‘Downton Abbey’ s4ep1 – A time of mourning

11 Jan

It’s 1922, and we’re rejoining the Crawley family six months after the death of Matthew.  No funeral.  No grieving.  Just a very dark-colored episode touching on bits and pieces of mourning.

O’Brien takes her bangs and exits on the sly in the middle of the night.  Wait.  What?  The woman who sugar-coats everything, and blames others for what she did wrong, and owes Cora A LOT just shoves off with no warning, no notice?  This blogger wonders if maybe the past six months have fed her fears that Thomas is no longer the only one who knows her secret.  Did she choose disloyalty over sticking around until the truth comes out?  Will she someday return to the show?  Better the O’Brien we know than the Edna we don’t.

The moment with the tombstone carvers was one of only two moments of real grief we were allowed to participate in.  It was short, but very beautiful…a simple, un-preachy reminder of our loss, and a small stab in the Dowager’s heart as she’s reminded of the reality of her family’s tragic losses.  You can’t make what that tombstone means go away.

Our second moment of real grief was an hour into the episode when we finally got to have a good cry with Mary.  So precious that she was able to share it with Carson.  She truly is spoiled, but in one extremely blessed way: the woman really has two dads.  How many of us are lucky enough to be able to say that?

WHAT KIND OF A LAWYER DOESN’T MAKE A WILL?  The kind who writes a letter, has it witnessed with clients instead of partners, folds it up, stuffs it in a book, puts it on the shelf, then drives off to party at Dunn Eagle Castle before driving himself right out of the story.  Oh, Matthew.  At least you wrote the letter.  Perhaps you should haunt your partners for taking so long to pack up your belongings for your family.  That lil’ doggie would have been the FIRST thing I would have looked/asked for if I were Mary.  Maybe you should have kept it in your jacket pocket so you wouldn’t have run off the road.

Anyone else think it’s creepy that Lavinia sent a letter the day she died, and her father wrote a letter for Matthew before he died, and now Matthew has written a letter for Mary just before he dies?  It’s certainly a much-needed gift for Mary, but I’m still getting a little creeped out.

I hoped that Mary would have learned how to rise to the occasion after her own personal disasters.  That she would have learned that being “lady of the manor” means more than just ringing the bell for her next dressing.  Cora and Branson didn’t throw tantrums at the dinner table after Sybil died.  It’s time for her to bury the frivolous, spoiled act with Matthew and pick up the mantle that goes with her title.  Did you catch the early scene where Anna slyly hands her a lavender shawl, and Mary is alert enough to hand it back with the question, “Where’s the black one?”  But there is hope.  Next episode I expect her to know all about cows and corn.  Tom is her new BFF.  Up is down.  Heaven help us!

Thomas need not despair in this episode.  He’s back on top of the food chain with not an ounce of humility gained.  Under-butler.  Enemy O’Brien gone.  Nanny West banished.  Hero of Lady Grantham.  New partner-in-crime Edna re-installed at the Abbey.  The world is his oyster.  Until an episode in the (hopefully) near future when he rues the day he decided to mess with Mr. Bates’ mrs.

Have I mentioned that Edna is back?  This may require a wooden stake and a cross…this one just won’t go quietly.  Edna is almost enough to make me feel sorry for the aristos — it must be incredibly difficult to have so many people living off of you, people you are responsible for, and how can you tell the difference between the honest and hardworking and the ones who will do anything to get/take something from you?  Not sure if she’s still after Branson or if she’s just after revenge, but either way, she’s got her game on and only time will tell who’s going to win this one.  All I know is, her definition of “inappropriate” is a little bit different than mine…and she definitely underestimates Mrs. Hughes.

Hurrah for Carson who knows the right thing to do (even though it’s brought to his attention by the former chauffeur) and does it.  There’s a spine of steel under that penguin suit of his for him to get the last word in on Mary’s rant.  Well done, you.

And well done (once again), Mrs. Hughes for getting to the root of Carson’s irritability, getting the facts of the situation, seeing the big picture, and using her influence to get the right characters working in the right direction for everyone’s benefit.  She always knows how to get to the heart of the issue — it’s an “open wound” for Carson, and he’s the only one who can administer the remedy for himself.  Good man to at last take courage and make amends.  My favorite moment is in the last scene where Mrs. Hughes puts on her little girl face/voice and asks Mr. Carson if they can walk back together, like nothing happened, and to be there for him without any fanfare in his moment of revelation.  Beautiful.

