Tag Archives: downton abbey season 2 recap

Downton Abbey Season 2, ep. 6 recap

This episode opens in 1919, as Edith watches the last medical vehicle leave the property of Downton, signalling that the home can finally return to normal.  Downton Abbey’s definition of “normal,” that is: this two-hour episode was packed with drama, culminating in a wedding and a funeral.

Warning: Spoilers ahead

Now that the war is over, the inhabitants of Downton are ready to move on, or rather, move back to the way things used to be (much to Lady Sybil’s dismay).  As Cora goes about looking for new work to put her energy into, her husband continues to mope about, feeling his life no longer has purpose.  He apparently finds that purpose in one of THE oddest hookups in Downton Abbey history with the housemaid Jane.  Honestly, I know the man’s lost, but this seems so far out of character for Robert that I just couldn’t buy into it.  And his wife is in the other room battling for her life no less!  Who is this man and what has he done with the Earl of Grantham, caring husband/father/lord of the estate?  Fortunately, Jane decides it best for both of them if she turns in her notice, but not without giving Robert a goodbye kiss to remember her by first (in the library, really?).

Of course, that’s not the only social-barrier-crossing romance that reaches its conclusion in this episode.  After much deliberation (and a great deal of patience on Branson’s part), Lady Sybil finally decides that she cannot go back to her life before the war.  We see her sitting in the grand drawing room, staring off into space while others chat around her.  The wheels in her mind are turning, and she goes to Branson, telling him she’s made her decision, and he’s her ticket out of her old life.  Her statement left me feeling that Sybil is using Branson just as much as Branson seemed to be using Sybil in previous episodes.  But I had to respect the resolve of the couple, which never wavered despite a botched elopement and retrieval by Edith and Mary, and a large amount of blustering by Papa (who apparently is okay with double standards).  So maybe there’s love there, after all.

But of course the big news of the episode (besides the fact that Dr. Clarkson made a mistake in his diagnosis of Matthew’s spinal injury) is the development in the driving “will they/won’t they” plot between Matthew and Mary.  The dance scene between the two of them (the one that Lavinia unfortunately witnesses) is one fans have no doubt been waiting for all season.  Thanks to Granny’s advice, Matthew has been left to mull over the unsettling thought that he is marrying the wrong woman, but out of obligation and duty he feels he must marry Lavinia, who sacrificed everything to be with him.  Even though he doesn’t really want to.

And what of poor Lavinia?  It is somewhat disheartening to see your fiancee embracing his former fiancee just days before your own wedding.  She takes to bed with a case of the Spanish flu (of which Cora and Carson are also afflicted), and has a heart-to-heart with Matthew, and even she has to admit that Matthew and Mary are a better match than the two of them. She takes a sudden turn for the worse, and lives up to her predictions from previous episodes that she will not be able to live without Matthew.  On her deathbed she informs him that it is better this way, and she wants him to be happy.  I’m sure her intentions were good, but her words left Matthew wandering around the estate, wracked with guilt.

Matthew and Lord Robert discuss funeral arrangements

After the funeral Matthew informs Mary he feels certain that Lavinia died of a broken heart (while I yelled at the TV “NO!  It was the Spanish flu!”).  Because of her parting words he knows he and Mary can never be happy together.  A devastated Mary leaves the graveside on the arm of skeeze ball Sir Richard (you know, the one who tried to bribe Anna to spy on Mary for him).

"We are cursed, you and I."

Amidst all this, Bates and Anna’s relationship is taken to the next level when evidence surfaces of Bates’s possible involvement in his wife’s death.  Anna refuses to let him go through it alone, and basically orders him to go ahead and marry her, which he does.

The two get one night of happiness together before he’s carted off to prison on the charge of willful murder.  I’m still of the opinion that Mrs. Bates’s demise was self-inflicted, and she set up the letter and other evidence in order to frame her husband, but I suppose the upcoming trial will shed some light on what really happened.  Poor Bates and Anna, will these two kids ever catch a break?

Bates being handcuffed, with a helpless Anna watching on

Hard to believe it, but next week wraps up season 2 with Christmas at Downton.

Interested in learning more about the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-19 featured prominently in this episode?  You can read my post about it here.

Miss any of the other episodes?  Read my recaps here:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Episode 5

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Downton Abbey Season 2, ep. 5 recap

All was doom and gloom in the fifth episode of Downton Abbey as the war draws to a close.  After last week’s focus on the horrible repercussions of fighting on the front, this week the drama generated within the household as a mysterious stranger arrived claiming to have some pretty serious ties to the family.

