Hump, Marry, Kill: It’s Finally Edith’s Turn When Downton Comes Back

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HMK_bodPhoto: Courtesy of ©Nick Briggs/Carnival Film and Television Limited 2013 for MASTERPIECE; Chris Haston/NBC; Chris Haston/NBC.
Hump: Warning: Mild spoilers about Sunday's episode ahead.
It’s 1922. Mary has been mourning Matthew for six months and shows no signs of fully returning to her normal self anytime soon. We do get a bit of her signature wit when she describes Edith’s suitor as “not bad looking, and he’s still alive, which puts him two points ahead of most men of our generation,” but besides that, the Downton Abbey season premiere features a maudlin Mary, clad mostly in mourning attire, which you’ll remember from an earlier season is her least-favorite dress. We even get a most out-of-character scene between her and the Dowager Countess where both ladies show an almost full range of emotions and address their feelings out loud. How positively un-British of them.

So it’s Edith who has the most exciting life in the first episode — yes, Edith. She’s a flapper living it up in London, feeling so “wild…out with a man, drinking and dining in a smart London restaurant.” And, kissing said still-married man at The Criterion. Scandal! Everything’s finally coming up Edith…until Mary recovers from her depression and receives an endless parade of handsome suitors, of course. Then it’s back to being third fiddle, even though the second fiddle died in childbirth (RIP Sybil).

Marry: After creator Dan Harmon was unceremoniously fired by NBC at the end of season three, Community had an uneven, off-center, and downright questionable fourth season that strayed along far too many alternate timelines. Even devout fans wondered if it should go the way of Happy Endings: Three seasons that burned brightly across the sitcom sky, then were extinguished before things got too weird.

But then NBC gave us all hope: They issued a mea culpa to Harmon and agreed that he would come back to steer the ship for season five. The two episodes that aired last night are hopefully evidence of a gloriously Harmonized return to form, with the carefully constructed chaos we’ve come to expect from the show’s creator.

It’s not just the storytelling, though. Community is, in essence, a show that revolves around and relies on the strength of the characters that populate Greendale Community College. When you lose focus on their core attributes, which definitely happened with Britta after Harmon left — and the other characters to a lesser degree — the central conceit of the story is missing. During season four, the writers did their best to craft Harmon-esque plotlines, but they felt too much like flat caricatures.

Despite a cavalcade of celebrity guest stars, it also proved hard to create new players in the Greendale universe during Harmon’s absence. Consider those days over. In the second episode of season five we meet Buzz Hickey, played by Breaking Bad’s Jonathan Banks. A stalwart criminology professor who gives his students assignments like a “witness intimidation project,” Buzz blends seamlessly into the cast, acting as a foe to type-A Annie and a spirit guide to Jeff’s progression from season one’s sleazy ambulance chaser to season five’s teacher who might actually care. Welcome aboard, Professor Hickey.

Kill: It almost reaches Alanis Morissette-levels of ironic the way NBC puts so much faith in a show called Sean Saves the World. I’m guessing the “world” in this case doesn’t include NBC. Add in the fact that this show is preempting Parks and Recreation, and it’s almost too much for this Adam Scott and Amy Poehler lover to bear.