Well, that was interesting. I’ve got some mixed emotions about last night’s episode–some parts were excellent, other parts contrived and eye-roll-able. Let’s just get right to it, shall we?
Warning: Spoilers for episode 2 ahead!
Upstairs the house is preparing for another wedding, this time for neglected middle child Lady Edith. But everyone seems more concerned with the inevitable selling of Downton Abbey and the move to what Cora has termed “Downton Place” (which sounds like a great name for a soap opera, which this episode took plot cues from at points). Matthew is still being badgered by Mary to accept Reggie Swire’s money and save the estate so the family is not forced to move into….a gorgeous country home with accompanying village that they own…?
Certainly it is no Downton Abbey. And I can understand Mary not wanting to leave the home she grew up in, one that’s been in her family for generations. But is it really worth putting your newly wed husband in guilt-ridden agony for months on end by constantly harping about the money?
On the day of the picnic at “Downton Place” Matthew receives a letter from the deceased Reggie Swire, which he refuses to read, much to flabbergasted Mary’s irritation.
So Mary takes it upon herself to read the letter, much to flabbergasted Matthew’s irritation. And this is where my eye-rolling commenced–Reggie Swire’s letter reveals that Lavinia, on her deathbed (though I suppose she didn’t know it at the time) wrote her father a letter about calling off the wedding and Matthew’s chivalrous “I’m going to marry you anyway” attitude. But wait, no one saw Lavinia write such a letter, or saw it leave the house (and for that matter–where did Lavinia get the paper and pen to write it if she was lying in bed the whole time?). So Matthew accuses his wife of forgery–which to be honest, I wouldn’t put past Mary at this point in her desperation to stay at Downton. He takes back his accusation, but doesn’t believe the letter’s legitimate. But if it is real, it relieves Matthew of all guilt, regret, etc. in one tidy little note. Why, what a handy, convenient little plot device! First thing next morning Mary goes downstairs, her hair undone in her haste, to learn that Daisy was the one who posted the letter. And in one fell swoop guilt is swept away and Downton Abbey is saved! Good thing Daisy’s own moral dilemma over marrying William didn’t cause her to forget to post the letter.
So now that’s settled, it’s time for Edith’s wedding. At least Matthew is kind enough to ask Mary to wait until after the wedding to inform dear Papa that he doesn’t have to move, so as not to steal Edith’s thunder. Because you know Mary would have.
Despite countless efforts to convince her otherwise, Edith is prepared to walk down the aisle and give her life to taking care of an older man with a lame arm. And boy does that get hammered home about a thousand times in this episode. It’s featured in every discussion between Lady Violet and Lord Robert, and every conversation between Sir Anthony and Edith. So I guess we should have been prepared for what would happen next.
Poor Edith! Her very happy day, the one that was supposed to be all about her, turns into a train wreck as soon as she arrives at the altar and Sir Anthony stops the proceedings by announcing he cannot marry her. In front of everyone. And to make matters worse, Edith drags the scene out by begging him not to leave her. Granny has to step in and tell her to let him go, which he promptly does. I know Sir Anthony did it because he loves Edith and did not want her to end up spending her life with a man she’d have to take care of, but he really picked a bad time to finally make his mind up about it.
But, I will say that while I wanted Edith to win the day and get her man despite what everyone else said, this gives us a chance to see a potentially more fleshed out character. Laura Carmichael’s performance as the jilted bride was fantastic. And now, instead of having all three Crawley sisters settled down into married life, we have one whose character arc could go in any number of directions. So here’s hoping Edith picks herself up and finds a less traditional path for her life.
And just in case we weren’t positive that Edith doesn’t matter that much, we’ve got a scene where Lord Robert quickly dismisses Edith’s broken heart with a “she’ll get over it” and then is overjoyed to learn his son-in-law, thanks to his newly unburdened conscience, has saved the day, and in his thanks makes him a partner in the estate.
