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.
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?
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