Edith’s midnight flit is the talk of the family – it’s the most attention she’s had since she got left at the altar. Of course, it takes twenty minutes, and the intervention of Atticus, before anyone thinks about checking with the publishing offices Edith has just inherited. Rose hails Atticus as a genius, and he mumbles something about it being obvious, possibly realizing that he’s on the verge of marrying into a family whose relationship with logic ended a long time ago.
Elsewhere, the Gang of Four are rampaging around the Downton estate – Martha Lane Fox is resplendent in pink, looking sweetly feminine in a way that only emphasizes her gloriously sharp edges. Sadly, this odd but endearing group friendship won’t last: Charles is off to Poland and Martha and Tony finally get together, leaving Mary to do what she does best – be alone.
Oh, and Isis dies. Everyone is sadder about this than anything else that’s happened during the entire series to date. Edith especially watches as her parents lavish more affection on the dog than they ever have on her.
The Labour Government is in crisis and Daisy feels let down. This is mentioned several times. (Purely by coincidence, there’s a general election coming up in Britain and Lord Julian Fellowes, the show’s creator, is a staunch Conservative.)
The myriad plots don’t leave much time for the servants this week, but somehow half of them do seem to manage a jolly trip to the Mason farm, where Daisy is convinced not to give up on her academic dreams by the father of the dead husband she never actually wanted to marry in the first place.
In My Lady’s Chamber
Baxter and Molesley continue to have a sweet but insipid romance – next to the burning passion of Carson and Hughes, they seem like a bit of a damp squib.
Anna and Bates are planning for the future. “Is our life overcomplicated?” he asks. He’s been suspected of murder twice, she’s been raped, he was married when they met… but no, he’s talking about the property he owns. Later, he worries that they still don’t have children. “You don’t suppose there’s something wrong with us?” No, Bates. Just you.
Nobody Cares About Cora
Finally, Cora discovers the truth about Marigold. There’s no reason for Cora to have been kept in the dark in the first place, especially since she’s easily the more liberal and least judgmental parent, so she’s justifiably furious at having been kept in the dark. It’s her idea to bring Marigold to Downton to raise as Edith’s adopted child, and she never utters a word about the circumstances of her birth, only proving concerned about her daughter and grandchild. Her white-hot fury is aimed at Rosamund and Violet, which has the potential for some very awkward dinners in the near future. Plus, it’s nice to see her do some actual parenting for a change.
It’s the Future, Mr. Carson
Aside from mentions of the Labour Government and the myriad ways in which it is letting down honest working folk, there’s no heavy-handed expositional dialogue reminding us that this is a period drama. It’s quite a shame, and not just because of the lack of Mr. Carson’s disapproving eyebrows.
After his – strictly business, you understand – proposal last week, Stoic Sex God Carson is ravishing Mrs. Hughes with his eyes, but sadly that’s about it.
In any case, this episode belongs to the repressed passion between Violet and Isobel, when Isobel announces her marriage to Lord Merton only to be met with scorn from his two sons.
Violet confesses that she hasn’t been opposed to the marriage because of snobbery or a reluctance to be ousted from her position, but because marriage will take her friend away. We’re so used to seeing the Dowager as the wry comic relief that her uncharacteristic display of emotion is even more painful to watch. This is the Maggie Smith of “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” and “The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne,” capable of conveying intense emotion with just a furrow of her brow.
When Mary tells her that “Isobel has always looked up to you, and you have kept her from harm in return,” her face lights up – when she admits that she’s going to miss Isobel’s companionship, she looks exhausted and defeated in a way that no number of Turkish diplomats, illegitimate grandchildren and heirs lost on the Titanic have managed to achieve. In Dame Maggie’s hands, this is the stuff Virginia Woolf novels were made of – all suffocated Sapphic passion and brittle propriety.
In any case, thanks to some smarmy and snobbish sons, Isobel isn’t keen to be Lady Merton just yet. Maybe there’s still time for Violet to make her feelings known.
Who Killed Mr. Greene?
Anna asks if the situation with Mr. Greene is behind them, all but guaranteeing she’ll be arrested in the next episode…