I can hardly believe that there are only two weeks' worth of Downton Abbey episodes left on Masterpiece Classic this season! The last two weeks in particular have been crammed with more information and covered more time than any one hour of television has a right to in my view, but for all that I love this show. IT IS SUCH A SOAP OPERA! Here's this week's episode summary from the PBS website:
As the war promises to draw to a close, uncertainty still reigns. With its ruined aristocratic houses, rationing, and fallen officers, war's aftermath opens some doors for the present and former servants and slams shut others. Meanwhile, Isobel's post-war plans create an indomitable, if unlikely, alliance. But when a mysterious stranger arrives, Downton faces more turmoil.
Sir Richard is anxious to take not just Downton's most beautiful asset, but one of its most treasured as well. In return and against Robert's wishes, he restores a powerful replacement in its halls. And Vera Bates takes startling action.
This post is going to be all over the place, so bear with me (who am I kidding, like there's ever any rhyme or reason to these review/recaps? HA!). As the episode opens, Matthew (Dan Stevens) is still facing a future without luv or mobility, if you catch my drift (*wink*). Mary (Michelle Dockery) has thrown herself into the role of nurse and primary caregiver, and the two share a sweet, heart-wrenching moment when she reminds him that she doesn't have to marry the slimy Sir Richard (Iain Glen), leaving unspoken WHAT WE ALL KNOW TO BE TRUE -- that she just wants to care for Matthew for the rest of his life. Mary, you have come a long way my friend. :) This is the point where I was pretty much ready to reach through the television and shake Mary and Matthew until the truth of their feelings for each other finally spilled out. The tension between Stevens and Dockery is so superbly well-done, I just love it -- it drives me mad but I love it.
Sir Richard is -- no surprise -- bombing at endearing himself to Mary's family (of course I don't think he's really trying, but that's another story). Love the fact that he's jealous of Mary's attachment to Matthew -- seriously what does that say about a guy when he's threatened by a man who is supposedly paralyzed and impotent? Yeesh what a control freak. As part of his plan to embrace an aristocratic lifestyle Richard approaches Carson (Jim Carter) with a shocking offer -- knowing Mary's affection for the butler, and in line with his desire to establish an aristocratic lifestyle with his "new" money -- loads of money to leave Downton and head up their household. I found it fascinating that no one, including Mary, was overly thrilled by this prospect. Robert (Hugh Bonneville) and Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) were more upset by the idea that "new money" like Sir Richard's would purchase an estate nearby, disrupting the centuries-old norm in the neighborhood. Of course where Robert and Carson are concerned, I like to think that Robert's annoyance over the gall of having his future son-in-law poach his butler and Carson's reticence in accepting the position stem from an underlying recognition that Mary is on the verge of making the WORST MISTAKE OF HER LIFE (more on that later).
With the war nearly over, the thoughts of everyone both upstairs and down begin to turn to toward imagining postwar life. While Robert, Cora, and Violet (Maggie Smith) are relieved at the idea of transforming Downton into a home again, Isobel (Penelope Wilton) is horrified a the idea of such waste -- Downton should remain a convalescent/recovery home, and she of course should run it. While I applaud her initiative and desire to make a difference in the world, I think it would behoove her to remember that she is wanting to disrupt the personal life of others while reserving a private home for her own use. DOUBLE STANDARD, just sayin'! Anyways, Violet rises to the occasion and is absolutely hilarious when she plays to Isobel's weaknesses and gently steers her energies towards the plight of war refugees. Maggie Smith's expressions of wide-eyed innocence and earnest intent had me in stitches! As an added bonus, Violet's machinations earn her some serious goodwill points with Cora (I don't think she really cares about that, but she strikes me as the type to note the goodwill bank balance, if you will.)
Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nichol) bemoans rationing in Thomas's (Rob James-Collier) hearing, which prompts him to investigate the thriving black market for rationed goods. Thomas has been curiously mellow for the last few weeks...while he's not reformed, one result of his wartime service does seem to be less of an interest in actively messing with others' lives. O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran) is another story, however -- after taking it upon herself to write Mrs. Bates (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and having that volley towards Bates and Anna nearly blow up in her face she seems content to observe -- for the moment at least. For someone who claims to have Cora's best interests at heart she certainly goes about striving to attain that goal in some seriously messed up ways -- maybe she was dropped on her head as a child??
The new maid, Jane (Clare Calbraith), urges Daisy (Sophie McShera) to claim her rights as a war widow -- something Daisy is loathe to do since she was only married to the lately departed and much lamented William for approx. six hours. I just feel like Daisy needs a hug. I really want her to find her happy ending, but with so many men lost to the war I fear the likelihood of her remaining a reluctant war widow is pretty high. I find it rather hard to get a read on Jane's character, which I'm chalking up to her being introduced halfway through the season. It's clear shenanigans are brewing between her and the tragically adrift Robert...I just wish I knew if she is playing on Robert's glaringly telegraphed emotional vulnerabilities, or if this is just one of those "lapses" in judgment, for lack of a better term. THIS IS NOT GOING TO END WELL, IS IT?
