‘Downton Abbey’ s2/ep6 – The episode in which everyone (except Bates & Anna) has lost their mind

19 Feb

Just before this episode aired, I set a special treat beside me — Lindt truffles and hot tea.  After the episode ended, I looked over and saw the truffles were still there and the tea was cold.  That’s how big this episode was.  Who forgets to eat chocolate??

So there’s this electric dinner where the women are arguing about how fashions and haircuts have changed since the war…and Lord Grantham snaps about whether his life will have value now.

I’m a bit lost as to how Lord Grantham’s value has changed before, during or after.  Hasn’t it stayed the same?  What purpose have we ever seen him serve?  Ok, so it was a blow to him that he couldn’t go to war.  And it was Cora who ran the Downton Abbey convalescent home.  Is this a British period mid-life crisis?  Instead of a new Bentley he grabs a widowed maid?  Sorry, Lord Grantham, but that’s Pig territory.  We don’t take advantage of dependent females, no matter how downtrodden our hats look.

Jane clearly lost her mind as well — what do we imagine Cora or Hughes would do with her if they found out?  But I agree with her about one thing: We don’t wish you were different, LG.  Bates will never know how much he saved the day.  What would we do without Bates?  I hope we never have to find out.

Perhaps Cora has her head buried in a newfound usefulness in life, but is his happiness and purpose dependent on her?  Go play with Isis, LG.  Or hunt something.  Or build a nunnery to stick Sybil in.  But you know as well as we do that Matthew’s grief in the end could very well have been yours.  And Jane’s affection wouldn’t help you then.

Ah, sweet Sybil.  How I mourn the loss of your mind.  Two seasons have nearly passed, yet this is the first episode we’ve seen you encouraging Branson romantically.  Not a single soldier could tempt you, Miss Nightengale?  “I want to travel, and you are my ticket to get away from this place” — less romantic words have never been uttered.  So it’s off to Gretna Green…and Edith and Mary to the rescue.  “Go back with them if you think they can make you happier than I can” — from an equally foolish man who would rather put her on an altar instead of himself.

Let’s visit Mrs. Branson back home in Ireland for a moment.  Sitting by her fireside, knitting in a creaky rocking chair.  She doesn’t approve.  And why should she?  The fiery Irish son she is so proud of has chosen a spoiled English Protestant aristo to bring home.  She’ll never be able to show her face at quilting circle again.

So maybe I’m feeling as irritable as LG about this relationship.  It has never been proven to us on screen.  It feels contrived as an easy reminder of “the times they are a-changin’.”  I’m not buying it.  So much for suffrage.  Lady Sybil is dead to me.

Ethel wanted a new adventure — and boy did she get one!  That girl loves a good spectacle.  Maybe she and Branson should have hooked up.  If it had been me in a room with Mr. Bryant I wouldn’t have needed to think about it.  I would have told him right then with his terrible track record raising children, I just don’t think I could take that chance with mine.  Better than Charlie grow up poor and with a loving heart than grow up to be Major Pig Bryant, Jr.  “What is my life without Charlie?” Ethel finally answers.  Well done!

Did you catch Major Clarkson’s martyred look when Isobel told him she’d go with him to visit the flu patients?

Thomas’ glittering future as king of the black market has been brought down by a cake.  This bumble’s been humbled.  But will his reform last?

Run, Anna, run!  Sir Richard has found her alone in a hallway, and he’s made up his mind to continue his aspiring aristocratic ways by treating a servant like less than a person.  Would he have demanded that an unmarried upper-social woman enter his bedchamber?  I think not.  But like O’Brien Anna’s got mad skillz…only she knows how they are supposed to be used.

Poor Carson has lived to see his little Mary fall off her pedestal, and it hurts to watch.  For a little while Lady Mary got to live in a dream, caring for Matthew in a world devoid of Lavinia and Richard.  But now they’re both firmly encamped at Downton Abbey, and the heir is back on his feet again, the world is a much colder, emptier place.  Her bitterness has driven her to despair, back to her former self-centered callous ways.  Doesn’t Matthew still have the teenie weenie beanie weenie?  Where are her prayers now?  Have a good kneel and clear out those cobwebs, Mary Quite Contrary.  This is what faith is for.  Remember who you were at the station platform.  To quote the Dowager: “Don’t be defeatest, dear.  It’s very middle class.”

Matthew’s got the Archibald Craven thing going on, so he turns on the grammaphone and asks Mary Quite Contrary to dance.  What’s the harm?  Days before his wedding, his fiancé sick with Spanish Flu, he suddenly jumps out of character to confess how he really feels…and decides the moment is right for the kiss we’ve all been waiting for?  Where are Mary’s sisters when she needs to be rescued from being a thief in the night?  Neither of them are free to give their hearts to each other, so another cloud falls between them.  Lavinia has seen, and expires.  Matthew’s back to not wanting Mary any more, Mary is back to wanting Sir Richard again, and Lavinia sleeps forever.

M&M (as they shall now be referred to here) reminded me how we all do such selfish things — that pure and simple selfishness tends to be at the root of every evil.  That’s unfortunately part of being human.  But what will set M&M apart and make them successes as human beings is what they will do to make their wrongs right.  Or if they choose to at all.

In the midst of all the looney drama upstairs, the most precious moment of the whole series nearly gets lost.  Anna stands on her two tiny feet and demands Bates marry her.  He’s got another noose hanging over his head, and she’s smart enough to know that should the worst happen if she’s not his wife she will be denied any access to him or information about him.  It’s finally time for him to have the support he never had.  He deserves a “next of kin.”  So this sane pair of turtledoves find a moment to visit the registrar.  It’s great that the Dowager has neat lines, but Anna is the real mine of dialogue gems.  At last in his arms, she tells Bates, “No matter what comes I know only that I am now what I was meant to be.”

It is SUCH a pleasure to have a new Mrs. Bates.

Only one more episode of season two to go.  The big Christmas finale is tonight.  I’m afraid to fix any tea this time.

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