Monthly Archives: February 2013

Downton Abbey, Season 3: Season Finale

castle

The season finale of Downton Abbey originally aired as the Christmas special in the UK.  A time for families to gather round the telly with a nice cup of  hot cocoa or egg nog, or whatever the Brits’ drink of choice is on Christmas night.  Ready to watch a nice warm and fuzzy Christmas episode of Downton, hopefully with an equally warm and fuzzy ending as last year’s finale.  And then THAT happened.  If I had been the above-mentioned UK viewer watching this on Christmas night, sipping my hot cocoa, the cup and its contents would have been flung at the TV screen.

Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), I knew THAT was coming because it was almost impossible to not see an internet article about a certain major character leaving the series.  Unfortunate because it tainted the entire episode for me, but fortunate in that I knew not to have anything in my hands that might be thrown when THAT happened.

So, without further ado, let’s recap this episode.  Afterwards I’ll give a review of this season and my thoughts on THAT.

Warning: Major Spoilers for the season finale of Downton Abbey Season 3 ahead! 

It’s one year since the last episode took place, with the lovely cricket match and Lord Grantham’s finally allowing Matthew to implement his big ideas for the estate.  The family is packing up to visit Cousin Shrimpy (Lord Flintshire, who apparently received his unfortunate nickname as part of a nursery game) and his wife Susan and daughter Rose at their Scottish estate.  Apparently this is an annual outing for the Crawley family, even though we’ve never seen or heard mention of it before.  But as Bates explains, they did not go during the war years, and Sybil’s death prevented the excursion the previous year.  Mary is now eight months pregnant, and despite the advice that she should stay home and rest, she insists on going, because it isn’t 1850 anymore, after all.

Mary and Anna

“No one expects me to hide indoors until the baby’s born.”

O’Brien, Bates, Anna, and Molesley accompany the group (as valets and ladies’ maids often traveled with the family), leaving the rest of the servants to tend to Downton, and Tom (who wasn’t invited) while they are away.

At least he has Mrs. Crawley and Isis to keep him company.

At least he has Mrs. Crawley and Isis to keep him company.

Thus began the back-and-forth between picturesque Scotland and things “back home” at Downton that were at times tiresome.  A lot of new characters were introduced this episode that I didn’t give a fig about and were merely used as plot devices to help the main characters come to a better understanding about themselves (namely Tom Branson and Lord Robert).  To avoid further whiplash, I am going to recap the “downstairs at Downton” story first.

The downstairs staff hope that with the family away, they might be allowed a break, but Carson is having none of that.  There’s silver to polish, after all.  But Mrs. Hughes, softy that she is, convinces Carson to allow them time off to go to the fair, IF they get their work done.

Branson and Edna

Meanwhile new maid Edna is disturbing the delicate upstairs-downstairs balance by making her opinions known about Tom’s transformation from chauffeur to estate agent and family member.  She basically starts to stalk Tom, sneaking out and meeting him at the local pub when she overhears he’ll be there, and constantly asking him questions about feeling left out and not fitting in.  Which causes poor Tom to have a bit of an identity crisis (more on that later).

But Edna’s not the only one who is playing fast and loose.  A Mr. Tufton is introduced, a food supplier who takes a shining to Mrs. Patmore’s cooking.  He’s an unabashed flirt and Mrs. Patmore falls for his charms like one of Daisy’s early attempts at making a souffle.  And speaking of Daisy–whatever happened to the story line regarding Mr. Mason and the farm?  That was mentioned and forgotten.  And what about that love polygon?  It seems to have ended for this episode at least, though there is still visible tension between Thomas and Jimmy.

It’s Mr. Tufton who gives the downstairs the notion to attend the fair.  Mrs. Patmore suggests they should all go, though Carson stays behind so his bossy presence doesn’t spoil the fun.  Of course Edna gets Tom to go, even asking him to drive (ugh–I don’t like this girl).

But they aren’t the only ones going to the fair.  Dr. Clarkson invites Mrs. Crawley to go with him, after mentioning that he remembers she was a doctor’s wife.  And for some reason he suddenly decides he’s attracted to  her and perhaps wants to marry her…?  I can’t say this came completely out of left field, but it was odd, and I had always thought that if either of them were interested, it was Isobel, not Dr. Clarkson.  Go figure.

fair

The downstairs crew (plus Branson, no Tom, no, Branson–see, now I’m confused) arrive at the fair, and it soon becomes clear to Mrs. Hughes that Mr. Tufton may have led Mrs. Patmore to the wrong conclusion.  He gooses a girl working in his food supply stall, has ladies feel his bicep, and then she actually sees him kissing a few girls.

