This episode could have been called Downer Abbey, or Death Comes to Downton. For the war has finally started to touch this estate in more palpable ways.
We open with Cousin Matthew and William at Amiens, and instead of a fakeout like the last episode, this time they really are in danger. Matthew gets sent to the village while Granny Violet even uses the telephone in order to get William moved to Downton. That scene of her using the newfangled contraption was so cute – who doesn’t want a granny like her?
I expected William to die since last season since his type of character always dies in these kinds of stories. Fellowes did not disappoint. I was very uncomfortable with the Daisy-William storyline since I don’t think it’s funny to coerce a girl into marriage, even if it might be the one thing keeping a man going during wartime. And even up till his death I still was on Daisy’s side – she’s grown up quite a lot since the first season when she had her misguided crush on Thomas. Still, how could you hate William when he was just thinking of providing for Daisy once he was gone (not to mention that his overly garlanded marriage/death-bed made him look like Sir John Everett Millais’ Ophelia). And it’s always nice to see people cheat the government.
I actually think William had it easier than Matthew who suffered a spinal injury, rendering him impotent and unable to walk. Is the Crawley line cursed? At first I thought that Matthew’s marriage would go the Lady Chatterley’s Lover route, but Matthew released Lavinia from the engagement. I’m still not sure whether they were ever really in love. With Lavinia and Daisy, I wonder why Fellowes seems to like the idea of the virgin-wife. I actually don’t want to wonder about that. But Cousin Isobel came back, and it’s a testament to how much I felt for Matthew that I welcomed her return since I was glad that he had this comfort.
When Lady Mary wasn’t being an exemplary nurse to Matthew (Isn’t it ironic that of the three Crawley sisters Sybil is probably the worst nurse? She should just run away with Branson – do us all a favor), she was dealing with the continued fallout from her indiscretion with Pamuk (hate him). Since Mrs. Bates turned up again, Lady Mary boldly decided to go to Sir Richard for help. Although he ribbed her about the affair, I think he actually likes her the better for it. And so they are engaged.
I’ve actually become something of a fan of Sir Richard, despite his not knowing which tweeds to wear and generally being a social climber. I admit I have a weakness for the unscrupulous, rakish, and scrappy newspaper man (like Gail Wynand from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead or Clark Gable’s Peter Warne from It Happened One Night), but really, it was hard not to appreciate the publisher when he put Mrs. Bates in her place. That was pretty satisfying. We’ll see what kind of man he turns out to be.
I think Miss O’Brien might turn out to be another formidable foe for Mrs. Bates because she feels guilty for having sicced that woman on Downton in the first place. I thought the scenes between her and Thomas were so funny – like squabbling siblings. I don’t even mind anymore that it looks like they won’t get theirs since they have grown up a little. They should use their powers for good from now on. And with Miss O’Brien and Thomas on their side, Mr. Bates and Anna should probably be married very soon.
There was one thing that made me a little worried this episode: the new maid, Jane Moorsum. She might be lying about being a war widow just like Ethel, but I’m more worried that she has her sights set on the Earl. I didn’t exactly trust her when she “stumbled” upon Grantham alone in his remaining portion of the library, but I could just be paranoid. However, the man is feeling useless and neglected by his super busy wife, so who knows what might happen. So far he’s been portrayed as kind of the ideal aristocrat (Fellowes seems to love this type – he reminds me of Charles Broughton from his novel Snobs) so we’ll see how that holds. But if he does decide to stray, I’m sure Shirley MacLaine, who is set to play Cora’s mother, Martha Levinson, next season, will make him regret it.
It looks like Mary will rethink her engagement in the next episode, but nobody jilts Sir Richard. There is also the appearance of the mysterious bandaged man that I have read so much about. I’m guessing it’s that cousin who was supposed to have died in the Titanic, because who else would be a good, relevant mystery man?
Sidenote: I’m watching this on PBS with Laura Linney hosting. At first I found her strange, but now I think she’s underused. More Laura Linney, I say.