Just when I thought Downton Abbey didn’t have a single surprise left up its sleeve...
Not just a surprise, but a true shock. We’ve all known for some time that Robert is more ill than he is letting on. Just how ill, however, was perhaps the most graphic moment in the entire series. That’s saying something for a show that spent an entire season during a war. We’ll get to all that later.
It is clear that we are at the beginning of the end of this story. It all feels as though things are winding up, that relationships are cementing, and that everyone will have a chance to change. Yes, I know -- there’s that word again.
Carson and Mrs. Hughes are ensconced in their little cottage, but not all that happily, I fear. While the scene over dinner was annoying, it was a fascinating insight into how the relationship between these two people has shifted. As his equal in the workplace, Mrs. Hughes would not have tolerated his snide little comments for a moment. As his wife, however, she bit her lip and tried not to let it upset her. In their home, Mrs. Hughes does not feel his equal. I can’t believe I’m typing this, but I am interested to see if this juxtaposition changes over time. It will be something to see if it does.
Edith finally seems to be taking some ownership of her life. I am not her biggest fan, but I do like the choices she is making at the moment. She flies in the face of convention and hires a young (gasp!), female (gasp!) editor and she entertains Bertie alone in her flat after asking him out for the evening (gasp!). Of all the women we have met, Edith best understands the consequences of sleeping with him. I was glad she didn’t fall into bed with him, but I do hope that this romance continues. They both seem very keen on the other.
Speaking of romances, I am warming to the Mary/Henry match. I like the way they play off each other and I loved the way they kept finding excuses to see each other. One of the great moments in this episode was Tom calling them out. In his own subtle, gentle way, he tells them to get over it and just see each other.
Tom’s other great moment was the scene with Mary where he describes his marriage to Sybil. I respect Tom enormously and I love the way he talks to the family now. He loves them and he wants them to be happy. By telling Mary the story of his marriage, and by making it about him and not her, he allows her mind to open up to things beyond money and estates. I only hope she is truly paying attention.
I have often said that Thomas is the most enigmatic character of the lot. He can be so truly awful, but then he will turn around and do something simply wonderful. The scene where he tells Andy that he knows the truth, but then offers to help him was not something I expected to see. Especially since, to be fair to Thomas, Andy has been a bit rude to him. This scene was a lovely moment that moved me more than I would have thought.
It was an episode filled with quiet moments and, frankly, more of the same. Even the beginning of the dinner party felt the same. How many of these have we sat through? Of course, the whole idea of the dinner was so that Isobel and Lady Violet could snipe at each other in front of the Health Minister, but it was nothing we haven’t seen seem before.
Until, all hell breaks loose. Robert choking up and spitting up blood all over that white tablecloth was genuinely shocking. It was also genuinely effective as a metaphor. This world, the one where men wear white ties and the women wear tiaras, where the servants stand behind them as they eat, where the etiquette is so ingrained as to be rote, is gone. Literally, it has all been stained by the blood of the family that the estate has supported for centuries.
The end of the episode was incredibly real. When a family is struck by an emergency of this sort, everything else stops, except the waiting. Waiting to hear if the worst has happened, or if the person you love/your employer will make it through the night. Arguments fade and people who have been sniping at each other for weeks come together to care for each other.
And, as if all this weren’t enough, Mary has finally guessed the truth about Marigold. I am eager to see where she goes with this information and whether she, for once, will prove her family (and us) wrong by responding with compassion and care for her sister and her niece.
A spectacular episode that left me gasping and eagerly awaiting the next. It’s been a while since that happened.
Bits and Bobs:
-- Today’s history lesson. Neville Chamberlain was, indeed, the Minister of Health in 1924. He is, however, better known now as the man who was Prime Minister at the outbreak of World War II. He did everything he could to keep England from going to war as he felt that the country was still reeling from the first and was not ready for a second. He ran out of options in 1939. Shortly after England entered the war, he resigned and was succeeded by Winston Churchill who took the country through the war.
-- Chamberlain’s wife was Anne de Vere Cole. Who her godfather was remains a mystery, but at the time, it wouldn’t have been outside the realm of possibility that it would be someone like Robert’s father.
-- Loved the fact that Mary had never been inside a pub. As someone who has spent a great deal of her adulthood at a local, the idea of this made me smile.
-- I was sorry that Baxter’s story wound up the way it did. I was proud of her for facing her fears and facing the man who almost ruined her. I would like to have seen her actually do so. The fact that Coyle pleads guilty as soon as he sees her tells us a great deal, however.
-- I can’t bring myself to care about Denker and Spratt. Denker is a bitch; he is a bully. May they just leave us all alone and go off to annoy each other.
-- Mr. Mason got the farm. There’s a shock. Daisy giving both Mr. Mason and Mrs. Patmore jealous looks as they talked made me smile. She is such a child still, in many ways. Andy wants to be a farmer. Is it just me, or is the resolution of this story fairly obvious at this point?
Mrs. Hughes: “I don’t seem to cook like his mother.”
Mrs. Patmore: “Oh, I think the correct response is to say ‘Men!’ and sigh.”
Molesley: “Shall I go back in and ask him to plead not guilty after all?”
Bless the man for finding the humor in the situation.
Tom: “You are funny.”
Mary; “What do you mean?”
Tom: “The way you have to keep making reasons for why you’ll meet. You to watch him drive cars, you to have dinner with a friend. Why can’t you just say, ‘I’d love to spend more time with you. When can we do it?’”
Andy: “Mr. Barrow, I’ve not behaved well towards you. And, I’m sorry for it.”
Thomas: “I’ve known worse.”
Isobel: “You’ll stop at nothing to get your own way. Isn’t that the truth?”
Lady Violet: “Indeed. It is a quality I share with Marlborough, Wellington, and my late mother.”
Lady Violet: “Don’t you enjoy a good fight?”
Chamberlain: “I’m not sure I do, really.”
Fellowes’ sly dig at history.
ChrisB loves all things English, especially period drama.
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