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Downton Abbey: Season Six, Episode Two

“We made a plan, Lady Edith and I, but we forgot about emotion. And, emotion’s what can trip you up every time.”

Is it possible to enjoy watching a show when one of the characters does something so egregious that you want to reach through the television screen and slap them? Hard? Luckily, Edith’s storyline was only one of several this week, so the answer is a qualified yes.

Edith has been a difficult character to love since the beginning. She has been vindictive; she has been weak; she has been self-pitying. Other than season two when she was working at the Abbey and really came into her own, we have rarely seen her as a strong woman in the vein of her sisters or Rose.

Her decisions around Marigold have always shown the kind of woman she is. They don’t make her shine. First, she took the child from the foster family in Switzerland. Then, she took the child from the Drewes, the only parents this child had ever known. We could argue about who the better parents would be. The Drewes who don’t have a lot of money, but have more than enough love for a child and (gasp!) actually want to raise the child themselves.

Since she’s come to the Abbey, Marigold is being raised by Mrs. Patmore, Thomas, her nanny, with only brief minutes with her mother. Nowhere is this difference shown more clearly than the scene at the end where Mrs Drewe is cradling Marigold. I have never seen Marigold look so content. She is nearly asleep in her “mother’s” arms.

Once again, however, Edith takes the child with her. Only now, she and Robert are asking the Drewes to move away. Move away! That family has been on that farm for over a century. They have been excellent tenants, taking care of the land and raising prize winning pigs (a big deal in the country). Because the Drewes did something so exceptional like taking in a child that was not theirs, they have now not only lost that child, they have lost their home.

The end of this episode left me enraged. Robert, Cora, and Edith are all saying “it is for the best.” It certainly is -- for them. Interestingly, it is Robert who appears to at least have a glimmer of understanding of what all this means for the Drewes. The two women are only looking at what they want. They are oblivious to the severe consequences of their actions and their decisions. Not really the kind of people I want to root for.

I do want to root for Carson and Mrs. Hughes. This was an argument I could understand both sides of. Carson feels that Downton Abbey is his home. He has lived there for most of his life and he has taken care of it. Mrs. Hughes, on the other hand, does not feel the same way. For her, being at the Abbey is her job, not her home. She wants to start her marriage somewhere that feels like her, not somewhere she feels like a servant.

I liked this story because I like what it shows us about both these characters. Carson has allowed himself over the years to feel as though he is part of the Crawley family; that, in fact, he is as much a part of Downton as they. He is besotted with Lady Mary, seeing her almost as the daughter he will never have. Mrs. Hughes, on the other hand, has always maintained a professional distance. While she, too, has been with the family for decades, she does not feel a part of them and does not love them the way Carson does. It is a fascinating look at two ways I am sure many servants viewed the families for whom they worked.

Through this story, we also got glimpses into yet more generational changes. Robert thinks that decorating the Servants’ Hall will do for the wedding reception. Mary is shocked at the idea and understands that Carson had something else entirely in mind. While she is her usual overbearing self, I did like the fact that she comes down firmly on Carson’s side. They have always had a relationship that is fun to witness.

Similarly, Mary’s relationship with Anna is always lovely to watch. These two women, so different in so many ways, always have each other’s backs. I especially like the fact that Mary understands just what Anna has done for her over the years and appreciates it. When Anna smiles and says, “We have had our moments, m’lady,” I was incredibly moved.

Thomas is behaving very oddly these days. While I understand that he is worried about his job, his arrogance during his interview was cringe worthy. My heart broke for him, however, when it became clear that he wouldn’t get the job because he is gay. The look on his face as he realizes what is happening shows us just how deeply this poor man suffers.

Having said that, however, Thomas appears to be stalking Andy. Every chance he gets, he tries to force Andy to spend time with him. The younger man has made it clear that he is not interested in a friendship, yet Thomas won’t back down. It’s beginning to border on the creepy.

An episode I was enjoying, until the end. I’m interested to see what, if anything, is the fallout from Edith’s decision.

Bits and Bobs:

— We are getting quite a few hints that Mr. Molesley would have loved to teach. I very much like what has happened to his character over the past year or so. He has moved from being a coward and the comic relief to someone who is caring and who consistently goes well out of his way to help those he cares about.

— So, there is a chance that Anna can get pregnant. I love Bates and Anna, but their constant struggles have become too much.

— Is Mary really so oblivious that she doesn’t at least suspect Marigold’s parentage? When Mr. Drewe referred to her as “auntie,” I gasped. It appears, however, that the allusion went right over her head.

— The hospital squabble has failed to engage me. Isobel and Lady Violet being pointed is fun, but I much prefer their friendship.

Well Said:

Thomas: “Should I start looking for another job?”
Carson: “How could it hurt?”

Anna: “You’re tribal, Mr. Bates. And, the tribe doesn’t have a lot of members.”

Baxter: “It’s not her ladyship’s fault.”
Daisy: “Maybe not, but it’s the system’s fault. That’s what makes me angry -- the system. And, she’s part of it.”

Rosamund: “Beware of being too good at it. That’s the danger of living alone. It can be very hard to give up.”

Mrs. Hughes: “It may be where we work, but it is not who we are.”

Carson: “It’s my wedding, too.”
Mrs. Hughes: “But, I am the bride! We’ll be doing it your way for the next thirty years, I know that well enough. But, the wedding day is mine!”

ChrisB loves all things English, especially period drama.

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