‘Downton Abbey’ s6e8 – “All our ships are coming in to port”…the hard way

6 Mar

If you follow my live-tweeting of the series, you know I can be pretty flippant and knee-jerky about the characters and plotlines. That’s just how my big mouth and I feel in the moment. But if all we ever did was live-tweet these shows we’d be party to the tremendous tragedy of missing the bigger picture. There are deeper things at work within the storyline of every ‘Downton Abbey’ episode that my not-so-witty commentary frequently misses without a few re-watches.

On first viewing I was irritated by Edith and Mary’s tiresome issues. They always seem to climb out of their own personal immaturities over the years to grow as people. But not as sisters? I just have a hard time buying that. Let’s take a quick look back: Season 1 Mary was spoiled, arrogant, and a tyrannical bully…but through the series the world around her changed hard and fast and taught her to revisit her expectations…for the most part. Season 1 Edith was sweet, spoiled, and slightly idiotic (a different kind of princess than Mary)…and over time she’s grown and regressed repeatedly. Kind of like Mary. Okay, let’s face it — these two are basically Elsa and Anna. Shortcomings that stem from being raised in the palace. But fortunately for these two the world pulls down the palace walls and forces them outside to make their own way. When things should have pulled them together, they didn’t. When they matured outside the Abbey, they both refused to do the same within. Whatever. So it all finally came to a head this episode. And as Edith so rightly pointed out, it should have happened years ago. If only.

Mary’s a selfish witch this episode. Well, it’s true. If you haven’t seen it, be prepared. This is one atrociously long day for Lady Mary. I had a really hard time shaking off my disgust of the witch to get a grip on her new leaf at the end. (Forgiveness is just so hard to do!) But then I watched it again. And again. And I feel like I’m finally shedding some of my bitterness toward her and looking at the big picture.

Stupid Matthew overturned his car and died in a fiery crash (still working on that bitterness). We never really saw her mourn. We never really got to mourn with her. Then there was the big love quadrangle…then the weekend special with Tony where she told us she had to be sure she was sure she was sure, but no thanks (insert Homer Simpson “Doh!” here). So now she’s fallen for a dishy car racer in two episodes flat. That’s the Twitter Knee-Jerk Plot Synopsis — the tip of the iceberg.

What’s gone on with her character below the surface is another story. How long has it been since we’ve seen Mary at Matthew’s grave? Mourning is not something you do Monday and wrap up on Friday. It’s not something you wrap up three or six months from Monday or a year from Monday. Mourning is no joke. It’s a process, and it affects everything. (Which, on a side note, is why people should NEVER go pushing their friends or loved ones into romantic relationships because THEY think enough time has passed.) Widowhood brings out the suitors and kind of forces Mary on to another path. She wants to be whole and well again, but loss means you never will be again. Loss means a different kind of whole and well — but not the one you used to know. So trying to go down that same road will not lead you where you were before. And just because she’s not wearing black on the outside doesn’t mean she isn’t carrying that loss with her in all things. Now, Mary’s screwed up on this road (like I do a lot, so I get that part), but the process is still going on. She’s trying to refocus and get something right again and bam! there’s an explosion that jerks her back to the first car crash that stole her future from her. Which would leave a girl like me thinking maybe relationships just aren’t a good idea after all. So I can’t blame Mary for running. Don’t you LOVE the scene where she retreats to her dark room and leans against the door as she closes it behind her? THAT’S how this feels. She can’t hide from her life forever in that dark room, but she sure wishes she could. It’s safe in there. And nice and dark and cozy. But the mourning won’t go away. The loss won’t leave you alone because you’re hiding. And the process of pressing through the mourning won’t either. It’s a no-win situation except that you really do win on the other side if you just hang on.

She could have chosen to slit her wrists like Thomas after all, couldn’t she?

She could have ignored her well-meaning chauffeur brother-in-law, couldn’t she?

But deep inside she’s still the same girl Matthew married and his love changed. She cannot escape wanting to be what she’s made to be. Whole and well.

Back to the crash. So all of her insides panic and she goes into survival/grief/I hate the world mode. And her bad choices snowball. I know what that’s like. Fear + selfishness + anger = pure internal chaos. It’s not an excuse for her behavior to Edith and Bertie. It’s just that after seeing this episode again I realized we are finally watching her work through her mourning. And by the end of this episode she’s really coming out on the other side. It’s really real. And it’s really cool.

Then there’s Edith. Oh, Edith. That one’s always been a hot mess. How I’ve wanted to root for my fellow ginger, but she’s simply been the sum total of her environment and upbringing. Where was Carson to guide this little sailboat on the rocky waters of life? Edith’s always had third billing out of the three sisters on this show (this includes the ghost of Sybil); nothing expected, nothing attained. Never believing she is taken seriously so she never takes herself seriously. I don’t know about you but that hits a little close to home.

As a viewer it’s also hard to understand why a character who was really starting to find purpose in her life as she served in a hospital in WWI lost all of that purpose and meaning until season six. But I’m very glad she’s got it back. Now, I’m not saying every argument should be a cat fight, but in this episode Edith shows us the importance of telling each other the truth. I’m also not saying that Mary’s character would have cared before, either, but imagine what life at Downton would have been like for the sisters if they’d had this conversation three seasons ago. Mary could have kept Edith’s secret for her as she went away to the Continent and returned with a “ward”…instead of destroying Edith’s relationship with Bertie. Edith could have kept Mary from a week of stupidity with Tony Gillingham and told her not to break it off with Henry. The two of them could have been friends instead of alone. Just because people are related doesn’t mean they have to share everything in common. It does mean that we choose to put each other over everything else. If we don’t cheer for each other, no one else will. There’s just really no one else to count on if we don’t choose to be there for the other person whether they choose the same or not. Amazing how well this tv show relationship nailed us.