Warning: Spoilers galore ahead

While Lady Edith has stayed mostly in the background the last several episodes, she finally had a large part in a plot this week.  Officer Patrick Gordon, whose face is disfigured from terrible burns, arrives at Downton and poses as long-lost cousin and heir Patrick Crawley (the one who was supposed to have gone down with the Titanic and thus created the central plot of the first series, when new heir Matthew Crawley comes into the lives of the inhabitants of Downton).  Only Edith buys into Patrick-if-that’s-even-your-real-name Gordon’s story.  Maybe because it’s her unexpected chance at becoming the future mistress of Downton (at last winning a victory over Mary), or perhaps because she genuinely wants to believe the man she once loved has returned from the dead.  But Patrick makes a hasty retreat when information is learned about a “Peter Gordon” who was good friends with Patrick Crawley.  And with him goes Edith’s little glimmer of hope.

Edith reflecting on the house that will never be hers

Regardless of whether or not he believes Patrick’s story, Matthew wishes the family would entertain it as a valid possibility, as in his mind he is no longer a suitable heir for Downton.   I’ve read many reviews that feel the character goes a bit overboard on the self-pitying, but really, can you blame Matthew?  Yes, he’s still alive, but his entire life has changed, and he does not want to subject anyone to a life of looking after him.  He does perk up a bit when Mary is around, and we are treated to a few scenes with the two of them alone together.  Richard Carlisle has a right to be concerned.

Cora grows concerned that Mary’s time with Matthew will dash her chances at a good marriage to Richard.  In a rather un-Cora-like move she contacts Lavinia and convinces her to grow a spine and come back to Downton to care for Matthew.  This raises the ire of Robert, and their marital strife deepens.  Robert continues to feel neglected, and is slipping ever closer to a scandal with new maid Jane.

We also find Cora in cahoots with her mother-in-law this episode, as the two manipulate Isobel Crawley into staying out of Downton Abbey’s future.  I liked this scene (as I like all the scenes when Lady Violet is at the helm), but I never believed cousin Isobel to be so gullible.

Thanks to Cora’s meddling, Mary is ousted from her position as caretaker of Matthew, something she makes the mistake of mentioning to Sir Richard.  He demonstrates just what he’s capable of during a withering exchange in which he tells Mary she has given him the power to destroy her and she best not jilt him.  Oh Mary, you’ve met your match–h0w are you going to get out of this one?

Things are no better downstairs.  As I predicted, Daisy feels nothing but guilt over marrying William, and refuses to go to meetings to learn about getting her pension as a war widow.  Carson must make the difficult decision between staying at Downton or leaving to take charge of Mary and Richard’s new estate (and since Carson would “open his veins” for Mary, we all know which he will choose).

Then there’s Bates.  His patience for his wife’s refusal to sign on the dotted line and make their divorce official is long lost.  After a trip to London where he tries to “reason with her” there’s a tell-tale mark on his face that leads one to believe that more than a calm discussion was had.  And then Mrs. Bates is found dead.  This is not looking good for Bates (or Anna, for that matter), as there’s some incriminating statements floating about that O’Brien overheard, and that were said directly to Lord Grantham (perhaps you should not tell your employer that you wish your estranged wife was “the late Mrs. Bates”).

As usual, there are the other odds and ends throughout the episode.  Lady Sybil and Branson have another short exchange and it seems that Branson’s endless lectures of sacrifice (or perhaps his partially unbuttoned shirt and rolled up sleeves) have finally convinced Sybil that he’s the man for her.  Judging from next week’s preview it looks like the news is going to break, and it’s not going to be pretty.

Thomas is scheming to sell rationed food on the black market to make some extra cash, and O’Brien is busy gathering information to bring down Bates (I know she doesn’t like the man, but why is she so dead-set on “making him pay?”).  Ethel’s last hope of being saved from a life of poverty is extinguished when the father of her child is killed in battle (I still can’t get into this particular story thread).

If there was any sort of silver lining at all in this episode (and boy was it hard to find), it was when Bates wheeled Matthew out of the great hall after the armistice was observed.  It seemed Matthew was able to feel something in his legs, which he begins to ask Bates about, but then retracts his question, saying that it didn’t matter, at least not until he felt it again.  Could it be that Matthew won’t be bound to a wheelchair for the rest of his life after all?

Next week it looks like the Dowager Countess finally takes the Mary/Matthew matter into her own hands, and Cora becomes very ill, prompting O’Brien to perhaps confess her part in Cora’s miscarriage five years prior.  With only two episodes left, I still have no idea how these plots are going to tie themselves up, and can’t help but wonder what else will be thrown at us in the meantime.

What were your thoughts on episode 5?

Miss any other episodes?  Read my recaps here:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

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Downton Abbey Season 2, episode 2 recap

Tensions ran high on Downton Abbey this week (but then, when do they not?).  The house is turned upside down as it is prepared as an officers’ convalescence home, leading to all sorts of trouble.

Mrs. Crawley overstepping her bounds.