Mrs. Hughes seeing a bit more than she'd like of Mr. Tofton's flirtations.

Mrs. Hughes seeing a bit more than she’d like of Mr. Tufton’s flirtations.

Meanwhile the men enter into a tug of war contest, suggested by Jimmy, who appears to be out to make some money.  They win thanks to the last minute addition of Mr. Tufton and Jimmy walks away with a wad of cash which he quickly begins waving around to anyone and everyone while getting drunk at the same time.

daisy and lily

Elsewhere Daisy and Lily are exploring the fair together.  Putting their boy issues aside, they’ve grown to be friends since we last saw them.  It’s nice to see Daisy with someone her own age (rather than Mrs. Patmore) who can help her lighten up a little bit.  Alfred spends most of his time at the food supplier stalls and mentions to Mrs. Hughes that what he should be doing is cooking.  My hope?  One day he’ll wake up and notice Daisy, they’ll marry and live on Mr. Mason’s farm, and sell the food they make from the ingredients they grow.

Two nearly-simultaneous almost-proposals take place over at the refreshment area.  Mr. Tufton continues to compliment Mrs. Patmore’s cooking and thinks that taking orders from a husband would be better than taking them from a family one works for.  And just as Dr. Clarkson asks Isobel if she ever considered remarrying, Isobel very tactfully says that she likes her life the way it is and prevents him from making a fool of himself.

Jimmy and Thomas

Jimmy is still stumbling around like a drunken fool, and for some reason decides to go into the shadows under a bridge so two thugs could threaten him.  Thomas, who was apparently following Jimmy, distracts the aforementioned thugs so Jimmy can get away, taking the beating and mugging intended for him.  After they return to Downton, Jimmy pays Thomas a visit and asks him why he was following him.  Thomas explains that he was looking out for him, and knew he had too much to drink.  Jimmy tells him he can never give him what he wants, which Thomas understands, but would like to be friends.  Jimmy agrees.  Something tells me Jimmy may become Thomas’s new scheming buddy for the next season.

Patmore and Hughes

Now that they’re back home, Mrs. Hughes dishes out some observations she’s made over the course of the week.  First it’s with Mrs. Patmore, where she drops the bad news that Mr. Tufton has a wandering eye.  Much to her relief, Mrs. Patmore caught wind that he might only like her for her cooking, and is happy to hear she has an excuse to send him packing.

Tom and Edna

Next she talks to Tom about the Edna situation.  But not before Edna barges into his room, kisses him, and invites him to meet at the pub the following day (hussy much?).  And she then proceeds to try to disobey an order to get the rooms ready for Lady Mary by telling Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson that she promised to meet Tom Branson for lunch (the impertinence!).  Mrs. Hughes goes to tell Tom they are going to let Edna go.  She speaks frankly, telling him that he let Edna make him ashamed of his new life, that he’s done very well for himself, and Lady Sybil would be so proud of him.  Which prompts poor Tom to begin crying, stating that he just can’t bear to be without her.  To which Mrs. Hughes replies, “You must bear it. And one day I hope, and so would she, that one day you’ll find someone to bear it with you.  But until then be your own master and call your own tune.”  Well said Mrs. Hughes, well said.

Hughes and Branson

Now, we journey to the Highlands…

Scottish estate

When the Crawleys arrive at the Scottish estate (cue the sweeping Scottish themed music we heard every time we switched back to this part of the story) we once again meet bubbly Rose, whose rebellious spirit serves the purpose of reminding Cora of her dearly departed Sybil.  We are introduced to Rose’s parents, and their unhappiness with one another is on display for all to see, which may help explain some of Rose’s behavior.

Lord and Lady Flincher, Rose

The happy family

Edith’s editor, the married Mr. Michael Gregson, travels to Scotland and calls on her at the estate, with hopes of getting to know the family better so that he might get them on his side.  Because he’s in love with Edith, and he’s still pursuing her, despite her reservations that he’s a married man.