Let’s take it a step further. Do we dare take a page out of Edith & Mary’s playbook this week? Are we willing to face the same truth —

“Because in the end you’re my sister. And one day only we will remember Sybil or Mama or Papa or Matthew or Michael or Granny or Carson or any of the others who have peopled our youth…until at last our shared memories will mean more than our mutual dislike.” ~ Edith Crawley

Something to keep in mind the next time we want to stop speaking to someone. Family should grow into friends. And that doesn’t happen by eating magic beans.

If you aren’t in the habit of re-watching, there’s no time like the present — get to it (so you can tell me what you discovered)!

And now for other recap news…

“If anyone had told me that Mary would hitch up with a mechanic and Edith would marry one of the grandest men in England, I’d have knocked them down.” ~ Lord Grantham

The Marquess of Hexham has died in his beloved Africa among his fishermen, leaving no heir. Who will the next Marquess be? Why Bertie, of course!

“If I stay silent, there’s a lie at the heart of my marriage.” ~ Edith Crawley

Good words to apply to much more than just Edith, Bertie and Marigold, right? Edith wants to tell Bertie the truth about Marigold, but every time she takes a step forward she takes two back. And now it becomes an all-out family debate. Should she or shouldn’t she? Of course she should. But she’s also living in a magical candy land if she thinks for one second that Mary’s not working this out. And if Mary works it out at the wrong place at the wrong time — which is of course what happens — then she won’t get to be the one who tells Bertie. Control the story, Editor Edith. Lesson One.

Have you noticed that at work Edith is “Lady Edith” and not “Boss?”

No. 3 Orchard Lane becomes a house of ill repute. Glass of water for Mrs. Patmore. But we all know that our Knight in Shining Armor, Earl of Grantham will come to the rescue. Have you ever seen Mrs. Patmore smile as big as she does for that photograph?

Edith and Mary aren’t the only ones with sibling issues. Donk himself repeatedly snaps at Rosamund…who is actually being helpful. I guess we’re never too old to be childish.

Lord Merton believes Miss Cruikshenk is a very kind and gentle soul. How has he made it this far in life? I’m guessing that could be how he ended up so unhappy in his first marriage…but also how he ended up surviving it. Will Isobel have her happy ending? Oh, please, oh, please, oh, please let us see Larry grovel at her feet before the show ends forever!

“I think if you expect a lot, you get a lot.” ~ Molesley

Molesley starts his new teaching job at the local school. It’s so lovely I’m not going to tell you a thing. Except that kids haven’t changed a bit.

Carson is unhappy about everything in this episode: Patmore’s house of ill repute, Molesley working a second job, Thomas still not finding other employment, and the Crawleys to Mrs. Patmore’s rescue.

“If I have I have only myself to blame. I’ve done sad things. I don’t know why — can’t stop myself. Now I’m paying the price.” ~ Thomas Barrow

Thomas and Mary are sailing the same boat this episode. Thomas decides he’s done with the lot of it, and in a moment of selfish weakness, he slits his wrists in the servant’s bathtub. Fortunately, Baxter puts two and two together and saves the day. Everybody has a second chance in this storyline. Lady Mary and Master George and Carson and Donk all make good on it…but will Thomas? The leaf is entirely his to turn over. Everybody has struggles and sufferings and trials. He’s not getting a pass from me. Will he learn he’s not an island?

“Punch is terribly fierce. I don’t think he’s a good model for marriage in later life.” ~ Mary Crawley

Mary is the Mrs. Bennet of this episode — inappropriate and rude. And that hairdo almost makes her look like an anime character. Tom goes off the deep end trying to save her. He’s done. Hold that Sybil Mirror up a little higher and to the left…that’s it, Tom. Well done.

DUDE. Henry brought a license! What?!? Don’t two people have to be present and consenting to get that? Or is this still Old England or something?

Lady Cora is the Queen of the Episode with her treatment of Bertie upon his arrival at Downton as the new Marquess. His own mom’s cockahoop, you know.

Bertie’s suspicion of Edith is fair, but unfounded. She blames herself, but in all honesty, she did not do anything technically wrong. In spite of her sadness, it’s great to see how much she has grown. On another note, what in the world must Bertie think of Mary after this??

NOT ENOUGH OF THE BATESES AGAIN. My two favorite characters are so neglected this season.

Canne survived Granny. And Denker, apparently.

The wedding at the end feels so very Jane Austen. It has to be my favorite so far. When the vicar wraps their hands together I got goosebumps. As it should be, right? “A cord of three strands…” And in contrast to the last one, there’s not a lot of pomp and circumstance — no carriage, no village parade, so much smooching going on outside the church.

Predictions for the final episode? Will Mary and Edith finally start acting like sisters? Will O’Brien return for a final bow? Will Mary apologize to Bertie and get things mended for Edith? Will George get a sibling of his own? Will we meet Baby Bates? I simply don’t know how much longer I can wait. Let’s do this.

Finale of all things Downton, here we come.

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