Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Season 2: Episode 4

The year is 1918, and the Downton estate has become a fully functioning convalescent home for wounded officers. The entire household, including Lord Grantham, are doing their best to keep the men’s spirits up while they recover. As a kind gesture to the Downton family, the men have planned to put on a concert in the living room. Though the concert will not take place until the end of the episode, the excitement surrounding the event is central to the episode’s theme of moving forward.

Aside from the excitement of the concert, the transformation of the Downton estate into a convalescent home has  also changed the dynamics of the estate forever. Although Lady Mary and Lady Edith never seemed to be cut out for hard labor, both of them have found purpose in helping the wounded soldiers. For example, in the beginning of the episode, Lady Edith is found helping the recovering soldiers write letters to their loved ones at home. Not only does this specific scene highlight Lady Edith’s transformation into a young woman, but it also brings attention to her passion for writing.

However, the Crawley sisters are not the only ones helping out on the estate. Cora and Isobel Crawley are both equally in charge of running Downton. Unfortunately, the two women continue to argue over who has greater power over running the estate. In a heated argument, Isobel expresses that she no longer feels valued and useful at Downton. She accuses Cora of never having a real profession, and threatens to leave the estate to help out the Red Cross in France. Cora welcomes the idea, and sends Isobel away. I can’t express how much I think this drastic change will help the Downton family in the future. With Matthew away at war, perhaps the absence of Isobel will allow the Crawley’s to move forward with their lives.

But the war is breaking down many other barriers. Branson, the chauffeur, has expressed his love for Lady Sybil, and he tells her that he’ll stay at Downton until she decides to run away with him. This scene is somewhat alarming as Branson fully intends to take everything away from Lady Sybil. He obviously loves her, but one must consider whether he can be trusted. In past episodes, Branson’s character has been a bit mischievous. For Sybil’s sake, I hope she comes to an intelligent decision before she decides to give up her affluent lifestyle forever. In a memorable scene from this episode, the Dowager Countess also warns Lady Sybil about her relations with Branson. The Dowager cleverly says, “Sometimes in war one can make friendships that are not appropriate, and they can be very awkward later on.” Whatever Sybil decides, this brief exchange of dialogue makes the relationship between Branson and Lady Sybil something to watch in future episodes.

Although Lady Sybil may feel like her entire family disapproves of her relations with Branson, Lady Mary is beginning to feel as if no one disapproves of her relationship with Matthew. Last episode, Sir Richard Carlisle proposed to Lady Mary. Though she plans to accept the offer, Lord Grantham seems to think that there is still a chance for her and Matthew. What is worse, when Lady Mary speaks about Richard Carlisle to her family, everyone seems to ask about Matthew instead. This conflict only grows when William and Matthew are reported missing. For what seems to be the entire second half of the episode, Lady Mary and the rest of the Downton household nervously wait for their safe arrival. 

To add even more fuel to the fire, the servants downstairs also seem to be fighting their own war. Ethel, the rebellious new housemaid, claims to be in need of a new adventure. Though she constantly talks about what she will do once she leaves her responsibilities at Downton, no one is prepared for the adventure she finds upstairs. One night, while Mrs. Hughes is walking around the house, she hears a noise and opens the door to one of the bedrooms. To her surprise, she finds Ethel and Major Bryant having sex in the bedroom. Ethel is fired immediately, but she doesn’t waste too much time making herself useful as she returns almost instantly to tell Mrs. Hughes that she is pregnant.  But Ethel is not the only housemaid that is having some trouble. Although Anna knows that Mr. Bates is working in Yorkshire, the rest of the Downton family has no idea that the beloved Mr. Bates is working in a pub. When Lord Grantham finds out about this, he immediately goes to visit Mr. Bates and asks him to come back to Downton. With Mr. Bates back at Downton, you would think that everything would go back to normal, but there is still a great deal of drama in the downstairs kitchen. 

When the night of the concert finally arrives, the central theme of moving forward is finally brought to a an elegant close. Although no one has heard about Matthew and William, all of Downton’s worries seem to evaporate as Lady Edith and Lady Mary sing for the wounded soldiers. While Lady Mary and Lady Edith are singing, Matthew and William enter the living room. To everyone’s surprise, the two men are completely unharmed, and Mary can’t help but stare at Matthew. When Matthew notices that Lady Mary has stopped singing, he joins her in finishing the rest of the song. This was a wonderful conclusion to such an eventful episode. In the final moments of this episode, we are given hope that Matthew and Lady Mary may one day end up together. As for the rest of the characters, only time will tell how they will adjust to the rest of the changes that war will bring to Downton. 

To read the PBS synopsis of this week’s episode, click here.