Brides, bickering, and retrenching fuel the major plots in the 2nd episode of season 3 of Downton Abbey tonight, challenging almost every member of the household—upstairs and down. Here is a brief recap of the sufferings of the toffs and the ones who wait on them.
Recap of Episode 2 (spoilers)
The Crawley family and staff are in high gear in preparation for Lady Edith’s wedding to neighbor Sir Anthony Strallen. Mary and Matthew’s ongoing disagreement over his reluctance to receive the fortune that Reggie Swire (his deceased fiancée’s father) has left him causes conflict for the newlyweds. The money could save Downton from financial ruin, but his honor and guilt will not allow him to accept it. Because of the loss of the family fortune, Lord Grantham must plan for the future which includes selling Downton and moving to another one of their other estates, a smaller manor house in the north that Lady Grantham has cheerfully names Downton Place. Edith and Anthony have their own Waterloo at the altar, *queue Abba theme song*, while Matthew conquers his own demons and acquiesces to his wife’s insistence that he accept a “bloody” fortune after she learns that Lavinia sent a letter from her deathbed to her father commending his love for her. *sigh*
The feud between valet Thomas and lady’s maid O’Brien continues after last week’s missing dress shirt incident orchestrated by O’Brien embarrassed Thomas in the eyes of his lordship and the staff. To retaliate, Thomas unjustly alludes to valet Mr. Mosely that O’Brien’s position will soon be available. Lady Grantham is caught unawares that O’Brien is leaving when Mosely recommends a family member for the job. Butler Mr. Cason suspects that Mrs. Hughes is seriously ill and tricks both Dr. Clarkson and the cook Mrs. Patmore into revealing more information about her possible cancer. Concerned for Mrs. Hughes’ condition, Carson reveals her illness to Lady Grantham who is then faced with the loss of O’Brien, Mrs. Hughes and her home at the same time. Lady’s maid Anna travels to London to investigate a lead to help free her husband John Bates wrongfully imprisoned for the crime of killing his wife Vera, but her neighbor Mrs. Bartlett, does not offfer anything useful. A fellow prisoner tips Bates off to a search of his cell, allowing him to discover contraband planted by his cell-mate to frame him.
“So this is the moment when you receive a huge fortune to save Downton and you give it away.” – Lady Mary
Guilt and pride often get in the way of what is obviously the right choice in our lives. (Based on Matthew’s continued reactions, one wonders out loud if he was secretly raised Catholic?) This is wholly evident for the future heir of Downton Abbey who still thinks his poor fiancée died of a broken heart after seeing him kiss Mary. I think we need a heavenly miracle to fix this problem.
“It must be strange to receive a letter from a dead man.” – Mr. Charkhum
“It’s very strange.” – Matthew Crawley
It is just plain weird! The miracle has arrived! This is the ultimate deus ex machina to resolve the guilt/pride problem for Matthew. It is highly implausible that Reggie Swire would write a letter to all three of his successive heirs in the event that one of them succeeded the other—but this is a television drama, not real life—so we must just run with it.
“Vulgarity is no substitute for wit.” – Lady Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham
The Dowager Countess did not get much screen time this episode, but she did get few good zingers in all the same.
“You don’t have to leave. I’ll explain it later. I’m going to give you Reggie’s money. I’ll accept it and I’ll give it to you.” – Matthew Crawley
Who would have thought that Daisy delivering a letter written by Lavinia Swire on her deathbed would save the day? Not me. Double deus ex machina! When writers resort to this sort of plot device, they lose credibility with me. Please, please Mr. Fellowes, don’t’ resurrect Lavinia because her death was just a dream sequence!
“Everything all right Miss O’Brien?” – Thomas
“Oh yes. Everything is right with me. But, it will be all wrong with you before too long, mark my words.” – O’Brien
And…we’re off to the races!
At one point in this highly angst ridden episode Lady Grantham attempted to comfort her daughter with a bit of wisdom.
“You are being tested. And, you know what they say my darling? Being tested only makes you stronger.”
It seemed that everyone in episode 2 was tested—personally, financially or emotionally. It was interesting to see how each of them dealt with it, but it also caused a lot of frustration for this Downtonite. We realize that the writer is building up conflicts to carry us through five more episodes, but, really? I struggled with some of the logic of the confrontations – and there are so many!!!
My first grievance is with the story line of poor Anna and Bates. Every scene with them at the prison feels like a ground hog day rewind. Here they are again seated at a table, facing each other in a dimly lit room. The outcome of the conversation is the same: Bates is pessimistic. Anna is optimistic. Will she find the evidence to clear him of the crime of killing his wife? Enough already. Either let her find it, or kill Bates off, because this is boring me to death.
Secondly, I am not convinced with the Matthew and Mary conflict. If he is so guilt ridden over causing the death of his fiancée Lavinia that he will not accept the fortune that her father has left him, how could he marry the woman that caused the rift in the first place? One would think that he let that go to marry Mary, but I guess not. What results is a bicker-fest between newlyweds that is just no fun. It makes Matthew look like a wimpy sod and Mary a shrew. I was relieved to see him move beyond it because Mary learns that Daisy did indeed post the letter Lavinia wrote on her deathbed *cough, cough* allowing Matthew to accept the money to save Downton.
Thirdly, O’Brien and Thomas are now adversaries? After the evil dynamic duo of Downton schemed and plotted and contrived for two seasons, now they are enemies because of O’Brien wants her nephew Alfred the footman to be a valet? I’m not buying it.
Fourthly, we travel with the Crawley family for a picnic at an estate in the north that they own and are moving to after they are forced out of Downton. They are all grumbling (expect Lady Grantham the American) at the need to retrench to a less grand style of life. I was expecting a hovel on the moors, but what we are shown is a gorgeous English country house with extensive grounds. WHAT? Then, Lady Violet asks where SHE will live, because goodness know she cannot live with them, and Lord Grantham states that they also own most of the town! *falls off sofa* This is what aristocrats feel is poverty? Big mistake Mr. Fellowes. All of the empathy you had established for the ruling class just went up in a giant plume of purple smoke. I was surprised that the Irish republican son-in-law Branson did not go off on a tirade. What was the point of the scene? You just squashed the fairytale. Let’s hope we just forget it, or better yet, it was a dream sequence.
Lastly, poor Edith. We could go on forever about #TeamEdith, but shan’t. Someone needs to remove the pins from that Edith voodoo doll that Mary has hidden in her lingerie drawer. Seriously! Does being the least pretty daughter really condemn one to a life of misery and ridicule? How shallow. Will they ever let her find a little happiness?
Okay, now that I have vented my spleen, I am still glued to the screen and anxiously awaiting episode 3 next Sunday, January 20th. What did you all think of episode 2?
Images courtesy © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE; text © Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com