Downton is heating up! Last night's episode marked the arrival of a new servant to the Abbey crew, a fine-lookin' fella named Jimmy Kent who has caught the eye of everyone both upstairs and downstairs. He basically brings all the romantic promise that the other newbie, Alfred, hasn't really delivered on. It's a good shot in the arm for a season that was feeling a bit rudderless — or, if not rudderless, certainly lacking the particular dramatic snap that initially drew us into the show. This Jimmy Kent probably means trouble, especially for shifty valet Thomas, who eyed Jimmy as hungrily as any of the scullery maids. The "next time on Downton Abbey" reel seemed to suggest that things get tetchy between the two gents, which is exciting but also a little nerve-wracking. Little about the time period's history suggests to us that Thomas will have any go of it, and even though he's essentially a mean villain, we don't really want to see his heart trampled on or his name tarnished forever, do we? Well, probably some people do. And they just might get their wish in the coming weeks.
So, that's a bit of sexy downstairs intrigue for you. Upstairs things are a lot grimmer, which Branson arriving suddenly from Ireland in the middle of the night, on the lam after being involved in the burning down of an aristocratic family's castle. The coppers were looking for him so he sought sanctuary — and the well-connected aid of Lord Grantham — at Downton. Everyone was furious with Branson for leaving a pregnant Sybil behind in Ireland, but when she finally did arrive safely, she insisted that it had been their contingency plan to split up should anything go wrong. The pair put on a good show of being a unified front, but in private it was clear that Branson had downplayed his involvement with certain radical parties to his wife, and that he was more involved in the Dromgoole castle fire than he initially let on. This story, like Thomas's likely doomed crush, does not seem to be heading in any good direction. And though it's all a bit big and issue-y for this domestic chamber piece, I do like it when the show has the guts to show us the more unseemly side of otherwise well-liked characters. Lord Grantham, for example, is by and large a respectable fellow, but true to his day and his status, he's got some dodgy thoughts on Catholics and, in a larger sense, the Irish. He may be a decent guy in lots of ways, but he is a wealthy aristocrat in early 1920s England. He's not exactly a progressive.