abby itself!!!Upstairs and all the wonderful folks Downstairs too!!

  17. Laura Carmichael was truly awesome – I loved the whole exchange!

  18. Leo says:

    Please tell me you already picked someone from Suits for the explosive finale next week, because they’re all giving their A+ games. Especially Patrick J. Adams at this week’s final scenes. Mike Ross is horrible but Patrick managed to make him sympathetic.

  19. Lululime says:

    I got a kick out of Connie Britton as Faye Resnick this week.