this is a recap, so it goes without saying, but major spoilers below.
Catherine: Hi, Stephanie! Last night was quite the episode. It started in the normal Downton way with small dramas over Mr. Mason’s move to Downton Abbey and discussions between Tom and Mary for a repair shop on the estate. But then and without much warning, it took a bloody turn. Granville stood up while his mother was arguing about the hospital and started spewing blood over the dining room table! That’s one way to end a tiresome family fight. After Lady Cora got splattered in her husband’s vomited blood I had to admit that Downton had jumped genres (or the shark but this the last season so it hardly matters) and against all odds, had a true Game of Thrones moment. Everything after that moment was superfluous– the reveal of Granny blackmailing Neville Chamberlain to her dinner party hardly mattered.
Stephanie: Yes, what a bloodbath! I gasped and my mouth hung open. This is the most action Downton has seen since the war! And even then, I’m not sure any of the war scenes showed as much blood as what came sputtering out of Lord Grantham. Truly a sight. What an opportune time for blood spewing during yet another dinner table “row” about the hospital oversight. I figured some medical malady would be in order to bring the argument to a crisis point. Interesting to note the actions downstairs related to Lord Grantham’s exit to the hospital–Mrs. Patmore scurried about to make coffee, figuring she could put her service to use, while Thomas later pondered aloud how affected he’d been by his employer’s incident. In a time where the downstairs staff is in a constant state of speculation on their future, the Lord of the estate nearly dying surely gave them a scare.
Catherine: I wondered too what Lord Grantham dying would mean for all of them. The heir to the estate is a little boy so I’m guessing his mother (and likely Tom) would manage everything. As Thomas’ job hangs on the edge of the knife blade as it is, he had good reason to be worried should there be a changing of the boss and refiguring of the household. One of the most interesting fallouts of Grantham’s perforated ulcer catastrophe is Mary overhearing Granny and Cora talking about Marigold. It’s only due to Mary’s self-absorption that she hasn’t figured it out already. Compare her behavior and Edith’s upon arriving home from the hospital: Edith goes to the children and Mary goes to bed, skipping the kids. But Mary’s on the warpath now and Anna was the first to get grilled. Anna was good at being vague and declining on having any knowledge about Marigold but I have a feeling that she and Mrs. Hughes fully comprehend who Marigold is.
Stephanie: When Mary and Edith walked the hall together after returning from the hospital, I thought we’d finally come to The Conversation that’s been needed for two seasons. Only, no! Edith moves on to check on the children while Mary STILL FURTHER SPECULATES whether something is up with Marigold. Maybe Mary is simply not ready to admit to herself she’s been blind to Marigold’s true parentage. Mary is too clever to be this dense. Or, it’s that she undervalues Edith so much that it’s literally never occurred to her to think further on the matter. Only now that a secret has been mentioned that she is not a part of does she pursue this line of thinking. Oh, Mary. What we will do without your incredibly selfish ways once Downton ends? I loved the scene earlier with Mary out with Henry Talbot and Tom, where Tom directly tells them they don’t need to invent reasons to spend time together–just do it. Though, in my one defense of Mary, I can understand her hesitation to involve herself with a race car driver when she is widowed due to losing Matthew to a car accident. I’d be wary too.
Catherine: Tom’s “just do it!” to the pair made me laugh. Of course Tom would say that– he’s been “americanized.” He no longer has patience for the elaborate mating dance Mary and Henry are undergoing. Be bold! Be strong! Cut to the chase! But I don’t think it’s that simple because Mary does have a lot of figuring out to do. It went poorly with Lord Gillingham and of course, there’s her own husband dying from a car crash so it’s little wonder she’s a gun shy with Henry. Another funny moment was when Tom and Mary were watching Henry race around and around and Mary says bitterly, “I hate the chances the drivers take,” and then proceeds to touch up her lipstick. Oh yeah, you’re soooo upset. But Henry Talbot does have her number when he called her “la belle sans merci.” When Tom asked the meaning, Henry replied, “It means Lady Mary knows what she’s about,” but a more direct translation of that line is “the beautiful lady without mercy” and refers to a famous poem by Keats. While this is going on with Mary, Edith is cutting to the chase and had her first kiss with Bertie Pelham. It was a sweet moment and I was so glad for Edith. Her desire for “dinner and dancing and getting to know each other more” gave this episode a gentle moment.
Stephanie: I am so glad we saw Edith get more story time. Her interview with a prospective female editor highlighted they are both young (for publishing at least) and forward thinking, with Edith noting the two were “Victorian babies growing into modern women.” Edith marveled how they were born in 1892, and how their world looks so obviously different now. That was great perspective on the industrial age and just how vastly society and technology has shifted in one generation. We also were treated to a lovely scene of Edith and Bertie strolling in a royal park. This is what I want from Downton! Posh royal parks! Edith admitted to Bertie she might just be willing to set herself apart from Downton, which come on, we all want for her. She’s got the swanky London apartment, the magazine editor job, and she’s single–it’s like a romantic comedy movie waiting to happen.
Catherine: Someone needs to escape the gravitational pull of Downton. Go, Edith! One of the strange moments in the show was the appearance of Neville Chamberlain. At this moment on the show, he’s the Minister of Health but he will become Prime Minister and see England through the first eight months of World War II. He’s a controversial figure because he delayed war for as long as he could–both by signing an agreement with Hitler that he could have Czechoslovakia and failing to prepare England for war. When Hitler took over Poland, Chamberlain finally announced war. The terrible coming years of WWII are not far from the Downton crew. But that’s in future and in the meanwhile, Mr. Mason must be moved to Yew Tree Farm. Daisy is fighty about that as ever (though there isn’t much to fight on) and Mary is wondering who will raise her prize pigs. Will Mason be up to the task? Andy, who continues to be a character who assists in moving other plot points along, happily steps in and announces that he’ll help Mr. Mason farm. I’m not sure how he could that when it’s clear that he doesn’t have much free time and he already has a full time job. But this is the magic fairy dust that Fellowes regularly sprinkles down so it’ll happen despite logistical impossibilities. Downton Magic!
Stephanie: Yes, the magic of plot maneuvering. More magic: Andy can’t read! But Barrow can help! Here is more shaping of Barrow from schemer to a more nuanced guy. One head-scratcher for me from this episode was Baxter’s testifying at the court trial. What was the point? All this build-up to her testifying, plus the past two seasons of painting her as a misunderstood thief, and all the action happens off screen. Add to that, there barely was any action from the sounds of it. We could have done with less Daisy whining about the farm move to see some courtroom antics. I did, however, enjoy the slightly silly Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes scenes at home in their own cottage. What a funny circumstance that Carson is so used to being waited on by professional cooks, he doesn’t know what to make of a meal outside of Downton. And Mrs. Hughes isn’t exactly used to cooking beyond heating up tea. I never thought about that aspect of the two moving off-site from Downton. The two have had their own sense of privilege being heads of the downstairs household in one of the wealthiest estates. I smell a spin-off series: The Carson and Mrs. Hughes Files: Life After Downton!
Catherine: When Carson informed Mrs. Patmore that Mrs. Hughes “hadn’t played with her patty pans in awhile” I cringed. Mrs. Hughes is a patient woman but she’s got some spirit and I can’t imagine that patronizing line would go down well. My hope is that Mr. Carson will throw up his hands and do the cooking himself. He’d make an excellent cook, I’m sure.
Baxter’s storyline feels hastily dropped and what do we have in its place? Denker, the Dowager’s lady’s maid, scolding Dr. Clarkson for switching hospital sides. Like Isobel, I was astonished that the Dowager fired Denker for that. It’s minor infraction compared to when Denker, in an earlier season, encouraged Andy to spend all his money on gambling and drinks at a shady bar so she could drink for free. Stranger still was the resulting and slightly humorous scene when Denker threatened the butler Spratt’s that she would tell about his illegal hiding of his escaped convict nephew. So it’s funny when a servant threatens to blackmail another but not when an outsider tries to blackmail Lady Mary.
Stephanie: The Dowager had some shining moments this episode, even with the tiring hospital administration debacle. Her leveling of her house maid was inspiring. The Dowager is a woman hardened to criticism, and would face an empty address book if she confronted everyone whose opinions did not match hers. Astute advice, even if she is stubborn to the point of extremism. The power she has is not only because she has opinions, but that she has the grace to not cut people off whose opinions differ from hers. Case in point, Isobel is sitting with her when this calling out happens. The two women have barely agreed on anything, yet they regularly meet for tea.
That’s it for this week! Let’s hope next week sees a little less bloodletting (or more, depending on your interests!).
Catherine Eaton is a writer living in a western suburb of Chicago. She blogs over at sparrowpost.com and enjoys foraging around the neighborhood in her spare time.
Stephanie Scott is a Young Adult writer living in the western Chicago suburbs. Library superfan, award-winning TV-binger, and she just might be your cat’s new best friend. She tweets at @StephScottYA.