There is nothing like the Christmas season to bring out the best and worst in relationships. It was the perfect setting for the finale of season two of Downton Abbey on Masterpiece Classic PBS last night. Packed with resolution and romance, we were treated to couples grappling for love and others smoothing out rough patches.
We were very happy to see screenwriter Julian Fellowes return to the more sophisticated, AND interesting, sphere of personal relationships to wrap up this tumultuous, and at times outrageous, second season. Here is brief synopsis from PBS:
Recap of Episode 7 (spoilers ahead)
Christmas 1919 reunites most of the Grantham family as Lady Rosamund, her gossipy maid Shore in tow, arrives eager to introduce her new suitor to the family. But neither the Granthams nor the servants can escape into the season’s merriment when they are forced to turn against one of their own. Not even games can pierce the gloom surrounding Downton, where downstairs the servants are desperate for guidance. Thomas and O’Brien are up to their old tricks, Daisy tries to make sense of her future, and Anna holds tight to endure the present.
Robert hopes that the annual New Years Shooting Party will lift everyone’s spirits, but an ill-tempered Richard resets his sights on a familiar target. His petulant and brutish efforts to dominate Mary do not go unnoticed. But with his threat hanging over her head, Mary must choose between two kinds of ruin.
“My husband is on trial for his life Mrs. Hughes. Oh course I worry.” Anna
As we mentioned earlier, we had a hunch that the murder trial of Lord Grantham’s valet Mr. Bates would not go well. Fellowes would never miss an opportunity to make him the victim. It is a sad business, and we predict we have not heard the last of it.
“I couldn’t bear for you to thinks that we might…take up together again. When of course we can’t… you see the thing is. I am far too old for you…And now, I’m a cripple. I don’t need a wife, I need a nurse.” Sir Anthony Strallen
But, but, Sir Anthony. Edith could be both, silly dunderhead. We are very happy to see Edith taking the initiative and reconnecting with her neighbor Sir Anthony Strallen. Even granny got into the scheme, but sadly had reservations once she learned that he had been injured. Get real granny. Most eligible men died in the War. We now know the real reason why Edith learned to drive. He may not have use of his right arm any longer, but he is still a good catch Edith. Go for it.
“There is something I should tell you.” Lord Hepworth
“I hope it is nice.” Lady Rosamund
“No. Not particularly nice.” Lord Hepworth
It is interesting that Fellowes chose to introduce the other side of the aristocracy after the war; those who were ruined. Lord Hepworth’s loss of fortune, and the family estates, was more common than not. That way of life would never be the same after the Great War. Those who survived, like the Crawley family, were dependent on new industry, or new money, to continue their way of life. It would only get worse.
“You don’t have to marry him. You don’t have to marry anyone. You’ll always have a home here as long as I am alive.” Matthew
“Didn’t the war teach you never to make promises? And, anyway, you are wrong. I do have to marry him.” Lady Mary
Mary is right to be skeptical of Matthew’s offer. Being a maiden aunt, or cousin in her case, is precarious at best. It is kind of Matthew to give Mary the assurance that she has other options than to marry without love, but if she chose to take him up, her life would be so much different than what she expected for herself. Who would want to watch your former love interest raising a family with another woman? She wouldn’t last a week.
“Say something, if it’s only goodbye.” Lady Mary
“Go or stay, you must sack Carlisle. It isn’t worth buying off a month of scandal with a lifetime of misery.” Matthew
Lady Mary dropped the Pamuk bomb. Worse than the trenches in the war Matthew? Will he forgive her, or won’t he? Is this end?
“What on earth is the matter?” Dowager Countess Violet
“I am leaving in the morning Lady Grantham. I doubt we will meet again.” Sir Richard
“Do you promise?” Dowager Countess Violet
Best granny line of the night. Just the perfect reply!