Edith and Michael

His arrival brings out Mary’s snark factor, and Edith calls her out on it, wondering why she always has to be so cruel.  This brings Mary to question why Matthew finds her so nice, when nobody else does–a running theme between the Matthew & Mary scenes this episode.  Matthew assures her he knows who she really is, and I do think that Mary shows a certain vulnerability towards him that she doesn’t allow herself with anyone else.

Matthew and Mary

Back to Edith’s latest love interest.  Michael takes his case to Matthew, who says that while he understands his desire to have a life, he can’t consent to his making Edith his mistress.  He promises not to mention his secret to anyone, but suggests that he say his goodbyes to Edith at the Gillies ball.

Anna and Bates

Onto a more successful couple, this episode featured more adorable Anna and Bates scenes.  It’s as if the whole jail sentence thing never happened.  I find the two actors really play well off each other, and some of my favorite scenes from this episode were between them (the picnic, and especially Anna learning how to do a reel to impress her man, who she learns has Scottish blood).

Rose teaches Anna to a reel.

Rose teaches Anna how to dance a reel.

O'Brien

O’Brien with Lady Flintshire and her lady’s maid

There’s also a random side story involving O’Brien and Lady Flintshire’s lady’s maid.  I guess we had to continue the tradition of including random ladies maids in the Christmas specials/season finales who try to stir up trouble (remember Lady Rosamund’s maid from last year?).  This year the jealous lady’s maid tries to make O’Brien drunk, but being the suspicious sort, she quickly recognizes her drink has been spiked.  But that doesn’t stop her from letting Molesley drink it, which leads to some much needed hilarity during the ball.

Molesley dances a drunken reel

Molesley dances a drunken reel

Shrimpie and Robert
Robert finally learns why Shrimpy and his wife are so unhappy.  Besides the fact they “just don’t like each other” (Shrimpy’s words), he has managed to let his estate in Scotland languish and all the money is gone and the place will have to be sold.  He’s basically in the same position Robert would have been in if he had not let Matthew take the reins of the estate.  So at last Robert realizes what a stubborn idiot he’s been and just how much he could have lost had he not listened to his family and finally gone along with their idea for modernizing the estate.

Michael and Edith

Edith comes to her own realization during the ball (apparently reeling causes people to have revelations?).  After hearing that Matthew disapproves of any sort of relationship between she and Michael, Edith decides that she will see him again after all.  Oh, Edith, you just never want your love life to be straightforward and simple, do you?

Mary

Mary, who has made multiple mentions of being jostled around on all the various Highlands excursions, decides she just can’t resist dancing a reel, one of her favorite pastimes (which we only learn about this episode).  Afterwards she decides it might be best for her to go home, but she insists Matthew stay so as not to alarm anyone and break up the party (oh Mary, even pregnant you’re as pragmatic as ever).  She and Anna head home on the train and as soon as they arrive at the station Mary informs her she needs to go straight to the hospital.

Mary and Anna at train station

Cora has a heart to heart with Lady Flincher

Cora has a heart to heart with Lady Flintshire

Before leaving, Lady Flintshire asks Cora if she and Robert would let Rose stay at Downton while she and Shrimpy try to sort out their future.  Shrimpy wants his daughter to know what it’s like to be in a loving home, and Cora is more than happy to help.  Which means it looks like we’ll be seeing more of Rose (replacement Sybil?) in the future of the show.

Mary in hospital

Back at the hospital, Isobel has arrived to be with Mary while Anna returns to Downton to get clothes for Mary and to order Matthew’s car be brought to the station so he can drive straight to the hospital when he gets there.  Mary needs Matthew, telling her mother-in-law she feels only “half herself” without him (can I just mention–Mary goes through labor just as I thought she would, very stoically).

Mary, Matthew and baby

Mary gives birth to a baby boy, thus securing the line of succession.  Matthew arrives and is bursting with pride (really,  he says he feels like he’s swallowed a box of fireworks).  He tells Mary he knows she will be a wonderful mother, because he knows what a wonderful woman she is, and how he falls more in love with her everyday.  She says she’ll remind him of that the next time she puts a scratch on the car.  One of the best Matthew and Mary scenes yet.  Everything seems to be perfect in their little world at that moment.

Mary, Matthew and baby again

Cora and Robert

The ecstatic grandparents

And so, as Matthew races home to share the good news with the family, Robert reflects on how strange life is, how uncertain everything seemed at one point, and how now he has two healthy heirs and a thriving estate, and he wonders what he’s done to deserve it.  To which Lady Violet responds, “I agree, but we don’t always get our just deserts.”

Matthew

And then the unimaginable happens.  Matthew, who just moments before was grinning from ear to ear, is dead, killed in a car accident.  The scene cuts away to Mary, still holding their baby, still smiling with contentment.  And then the episode ends.

Mary and baby

Up until the finale of the show, I really did enjoy season 3 of Downton Abbey.  It was a bit slow to start, but the last few episodes were really well done, almost up to season 1 standards.  I liked how the focus returned to the family dynamics upstairs, and I thought that the stories downstairs (aside from the love polygon) were thoughtfully played out.  But the finale bothered me on a number of levels.  I hated how overly-dramatic they made Matthew’s death.  Not the death itself, but the scenes and lines being said around it.  It was as if I could see Julian Fellowes, script in hand, trying to figure out the absolute worst place he could possibly insert the image of Matthew lying lifeless underneath his car and said “Yes, it should go right here, right after Mary says that Matthew needs to wait his turn to see the baby, but little does she know, he’ll never see the baby again, because he’s dead.”  I mean, come on.  The only thing worse would be if he had been racing to the hospital and died on the way there and never got to see the baby.  Instead of making me cry (like with Lady Sybil’s death), it made me irritated, because I could see how hard Fellowes worked to fit in images of Matthew at the places he thought would most likely make us cry.  I think he would have been better served to have just showed the result of the accident, rather than trying to work it in around scenes of the happy family, blissfully ignorant of what had happened. (Update: since writing this I watched the finale a second time, and darn if I didn’t tear up–but it still makes me  irritated!)

But here’s the real reason the finale bothered me so much.  I know I read somewhere that Julian Fellowes originally had a three-season arc in mind for Downton Abbey.  And we saw that arc play out–we saw the estate in all its glory before the war, we saw how the war had a major impact on the country and on estates like Downton, and we saw how the post-war world forced many such estates to be broken down and sold off, and that the old way of doing things had to change in order for those estates to have any chance of survival.  Matthew represented that change, that new order.  Robert represented the old.  That last episode (the one before the finale) demonstrated this so clearly, and was done so well, and I will again state that it seemed the perfect stopping point for the show.

My fear is that now that the original story arc is over, Fellowes is going to scramble to come up with new conflicts and major arcs, and they are going to be ridiculous and not well thought out.  And I’m also concerned that more of the major characters we have come to really take an interest in (like Sybil and Matthew) are going to leave the show, and less interesting characters (like Rose) are going to come in to try and take their place.  I’m just concerned the future of the series might be in trouble, especially now that Matthew is gone.  I’ll admit it–I’m a huge Matthew & Mary fan girl, and without their love story, the show is not going to hold the same level of interest for me.  If the story had finished at the end of the third season, Matthew would not have been killed off (the actors had three-year contracts, and Dan Stevens chose not to renew his, thus forcing Fellowes to write him out).

But, that’s just my opinion on this.  Of course, I’ll still be interested to see what happens next season.  How will Matthew’s death impact the lives of Mary and her family?  Will Tom ever be able to move on, and will he still feel he fits in without Matthew there to support him?  And what will Edith’s future hold, now that she’s going down the slippery slope of entering into an affair with a married man?  Will Daisy ever get her man and take Mr. Mason up on the farm offer?  And will Anna and Bates’s love story continue to be so rosy?

All right, yes, even with the concerns for how the show will move forward, I’ll still watch.

What did you think of the season finale?  And do you feel that the show should have ended with the third season, as originally intended?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Miss any of the other episodes?  Read my episode 1, episode 2, episode 3, episode 4, episode 5, and episode 6 recaps.

And for those of you wanting to hear Dan Stevens talk about leaving the show, The Telegraph has an excellent interview with him which you can read here.

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Downton Abbey Season 3, ep. 6 recap

Matthew and Branson

Last night’s episode of Downton Abbey was the best of the season in my opinion.  We’re talking season 1 caliber here.  I genuinely enjoyed every single story line as they reached their conclusions (and the new ones introduced too).  My only complaint?  It was just a lot to process.  I know we’re used to having fast-paced plots thrown at us  by Mr. Fellowes, but I hardly had time to swoon over a Mary and Matthew scene before I was in the middle of O’Brien’s scheming and worrying over Thomas’s fate.  There was a lot of ground covered with this episode being two hours, so I am going to hit the main highlights.

Warning: Spoilers for episode 6 ahead!

Anna and Bates

Anna and Bates–together again

Bates is free!  Here I was thinking that surely something else would happen to drag out the jail scenes longer, but I was pleasantly surprised to find him sprung at the very beginning of the episode.  And it wasn’t until he arrived back at the house that I realized how much I had missed his character.  And he and Anna had some really adorable scenes as they set up house together.  Anna just can’t stop smiling now that her Mr. Bates is home again.  I don’t blame her–I was smiling too, glad to not have to watch Bates walk in circles around a depressingly gray courtyard anymore.  I mean, now we get to see him in a Panama hat keeping score at a cricket match!

Bates

But of course, Bates’s return means Thomas’s employment is in jeopardy.  And soon that’s not the only reason why.  Thomas finally falls for O’Brien’s multi-episode laid trap.  At first I wondered why on earth Thomas would believe anything that came out of O’Brien’s mouth, having been her partner in crime for so long.  How could he fall for it?  But, as Thomas tells Carson, he had hope, and that hope apparently blinded him.  Before the incident with Jimmy, he and Thomas are alone in the servants’ hall, and Thomas says to Jimmy: “We both like to look so sure of ourselves, but we aren’t so sure underneath now, are we?”  Such a telling statement about his character.  Hard on the outside, but underneath there’s a vulnerability that is closely guarded.  And for good reason too.  Because Thomas’s homosexuality was considered a crime in 1920, and he therefore cannot be who he truly is.  I found the subject well handled, wonderfully acted by Rob James-Collier, and it really added a layer of depth to the villainous Thomas.  The scene in which he is lurking in the shadows near Bates and Anna’s house was also very nicely done, when Thomas tells Bates he envies him his happiness.  Bates suggests that he be nicer to people, and Thomas replies that being nice is what got him into trouble.  Something tells me Thomas’s shell has been further hardened by his incident with Jimmy.

Thomas and Jimmy

But Thomas’s humiliation isn’t enough to satisfy O’Brien.  She pushes Jimmy to not only make sure Thomas is fired, but is sent away with no reference, which would basically destroy his future job prospects.  After his false accusation and prison sentence, Bates cannot stand by and let another man’s life be ruined by circumstances beyond his control.  So he invites O’Brien over to tea, and whispers something Thomas has told him in her ear, which quickly changes her tune.

"Her ladyship's soap."

“Her ladyship’s soap.”

Poor Bates–he does something nice for someone who always treated him so cruelly, and how is he repaid?  Thomas is made under butler (I didn’t even know there was such a thing!), which means he will now be in charge of Bates.  All because Lord Grantham wants to keep Thomas around because he’s a good cricket player and wants him to play in the big match.  Glad you’ve got your priorities straight, Robert.

Sybils christening

But I suppose Robert feels like he has to win somewhere in his life.  His granddaughter has been christened into the Catholic church.  Edith is going to work for a newspaper (more on that later).  And while he may be back in his wife’s good graces, even she won’t side with him when it comes to the future running of the estate.  Matthew’s certain that his business model to make Downton self-sufficient is the only way to ensure its survival.  And everyone agrees–except for Robert and his steward Jarvis.  The latter promptly turns in his resignation, which is probably for the best for the estate to move forward.  Plus, it provided an awfully convenient vacancy for Tom to fill!  And thus the Matthew-Tom bromance continues.  I love their relationship and the way Matthew (and Mary too, for that matter) has made Tom feel welcome in the family.

Branson

Tom is the one who brings Robert around to Matthew’s idea at last.  He explains that between his knowledge of the land, Matthew’s business sense, and Robert’s desire to do right by the farmers and employees on the estate, the three of them might be able to give Downton a future.  Well said, Tom!  Of course, it now means he has to play cricket to satisfy Robert, but still…wow, Robert really is obsessed with this cricket match, isn’t he?

Mary and Matthew

“Convince me again.”

Can I just say how nice it is to see some scenes with Matthew and Mary being loved up newlyweds again?  Mary has softened quite a bit, and whereas at the beginning of the season she seemed determined to stand by her father, she at last gives Matthew her full support, which seems to bolster her husband and their relationship.  Matthew continues to be concerned his war wound has caused fertility issues, but as it turns out Mary was the one with the problem, and after an unexplained operation (and a slightly embarrassing run-in at the doctor), she tells Matthew that all is well and they can now begin to start a family.

