The episode following a Big Event is always tricky. Last week on “Downton Abbey,” the characters, actors and viewers were put through the emotional wringer when Lady Sybil died from complications with childbirth. This week, we thought the show put forth an episode that was just as strong (if not stronger).
Instead of dividing the recap upstairs/downstairs, we’d instead like to talk about Robert and Carson. They are the father and grandfather of the household and their grieving this episode was heart-wrenching.
It’s not that they are sadder than Cora or Tom or Edith or Mary about Sybil’s passing — they’re not. But they’re grieving for more than that. They are grieving for the passing of time. The fact that the world is changing around them and they don’t quite know how to deal with that.
Big kudos to Hugh Bonneville and Jim Carter in this episode. Every glance, every gesture, every silence is stuffed with emotion. Their helplessness is so palpable and it just hurts our hearts to watch, even if we love the way Edith is penning a column for the paper or the chance Isobel is giving Ethel (because as tiresome as Ethel is, Isobel has a big heart and is trying to do a good deed).
It will be interesting to watch how the drama with Matthew and the estate plays out. Matthew, very characteristically, is running with the ball and Robert isn’t used to it. It creates a nice dramatic tension in the household. Plus, the conversation between Matthew and Tom out by the cottages gives us hope that Tom will stay on at Downton to run the farming side of things, thereby keeping that character on the show (yay) and keeping the baby nearby (double yay).
Speaking of Tom, Mary sticking up for his wishes to christen the baby Catholic was wonderful. It was spot-on to see her reassure her father that she’s always on his side while in the same breath telling him he’s wrong about this. Sybil wanted what Tom wanted and that is to christen the baby Catholic, and they have to honor that for Sybil.
Finally, with Cora blaming Sybil’s death on Robert (and his stuffy specialist), we found that storyline to be absolutely realistic and in character. Cora needs someone to blame and Lady Violet was right in recognizing that they needed to move past that in order to really grieve for their daughter. Good on Dr. Clarkson for going along with Lady Violet, even if he didn’t believe it. The scene were Robert and Cora finally reconcile in their grief was another emotional blow, beautifully done.
On the staff, it was nice to see Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes sticking up for themselves, and to see Daisy go visit Mr. Mason. It’s not that we want Daisy off the show, but it’d be nice to see her make a better life for herself as a farm proprietor.
And finally, everyone can rejoice — Bates is going to be a free man. This storyline wore out its welcome with us awhile ago, but the scene where Anna got to tell Robert about it was definitely a good one.
Overall, while last week had a lot of meat from which to draw from, we actually thought this week might have been the stronger episode because it found its drama in much smaller moments.
What did you think, “Downton” fans?