Downton Abbey: Season Four, Episode Four

“The business of life is the acquisition of memories. In the end, that’s all there is.”

For a season that is taking place in 1922, there was a great deal of sex in this episode. What was more important than the actual act were the ramifications of said act, playing a part in each of the stories told.

Although it feels a bit disloyal to say so, I am really enjoying the Mary/Gillingham romance. It is refreshing that these two do not hate each other on sight and are then forced to spend time together as their families throw them together. There is real chemistry and, dare I say it, real heat between the two of them.

This is a guy who would great for Mary. He is not a game player and he goes after what he wants. His proposal felt a bit too soon, but Mary was affected by it. We must remember how young Mary is. Still in her twenties, she cannot spend the rest of her life in mourning and she knows it. But, she also knows that it is too soon to move on, that Matthew is still the one who “fills her brain.” While I think part of her would love to be persuaded, she is trying to do the right thing both for herself and for Gillingham.

That kiss caught me by surprise. I expected a rather chaste event; instead, we got one filled with fire. Watching these two people simply lean into each other and wrap their arms around each other said more than the actual kiss. The ramification of the kiss is clear; Mary is now unsure about her decision. I pray that Gillingham doesn’t go back to London and marry Mabel.

The other thing I like about Gillingham is that he doesn’t like his valet. As he tells Mary that good help is hard to find, I wanted Mary to think of Molesley. No such luck. The ramifications of this valet’s actions last episode reverberate throughout the house in this episode.

Poor Anna. Not only is she dealing with her physical and psychological pain, she is desperately trying to keep her secret. She is failing. Everyone, from Robert on down, notices that she is not herself and tries to help. Anna is not ready for help, mostly because she is terrified of what Bates will do when he discovers the truth. Bates, on the other hand, is having his heart broken and it is tough to watch. This man simply adores his wife and her sudden pulling away from him is incomprehensible to him.

The scene where Bates confides in Robert was evidence of a great friendship between these two men. Robert is genuinely concerned; Bates allows his boss to see his pain. Robert’s advice is good, but it is also gentle and thoughtful. How nice to be reminded that the man can be something other than a boorish ass.

Anna isn’t the only character dealing with the aftermath of unwanted sex. Turns out that Tom slept with Edna while he was drunk, and like so many others who have come before and after him, bitterly regrets it the next day. We all knew that Edna was up to no good, and as she tries to force Tom into promising to marry her, it was confirmed.

Of course, this story didn’t make a whole lot of sense. If she were trying to trap Tom, why would Edna take precautions against becoming pregnant? Why not just let it happen? My guess is that, at least on some level, Edna knew that trying to trap Tom was a long shot and didn’t want to deal with a child rejected by its father. The irony is, of course, that it is impossible to imagine Tom ever walking away from his child, no matter how that child was conceived.

Luckily for us, Mrs. Hughes figures out the sordid story and sends Edna packing. Can we just pause for a moment and reflect on the badass Mrs. Hughes. This may have been my favorite scene of hers ever.

Speaking of Mrs. Hughes, I am still getting wildly romantic vibes between Carson and her. There are also mad romance vibes going on between Isobel and Dr. Clarkson. But, the most shocking romance vibes (at least for 1922) are between Rose and Jack. A black man and a white woman dancing together in public? That was simply not done and the way the family rushed to “fetch” her made me smile. Of course, Jack is awesome. He is sophisticated; he is a hot jazz singer; he is gorgeous. Finally, a Rose story I want to see more of.

Edith’s story, on the other hand, is making me nervous. Gregson has been good for her in some ways. She is much more confident and she is dressing beautifully. But, there is something about this man that sends shivers through me. What was that document he had Edith sign? As she signed it, without reading it silly girl, I wanted to shake her. Even worse, Edith has slept with the man and now he is off to Munich. My guess is that Edith has not read Edna’s little book. God forbid she becomes pregnant. She is the one who will pay the very high price.

I liked the scene between Edith and Rosamund. With the benefit of her years and her experience, Edith’s aunt tries to talk some sense into the girl. But, like so many young women in this world, Edith is in love and won’t listen. I hope, don’t trust but hope, that Edith is proved right. I doubt it.

After the last episode, I was dreading watching this one as I was so angry that this show I loved had taken such a dark turn. This episode, however, came close to redemption. I like that Anna’s pain is being portrayed so realistically and I like how the other stories are unfolding. I’m looking forward to the next chapter.

Bits and Bobs:

-- The new friendship between Lady Violet and Isobel is a great choice. Although I always loved their snarky interactions, the scene in the churchyard was simple and lovely. Isobel can be honest with Lady Violet; Lady Violet can be a good friend to Isobel. I loved it.

-- The kitchen staff stumbles on. Jimmy and Ivy kiss, but who cares. Alfred wants to apply to be a chef, but we already know that. Mrs. Patmore tells Daisy that she has been in a one-sided love long enough. To which I say, amen.

-- All the songs Jack sings at the club reference flowers. The last one is especially on the nose, “A rose by any other name…”

-- Marie Stopes’ book, Married Love, was shocking at the time. Written by a woman, it gave both men and women basic facts about sex and reproduction, talked about the fact that women have as much right to an orgasm as a man, told couples that it was fine to try positions other than the missionary, and gave women tips on how to avoid becoming pregnant. Although condemned by many as obscene, the book went into its sixth printing within two weeks of being published.

-- Lady Warwick was a treat. Married to the Earl of Warwick, she had affairs with quite a few men, including the then Prince of Wales who would eventually become Edward VII. She blew through millions of pounds with lavish travel and entertaining and saved herself from imprisonment for debt in her old age by publishing her memoirs. Whether or not she actually rang the bell to ensure her guests were in the correct beds is still debated. I like to think it’s true.

-- The costumes this year are the best they have ever been. In this episode alone, we had Mary’s purple velvet dress that I would kill for, Rosamund’s gorgeous black dress with the interesting patch pockets, and Cora’s white tunic. Simply stunning.

Well Said:

Carson: “I always think there’s something rather foreign about high spirits at breakfast.”

Cora: “After all, being a family means welcoming new members.”

Anna: “Better a broken heart than a broken neck.”

Lady Violet: “She is a good woman, and while the phrase is enough to set one’s teeth on edge, there are moments when her virtue demands admiration.”

Robert: “The damage cannot be irreparable when a man and a woman love each other as much as you do. My goodness, that was strong talk for an Englishman.”

Gillingham: “I will never love again as I love you in this moment. And, I must have something to remember.”

ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.

3 comments:

Juliette said...

I'm afraid I'm totally alone in not liking Gillingham at all. He just seems creepy to me, and unattractive, and way too pushy considering Mary's husband died less than a year ago. But at least, as you say, he didn't actually like the evil valet!

Billie Doux said...

Gillingham is perfect. Too perfect. :)

I totally get why Anna didn't tell Bates. She doesn't want him to kill the evil valet and wind up in jail again. But not telling him just isn't right. Bates needs to know. Isn't it his decision?

Holly Golightly said...

I love Mrs. Hughes! And more Thomas please, horribleness and all. I prefer him over Edna all day, every day