“You mean you have forgiven me?” Lady Mary
“No, I haven’t forgiven you.” Matthew
“Well then.” Lady Mary
“I haven’t forgiven you, because I don’t believe you need my forgiveness.” Matthew
Well Matthew. I am quite put out that you let a lady shiver in the snow in her evening frock without giving her your dinner jacket, but, I will forgive you since it ended with you on one knee. We are happy to say that there is a cowboy in America who is really bummed since Lady Mary will not be at the rodeo.
Upstairs entanglements: While, it ONLY took two seasons and eleven episodes to finally bring heir Matthew Crawley and Lady Mary together, we were happy none-the-less. They deserve each other: each with their hang-up’s canceling each other’s out quite nicely. We were also introduced to a new amour of the older generation that at first impression appeared promising, but their defects could not be overlooked. Lady Rosamund Painswick’s beau Lord Hepworth looked great in Burke’s Peerage, but with the help of that super sleuth, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, who is really the relationship whisperer of Downton, you know, and the observant housemaid Anna, we learn the nasty truth. On the other hand, we were very pleased to see that Lady Edith took our advice and sought out her own happiness by reconnecting with her former beau, Sir Anthony Strallen. Go #TeamEdith! And, there is nothing like a near death experience to put all to right in the romance department. No one expects the Spanish Flu, but almost losing Lady Grantham to the grim reaper has done wonders for the floundering, mid-life crisis inflicted Lord Grantham. He and his lady seem to have rekindled their affections enough for her to feel confident to wheedle his approval for their newly married, rebel, expat, daughter Lady Sybil off in Ireland making babies. Nothing like a grandchild to cement burned bridges, ehh?
Downstairs the most interesting non-romantic couple, footman Thomas and lady’s maid O’Brien, continue their smoking sessions, scheming and sarcasm. Though, even the evil bangs are getting tired of Thomas and his blunderings. Ha! The most gripping plot of this episode was Mr. Bates’ murder trial. We had a feeling this would not end well. The scenes of his wife Anna at the trial, (conveniently moved to York), and the rest of the household’s reactions to being called to testify against their fellow servant were harrowing. Even evil O’Brien was uncomfortable and showed concern! Personally, we still think Sir Richard ‘Murdock’ Carlisle had Vera Bates done in to protect Lady Mary. Just sayin’. On another front, we were happy that Dithering Daisy got scammed by Mrs. Patmore into thinking that her dead husband (of six hours) William was speaking to her from beyond the grave through the parlor game planchettes (Ouija board in the US), telling her to go see his father on the farm. She did. It went well, so maybe we can put this plot to bed please.
We are greatly relieved that this episode saw the return of more sanity to the plot lines and tone of the narrative. As always, Granny Crawley got all the best zingers. That “do you promise” line might equal her “what is a week-end” in popularity. It was a perfectly timed putdown to that cretin Sir Richard ‘Murdock’ Carlisle. The most disappointing part of the scene was that we did not get to see his face when she delivered it. We thought that Julian Fellowes tied up the important bits regarding romance, (except #TeamEdith), and left the plot with Mr. Bates and Anna dangling for us to fester over for another year. Yes, season three of Downton Abbey is currently in production. It will air first in the UK this fall and in the US in January 2013. Sorry American Downtonites; we are still being punished for that radical revolution of 1776.
Overall, it was a fabulous season at Downton Abbey. Here are my predictions for season 3. Mary and Matthew’s wedding is a given, but there are still romantic possibilities for Lady Edith. Surely Julian Fellowes will not let her remain unattached? Will she form an alliance with reluctant neighbor Sir Anthony Strallen, or will Edith be given a new amore? Maybe she will find a career. Race car driver? What about that creepy usurper Patrick Gordon/Crawley? I don’t think we have heard the last of him. And, what happened to Lady Rosamund’s two children, Lavinia and Cyril? I hope we get to meet them. I fear that they will kill off Branson since he has basically served his purpose. If so, Sybil will move back to Downton with her children. Yes, there will be more than one by then.
Whatever they throw at us, including Shirley Maclaine as Cora’s American mother, it will be pure torture to wait. See you next year Downtonites.
Images courtesy © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE; text Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com