Downton Discussion: What You Need to Know About Episode 5

The second series of Downton Abbey rolled along through its fifth episode this week, bringing with it some good and some bad – but nevertheless all very major - plot twists. As we reach the end of the war, there are adjustments and consequences for all our favorite characters – and it will be incredibly interesting to see how these events shake out over the last few episodes.

Click through for a look at some of the big moments from Downton Episode 5 and a rundown of all my (occasionally run-on) thoughts on the night’s major developments. Chime in with your opinions in the comments – on some of these bigger plot twists, I would dearly love to hear how other people reacted!

SO much to cover this week, so let’s just dive right in.

Don’t Mess with the Dowager (Or, The Return of Irritating Isobel.) Well there went all that goodwill toward Isobel Crawley from last week. Seriously woman, do you have to spend every second of every day of your life nagging someone about how they could be improving themselves? Her crusade to convince the Ladies Grantham that Downton should not go back to being a private residence because it would be so much more useful as some sort of health rehabilitation center was just embarrassing. (And why they would have thought they had to listen to her on this point when it’s not her house in the first place, I’m not sure, but anyway.) However, this little mini-plot was really worth it just for the wonderful scene wherein the Dowager Countess convinces Isobel to take an interest in the unfortunate plight of war refugees by basically throwing out every sad cause she can think of until she hits on one that works. And the moments where she solicited Mosley’s opinion on whatever they were talking about were comedy gold.

Yeah, That Sort of Back From the Dead Amnesia Storyline Really Just Happened. Really, really that just happened? Yeah, it did. To sum up: An unidentified soldier requests a transfer to the convalescent hospital at Downton, claiming a kinship with the Crawley family. The soldier, Major Gordon, arrives at Downton, but he is badly burned and disfigured. He befriends Edith and laments that none of the Crawleys have recognized him yet. Edith looks lost until Major Gordon reveals he is actually Patrick Crawley, the long lost heir to Downton who was presumed dead on the Titanic six years ago. Dun dun dunnnnn. He’s apparently been in Canada all this time with amnesia (and developing a bizarre American accent). The entire family goes nuts arguing over whether Major Gordon’s story could possibly be true, though it appears he himself admits that it is not via his disappearance at the end. Though I’m certainly not ruling out some last minute reappearance down the road.

Other than the fact that I feel utterly awful for poor Edith - who wanted to believe so much in the truth of his identity and clearly loved the real Patrick – after watching her get her dreams crushed yet again (the poor thing really cannot catch a break), I would be fine with pretending this entire subplot never existed. It is way too Edwardian Dynasty for my liking – I prefer Downton as a tremendously clever drama that occasionally has soapy overtones without descending directly into complete cliché. (But, really? Wouldn’t there have been someone in that house capable of recognizing – or not – Patrick’s hair or voice or eyes or teeth or way of walking, even with all the burns?)

Random note: Someone pointed out to me yesterday that this is the same trick that Dick Whitman Don Draper pulls in Mad Men, which I hadn’t realized. And I don’t know why it bothered me so much more here.

UGH. DAISY. Tell the truth – how many times did you yell “SHUT UP, DAISY” at the television? More than four? As a new widow, Daisy’s busy flouncing about the house in what appears to be a permanent snit, snapping at everyone that mentions William and taking random five minutes breaks here and there to lecture everyone about how they’ve made her a liar and pontificating that she did something Very Wrong by being kind to a dying boy that adored her. I really had sort of convinced myself wanted to believe that Daisy realized she had some sort of feelings for William there at the end of his life that made her go through with the wedding, but I suppose that’s been definitely ruled out now. So why did she do it then? Peer pressure? I have no idea, but I do know that I can’t take another episode of her inability to see that giving William some peace was more important than her supposedly ironclad moral scruples. 

Wherein I Rant About My Ongoing Hatred For This Sybil and Branson Storyline.  I’ve given up on trying to make the Sybil/Branson romance work for me. I really really want to like them. They’re so pretty together and I am generally a total sucker for these “forbidden love/struggling to be together despite the clash of our class backgrounds” types of storylines. But I just can't anymore.

This week, Sybil shows up at the Honestly, How Many Times Can That Car Possibly Break Garage and wistfully says she wishes she knew how an engine worked. Branson offers to teach her and then they weirdly debate whether or not Sybil’s avoiding him. She tells him that she understands about how he wants to help out during the Irish “troubles” but she can’t think about any of that activist stuff until the war’s ended. So, she asks Branson to wait for her and they exchange some meaningful Longing Looks and she assures him that they will only have to wait a few weeks. A few weeks for what exactly? For her to assess her feelings about him or to run off someplace with him?  Has anyone watched the Sassy Gay Friend videos on YouTube? That’s basically the level of intervention I’m going to require here shortly. Sybil. Look at your life. Look at your choices.