Matthew and Mary

Time to start making little princes.

Edith and Michael

Edith finally stretches her wings and becomes a columnist for a newspaper.  Which gave us an excellent excuse to see some very nice costumes–Edith wore quite a few nice ones while in London visiting her editor, Michael Gregson.

Edith

One of my favorites–love the hat!

Her editor admires her appearance, but Edith isn’t rushing in this time around.  She does a little investigating and finds out he’s married.  She confronts him, he admits that he is married, but his wife is in an insane asylum.  Poor Edith.  Let’s take a look at her track record, shall we?  Crush #1 was engaged to her older sister and died in the Titanic disaster.  Crush #2 was a much older man intended for her older sister, but who would have married her if said older sister had not meddled.  Crush #3 was a MARRIED farmer.  Crush #4 was a badly wounded soldier claiming to be Crush #1, who eventually disappeared without a trace.  Then there was Crush #2 revisited, who jilted her at the altar.  And now we have Crush #5, a married man whose wife is insane and who he can therefore never divorce.  Can someone please give this girl a break?  Please?

Rose

Rose at the Blue Dragon

This week we were introduced to Shrimpie’s daughter, the grand-niece of Lady Violet, Rose.  Here’s a girl who has no qualms about dating a married man.  I think perhaps my favorite scene of the episode is when Matthew, Edith, and Aunt Rosamund go to the Blue Dragon club and find their flapper relative cavorting with a married man.  It pulled us away from the rigid morals and tradition of Downton Abbey for just a moment, and boy do the three of them look out of place.

Entering the Blue Dragon

And apparently, since we haven’t seen Matthew dance all season, we got a little bonus by having him give Rose a stern talking to while on the dance floor.  Great scene, and one of the best of the night in my opinion.

Matthew and Rose

“Married men who wish to seduce young women always have horrid wives.”

And while Matthew promises Rose they won’t say anything to Cousin Violet about what happened, you can’t get much by that lady.  She uses her stealthy dowager insight to find out about Rose’s tart-like ways and sends her packing for Scotland.

The boys

The episode concludes with the cricket match, which was fun to watch (even if I had no idea what was going on).  It almost had the same feel as the season 1 finale garden party (the part before the announcement that World War I had begun).  Robert wards off the police for Thomas after finding out that Alfred has called them (I guess nastiness just runs in the family).  Tom asks Cora if he and the baby might live at Downton for a while, which of course delights Cora.  Mary and Matthew are as happy as they were during that snowy proposal at the end of season 2.  And Robert has at last given in and fully supports Matthew’s vision for the future of Downton.

Matthew and Mary

“I didn’t think it was possible to love as much as I love you.” ~Matthew

Now, I will be honest.  With all of this happiness in all of the plot wrap ups, I would almost (dare I say it?) be pleased if the entire show ended here.  Maybe it’s just me, but everything was resolved so well, and the episode was so nicely done, that I almost feel like continuing will spoil it.  But maybe Mr. Fellowes will prove me wrong and the next episode will be even better than this one.  It’s going to be a hard one to follow, though.

What did you think about this week’s episode?  Did you think it was as good as I did?  Do you think it would have made a good end to the show, or can you never get enough Downton Abbey?

Missed an episode?  Catch up with my episode 1, episode 2, episode 3, episode 4, and episode 5 recaps.

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Downton Abbey Season 3, ep. 5 recap

This week’s episode of Downton Abbey focused on its inhabitants in the wake of last week’s devastating tragedy.  Everyone is trying to come to terms with the death of Lady Sybil and the reminder that nothing can be taken for granted.  I thought the series turned out another quality episode to follow up last week’s in both its writing and acting.  The family (as well as the audience) needed time to grieve Sybil’s death, and much of the episode was devoted to just that.

Warning: Spoilers for episode 5 ahead!

Leaving Downton

Mourners leaving Downton Abbey

The funeral is over, the guests have gone, and now it is time for the Crawley family to resume life without their dear Sybil.  Tom (who turned in another wonderful performance this week) is grief-stricken, telling a concerned Matthew that his wife is gone and he is past help.  Cora’s role continued to have more substance as a grieving mother who cannot forgive her husband for not listening to Dr. Clarkson’s advice.  She barely speaks or looks at him, and when she does it is to tell him that his fixation on tradition, with his insistence on hiring a fashionable knighted doctor, killed their daughter.  The two parents are therefore left to mourn on their own.  In order to help her son, Lady Violet steps in and contacts Dr. Clarkson, asking him to review the evidence and find out what Sybil’s chances were of surviving eclampsia so that the rift between Cora and Robert might be mended and they can deal with their grief together.

