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According to NY Mag's Jerry Seitz, shit's back to being a tad more stately after last season's shameless theatrics/miraculous recoveries/never-ending misty-eyed death remembrances. (Fact: a character named Lavinia is going to die long before most other characters, and to get upset over this preordained death is folly.) Some choice bits of Seitz's review of Downton Abbey Season 2:

Here’s an easy Downton Abbey drinking game: take a sip every time a member of the Crawley family observes that times are changing...If you want to play that drinking game, you’d better stock up, because in season three, the times are changing faster than ever. In the premiere, butler Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) describes an “indoor picnic” party, with guests wandering the house instead of sitting at a candlelit table, as “the chaos of Gomorrah,” and his stricken face tells you he’s not joking.

About the addition of Shirley MacLaine as foil for Maggie Smith's Violet:

They’re the King Kong and Godzilla of sarcastic grandmas, and a scene in which Martha tries to bond with Violet as a fellow widow humanizes them both: Martha describes their husbands as having been “taken” from them, and Violet replies, “Lord Grantham wasn’t taken from me. He died.

I am counting the minutes until Laura Linney welcomes me to Masterpiece Classic.