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'Downton Abbey,' 'Walking Dead' and 'Good Wife' offer pivotal episodes in a logjam of great TV

Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley

Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley



At least we won't have to deal with Downton Abbey for a while.

But Sunday night brought a train wreck of hilariously good TV at the 9 p.m. hour, including one of the Walking Dead's most surprising episodes, a pivotal kiss on CBS' The Good Wife, the death of a beloved character on Downton Abbey and another surprising episode on HBO's Girls.downton2.jpg

It was a surge of great television that made you want to own a couple of DVRs to catch it all (as a TV critic, I got early DVD screeners of the Girls episode and Downton's fateful Christmas episode, so I didn't have to juggle as much. Sorry).

But in the case of Downton, Good Wife and Dead, each series marked important turning points at a time when many shows might be cruising on autopilot (yes, there's spoilers ahead if you haven't seen any of this stuff when it aired last night).

Most of the anguish on Twitter Sunday was reserved for Matthew Crawley, the uptight aristocrat who lost his life in a car crash not long after his first child was born, capping the final episode of the show's third season. Of course, many stateside fans already knew he was a goner; both because actor Dan Stevens' exit from the series was well-publicized and because this episode actually aired on British TV back at the end of 2012.

Still, as my pal Maureen Ryan astutely points out in a column for the Huffington Post/AOL TV, Stevens' Matthew Crawley was an amazing presence that the showoften squandered, sticking him in implausible storylines and stretching out his romance with entitled Lady Mary to the point you wanted to slap some commoner sense into both of them (loyal readers may recall Matthew's completely ludicrous quandary over using a newfound fortune to keep Lady Mary's family in Downton led me to lose my love for the show back in January)

The death points out how much more useful Matthew's character may be in death than life, leaving behind a greiving family, a child without a father and an aristocratic family suddenly without any male heirs of noble birth -- a calamity which bedeviled the family before Matthews' arrival.

On Walking Dead, which returned to new episodes last week with an installment that felt an awful lot like producers were setting the stage for something better, Sunday's action provided some payoff -- with villain The Governor attacking hero Rick Grimes by driving a truck full of flesh-eating zombie "walkers" into the decaying prison where Grimes and his people are based.

The "walker bomb" tactic -- characters in the show never use the word "zombie" to describe the animated dead people crawling all over their world -- highlighted the way in which producers have torn and strained every close relationship on the series. Grimes is breaking under the strain of leading his ragtag group of survivors, seeing visions of his dead wife; lovebirds Glenn and Maggie are divided by Glenn's anger over The Governor's near rape of Maggie while they were both his prisoner; brothers Darryl and Merle are at odds over Darryl's attatchment to Grimes' crew; and much more.

Unlike the graphic novel on which AMC's show is based, the TV series has taken care to make every major villain a well-rounded character. So we see the Governor admit he had hoped to cure his zombified child before going off to attack Grimes and his crew; Merle, who had nearly killed two of Grimes' people earlier in the series, ges a touching scene with Darryl where they both admit enduring horrific abuse from their parents.

The most negligible member of Grimes' crew, thick moustachioed convict Axel, got nailed by a shot to the head, just after several scenes where we (and perpetually in grief survivor Carol) finally got to know him. (In fact, Walking Dead's characters better watch out for Carol; so far, she's lost a husband, a daughter, protector T-Dog and Axel, a guy she warming to. Characters don't live long when they get next to her.)

Fans of The Good Wife couldn't stop talking about "the kiss" on Twitter; attorney Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) was kissed by her boss Will Gardner (Josh Charles) in the middle of an argument. Supporters liked the unexpected resurfacing of their doomed romance, while critics decried the old-fashioned sight of a woman forced into a kiss suddenly deciding she likes it.

But it capped another sterling episode where good girl Alicia finally grabbed one of the perks which comes from being publicly married to the guy who is a leading candidate for governor in Illinois -- accepting an offer to become a partner at the law firm where she works after leading a rebellion among many staffers who were offered partnerships which were later whisked away.

What happens when she discovers Will was the one who suggested offering her the partnership to end the rebellion?

Guess I better buy another DVR to make sure I can find out.

Watch Downton Abbey Season 3, Episode 7 on PBS. See more from Masterpiece.





[Last modified: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 8:09am]


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