Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Season 2: Episode 7

The Downton estate has returned to normal now that the war is finally over. Though the house is no longer functioning as a convalescent home for wounded soldiers, there are still some obvious wounds that still need to be healed. Lord Grantham seems to have lost his way during the war, and now his damaged ego is also starting to destroy his marriage. In the beginning of the episode, this becomes painfully evident, when Lord Grantham’s relationship with Jane suddenly explodes with a lustful kiss. Even though Jane seems to be completely humiliated over this indiscretion, the sexual tension between the two characters will clearly have some disastrous consequences in the future. 

Speaking of harmful relationships, Sir Richard Carlisle is also starting to rush Lady Mary into marriage before she is ready. In the beginning of the episode, he corners Anna and asks her to spy on Lady Mary. Essentially, he wants to “know more about her interests, where she goes, and whom she sees”- anything she does when she is alone. In my opinion, the fact that he is so worried about Lady Mary’s whereabouts only highlights his jealousy over her close relationship with Matthew. Lady Mary and Sir Richard Carlisle have nothing in common, except for the fact that they are both tortured souls- however, spying on her doesn’t seem to be the correct approach  to win her affection.

Thus, Lady Mary’s development as a character throughout the course of the show is yet another major theme of this episode.  The loyal Mr. Carson still plans on leaving Downton to take care of Lady Mary when she marries Sir Richard Carlisle, but he admits to Mrs. Hughes that he is completely against their marriage. Mrs. Hughes doesn’t seem to care for Lady Mary’s uppity and cold personality, but Mr. Carson protests that Lady Mary wasn’t always so unwelcoming. In his opinion, Lady Mary’s indifferent manner has evolved from a variety of experiences that she has witnessed since she was a child. Deep down however, Mr. Carson believes that Lady Mary has a kind and compassionate soul. This unknown side of Lady Mary’s personality however can only come to fruition if she decides to spend the rest of her adult life with the right person.

While Lady Mary continues to struggle in her relationship with Sir Richard Carlisle, Matthew begins to complain that he feels a tingling sensation in his legs. Though Dr. Clarkson has declared that he will never walk again, Matthew is convinced that something odd is happening with his legs. In an exciting scene in the middle of the episode, Matthew suddenly stands up from his wheelchair to help Lavinia when she nearly trips and falls on the floor. This marks a new beginning for the happily engaged couple, as he will clearly be able to lead a completely normal life.

Although the rest of the Crawley family is thrilled with Matthew’s sudden recovery, Lady Mary almost seems disappointed that Matthew has healed. During a beautiful dinner with the entire Downton family, Matthew announces that he will marry Lavinia at Downton in the Spring. Not only does this quick announcement seem to depress Lady Mary, but for a short moment it seems as if the entire Downton household has forgotten her existence. Countess Violet notices the negative effect Matthew’s announcement has on Mary, and secretly tries to convince him that he can love Lady Mary again. She explains that Lavinia’s loving attitude is admirable, but she does not believe that she is the right lifetime partner. The Dowager Countess insists that marriage is a long business, and “when you think of spending several years with these women, you need to make sure you pick the right one.” Unfortunately, Matthew is convinced that Lavinia will be a good wife, and he fully intends on marrying her.
Another major development that occurs in this episode is that Major Bryant’s parents come to visit Downton Abbey. In earlier episodes, Major Bryant had a relationship with Ethel, the housemaid, and wound up getting her pregnant. During the war, Major Bryant was killed, leaving Ethel alone to raise her bastard child. Since Ethel no longer works at Downton Abbey, she no longer has any way to support her baby, Charlie. Mrs. Hughes, in a kind effort to help, invites Major Bryant’s parents to the estate to see the baby. However, Major Bryant’s father wants nothing to do with the child, and insists that his son would have taken care of his own mistake. In my opinion, there really wasn’t any purpose for Ethel’s character to come back on the show. I wholeheartedly agree with Lady Mary’s opinion that Ethel got what she deserved. For the past few episodes, Ethel has done nothing but complain about her current state of affairs, she still has not accepted any responsibility for her child, and she hasn’t even tried to find a decent job. Frankly, Ethel’s character irritates me because it seems as if she is looking for a source of pity-though she had no problem sleeping around, she seems to have a problem raising her own child. Lady Mary captures this tension with Ethel brilliantly when she says “ Aren’t all of us stuck with the choices we make?”
In regards to the idea of making the wrong choices, Sybil has also told Tom Branson that she is ready to run away with him. I haven’t been a fan of this relationship since the very beginning, but Sybil seems to see running away with Tom as the perfect solution to all of her problems. Now that the war is over, Sybil wants to continue working-she does not want to go back to the proper and meaningless life she once led at Downton Abbey. As a result, she runs away from the estate one night leaving nothing but a note on her nightstand. Lady Mary finds the note and rushes off with Lady Edith in the night to prevent Lady Sybil from eloping with Branson. Thankfully, Lady Mary gets to Sybil on time and convinces her to come back to Downton Abbey. Though I don’t think Lady Sybil will stay at the estate for long, I’m relieved that Lady Mary prevented Sybil from making a huge mistake. Even though I don’t support Sybil’s decision to marry Tom, I have to admit I’m kind of excited to see what will happen with this daring pair in the future!

Overall,  this episode was excellent, and I really can’t wait to see what will happen to Sir Richard Carlisle and Lady Mary in the future! There seems to be a great deal of tension between the two, and if Julian Fellows continues to follow his normal trend of throwing in a surprise when all things seem to be going wrong at Downton, then he certainly will in the near future!

For a complete synopsis of this episode click here.