Downton Abbey: Season Four, Episode Two

“There can be too much truth in any relationship.”

This episode appears to follow relatively closely in time to the previous. It seems that only a few weeks, if that, have passed since Mary attended the farmers’ luncheon, so I am placing this in late February or early March, 1922.

Although Julian Fellowes is certainly not Jane Austen, he does love to emulate her use of letters as a plot device. Luckily for Mary, Matthew had written a letter in which he declared her his sole heir. We will skip over the absurdity of all this as it would have taken Matthew the lawyer about the same amount of time to write up the will as it took Matthew the husband to write the letter. Not to mention there is no reason that he would have hidden such an important document in a book.

Be that as it may, Mary is now the owner of half of Downton. Robert, again, shows us the unpleasant side of himself as he initially wants to keep the letter from Mary and then hopes that the letter will not count as a will. The low point is when Robert publicly embarrasses her about her lack of knowledge of the estate’s problems.

Part of me understands why Robert is being such an ass. He was raised in a world in which women did nothing and men controlled the estates and the money. Yet, rather than attempt to see that the world is changing and that he must now work with Mary, he fights the inevitable. I would have much more sympathy for the man if I felt that he were at least trying. His inability, or total unwillingness, to face the modern world is getting hard to take.

Especially as literally everyone else supports Mary. Lady Violet and Cora both make comments about how silly Robert is being and Isobel specifically says she is taking Mary’s side. My favorite is Tom, who is obviously irritated by his father-in-law’s behavior at the dinner table and goes out of his way to help Mary learn what she must. The scene with Mary, Tom, and Lady Violet is one of the greats. Lady Violet pretends to know what she’s talking about and pretends that she forgets Tom’s name, but she has the solution. Maggie Smith is simply brilliant, again.

Carson, on the other hand, shows us his best side. I was, frankly, as surprised as Mrs. Hughes was when he turned up at the station to say good-bye to his old friend. I was so pleased that he did. As so often happens when we hold grudges for decades, the original cause of the falling out is not what we thought. While I hate the thought of a young, heartbroken Carson, Alice sounds like a complete bitch and I’m glad he didn’t spend his life with that woman. Imagine marrying your boyfriend’s best friend and then, years later and on your deathbed, telling your husband that you married the wrong man. No wonder Mr. Grigg has issues. I wish him well in Belfast.

Now that Carson has put Alice’s ghost to rest, will he move on? I got a real romance vibe between Mrs. Hughes and him, especially as they left the station. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but I am looking forward to seeing where this story goes.

Thomas appears to be up to his old tricks, enlisting Edna to help him stir up trouble. I understand why Thomas would go after Anna; he and Bates have hated each other since they set eyes on each other. But, what rang really false for me was that Cora would believe what he said. Anna has not only been with the family forever, don’t forget that it was she who helped Cora and Mary carry a corpse through the house. That Cora would believe Thomas (a known troublemaker) and Edna (brand new to the household) over Anna felt contrived and, finally, unbelievable.

Although Bates and Anna may not know how badly trouble is brewing, I enjoyed the small story of their helping Mr. Molesley with the thirty pounds. This marriage is lovely to watch. They are always smiling at each other and they touch each other often. I loved the gesture of Bates going to Lady Violet for the money just to make Anna happy.

The one character I have not yet warmed to is Rose. Her story seems to be a carbon copy of Sybil’s and I just don’t feel for this new character the way I did for the old. Maybe it’s because her story, while identical, is more frivolous. Instead of a political rally with a fight, we have a tea dance with a fight. Like Sybil, Rose is rescued by a member of the household staff. Instead of a well-read, intelligent chauffeur, we have a farm hand. I understand that her character has been added so that, eventually, we have a flapper. I just hope she gets more original and more interesting before we get there.

Two other stories that strikes me as odd. Why is Jimmy so determined to keep Ivy on a string. If it is to anger Alfred, why? Secondly, the fact that Gregson is so against meeting Edith’s parents set my internal red flags flying. Is he, indeed, what he seems?

Much of this episode seemed to be setting stories in motion for the remainder of the season. To be fair, it left me wanting to see what happens.

Bits and Bobs:

-- David Robb, who plays Dr. Clarkson, now appears in the opening credits. As I went to update the cast list, I realized what an interesting choice this is. I wasn’t sure if I should put him with the upstairs cast or downstairs. A good example of the emerging middle class.

-- The Dare sisters, Zena and Phyllis, were famous in their day as musical comedy actresses. Zena was the original Mrs. Higgins in the London debut of My Fair Lady.

-- £30 in today’s money would be close to £500. No small gesture on Bates’s part.

-- I loved the callback to the small dog Mary gave Matthew as he headed back to the front.

-- The costumes this season are superb. Rose’s pajamas and Edith’s red dress were both things of beauty.

-- King Canute is famous for proving to his courtiers that he was not able to do anything. He went to the sea, defied the tide to come in, and it came in anyway. While probably apocryphal, it is still a great story.

-- For centuries, the royal family did not have a surname. Instead, they were known by the House from which they descended. Victoria, her son Edward, and his son George were of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. In 1917, for obvious reasons, George V wanted to remove any vestige of his German heritage and officially changed the family name to Windsor. Just to make things even more complicated, the Queen married a Mountbatten. As she would have traditionally taken his name, their children now officially bear the surname of Mountbatten-Windsor. Because, however, the Windsor name is the one that counts, the younger generation simply uses Windsor.

Well Said:

Robert: “Don’t be silly. This won’t make any difference to all that. She won’t want to get involved.”
Lady Violet: “When you talk like that, I’m tempted to ring for Nanny and have you put to bed with no supper.”

Carson: “We shout and scream and wail and cry, but, in the end, we must all die.”
Mrs. Hughes: “Well, that’s cheered me up.”

Bates: “It concerns Mr. Molesley, the younger.”
Lady Violet: “You make him sound like a Greek philosopher.”

Molesley: “You’re being very friendly.”
Bates: “Aren’t I usually friendly?”
Molesley: “No.”

Mary: “Granny, you must call him Tom.”
Lady Violet: “I thought I could call him Branson again, now that he’s the agent.”
Mary: “Well, you can’t.”
Tom: “I don’t mind.”
Lady Violet: “No, I see I’m beaten. But oh, how I sympathize with King Canute.”
Tom’s smile is a sight to see.

Mrs. Patmore: “I hope he doesn’t break her heart.”
Mrs. Hughes, shooting Carson a knowing look, “We must all have our hearts broken once or twice before we’re done.”

Mrs. Patmore: “Nothing’s as changeable as a young man’s heart. Take hope, and a warning, from that.”

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:

Katerina said...

It's getting very difficult to believe that I actually liked Robert a lot in season one. I like him less and less with every episode - particularly after this one, while I like Tom more and more.

Billie Doux said...

Re: David Robb as Dr. Clarkson now a cast member -- I was thinking that they're finally going to do something romance-wise with Mrs. Crawley because let's face it, they're perfect for each other. I kept thinking I'd seen David Robb in something else, so I just checked IMdb. He was Kalas on Highlander! an absolutely despicable villain. The character he's playing now is so different that I didn't recognize him.

Signed,
Billie
founding member of DA BAG
(Downton Abbey Tom Appreciation Group)

CrazyCris said...

I think Robert is definitely getting worse with age! Ugh! Thank heavens everyone else is there to help Mary along down this new path.

I was pretty sure Carson would come round eventually, happy to see that change! But I wonder, could anything ever happen between the Butler and the Housekeeper? He's so much about keeping up appearances...