The most interesting aspect of this episode was the introduction of a wounded Canadian major, Patrick Gordon (Trevor White), who requested a transfer to the Downton hospital claiming a vaguely-referenced family connection. And OF COURSE Patrick claims to be THE PATRICK, a.k.a. the cousin and heir who drowned on the Titanic. YES, Fellowes couldn't resist bringing Mary's first intended back from his watery grave. :P Of course the question remains is this really Patrick, erstwhile amnesiac and now horrible burn victim, or a clever and opportunistic imposter? Personally I am torn, because I think Fellowes could take this scenario either way. Part of me really wants it to be Patrick, because Edith (Laura Carmichael) was in love with him once upon a time and the two really seemed to bond in this episode. But the other part of me thinks he's a dastardly schemer taking advantage of Edith's newly cultivated niceness, which means he's going to BREAK HER HEART which of course means I will HATE HIS GUTS. *sigh* According to the IMDB, White is only in this one hour this season, so I have to think the Patrick storyline will be revisited in season three -- I certainly hope so, that would be a tremendous story thread to just drop (don't do that to me OR Edith, okay Fellowes?! Thanks!).
It was fascinating to see the rest of the family react to the news that Matthew could be displaced. I loved Mary's indignation -- not only do I have great confidence in her ability to smell a rat where Matthew is concerned, but her whole protective act was FABULOUS. :) This is something of the final straw for Carlisle, though, as seeing Mary's raw, undeniable feelings for Matthew is just more than he can handle. A NICE GUY would release Mary from the engagement and GET ON WITH HIS LIFE, but sadly for Mary she has put herself at the mercy of a snake. Carlisle suggests to Cora that they need to get Matthew married, otherwise Mary will never have children (not sure of the logic there because releasing Mary from the engagement doesn't appear to be an option), and so he brings back Lavinia (Zoe Boyle). Lavinia, getting dragged back to your ex-fiance's house at the behest of a man you seem to hate/distrust does NOT make me think any better of you. GRRR!!! The final scene between Mary and Carlisle this hour, when he threatens to reveal her sordid Turkish diplomat story unless she submits -- and then he has the gall to KISS her -- that scene gave me chills. Where is Mary's moxie when it comes to saving herself? I'm getting the feeling she thinks she deserves to be a martyr to a loveless future...
Let's talk about Bates (Brendan Coyle) and Anna (Joanne Froggatt) for a bit, shall we? I am getting very concerned about this relationship...the stress Vera and her insistence on NOT granting her long-estranged husband a divorce is really starting to put a strain on my season one favorite couple. This is, of course, completely understandable -- I'm convinced vile Vera would sour the patience of the most devout saint -- but I just HATE seeing it all play out. I just want Anna to be happy again! Her stress is getting to me! And Vera turning up dead immediately following a meeting with Bates, who returns to Downton looking as though he got whacked upside the head -- please Bates, please tell me you didn't snap and throttle her. Though the possibility really does bear out the theory that he was a secret ninja/spy/assassin during the Boer War (yes I just went there).
So, leading up to next week's TWO HOUR episode (which is the season two proper finale, as the two hour installment the week after next is the Christmas special), we have loads of cliffhangers which will hopefully see some resolution. Personally I'm really hoping Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) hauls off and smacks Ethel (Amy Nuttall) the ingrate upside the head. I get that Ethel has a crummy life but GOOD GRIEF it's her friggin' fault. Her never-ending sense of entitlement does NOT help matters. *sigh* Also, Branson (Allen Leech) and Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) need to finally, FINALLY kiss. PLEASE, the suspense is KILLING ME. I loved the scene where she visits him in the garage and he's all dishevelled and HOT (it needed to be said, sorry...rawr!). :P She is so over living the life of a privileged elite with her talk of respecting Branson's desire to fight for Irish independence and just give me a few more weeks and I think I'll be ready to kiss Downton goodbye" (!!!). Seriously Sybil, I had no idea you were that far gone...this is one woman who plays her cards very close to the vest. *wink*
Did I miss anything? You all know I HATE to miss anything when discussing Downton, right?! :) Would love to hear what you think!
- Read my review of Series 2, Part 4
- Read my review of Series 2, Part 3
- Read my review of Series 2, Part 2
- Read my review of Series 2, Part 1
- For a limited time, watch this episode online at PBS.org
- Order the Season 2 DVD
- Read Tasha's recap of this episode at Edwardian Promenade
- Read Laurel Ann's recap of this episode at Austenprose