Downton Abbey 04:06

Gentle Readers, given that his ghost hangs over the episode, let’s check in on everyone that has been left in the wake of the passing of The Fresh Prince of Downton Abbey…

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First off, Robert takes off for America to help bail out Cora’s brother who is apparently having legal troubles (and if the clues are right it appears that Harold Levinson, who we will see in the season finale, was tied up in the Teapot Dome Scandal). And in a surprise turn of events, rather than taking his usual valet (Bates), he takes Thomas with him thanks to a long-form game of telephone between Bates, Mrs. Hughes, and Mary working around one another to keep Bates at home. One of the things I liked about this story (aside from tying the family into a notorious bit of American history as well as foreshadowing the return of the Levinson clan) is that it subtly reinforces the peculiar financial situation that the Crawleys are in; while Robert (via Violet) has the title of Earl of Grantham, the majority of the family money came in from Cora’s side of the family. (And on a side note, it was refreshing to see Robert and Cora being romantic with each other.)

Meanwhile, love is in the air for Mary and Charles Blake, bonding over the brand new pigs that the estate has taken on in attempts to make more profit for the estate. While these two are complete opposites in terms of thought (“You go home! They’re my piggies!”), the show is laying it on thick with the hate-flirting. At the same time it is calling back to the original flirting of Mary and Matthew, so we have that to look forward too. On the other hand, Lord Evelyn and Lord Gillingham are both still swooning over Mary (who, despite her protests, is loving every second of this) but Mr. Blake still has a better shot at the Widow Crawley (as Edith put it, he hasn’t fallen under Mary’s spell).

Of course where Lord Gillingham goes, so goes his valet Rapey McRaperson (or as he’s referred to as Green). And his arrival back at Downton is met with uneasy glances (from Anna), the bitchslapping of a lifetime (from the real head of this household Mrs. Hughes, who was having none of his bullshit), and the look of death (from Bates, who hears him make an off-handed comment that causes Bates to put two and two together). I said it last week, and I will ask it again; given his past and all the hints of darkness therein, will they actually go through it and have Bates commit murder?

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Speaking of people on their hovering at death’s door, poor Violet has taken to her sickbed with bronchitis; which leads to her being taken cafe of by nurse Isobel Crawley. One of the great things about the show is that it acknowledges Isobel’s mourning process by showing that part of her healing process is her return to inserting herself into the lives of others; which has been annoying in past seasons but culminates into her taking care of Violet against the Dowager’s protests. Once again, this season in particular has ramped up the frenemy status of Violet and Isobel’s relationship and has breathed life into Isobel’s character in particular. (It also helps that Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton are making great hay of their scenes together.)

Downton Abbey: Gary Carr as Jack Ross and Lily James as Lady Rose

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Finally we had a return to London by the two wild children of the family. While Rose is there to have another assignation with everyone’s favorite African (!) American (!!) jazz band leader (!!!), Jack at least has the good sense to see that their relationship is not that long for the world. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from going out (and making out) on a boat ride in broad daylight. Meanwhile, Miss Edith Crawley is in London to consult the one person in her family that might be able to help her; after a bitter fight with Aunt Rosamund, they decide to abort the baby. Once again, Samantha Bond is fantastic as Rosamund; using her sparse dialogue to make it clear that she relates to Edith better than anyone (making it clear that she knows what it’s like to be the “forgotten child”).  And after a harrowing (and accurate) scene at a back-alley abortion clinic, Edith has a change and decides to find a way to give the child away. Once again, Edith shows a lot more practicality than she’s given credit for; she knows that there’s no way in hell that she will be accepted in society with a child out of wedlock, even if Gregson manages to turn up. That said, I really would love to see her roll up to Downton, tell every single member of her family to get stuffed, and resume her headlining status in the “Look At All The Fucks I Give Follies of 1922.” It would be nice to see Edith finally win one for once.

Photo Credits: PBS, Masterpiece, ITV

Originally Published on 10 February 2014 as part of “The Idiot Box,” my column for l’etoile

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