Robert at breakfast

Robert upon hearing Tom’s plans to raise his daughter as a Catholic

In the meantime it becomes painfully apparent that Robert is lost.  Even more so than during the war when his house was turned into a convalescence home.  All of the traditions, all of things he’s found comfort in as certainties, are crumbling around him.  His response to the loss of control is anger and frustration, and he releases it wherever he can.  He almost explodes at the breakfast table when grief-stricken Tom announces his daughter (who he’s decided to name Sybil to remember her mother by) will be Catholic.  When Robert goes to his favorite daughter to rail against Tom’s “ghoulish” idea of naming the baby Sybil and for his insistence on breaking with the Crawley Anglican tradition, he finds no sympathy.  Mary disagrees with him, reminding her dear Papa that the baby is a Branson, not a Crawley.

Mary talking to Robert

Robert’s traditionalist boat is further rocked when Matthew brings up the mismanagement of the estate once more, which Robert wants to hear nothing about.  Matthew urges him that the time to act is now, that the money to keep Downton afloat is already “leaking through the cracks.”  Again, Robert looks like he might explode.  But Carson enters before he has a chance to and gives Robert a place to funnel his full wrath when he informs him that his mother, wife, and daughters are all at luncheon with Mrs. Crawley, eating food prepared by a former prostitute.

Robert at luncheon

Robert puffs up his chest and bursts into the luncheon, insisting that every one of them leave at once, blustering on about Ethel’s wayward ways and how Mrs. Crawley has exposed his entire family to scandal as a result.  He is put in his place quickly by his wife, who, after learning that Mrs. Patmore helped Ethel, looks straight at him and says she is glad her cook has a good heart and does not judge.  When he makes one last attempt to get them to leave, his mother states that it would be a pity to miss such a good pudding.  Once again finding himself in events outside his control, Robert exits with a firm slam of the door.

Mary and Robert

Just when I was ready to smack Robert to make him wake up and get with the program, he has a heart to heart with Mary that brought tears to my eyes.  After Mary tells him he won’t win on the christening, and spells out what we’ve observed all episode (“The world isn’t going your way.  Not anymore.”), he finally opens up about Sybil.  About how he forgets she is gone, and when he sees a newspaper article that will make her laugh or a rose she loves that is in bloom, he goes to tell her, and then he remembers.  Mary begs him to tell Cora this, but he knows she won’t listen.

Cora and Robert
Finally, Lady Violet orchestrates an intervention for her son and daughter-in-law, asking them to pay a call at her house.  There they find Dr. Clarkson, who explains that after a great deal of study, Lady Sybil had an infinitesimal chance of survival.  Even if they had performed a caesarian, it likely would have put her through a great deal of pain and suffering and she still would have died.  At the realization that death was inevitable for their daughter, Cora and Robert both break down, seeking each other for solace.  And Lady Violet saves the day once more.

Matthew and Mary

Robert and Cora took up the largest chunk of the upstairs story this week, but there were a few other plot points worth mentioning.  Sybil’s death seems to have reminded Mary and Matthew of the uncertainty of life, and that they shouldn’t take their marriage for granted, nor their home.  Nice to finally see a scene in which the two aren’t fighting about money, but I couldn’t help but wonder if their memories were completely erased of the previous years of angst they both suffered when they weren’t together–wouldn’t that be reminder enough not to take each other for granted?

Matthew and Tom

Matthew takes Tom on a tour of the estate and shares some of his ideas, and is surprised to learn that Tom has some experience of his own when it comes to farm management.  Is it just me, or would Tom and Matthew make an excellent management team for Downton?  But I won’t get my hopes up, because Tom seems determined to leave the place as soon as possible.

Edith

Edith’s ongoing indecisiveness about the newspaper job continued this week with a quick mention at the luncheon.  She is still unsure of what to do with herself, and proposes learning to cook (to her sister’s horrified “Why?”).  Please Edith, get thyself to London post haste, and get thee a fantastic job and a life of thine own.

