Monday, February 11, 2013

Series 1: Episode 4

Though the excitement at Downton Abbey has dwindled since the death of Mr. Pamuk, there are still many questions left to be answered within the Downton household. As a result, the theme of loyalty becomes a central thread throughout the course of this episode.

What is more, the annual Downton fair brings a great deal of joy to the servants at Downton. For once, they are allowed to leave their posts as servants to enjoy the simple bliss of the town fair. However, the annual fair becomes problematic when it becomes a means for relationships to develop among some of the characters in the show. For instance, when the town fair is setting up in the beginning of the episode, Lady Mary rekindles her relationship with Matthew Crawley when she admits that she has still not recovered from the death of Mr. Pamuk. Moreover, she assures Matthew that she no longer holds anything against him, and that in actuality it is her stubbornness and frustration with her current situation that makes her so unpleasant.

But the town fair is even more instrumental in the character development of Mrs. Hughes and Daisy. In the previous episode, we learned that Daisy had something of a soft spot for Thomas, the evil and conceited footman. Though it is clear that Thomas does not have any type of attraction towards women, he makes it his mission to compete for Daisy’s attention when he realizes she has a bit of a crush on him. Even though Thomas sees this as a game, the shy and genuine William is clearly upset when Thomas offers to take Daisy to the village fair. My biggest problem with this awkward situation is that Daisy is so naive about Thomas’s sexual preference that she continues to make a fool of herself throughout the entirety of the episode. When this was coupled with her uneducated English accent and her vulgar comments towards William, it was almost too much for me to bear! It seems like Daisy still needs to understand her rank in the hierarchy of servants at Downton.

Mrs. Hughes, on the other hand, reveals a softer side of her character in this episode. Since the beginning of the series, Mrs. Hughes has been somewhat of a private character, but she finally comes into her own when she admits that she had another life before she was employed at Downton. This development in her character is further revealed when she attends the town fair with an old boyfriend. At the end of the night, her old lover asks her to leave her life at Downton to spend the rest of her life with him. For a moment, Mrs. Hughes is torn between the life of a farmer’s wife and the life that she created at Downton as housekeeper. However, she soon realizes that Downton has changed her for the better, and that her career choice at Downton is the relationship she must keep.

Yet another interesting development in this episode is the maturity and growth of Lady Sybil (played by Jessica Brown Findlay). Though at first I thought Lady Mary was my favorite character, in this episode I found that Lady Sybil seemed to have much more substance and curiosity than Lady Mary. Throughout this episode Lady Sybil defines herself as a rebel who is independent from her comfortable and traditional roots. Though she is still loyal to her family, she begins to articulate her passion for politics and women’s rights. Not only is she a strong advocate for women’s rights, but she finds happiness in helping those who are less fortunate than her.  This is further exemplified when she supports Gwen and her desire to leave Downton to become a secretary.

Finally, the key moment when Lady Sybil’s maturity and growth is realized is when she showcases her new frock in front of the Downton family. Instead of choosing a dress that would follow traditional feminine lines, Lady Sybil chose an outfit with pants! Elegant upper-crust women are never seen in pants! (or at least in comparison to the rest of the women in this period drama) This is a scandalous move on Sybil’s part, but it fully illustrates her desire to defy convention. In my opinion, the best part about this scene is Countess Violet’s facial expression..she looks both surprised and horrified! Perhaps this refreshing choice of clothing is too much for the women of Downton.

Overall, this was an excellent episode, as it further developed many of the characters in the PBS television series. Though the town fair seemed to be the key player in the development of several relationships, the most exhilarating portion of this episode was Lady Sybil’s rebellious display of women’s pants. Jessica Brown Findlay’s performance in this episode was a refreshing change in direction for Downton Abbey, and I can’t wait to find out what she comes up with next!