This week, instead of dividing the house Upstairs and Downstairs in the “Downton Abbey” article, we think it’s more appropriate to discuss the parallel storylines of poor father and grandfather of Downton house.
Robert and Carson are so sick with grief they don’t know which way is up. It’s not just grief for Lady Sybil, though that is a big part of it. But it isn’t really about Sybil’s passing, or Branson wanting to christen the baby Catholic, or Ethel working for Cousin Isobel.
They are grieving for the loss of so many things — etiquette, the “proper” way of the world from Season 1, the fact that they aren’t quite the end-all, be-all final word men that they used to be. They feel like their whole world is crumbling around them and they don’t know what to do.
It’s been done beautifully on the show. The acting jobs on the part of Hugh Bonneville and Jim Carter are masterful — there is so much subtext going on in their gestures and facial expressions, you can see how deep their grief lies without the dialogue having to spell it out for us, which is always the mark of a good drama. It just makes our heart hurt to watch them like this.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Matthew drama plays out. Matthew has admittedly not handled what he wants to do with the estate in the most delicate of ways, which is perfectly in character, but again — goes against what Robert is used to dealing with. Plus he’s doing it at a time when they are all still grieving Sybil’s death.
Mary sticking up for Branson was wonderful. We loved her reassuring her father that she’s always on his side while still telling him he’s not right in this instance. Their relationship is wonderful. And the tiny little moments where Edith and Mary were walking the grounds together, or Mary saying Edith should take the writing job — it’s lovely to see them being friends (or at least friendly).
Overall, we thought this was a worthy follow-up to the emotional juggernaut that was last week’s episode. The episode that follows something like last week is always going to be hard, but this one was just as good, if not better, because it made great drama out of smaller moments.
Thoughts & Tidbits
- Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes were en fuego this episode and while we ache for Carson, it was great to see them stick up for themselves. Also, Mrs. Hughes to Molesley, “I’ll tell Ethel she has a treat in store” made us laugh so hard we had to pause the show.
- The Bates thing being resolved is good, we’ve said before how tedious it’s been. Though it did afford that wonderful scene where Anna got to tell Robert the good news.
- Lady Violet continues to be awesome and good on Dr. Clarkson for helping her. Whether it’s true or not, Cora and Robert needed to break that barrier and it was very well done.
- The downstairs romances continue to not excite us. What is exciting is the prospect of Daisy running Mr. Mason’s farm. He’s such an outstanding small character and while it would be sad if it took her off the show, we love the idea of Daisy making a life for herself as a farm proprietor.
- The scene between Matthew and Tom, walking out by the cottages — does it give anybody else a glimmer of hope he’ll be brought into the fold to help run the farming side of Downton and he’ll stay at the house with baby Sybil? Oh, that would be wonderful.
This season has been so top-notch so far. There are only two episodes left (and then a Christmas special that won’t air, obviously, until Christmas), but we think we can safely say it has gone back to the high quality of programming we loved about Season 1.
What do you think, “Downton” fans?