Mrs. Crawley and Lady Cora butt heads over the running of the household and which rooms should be sectioned off for the convalescents.  We already knew Mrs. Crawley could be assertive, but she seems to forget her place here and the family has to remind her with some force.  O’Brien, who has become Cora’s protector after the bath tub debacle of last season, conspires with Thomas to make sure that Cora is put in charge of the household alongside Mrs. Crawley, much to the latter’s chagrin.  O’Brien also uses her pull over Cora to get Thomas assigned as the household manager, which Carson is none too happy about.

Sybil busies herself with setting up beds in the various grand rooms of the house, with Edith watching on, feeling she has no purpose and is only in the way.  Sybil gives her some kind advice which Edith takes to heart, telling her everyone has a purpose, she just needs to find hers.  Edith does so by making the newly arrived officers feel at home, getting to know them, and helping them write letters to loved ones.  She shows compassion (something I wasn’t sure Edith possessed), and many of the soldiers note this to General Stratt when comes to visit the house, garnering her recognition at the dinner given for the general that evening.  Mary’s face was priceless in this scene, though I’m not sure if it was envy that I saw, or once again that sensation of feeling somewhat out of place, not knowing what her role is exactly now that the war is here.

Sybil bears the brunt of Branson’s anger when the army rejects him due to a heart murmur and he cannot make the public protest he hoped for when he is called up.  Sybil does not understand the source of his anger and tells him as much.  Branson informs her his cousin was gunned down by an English soldier during the Easter Rising in Ireland (which took place in 1916).  Branson later comes up with a new way to make his voice heard, concocting a special “soup” for the general.  Carson, Mrs. Hughes and Anna stop him before he has a chance to spill the disgusting concoction over the top of the general’s head.  With such anger and conviction, this won’t likely be the last of Branson’s attempts to make his views known.

Anna has a glimmer of hope when she believes she sees Bates in the village.  Mary offers to help her find out about him using the services of Sir Richard.  As she explains to Anna, “he works in newspapers, a world of spies, tip offs, and private investigators.  I promise you he can find out whatever he likes.”  I’d say this offers some fairly significant foreshadowing as to what’s going to happen to Mary.  No doubt Sir Richard is going to find out about the Mr. Pamuk scandal and use it against her so that he does not lose her.  We see his power over Lavinia Swire; no doubt he could do the same to Mary.

Sir Richard does indeed find Mr. Bates’s whereabouts, and Anna goes to visit him.  Bates left his wife so the divorce proceedings can take place soon, and is confident he will be able to pay his wife more than any newspaper would for the story she has on Mary.  Why do I get the feeling it isn’t going to be as easy as it sounds?

Granny and Lady Mary have a chat about Matthew.

In the meantime Mary learns another interesting tidbit, this time about Lavinia Swire.  Her aunt learns that Lavinia gave information to Sir Richard which led to the Marconi scandal of 1912, and that the two were lovers.  Lavinia soon confesses the former to Mary, but insists that the two were never romantically attached and she only did it to save her father from financial ruin.  Mary tells her she believes her, and Lavinia informs her that Sir Richard “threatened to tell you all about it, but now I’ve done it anyway.”  I have two theories on this one: either Lavinia hasn’t told Mary the whole story and wanted to beat Richard to the punch so Mary would believe her over him, or this is an example of how Sir Richard uses the vast amount of gossip he can dredge up to control people.  But regardless, Mary does not say anything to Matthew about Lavinia’s secret, though she certainly could have used the story that her aunt had procured.  Again, we see that Mary’s former pettiness has been replaced with actual compassion, even towards a woman she could consider her rival.

Lavinia reveals her secret to Lady Mary.

Downstairs, Daisy’s in over her head, no thanks to Mrs. Patmore, who insists that she must accept William’s proposal before he goes overseas.  She tells Daisy she can go back on it when he returns home, and Daisy accepts against her better judgment.  Mrs. Patmore isn’t the only one who is trying to look out for William.  Lord Grantham asks Matthew if he will take William on as his servant, to which he agrees, but says he cannot guarantee his safety.

This episode also saw Lang’s mental state deteriorate further due to shell-shock.  He wakens the entire servants’ quarters with his screams during a vivid nightmare, and begins to break down when the general and the other officers leave Downton, afraid that they might send him back to the front.  Carson and Mrs. Hughes agree that he is not ready to come back to work, and Lang agrees.

The episode closes with Lord and Lady Grantham, who are still adjusting to the new role their house is playing.  Lord Grantham states one of my favorite lines so far: “The world was in a dream before the war.  But now it’s woken up and said goodbye to it, and so must we.”  He realizes that change is inevitable, and to continue fighting against it will do them nothing but harm.

It looks like the action heats up next week with a scandal involving Ethel, Branson asking Sybil to run away with him, and the news that Matthew is reported as missing after he returns to the front.

Missed the first episode?  Read my recap here.

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