Isobel Crawley’s deep longing for authority creates quite a problem for the Downton family in this episode. The estate has been turned into a convalescent home for wounded soldiers, and Isobel has not wasted any time barking orders at everyone. This creates a bitter ideological divide between Cora and Isobel as Isobel continues to see herself as the new head of the Downton household.
But to be honest, I think Isobel should just be sent away. It is not her fortune or occupation that is maintaining Downton’s existence in the first place. She is lucky to even have the opportunity to live at Downton. If it weren’t for Matthew’s position at Downton, her life would be entirely different. The fact that she sees herself as part of a class that she does not belong to proves to be a central problem in this episode.
Although Isobel Crawley may see herself as the new lady of the house, Lady Sybil and Lady Edith are also doing their fair share to help out with the recovering soldiers. In the beginning of the episode, Lady Edith tells Lady Sybil that she feels useless without the responsibility of helping out on the Drake’s farm. In a memorable scene, Lady Sybil admits to Lady Edith that “it’s doing nothing that is the enemy”. This scene not only displays the maturation of Lady Sybil’s character, but it also encourages Lady Edith to make better use of her time at Downton.
Speaking of the Downton ladies, the Dowager Countess still believes that Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley are still very much in love despite the obstacle of Lavinia Swire. With the help of Lady Rosamund (played by Samantha Bond), the Dowager Countess plots to break up the happy couple by questioning Lavinia’s relationship with Sir Richard Carlisle. Though Lady Rosamund and the Dowager Countess are sure that Lavinia and Carlisle used to be lovers, Lady Mary finds out that Sir Richard Carlisle actually saved Lavinia’s reputation by making a deal to forgive her father’s debt. Lavinia’s confession to Lady Mary is probably the most thrilling part of the episode. For it not only diminishes Lavinia’s innocent persona, but it also creates a mutual friendship between her and Lady Mary.
Downstairs, Ethel and Daisy are also experiencing the harsh realities of war. Ethel, the troublesome housemaid has made it her new mission to inappropriately flirt with the wounded officers. Although she is warned by Mrs. Hughes and Anna to stop her shameful behavior, she continues to flirt with Major Bryant. I still haven’t decided what I think about Ethel’s character, but I think something terrible might happen to her in the future if she continues to act in such a reckless manner. In the kitchen however, Daisy is terrified by the fact that William might propose to her when he comes to visit Downton. The beloved Mrs. Patmore warns Daisy that she cannot send William off to war with a broken heart, so she must accept his proposal even if she does not plan on actually marrying him. This creates an internal conflict for Daisy as she is torn between her own feelings and the responsibility of lifting Matthew’s spirits.
Though the Downton household has clearly transformed since the beginning of the war, many of the characters are still fighting their own battles at home. For example, although Lady Mary and Lavinia may now see eye to eye, I still think there is a hidden possibility for Matthew and Lady Mary to rekindle their relationship. Daisy’s forced engagement to William at the end of the episode has also changed Daisy’s character as she will never have the freedom to fully leave the Downton kitchen. Furthermore, Mr. Lang’s shell shock also proves to be a problem as he can no longer perform his duties as Lord Grantham’s valet. Due to all of these conflicts within the Downton household, it seems as if the war will only bring more change to the English estate.
Overall, the acting in this episode was excellent especially from Maggie Smith who always seems to have an opinion about everything. Also, I really liked the elegant hats in this episode, specifically Lady Rosamund’s and Countess Violet’s. I can’t wait to watch for more of these sophisticated costumes in the future!