Monday, February 25, 2013

Series 1: Episode 6

Controlling Lady Sybil’s unique passion for politics is not the only fear that haunts Lord and Lady Grantham in this episode.
Downton Abbey is still recovering from the death of Mr. Pamuk, and Lady Mary has not accepted any offers of marriage. What is worse, Countess Violet has heard the truth about Mr. Pamuk’s death, and she is now skeptical about the other secrets the Crawley family may be hiding.
Lady Sybil tries to keep her support for women’s rights a secret, but she is caught in the act by Tom Branson, the chauffeur. When Branson finds out that Lady Sybil is actually attending a political rally, he begs her to return home at once. If Lord and Lady Grantham found out that their youngest daughter had participated in a political rally, they would be mortified. But Lady Sybil swears that she will make her thoughts and opinions heard.
Though Lady Sybil’s confidence and ambition for politics is admirable, perhaps it is misplaced. In the middle of the episode, she is injured when she attends a second political meeting. Though she has dreams to become politically active, her situation in life does not support her desire to become part of the public cause.  Since I share a similar passion for politics, I enjoy following Lady Sybil and her struggle to defy convention. However, I’m interested to see if in future episodes her love for politics clashes with her inherited duty at Downton.
Unfortunately, Lord Grantham finds out about his youngest daughter’s strong interest in politics. When Lady Sybil is injured at the second political meeting, Lord Grantham claims that active participation in politics is distasteful and highly unsuitable for a young lady. Not only is Lord Grantham unsupportive of Sybil’s liberal causes, but he sincerely believes in the traditional aristocratic structure of English life.
As a result, my favorite part of the episode occurs when Lord Grantham reveals his anger toward Branson for taking Lady Mary to the rally. When speaking with Lady Grantham he argues, “If it had not been left to that bloody fool Branson……. You should see what he reads, it’s all Marx and Ruskin, and John Stuart Mill.” This quote alone reveals what Lord Grantham really thinks about the equality of conditions in the early twentieth century.
But thanks to Matthew Crawley and a rare moment of sincerity from Lady Mary, Lord Grantham decides to keep Branson employed at Downton Abbey. While Lady Sybil recovers from her fall, the excitement surrounding Lady Sybil’s accident also reignites the flame between Matthew and Lady Mary. This is probably the most exciting part of the episode, because perhaps both the fate of Matthew and Lady Mary’s relationship has been determined. The two characters even show some affection towards one another, which is something that has not really been shown in previous episodes!
Another beloved character of Downton that reveals a vulnerable side throughout the episode is Mr. Bates. Though Mr. Bates is back at work downstairs, he confesses to Mr. Carson that he was once a drunk and imprisoned for being a thief. Though Thomas and Mrs. O’ Brien try to use this information against Bates, Bates offers his resignation out of respect for the Downton household.  
Though there are still some obvious troubles to be solved at Downton Abbey, this episode brilliantly captured certain historical developments in twentieth century England.  In addition, this use of history also helped to develop many of the characters in the show. Though I am also excited that the episode ended with Matthew Crawley’s proposal to Lady Mary, I still wonder whether she will actually end up marrying the man she swore never to love.

For further analysis on this exciting episode please click here.