Monday, January 14, 2013

Downton Deliberations - Season 3 Episode 3

Following on from the tremendous tensions building around the future of Downton from Episodes 1 and 2, where we were entertained by the butting of heads downstairs and the newfound dynamic of class structure flexibility upstairs, with opinions more openly shared between the two.

But what struck me most was Thomas and his malicious acts, growing at a pace reflecting his increasing sense of loneliness. First he tries to derail the tenuous Mr. Mosley, then Albert, the young innocent and honest new kid on the block – in an effort to wound Miss O’Brien. I am wondering what Thomas’ motivation is. Is he suffering from PTS or it is something more. Is he suffering from living as a gay man in an intolerant world? I wonder if he and Miss O’Brien share a common bond? Or is he mortified about losing his job at Downton, fearing for his future security?

The advanced age of Lady Edith’s intended (Antony Strathan) is of concern to Lord Grantham. Antony caves in at the altar, finally realizing he is spent up, despite the desperate pleading from Edith. Perhaps he represents the old guard resistant to modern ways (of women being so forward) and resigned to live out his life in quietude.

Matthew continues coping badly with the thought of a misbegotten inheritance; but once he sees a letter clearing his feelings of guilt, he comes to his senses. Matthew delivers the good news to Lord Grantham. Robert, unwilling to accept a hand out, insists on offering Matthew an investment opportunity in Downton. The future of Downton appears secure as the generations unite, the baton clearly handed forward.

It was refreshing to see Carson deeply concerned about Mrs. Hughes; looking at his watch at just the moment she was ‘hearing the news’. Singing once he hears she doesn’t have cancer was an uplifting and very tender moment.

Etiquette Guy

Ahhhh Edith’s wedding day is here and she is relishing the entire experience.  Years of self imposed misery and she finally gets her moment in the sun.  It seems Cora and Violet still have their doubts but nothing, and no one, will stand in the way of Edith’s betrothal.  I have to admit felt a little schadenfreude after witnessing 10 years of Edith’s nasty antics.  I am certain Mary smirked a little bit when Anthony bolted.
I am thrilled to hear Mrs. Hughes will be alright!  Although, I wonder if she was telling the truth, or fibbed to spare her friends their worry.  This storyline brought to mind the changes and advancements in women’s health over the last 100 years.  In 1922 breast cancer would’ve been a death sentence, like so many diseases with cures we now take for granted.  I am glad Dr. Clarkson didn’t send her home with orders to take a glass of milk with cinnamon at each meal; his medical abilities are improving by leaps and bounds!  Cora’s promise to house Mrs. Hughes if she is ill speaks to the value placed on good servants.  How many of us could say the same for our own bosses in this day and age?  It shows they think of Mrs. Hughes as family, or at least a friend, regardless of how much distance she likes to keep between Upstairs and herself.
What has gone on between Thomas and O’Brien?  At the end of last season they were thick as thieves, tormenting everyone with the Ouija Board.  She seemed almost like a mother figure to him and now they are mortal enemies.  Is it because Sarah is trying to turn over a new leaf?  Maybe Thomas is frustrated with his life and is lashing out?  It would be interesting to know more about his life as a child and growing up, he seems so hurt by the world and his poor behavior is becoming a downward spiral.  His game was nicely played though, I do admire his cunning!
Mary’s demand of loyalty from Matthew is completely understandable.  He seems to forget this is his family now too and part of what he fell in love with when he met Mary is her love of tradition and her need to run the estate.  Much like Bates, Matthew can border on too honourable, making his life challenging to say the least.  Isn’t it interesting there was suddenly a letter from Mr. Swire letting Matthew off the hook?  One must wonder if Mary made it up and caught a lucky break when she found out Lavinia did send a letter to her own father.
Poor Ethel, one mistake and her life is ruined.  Thank goodness Isobel is there teaching sewing and cooking, saving women from lives of drudgery and prostitution.  Can we imagine time when sewing and cooking wasn’t drudgery?
Anna is continuing her search for the truth in the death of Vera Bates and visits Vera’s friend Mrs. Bartlett who seems quite a nasty woman but does provide some important clues one might need a chemistry or alchemy background to fathom.  We see quite a difference between Mrs. Bartlett and Anna.  Mrs. Bartlett, and women in her position would have to make do with what they earned and could afford.  Anna is in the fortunate position to receive hand-me-downs from Lady Mary and the other girls and we find her much better dressed than women who might be in similar positions but without access to wardrobes that change with every season.  Meanwhile, Mr. Bates is on the wrong side of his cellmate and finds himself scrambling to find the contraband Craig has hidden - A fellow inmate tipped Bates off  and a convenient hiding spot is found when the guards burst in to inspect the cell.  Once again I ask, how does this man get better looking in prison?
The line of the episode unsurprisingly goes to Violet when she decrees a house needs only good manners and some decent conversation.  Truer words have never been spoken!
One of the very special things about Downton Abbey is the sound quality.  I noticed it once again during Robert and Anthony’s conversation in the dining room.  I always feel like I am right there in the scene when I can hear fabric moving, breathing, the swirl of wine in a crystal glass.  It’s these little details that set this show apart.
A lovely episode, taking us one step forward in our Downton journey.  I can’t wait to see what happens next week!