Past regret, future aspirations, and fate punctuated the dramatic plot of episode six of Downton Abbey season two last night on Masterpiece Classic.
The end of World War I should bring peace and normalcy back to the residents of Downton, but the Lord of the manor Robert Crawley struggles to find logic in all the change and senseless loss, while his daughter Lady Sybil is determined that her life will never go back to the empty and unproductive existence of a debutant. An interesting development in Matthew’s health changes his prospects in many eyes, and a fatal sickness will level the playing field for Lady Mary. Here is a brief recap from PBS.
Recap of Episode 6 (spoilers)
1919 sees the last of the recovering officers depart Downton, the house is reverted to its former state — but not so its residents. The future looms large for a lost and melancholy Robert, an uneasy Bates, a determined Sybil, a cunning, ambitious Thomas and a desperate Ethel.
A stunning revelation deeply affects Robert and Cora and incites Richard to tighten his grip on Mary. But Mary has accepted her fate with detachment. Violet, however, will do no such thing, and even Carson reaches his limit.
Sybil discovers unlikely, however unenthusiastic, allies. A wedding is planned but fate cruelly intervenes. In its wake lay guilt, grief and, among the servants, fresh horrors.
“Do you ever wonder what it was all for?”
Lord Grantham is very introspective and melancholy to new housemaid Jane, who he seems to be reaching out to. He mentions thirty men killed in the war on his estate alone, coupled with his continued friction with his wife Cora and his three grown daughter’s machinations, and you have one Earl in a midlife crisis. Lord Grantham is very kind hearted, but he does have a temper which we see ignited several times in this episode.
“All this unbridled joy has given me an appetite.” Dowager Countess Violet
As the family all run into the drawing room to witness Cousin Matthew’s miraculous recovery of the use of his legs, and um, well as granny so delicately put it, a happy family life, one wonders out loud how this turn of events will change his value to those in the family who are in favor of Lady Mary still marrying him? Of course the Dowager Countess delivers the best, and most sensible, line to close the ridiculous reactions by all of her family. Unbridled joy indeed! And these are Englishmen? They certainly are not acting like it.
“The truth is, Ethel’s made her choice and now she’s stuck with it.” Lady Mary
“That’s seems a little hard.” Lavinia
“Does it? Aren’t all of us stuck with the choices we make?” Lady Mary
Lady Mary is rather peeved throughout this entire episode. I feel her anger and frustration seeping through her cold reserve in her cynicism. Her caustic remarks are rampant throughout. This ironic statement strikes a sharp cord with her mother Cora and sister, Lady Sybil. Her mother sees that she is striking out in reaction to her own situation. She made the choice to ruin herself by being ‘pamuked’ when she slept with that hunky Turkish diplomat and now she must lie in it. On the other hand, her sister Lady Sybil is about to make a decision with Branson that she will be stuck with. The different reactions by both ladies to Lady Mary’s cold statement tells all.
“Don’t worry. You time will come.” Dowager Countess Violet
“Will it? Or am I just to be the maiden aunt. Isn’t this what they do? Arrange presents for their prettier relations?” Lady Edith
“Don’t be defeatist dear, it’s very middle class.” Dowager Countess Violet
More praise and sympathy for poor Edith. As the lorry pulled away with the last of the hospital equipment in the opening scene, and with it, her job at being useful, I felt a pang of angst for the middle Crawley daughter who just can’t find her place in the world. She seems to always be at everyone’s beck and call, even driving cars and carrying luggage. Now she is responsible for unpacking Matthew and Lavinia’s wedding gifts? Ugh. I am all for Team Edith this season, so, my unsolicited advice to her is to not hang back and wait for people to need you. Go out and find your own happiness Edith. Don’t expect it to come to you, or you will end up that maiden aunt that you are so fearful of becoming.
“Well Mrs. Bates. You’ve had your way with me.” Mr. Bates
“*Giggle*.” Mrs. Bates
We wanted to write about Anna and Bates finally getting married, but we are too nauseous over their one night of connubial bliss, (too much really English white skin and giggling in bed), that we decided to abstain from comment to save our readers the embarrassment too!
“The aristocracy has not survived by its intransigence. We must work with what we’ve got to minimize the scandal.” Dowager Countess Violet
Thank goodness granny chips in a grand one liner at the end of the episode to save the day after Lord Grantham gives his blessing for Lady Sybil to marry Branson the chauffeur. Yes, the aristocracy is stubborn. That is how they survived.
In this packed two hour episode, some older plot lines were resolved and new ones introduced. Screenwriter Julian Fellowes certainly pulled out all the melodramatic stops. As emotions ran from regret, guilt, anger, envy, grief, desire and fear, I wondered what else could possibly have been squeezed into this once classy and well-written corset drama that has now slipped into “so middle-class” territory as granny would say.
Granted, all this highly charged, multiple plot line, melodramatic tosh is intensely entertaining, but I am seriously craving a return to the more sophisticated narrative and character development of season one. I am most disappointed in the trite and sappy character that poor actor Dan Stevens is trying to add some dignity to. Some of the things that come out of Matthew Crawley’s mouth are so, so, silly, that I am embarrassed for him. We were impressed, however, that O’Brien’s bangs and Lady Mary’s eyebrows suffered no harm during this week’s series of incredibly wild events. We hope that next week’s two hour Christmas special will bring all the other lacking elements to right.
Please join us next Sunday for episode 7 of Downton Abbey and live tweet with me as co-moderator of the PBS Twitter Party during the episode on February 19, 2012 at 9:00pm ET and PT. Just use hashtag #DowntonPBS at Twitter or on your favorite Twitter aggregator like Tweetdeck or Tweetgrid.
Episode 7 of the second season airs next Sunday, February 19th at 9:00pm ET & PT (check local listings) on Masterpiece Classic PBS. I will be live Tweeting the entire season, so please join us.
Images courtesy © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE