Downton Abbey: Series 2 – Episode 7.

So the war is over and Downton Abbey has transformed back into a glorious country estate after having been used as a convalescent home for injured British soldiers. Cora intimates that she wanted to have the valet Bates sacked because of Bates’ wife’s suicide, a suggestion by which Lord Grantham is both appalled and visibly upset. Interestingly, though unresolvedly, Lord Grantham is finally getting suspicious about his daughter Lady Mary, though his tying her scandal to Matthew shows how unperceptive he can be. Cora also passively expresses a desire to be rid of Matthew so as not to distract Lady Mary from her engagement to Sir Richard Carlisle. The interactions between Lord Grantham and the Cora-esque housemaid are lightly laced with longing and needed intimacy. It is not overtly romantic or even lustful, just a kind of melancholic longing shared between two people. This is particularly evidenced when Lord Grantham states that she must miss her husband. A need for companionship on both sides seems to be an unvoiced sentiment shared between the two of them.

“Welcome to the new world,” Lord Grantham says and in so many ways the end of World War I was a new world for the British aristocracy and their attendant understanding of the world order. Speaking to the deprivations still present even after the war, the always diabolical Thomas gets involved in some shady side dealings to cushion his after war stipend. Thomas’ going into some kind of black market business could either foreshadow a horrible end for him as a character or a more nefarious turn. It will be interesting to see what the writers do with this in the long run, even if the plot thread is resolved within the confines of this episode, as Downton Abbey is sometimes wont to do. Mrs. Bates’ untimely demise is attributed as a suicide, but the circumstances surrounding her death are mysterious. Lord Grantham’s noticing that Mrs. Bates had not left a suicide is another example of the sometimes heavy handed way in which the writers either point out obvious plot points or steer the viewer in a certain direction. Carlisle basically asks Lady Mary’s handmaid Anna to spy on her in return for payment. The whole thing reeks of Sir Richard’s indominatable creepiness. I do hope that Lady Mary doesn’t find herself attached to him. Lady Sybil’s growing infatuation with the driver is such a trope but also a much needed, even ridiculous, diversion from the other twists and turns of this increasingly complicated plot.

Tom’s insistence that Lady Sybil run away with him are short of insane and unlikely to come to fruition because Lady Sybil is both a popular character and most of the action focuses on Downton Abbey with scenes outside of it being limited and few. Lady Sybil’s running away with the driver would effectively change the show or write her out of the plot entirely. Mr. Carson’s fatherly approach to Lady Mary is touching and perhaps the bit of protection she needs before being married off to Sir Richard. Matthew’s leg sensations are another ridiculous plot point and I predict he will regain his ability to walk or some such nonsense. Mrs. Hughes continues to take food to the poor girl Ethel and her bastard baby. The plot to get some member of the Major’s family to recognize the bastard child is an awesome side story.

Lady Sybil tells Edith, of all people, of her desire to run away from it all, explaining to her that it will be something drastic. Carson then tells Lady Mary that he will not be working for Sir Richard and confesses to Lady Mary of Sir Richard’s offer to have Anna spy on her. Lady Mary’s biting comment about butlers being two a penny after the war certainly had to have left its mark, especially after Carson did what he felt was perhaps the right thing to do. Then cue Lord Grantham kissing the maid that looks like Cora. Matthew stands! Oh ridiculous. While saving Livinia or what have you from dropping a tea service. Now that Matthew is not a paraplegic Lord Grantham is awesomely happy to have his heir back. Of course, the only explanation is that the quintessential British doctor gave the wrong diagnosis. Oh dear, he will carry a bruise on his spine for the rest of his life but at least he will have one. My, what a horrid comment but true to the sentiments of the time. We see more emotion out of Mrs. Crawley than we’ve seen in either this or the last series when she sees the miracle at Downton that is Matthew’s healed paralysis. Now Matthew and Livia or what have you are getting married, and the Dowager Countess, ever awesome, chides Lady Mary, “Isn’t that wonderful news?” Indeed. Wonderfully tragic because Listeria is absolutely the most boring character and serves only to prolong the delay of the inevitable union of Matthew and Lady Mary. Likely she will suffer some tragic end in order to clear her out for proper plot purposes. Lord Grantham calls Cora’s comments concerning Matthew’s wedding taking precedence over Lady Mary’s stupid and selfish, the first outward volley in increasing tensions between Cora and Lord Grantham. Ethel decides to take matters into her own hands with regard to her bastard and the father’s family. Charles Bryant, Ethel’s bastard child’s deceased father, and his father share one thing in common: they are both graceless churls. This much is apparent immediately upon Bryant’s father’s arrival at Downton for some contrived plot convenience.

The Dowager Countess and Matthews’ private meeting illustrates why I love Maggie Smith in this show. The Dowager Countess explains to Matthew that Lady Mary still loves him and that he must consider whether or not he truly could love Lividia or what have you for the rest of his life simply because she stood by him during his lame (both meanings intended) phase. The Bates drama takes another hackneyed turn with the appearance of a last minute letter from his former wife Vera to some friend of hers, expressing her fear for her life. Why the sudden serious drama surrounding Bates is beyond me but then again this is a show whose writers do not shy away from quick, sometimes drastically implausible, solutions to dangling plot threads. Lady Sybil attempts to elope with Tom the Irishman. Thomas’ black market goods end up being inedible refuse. Is Lady Sybil really serious about marrying Tom? It’s an absolutely ridiculous sentiment. Tom is quite emotionally manipulative as a character and Sybil vacillates between being a strong willed woman and a naive child so it is hard to gauge whether any of this is in or out of character. An instance of class differences erupts when Lady Mary offers to pay for the room Tom will be left in, alone to stew, for the night after the failed attempt at eloping with Lady Sybil. Matthew gets his good luck charm back, the one given to him by Lady Mary before his deployment. Thomas’ having been manipulated by a man he met at a pub is a bit of sweet justice, and, for once, O’Brien’s concern for him showed more humanity than she’s ever displayed. All in all this episode was effuse with ridiculousness but also satisfying in a way that only a period piece like Downton Abbey can be. The characters are very intriguing and more often than not save the plot from becoming overly implausible. Onward to the next wrinkle in the Downton Abbey saga.

Comments are closed.