For those watching the second season of Downton Abbey on Masterpiece Classic last night, the fields of France were not the only place where bombs were dropping! Episode three was an eye popper, full of confrontations, shocking surprises, unrequited love, and ingenious plot twists worthy of the best Agatha Christie crime novel.
Recap Episode Two (spoilers)
Downton is deep into aiding the WWI effort by converting its hallowed halls of the aristocracy into a convalescent hospital for wounded officers. Lady Grantham and Cousin Isobel Crawley are co-admins of this altruistic endeavor, and like two bulls locked at the horn, fought for power of its management, while daughters Ladies Mary, Edith and Sybil assist with caring for the recuperating soldiers. Mary, granny and Aunt Rosamund dig deeper into Matthew’s fiancé Lavinia’s background, while downstairs Mrs. Patmore pressures the scullery maid Daisy into accepting William’s affections before he leaves for the front, and Anna and Bates are re-united when Lady Mary discovers him working in a pub in a nearby village. Matthew returns to Downton from the trenches and brings his “candle in the wind” fragile fiancé Lavinia to Downton where she reveals her past association with Mary’s beau, Sir Richard Carlisle to her. Matthew departs for the front kissing his fiancé’s hand while Lady Mary watches with regret. If she had not taken aunt Rosamund’s advice and refused his first proposal, it could be her hand that he is honoring. Here is a brief synopsis from PBS.
It is 1918 and Mary’s new alliance has aroused Violet’s interest in matters of suitability and love. With Sybil in mind, the Dowager Countess declares, “war breaks down barriers and when peacetime re-erects them, it’s very easy to find oneself on the wrong side.” Indeed, among war’s greatest casualties at Downton are the prescribed roles and class boundaries. Thomas is exerting his authority over the servants with aplomb; Mrs. Patmore, Daisy and Mrs. Bird are cooking up a little something on the side; and Ethel has discovered an age-old way to support the war effort. But between Robert and Bates, faith and loyalty transcend class, offering hope when Robert needs it most. Because now, the war has threatened a far more serious casualty.
“Edith has it under control.” Lady Grantham
Wow. The Jan Brady of Downton Abbey is on the move. Lady Edith has always been the “pickle in the middle” – that awkward middle child who could never seem to get it together. Her relationship with her older sister was lethal, her parents just ignore her in comparison to all the attention Mary and Sybil receive, and her attempts at romance have been going after Lady Mary’s leftovers, or horrifically making the moves on a local married farmer. Ack! Poor Edith. Like her family we love/hate her, yet in this episode in every scene she is portrayed as competent, reliable and compassionate; even to her elder sister, and arch enemy, Lady Mary! For those on Team Edith, this is indeed a welcome turn of character.
“And this is your beau?” Dowager Countess Violet
“He lives in a tough world.” Lady Mary
“And will you be joining him there?” Dowager Countess Violet
Whenever the Dowager Countess of Grantham and Lady Mary put their heads together for a tête-à-tête, we know that there will be a conflict of old Victorian mores and new modern Edwardian values. This always results in granny pelting out one-line zingers that pucker up her face and ours: hers in disapproval; ours in cringed laughter. Actress Maggie Smith who portrays DC Violet is a national treasure!
“Of course it would be foolish of me to accuse you of being unprofessional since you have never had a profession in your life.” Mrs. Crawley
Emotions run high at Downton with the administration of the convalescent hospital at odds between Lady Grantham and Cousin Isobel. We are witness to an intense, terse, and emotionally charged smack down of these to adversaries thrown together under the egress of the war. One must say out loud, that we were very disappointed that it did not end in a cat fight in the fountain, but it was very enjoyable all the same. We advise Cousin Isobel not to let the grand front door hit her on her way out.
“The truth is, I will stay at Downton until you want to run away with me.” Branson
The trying non-romance between Lady Sybil and the chauffeur Branson is feeling as doomed as Romeo and Juliet without any of the passion. He declares his love and asks her to run away with him. Shades of an elopement to Gretna Green, which we know from any Jane Austen novel, always ends in disaster. Oh Branson, you dreamboat in the making. Let’s get practical. Do you want Sybil because you truly love her, or is the notion of stealing one of the daughters of aristocracy so exciting to your socialist sensibilities that it has blinded your judgment? How could this ever work? I am a tried and true romantic, but I throw up the red flag of caution to Lady Sybil here. He’s not for you deary.
“Don’t speak ill of Mr. Lang.” O’Brien
“You’re a funny one. Talk about sweet and sour.” Thomas
We know that we are in for some great skullduggery when O’Brien and Thomas put their heads together for a smoke break. But, one does not expect to hear kindness from the evil one. What’s up? Does O’Brien have a thing for Lord Grantham’s former valet Mr. Lang who is suffering from shell shock? Why is she defending him to Thomas? I smell a future romance for O’Brien, if that could EVER be possible. Naugh. What’s was I thinking?
“It’s like living at a second rate hotel where the guests just keep arriving and no one seems to leave.” Dowager Countess, Violet
Stuck at Hotel California granny? More truth to your previous statement about being locked in a W. G. Wells novel. We sympathize, but worry that The Eagles might want credit on that line.
“Watch yourself Mr. Bates. Thomas is in charge now and it won’t do to get on the wrong side of him.” O’Brien
“Is there a right side?” Mr. Bates
Indeed. Best factual statement so far. Glad that someone finally said it.
Many of the residents of this stately grand manor house are contemplating their place at Downton. It appears that everyone, but saintly housemaid Anna and former valet Mr. Bates, had their knickers in a knot: cat fight showdowns, begrudged departures, revelations about beaus, scheming, plotting, and skullduggery galore, loved ones missing in action, sex in the storeroom, and a shocking final reveal. Even granny, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, was in competition for some of the best zingers of the night. Phew. I am breathless by it all.
What was so enthralling about this episode was the amount of new information, new twists, and resolutions we were fed. I felt like I was at a carb loading party before a marathon. Just when one thinks that the plots is bursting at the seams with drama and pathos, screenwriter Julian Fellowes adds another layer.
What did you think of this episode? I thought it the best yet. I always love the second act of an opera. The plot builds and we are dying to know who will be killed, who will live, and who will be married. Well, we have another 4 episodes before the fat lady sings on this season, so please check back weekly for my recaps and reviews.
Images courtesy © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2014, Austenprose.com