‘Downton Abbey’ s3/ep5 – The sky is falling

7 Feb

Still in mourning for Lady Sybil, this episode opens as friends roll away from funeral events at Downton Abbey.  Lady Grantham’s poor heart is in tatters, but she continues to be the epitome of self-restraint.  Even behind closed doors.  Elizabeth McGovern is a marvel in that role.

“We need some good news in this house, Anna.” – Mary

Mary’s surety and compassion touch Anna.  These two tiny-framed women have showed throughout the series that their stature is nothing compared to the fierceness contained within.  A long-awaited telegram finally arrives.  Bates’ freedom appears to be right around the corner, but what will it mean for Downton?  What if he and Anna choose to leave for a life of their own?

Sadly Mary still treats Anna better than she does her own sister.  Lady Edith remains mostly in the background during this episode, but I wonder if she’ll take up Sybil’s role as the family peacemaker.  The two sisters need each other to cope with their parents grief and the challenges ahead…and I’m going to take their going for long walks together as a sign that there’s still hope for them.

“You’d think we’d be used to young death, after four years of war.”

“That’s why we must never take anything for granted.”

“Which is what I’m trying to get Robert to see.  He wasn’t given Downton by God’s decree.  We have to work if we want to keep it.”

“Not only Downton — us.  We must never take us for granted.  Who knows what’s coming?”

Best scene of this season…so incredibly simple and moving.  Seriously powerful dialogue.  As the Earl and his wife pull away from each other, Matthew and Mary are drawing closer again.  Matthew has a way of bringing out the softer side of Mary, doesn’t he?

“There hasn’t been a Catholic Crawley since the Reformation.” – Lord Grantham

“She isn’t a Crawley.  She’s a Branson.” – Mary

Our nameless baby girl finally has a name, but it’s also brought the discussion of religion of the day crashing down on Downton Abbey!  It’s open warfare around the centuries-old dining room table when Lord Grantham invites the local vicar to come show the tame revolutionary the errors of his ways.  Something tells me I don’t think I’d much enjoy worship with Mr. Travis.

But the discussion continues downstairs as well:

“I’ve no great wish to persecute Catholics, but I find it hard to believe they’re loyal to the crown.” – Carson

“Well, it’ll be a relief for them to know you no longer want them burned at the stake.” – Mrs. Hughes

“He’s seen a diamond, and he’s chosen glass.” – Mr. Mason

Sweet, generous, hard-working, and lovable Mr. Mason never judges and has made one of my Downton dreams come true!  He’s asked Daisy if she would be agreeable to let him make her his heir.  And not only does he want to leave her his farm, he also wants her to come and live with him so she can learn how to run the place.  It could be a great thing for Daisy to come and be under his kind influence, but I confess I’m a little nervous that she’d start fancying the stable boy with the gambling problem, or the one who’s out of jail now for beating up his girlfriend, or something.  Will Daisy find true love before she leaves Downton?  Or will the “proper heiress” choose to leave at all?  If she says no to you, Mr. Mason, I’m hopping into the Dolorean and heading your way.

“Why should Mrs. Crawley be punished for showing me kindness?” – Ethel

Under normal circumstances, Cora would have walloped Isobel herself for not telling her what Ethel had previously been “up to.”  Under normal circumstances, the Dowager would have walloped Cora for not telling her that Ethel had been dismissed and returned to barge in on a private Downton luncheon to ask the grandparents of her illegitimate son to take responsibility where their son did not.  Under normal circumstances, this ladies luncheon scene would have been the food fight of the year.  But these are not normal circumstances.

“Well, of course, these days good servants are very hard to find.” – Dowager

“Is that a Charlotte Russe?  How delicious.” – Cora

“Seems a pity to miss such a good pudding.” – Dowager

The sky is officially falling on the head of the Earl of Grantham who finds himself no longer master of his world, and is coming unraveled.  He’s just buried his youngest daughter.  His wife blames him for Sybil’s death.  He’s recently lost the entirety of his wife’s fortune and is now faced with the horrifying fact that even though Downton is saved, the bank account is no longer bottomless and there is actual management to be done.  His new granddaughter is about to be Christened a “left-footer.”  And now all of his women are seated at a table being served by a wayward woman.  It appears there may be more estrogen in this family than he can possibly manage.  But the good news is his salvation may come about through the love and support of his mother the Dowager and daughter Mary — though to him it doesn’t look much like support when his Masterhood is being challenged.

And likewise, the sky is also falling on the head of his downstairs counterpart.  Carson’s grief over the loss of Lady Sybil comes out in gruff rebukes aimed at his youngest staff…and adding insult to injury, as if the toaster incident was not enough, a former prostitute has returned to taint the estate with a changed life.  What I love the most about Mrs. Hughes is that even as he stands there dressing her down, she doesn’t bother arguing with him or even speaking.  Really, it’s best to just walk away when he brings “standards” into it.

“And why not, Mr. Carson?  Why not?” – Mrs. Hughes

Why can’t Ethel become a banker or an architect?  So many double standards in the world.  So little time.

“Jesus managed to eat with Mary Magdalene.” – Mrs. Hughes

“We can’t be sure that He ate with her — but He did allow her to wash His feet.” – Mr. Moseley

“I see.  Well, I’ll tell Ethel she has a treat in store.” – Mrs. Hughes

I love the nursery scene.  Even though the room is upstairs, it’s kinda technically downstairs, isn’t it?  And there is Lady Mary rising to the occasion and coming in to hold her niece and get in a little practice.  The look on her face makes me think she wasn’t expecting babies to be so appealing.  Baby Sybil needs her grandma, too.  Cora has buried her dead, but the living need her now.  She did promise Sybil she’d take care of them both.

Matthew and Tom are also bonding in new ways…which I find myself hoping will blossom into others.  This is Tom’s most likable episode yet, and if he keeps it up, Matthew may try to talk him into sticking around to help farm or manage the place.  I was struck that these two men have much more middle-classness in common than I had previously realized, only their paths took two very different directions.  The blessing of friendship is much needed here and apparently gratefully received on both ends.  Hopefully Lord Grantham will recover his senses soon enough to not drive Tom away forever with his only grandchild.  But what will the Earl do when Tom decides to remarry the milkmaid?  Oy.  We’ll save those worries for season four.

Did anyone else notice that Mrs. Patmore paid attention to the color of Ivy’s face while she’s slaving over the hollandaise sauce?  What a wonderful golden period nugget buried in a hilarious love quadrangle.  After that nasty Spanish flu outbreak, I’d be making sure none of my assistants were assisting while sick.  Of course, part of Ivy’s lovely flush turns out to be (gasp) rouge she’s brought into the house.  Whatever you do, don’t tell Carson.  Today is not the day.

O’Brien’s plan for revenge on Thomas and on James as well is in full swing.  But she and her bangs are walking a very fine line.  I just hope when the ax comes down it doesn’t chop off her head, too.

The Dowager’s heart is in the right place, but I feel as uncomfortable as Dr. Clarkson with the idea of having him lie to the Lord & Lady about his diagnosis concerning their daughter’s death.  There were lies whispered to William to ease his suffering and bring him joy in his last moments on earth, so we can believe not all lies are selfish.  But I just know that no matter what truths you “stretch,” you can’t bring back the dead.  You can’t stop the grief.  You can’t keep the pain away from your son and his wife…and their marriage.  They have to go through it, and it has to be faced or they’ll never move forward.  The lengths she will go to to protect and support are admirable.  But what if Mary or Edith should face the same catastrophe in childbirth?  Will they ignore Dr. Clarkson again and lose another daughter because of the lie?  I hope Dr. Clarkson knows what he’s doing.  And I hope that this generous effort on the Dowager’s part does not come back to haunt Downton.

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