Ethel

Downstairs also had some difficulty adjusting to change.  Carson and Lord Robert are apparently cut from the same cloth, and Carson cannot let go of the fact that Mrs. Crawley has hired Ethel of ill repute to run Crawley House.  And Molesley is right there with him.  But others, like Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes, are more understanding (except for when it comes to rouge–Mrs. Patmore is having none of that!).  And I will admit it–I’m totally invested in Ethel’s story now.  Her character bored me last season, and her arc was slow to start this season, but ever since she gave up her darling boy Charlie and has started to turn her life around, I can’t help rooting for her, and look forward to seeing where her story goes.

Daisy and Alfred

Daisy teaches Alfred the foxtrot

The love polygon between Daisy, Alfred, Ivy, and Jimmy (and Thomas off to the side) continues.  Even when Mrs. Patmore plainly points out that they’re all in love with the wrong people, it’s as if it goes straight over their heads.  Maybe if she took one of those copper pots Ivy is always cleaning and banged them over the heads they’d see reason, but I doubt it.

Thomas and Jimmy

Thomas still recovering from the loss of Lady Sybil

I’ve been feeling sympathetic for Thomas the past few episodes.  He hasn’t done one evil or nasty thing.  Which means I’m really dreading what must be in store for him courtesy of O’Brien.  Because if Julian Fellowes is trying to get us to care about one of the nastiest pieces of work at Downton, it means he’s setting that character up for a major fall.

Daisy

Daisy of the constant scowl finally had something to smile about this episode.  Mr. Mason informs her he wants to give her his farm and all of his worldly possessions.  Could Daisy have found a nicer father-in-law?  She explains that she plans to stay in service, but Mr. Mason, wise man that he is, asks Daisy if she really thinks that the world will keep turning as it has been for houses like Downton Abbey.  She’s got a lifetime of work ahead of her, and she may need to think of some other way to make a living.

Bates

The “Free Bates” campaign continues.  As I predicted, that no good jail warden got to Mrs Bartlett before Mr. Murray could.  Again, why do they hate Bates so much?  I understand their current anger (since Bates framed his cellmate)–but why was there an issue to begin with?  I really wish that could be explained further.  Bates tells Mr. Murray he knows why Mrs. Bartlett did not give the same story that she did to Anna, and that he is going to do something about it.  Anna tells him to promise not to do anything stupid, but Bates only says he’ll take care of it.

Bates threatening Craig

Bates then proceeds to threaten his former cell mate with a sharp object (where did he even get that?) and tells him he better put things right and get Mrs. Bartlett to tell the truth or else he’ll tell the governor that he and the jail warden were trying to involve him in a drug scheme, which would put the jail warden out of a job and give the cell mate five more years in the clink.

Anna

Apparently the threat works, as Anna receives a letter from Mr. Murray saying that he got the statement from Mrs. Bartlett and Bates will be freed.  But the process will take a few weeks, which means Bates isn’t out of danger yet.  After the threat he made, he should probably watch out for some sort of retaliation.  While it would have been nice to have him freed by the end of the episode, it looks like this storyline will be dragged out at least a little longer.  Sidenote: wasn’t that a sweet moment between Mary and Anna, when Anna says how touched she is to hear Mary say “we” when discussing Bates’s case and how much Mary cares about seeing him set free?

Anna and Mary

So much to think about for next week’s episode.  Will Robert finally set his pride aside and listen to Matthew’s ideas so Downton Abbey isn’t run into the ground?  Has Cora finally forgiven her husband?  If (though it looks like “when” from the preview) Bates makes it out of jail alive, and resumes his post as Lord Robert’s valet, what will happen to Thomas?  O’Brien’s set her trap, and I’m just waiting to see how it will snap.  Will Daisy accept her father-in-law’s offer to leave service and move to the farm?  What about Mary and Matthew?  I saw the way they looked at little baby Sybil, it’s obvious they both want a family.  And what will happen to Tom?  Will he make a fresh start in Liverpool, or will he perhaps be convinced by Matthew to stay at Downton?  And it looks like from the preview that Edith will finally work up the nerve to become a career woman!  But who exactly is this Rose they are introducing next time?  Looks like a “Bright Young Thing” to me.  Perhaps she’ll teach Edith the Charleston.

What were your thoughts about this week’s episode?

Missed an episode?  Read my recaps of episode 1, episode 2, episode 3, and episode 4.

 

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