Edith, dear, the correct response when a guy asks you to shack up in 1922 is a SLAP in the FACE.  Is this the same Edith who resigned her job because she discovered Gregson was married and flirting with her?  Oh, right, I forgot — his wife is crazy and that makes it ok.  All that “for better or worse, in sickness and health” stuff, that’s totally optional and conditional.  Just as I started to think that at last Gregson was demonstrating concern for Edith’s best interests by proposing divorce, I realized it’s still 1922 and who will financially and emotionally care for the divorced woman in the asylum?  Who will care for her best interests?  Sad stuff.  Can’t see a winner in this one.  How in the world has this very public relationship info not gotten back to her family?

Edith may not do a lot of kissing, but Rose kisses everyone.  Lovely Rose with her youth and gramophone and vitality…and ignorance of the world around her.  Good thing she’s come to stay at Downton.  I think.  But it’s through her good intentions Edna has returned…which could mean, at worst, Rose could lose her one ally, Anna.  Is it too much to hope that Anna will teach Rose the correct way to say so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, get lost to a guy?

Hey, battah battah, sahwing, battah battah — it’s Nanny West up at the plate —
– Won’t let anyone touch the children (or possibly just Baby Sybbie)…strike one!
– Won’t let Grandma Isobel see Baby George…strike two!
– Is full of evil and runs her nursery as such…strike three!…annnnd she’s outta here!

The look on Cora’s face said it all, “Mrs. Hughes, you’d better find a bed for her before I find something sharp and pointy.”  Well done, Cora.  Sure wish you’d eavesdrop on Thomas once in a while.  We can show you where the vent is in Hughes’ office if you need it.

Mr. Bates is such a flirt and totally unafraid of PDAs.  Have you noticed that he’s actually got a swagger now, and only sometimes uses the cane?  Prison must have taught him more than one lesson:
1 – Carpe diem.
2 – Carpe Anna.
3 – A little forgery goes a long way to carpe Anna.

Mr. Molesley has fallen on hard times.  With the death of his master came his dismissal from a position he expected to hold his entire life.  (According to “Cranford,” once a servant of the estate, always a servant of the estate. But Matthew should have outlived him regardless.)  Isobel has fired him because she’s just “eating off a tray right now.”  I honestly suspect that she’s fired him because he’s a reminder to her that her son is no longer living…Molesley was Matthew’s valet/butler after all.  But in her grief she’s uncharacteristically being a backward thinker.  Mrs. Hughes talks Isobel into being the salvation of Mr. Grigg, but it never occurs to Isobel that she could be — arguably has a duty to be — the salvation of Molesley.  Will she figure that out next episode when she decides not to eat off a tray any more?  We’ll see.

Exactly when is Granny going to have a chat with Lord Grantham about the proper way to help a woman grieve?  Still waiting.  The way he keeps rolling his eyes it makes ME want to ring for his nanny and cancel his supper myself.  Just last episode he was learning a valuable lesson from Shrimpy and the downfall of Dunn Eagle.  Perhaps denial is how he deals with his grief.  I might go mad if I had so little control and yet true concern for so much responsibility…so I can be grateful he’s still in one piece.

So Jimmy John James is still too full of himself and doesn’t have enough to do.  The boy either needs more silver to polish, or he needs a love story line of his own.  Hopefully the hangover will cure Ivy of her disillusion where he’s concerned.

Daisy “may not have a follower, but at least she has a friend” in Mrs. Patmore.  Love those girls.  Look forward to more of Daisy learning more modern things as she moves closer to inheriting William’s farm.  Best quote of the whole episode:

“Nothing’s as changeable as a young man’s heart.  Take hope and warning from that.” – Mrs. Patmore

LOVED seeing Harriet Walter play Lady Shackleton in this.  After her performance in “Sense & Sensibility,” it’s about time she made it into this cast.  Hope to see more of her…hopefully in a more villainous sort of situation.  I’d also like to see Gwen’s character back.  Still can’t wait to see how the writers implement my “Charlie marries Sybbie and becomes Prime Minister” sub-plot.  Fingers crossed.

See you next week.

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