I do not understand this storyline. And I mean that on both a thematic and an extremely basic level. I am so unclear about how these characters got to the point of having this conversation that I feel like I missed an episode. When did Sybil decide to run away with Branson? Scratch that – when did she even decide she had feelings for Branson in the first place? Did she? Last we heard from her she was still waffling about it. And Branson has gone from a charming idealist into the worst sort of armchair anarchist – he spends all his time talking to everyone in earshot about the need to sacrifice everything for the greater good of some capital C “Cause”, but doesn’t ever really give up anything himself. And his feelings for Sybil seem to be as much about seducing an aristocratic lady away from her posh upper class lifestyle as they are about her as a real person. This is so disappointing, especially as it is something I never would have said about Series 1 Branson, who seemed genuinely smitten with Sybil herself, not just as a symbol.  

There Goes My Good Opinion of Richard. Oh, that awkward moment when you’re realize that you’ve agreed to marry someone who is a complete controlling jerk. This is pretty much what happens to Mary this week, as Richard not only conspires with her mother to bring her former love interest’s current girlfriend back into his life, but threatens her with social ruin if she should decide that she doesn’t want to marry him. This is followed by him insisting that despite his awful behavior and verbal threats, he really does want to make their marriage a happy one! What a prince, that Sir Richard!

You know, I just wish that they’d cut out the threatening in the hallway scene. To some extent, I enjoy the fact that Mary and Richard both know what they’re getting out of their relationship and that neither is living under any illusions about who or what their future spouse is. And this week I liked it so much that – despite clearly being crazy jealous of Matthew – Richard was actually making an effort for Mary, in his own “throw money at that problem” way. By buying the estate next to Downton so she could live near her family and  trying to poach Carson from the Crawleys’ employ to make Mary feel better, he does show that he’s not entirely a wretch. Which makes the over the top I WILL RUIN YOUR LIFE blackmail threat even worse.

Meanwhile, on the Other Side of Our Quadrangle. Poor Lavinia returns, having been dragged back to Downton wearing what looks to be a silk sack, and insists to Matthew that she loves him and he won’t frighten her away with his snappishness and suddenly it appears as though perhaps their engagement may be back after all.  (All of this is made extra interesting by the fact that it appears Matthew may be regaining some feeling in his legs, which of course he hasn’t told anyone about yet.) I’m oddly proud of her for finally sticking up for herself, even if it took some time and a big nudge from some outsiders for her to do so. Do I think she’s right for Matthew? Not entirely, though I imagine the two of them could learn to be happy with one another. But she’s a romantic rival for Mary that isn’t  a caricature or a joke, and I’m happy about that.  

The Continuing Matthew and Mary Saga. Mary spends a lot of her time keeping Matthew company this week: pushing him around the estate, dispensing wisdom, inspiring jealousy in her new fiancée, and having long heart-to-heart chats. Yet when finally, finally Mary says that she doesn’t have to marry Richard (finally!), Matthew turns back into Extreme Stoic Man, insisting that he has nothing to give anyone in his life and proclaiming that he would not let Mary anywhere near him if she weren’t engaged. Honestly. I want to knock their heads together sometimes and just shout at them to admit they’re in love with each other. I do love that Mary is so tolerant and patient with bitter!Matthew – and there was a wonderful contrast between her comment at the beginning that she’s getting stronger from pushing his wheelchair around and the scene in which Lavinia has to ask Bates for help in getting Matthew from room to room.

Sidebar: How Adorable is Carson? The small subplot about whether Carson would leave Downton to go run Lady Mary’s new household was so sweet. He loves Mary so much – as it’s obvious that she’s the only thing that could ever get him to abandon his other great love, Downton. I also find it so sweet that on some level Mary seems convinced that if she can only have Carson – her moral compass and surrogate father – along with her in this new life she’s creating for herself, that it will all turn out all right, despite her new surroundings and impending loveless marriage.

Turns Out Cora Can Meddle with the Best of Them.  After an awkward conversation with Richard in which he suggests that Lavinia Swire needs to reappear in Matthew’s life if Cora wants grandchildren (she only has two other daughters and all, but okay), Lady Grantham suddenly becomes a schemer of such skill that O’Brien would probably be proud. Who knew Cora has it in her to summon the former fiancée of the man her daughter’s in love with as a preemptive strike to keep her daughter away from said man? I think the best part (well maybe not “best” in the strictest sense, but certainly the most surprising) is how not at all sorry she is about it when Robert calls her out on her manipulation. Her actions here don’t make me like her more (at all), but it’s certainly an interesting bit of character development. I really didn’t think she had it in her. But, I wish we could have seen the Dowager’s reaction to Cora’s maneuvering.

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead. So, I got my wish, and Vera Bates is dead. Though I guess it was too much to hope for that a house would actually fall on her, right? Of course, murky circumstances abound – Bates heads off alone to London to make one last ditch effort to convince Vindictive Vera to agree to their divorce, but he returns to Downton sporting an impressive head injury and the camera cuts to Vera’s lifeless body in a pool of blood.  Now, of course there’s no way (IMO) that Bates, the King of Being a Good Person, killed her – though it’s equally obvious that he’s at least going to be a major suspect in the investigation of her death – so who did? Did she threaten Carlisle? Did O’Brien decide to protect the House of Grantham by getting rid of her? Did Vera off herself in the hopes of Bates being blamed for her death? Stay tuned.

Downton Abbey continues this Sunday night. Which is a really unfortunately long way away.

 

 

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