The downstairs stories felt a bit weak to me this episode compared to the altar jilting happening upstairs. We continued to bite our nails over the diagnosis of Mrs. Hughes. Lady Cora (who finds out from Carson, who finds out from Mrs. Patmore, who apparently can’t keep a secret for a gold clock) tells Mrs. Hughes she knows about her health, and wants her to know she’ll always have a home at Downton. A very touching moment, and it seemed to make Mrs. Hughes feel a bit closer to the family, as illustrated when she allows Alfred to talk badly about Sir Anthony for leaving Lady Edith at the altar. In the end, it looks like the scare was for nothing, as the results indicate a benign tumor. As Mrs. Patmore tells Carson everything is okay, I kept waiting for Mrs. Hughes’s relieved face to droop as if she were putting on a brave face and not telling the truth about her diagnosis. But it never happened, so perhaps the health scare was just another minor plot point to pull us along for a few episodes before wrapping up neatly.
Elsewhere we’ve got O’Brien and Thomas playing a slow, vindictive game of tennis. Last week Thomas made trouble for Alfred (and therefore O’Brien), and then O’Brien retaliated by taking Lord Robert’s shirts. In this episode Thomas starts a rumor that O’Brien is leaving, catching poor Molesley in the middle. And now the ball is in O’Brien’s court–so what’s she going to serve Thomas with next week?
And then we’ve got the ongoing Anna & Bates saga. Bates’s cell mate is out to get him for unexplained reasons, but Bates receives a tip off from someone on his side, which allows him to hide some contraband the cell mate has planted before the jail wardens raid the room. Anna continues to devote every spare moment to freeing her husband, this time interviewing a friend of Vera’s who lived nearby. If you’re playing “collect the clues,” we know that Vera ate an arsenic-laced pie. The neighbor indicated that Vera made the pie the afternoon before she was found dead, and when she came to visit her she noticed that Vera was scrubbing under her fingernails like mad–my guess would be to make sure there were no traces of arsenic that would lead anyone to suspect she had put it in the pie.
Ethel appears again in this episode to say the same line over and over: “I shouldn’t have come.” I couldn’t agree more. I was done with Ethel last season, so why do we have to keep picking at this thread? Yes, I get that we’re trying to show the gritty, not so pretty side of life after the war, and Ethel represents that. But I’ve just never cared much about Ethel for some reason. However, Cousin Isobel seems dead set on helping her, and my guess is she’s going to wriggle her way into Ethel’s life whether she wants it or not.
Daisy, besides informing Lady Mary that she posted the letter for Miss Swire, didn’t have much of a role this week, except to ask Anna if perhaps she should speak her mind more like the American girls. She also seems to have her eye on Alfred. I’d like to see an outspoken Daisy, maybe it’ll spice things up downstairs a little bit. Because, for me at least, this back and forth between O’Brien and Thomas just isn’t cutting it.
Just a few final thoughts–give me more Sybil and Tom! They were barely in this episode, but I loved Sybil’s saucy little comment to Edith about not sleeping on her wedding night. And Tom was in black tie! But I thought he’d never buy such frivolous clothes–what made him change his mind? And why wasn’t he more outspoken about the family having to potentially downsize to a house that has its own village attached to it? Maybe he’s trying to play nice for his wife’s sake? It looks like next week’s episode is going to feature the couple more prominently (and Tom leaves his pregnant wife behind in Dublin because he’s on the run? What on earth will Granny have to say about that?).
I hope now that the ghost of Lavinia has been laid to rest we can see more cheerful moments between Matthew and Mary. Yes, I know they’re going to bicker and squabble, but they’re newlyweds. Surely the honeymoon period hasn’t ended already. Give us some more light-hearted “proposal in the snow” type moments!
And even though the day ended in heartbreak, Lady Edith’s dress was stunning and in my opinion trumped Lady Mary’s. I think the very simple gown Lady Mary wore fit her pragmatic personality, but Lady Edith’s dress with the detail work on it was just gorgeous. So even though she didn’t actually get a husband on her wedding day, maybe Edith can take solace in knowing that her dress was prettier than Mary’s? Maybe?
Finally, I know that Downton Abbey has soap opera tendencies (like last season’s misdiagnosis that allowed for Matthew’s miraculous spinal recovery), but I really hope we don’t have too many more all-too-convenient plot devices that allow for difficult situations to be easily fixed. That letter from Reggie Swire still bugs me.
All right everyone, now it’s your turn! What were your thought’s about episode 2?
Miss the premiere of season 3? Read my recap.