The lines between upstairs and downstairs and the lines between what is acceptable in society and what is not are becoming more blurred with each episode. It is making for a much more interesting season than I had originally thought it was going to be.
Many of the people downstairs are making choices that show that they are now more than just there to serve. The obvious example is Daisy who, filled with a new confidence thanks to her studies, is beginning to realize that she can be much more than she ever thought she could. Interestingly, it is the women (Mrs. Hughes, Mrs. Patmore, Sarah, Baxter) who are supporting her the most. Carson, of course, is not.
Baxter, even in her precarious position at the beginning of the episode, is confident enough to present Cora with a condition to her telling the truth. I liked the way Baxter told Cora the story. No excuses, no blame, she just accepted the responsibility for what she had done. Cora understands being led astray by the wrong man. Her daughter has been in the past and she was offered the chance this episode.
Even Anna stands up to Mary, albeit slightly. Anna strongly disapproves of what Mary did and tells her so. Yes, she will hide the device (which, of course Bates will find and then blame Anna for blocking any chance of children — if I were to make a bold prediction), but she will do so unwillingly.
Mary, having slept with Tony, has decided that he is not the one for her. What she did is truly shocking behavior for 1924, but no one is particularly shocked. Lady Violet is a tad nonplussed, but even she understands — as long as Mary marries Tony. At the end, the reason for her understanding becomes quite clear. As Mary so well put it, “Granny has a past.” I can’t wait to see more of that.
The scene between Mary and Tom was nicely done. Here are two people, each of whom was married to someone they loved dearly and lost. They understand each other in a way that no one else can understand them and they have each other’s backs. I loved the way Tom let Mary know that he was fully aware of what she’d been up to, and turned it around on her. He expects Mary to support him in whatever choice he makes. Somehow, I think Mary will.
Sarah is a breath of fresh air. No wonder Tom likes her. She is not in awe of this family and she wants Daisy to be everything she can be. Robert is simply appalling to her, but remember how he used to be with Tom? He was horrible when he realized his youngest was going to marry the chauffeur. Now that Tom is a member of the family, the tables are turned.
Robert’s behavior continues to amaze me. His treatment of Cora was nearly unforgivable and she has every right to be furious. I enjoyed listening to Cora talk about when she first came to London. No false modesty and a clear sense of what her worth was, she is able to recount it in a way that made me picture this rich, pretty girl who was in over her head.
No longer. While Cora was flattered by Bricker’s attentions, she knows when she’s being flirted with and when more is being offered. Cora has a strong moral streak and adultery is not something that she would consider. I liked the way she turned down the obvious proposition. It was kind, but final.
I have made no secret of the fact that the Lady Violet/Isobel friendship is my favorite part of this show. The final scene tonight did something that the show hasn’t done in a very long time — it made me laugh out loud. It isn’t often that Lady Violet gets any kind of comeuppance, but when Isobel achieves it, it is even better. The looks on both their faces was priceless.
Bits and Bobs:
— Earlier this week, I exchanged emails with one of my readers. He very helpfully pointed out several things in earlier episodes that I hadn’t known. I saved the best for this review. An edited version of his email follows:
Alastair Bruce is the Historical Advisor for Downton Abbey. We saw him in a half dozen or so clips about the show and some of the behind the scenes things that go on. These are clips that are mainly found as extras on the Downton DVDs. He was a familiar person to us.
Last fall we were watching 2:3 and suddenly noticed that Alastair Bruce is sitting in the car with Gen. Strutt. He toured the Abbey with the general. Not long later, while watching 2:9, there was Alastair Bruce sitting at the table at the shooting luncheon. We were beginning to wonder if he shows up somewhere in every episode a la Alfred Hitchcock. Sure enough, in 1:2 he's Violet's butler and in 4:9 he is the man announcing the names of the women being presented to the king.
Before taking on the task of watching each episode very closely to try to find him, I googled him and discovered that we had found all but one of his appearances. He was also in 3:9 as the guy that was with Matthew and Gregson on their fishing trip. It would have been cool if they had stuck him into each episode somewhere and waited for a viewer to discover it.
— I am over the Bates is a murderer story. This has dragged on for far too long. The other Bates problem in this episode is that part of his alibi is that he had a drink in York. Way back in season one, Bates was cleared of the theft of the wine because he never drinks. Either we are meant to see this as foreshadowing, or it was a rather large plot inconsistency.
— I’m interested to see what Thomas is up to, although I must admit that I didn’t really miss him this episode. His story, like the Bates story above, is getting old.
— Wouldn’t all this angst around Edith and Marigold just be solved by sitting Mrs. Drewe down and telling her the truth? Yes, her panic at not finding the child in the house was a tad overdone, but her instincts are dead on.
— I’m not Team Tony, but he rose significantly in my estimation with his thanks to Isobel. It’s been a while, so it’s easy to forget that Matthew was her son. She is being incredibly gracious about his wife moving on.
Isobel: “Servants are human beings, too.”
Lady Violet: “Yes, but preferably only on their days off.”
Mrs. Hughes: “Have you spoken to Mr. Carson?”
Mrs. Patmore: “No. I was hoping you might do that.”
Mrs. Hughes: “Me?”
Mrs. Patmore: “Everyone knows you can twist him around your little finger.”
Mrs. Hughes: “Then everyone is wrong.”
Mary: “I wasn’t seduced, Granny.”
Lady Violet: “A young woman of good family who finds herself in the bed of a man who is not her husband has invariably been seduced.”
Mary: “She couldn’t have gone to be with him of her own free will?”
Lady Violet: “Not if she was the daughter of an Earl.”
Lady Violet: “An unlucky friend is tiresome enough. An unlucky acquaintance is intolerable.”
Isobel: “You’re all heart.”
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.