The central themes of this week’s Downton Abbey seemed to be pardoning and acceptance. Violet concocted a plan to help fix Robert and Cora’s marriage; Bates’ quest for freedom very almost went awry; and the folks of Downton started to soften towards Ethel, despite her recent past. Meanwhile, not everyone approved of Branson’s plan to christen his daughter as a Catholic, the love square downstairs firmly became a triangle, and Daisy received an offer that could change her life completely.
The episode began straight after Sybil’s funeral and, of course, emotions were running high. Cora was still upset with Robert for not listening to Dr Clarkson when he said Sybil had eclampsia, and things were not looking good for the future of their marriage. Violet decided to intervene; she asked Dr Clarkson to lie and say that the chances of a cesarean saving Sybil’s life were much lower than he thought. Now thinking that nothing they did could have saved their daughter, Cora and Robert reconciled.
In the grand scheme of all things Downton, it doesn’t feel like a particularly big lie, and there’s always the matter of when a lie is for the greater good. Violet’s plan has saved Robert and Cora from further upset, but was it the right thing to do? Personally, I found it a terrible idea that only serves to give Robert a pass for his poor decisions. The pain of losing his daughter may be punishment enough, but maybe the guilt would have given him a kick and made him reevaluate his life. From what we’ve seen this week, he’s still no closer to listening to Matthew when he’s trying to share plans for improving Downton.
It took Robert a while to begin to change his mind about Baby Sybil’s christening, if indeed he has. Branson was adamant she would be christened Catholic, since he’s Irish, and Mary told everyone that Sybil had wanted that too. This didn’t initially go down well with Robert (or Carson), but feelings seemed to ease over the course of the episode. I can only assume that this will be debated more in future episodes, because as a way of drawing the Irish conflict into the Crawley home (which I assume was the intent on the writers’ part), this was quite weak. None of the arguments for why Baby Sybil should be christened Catholic or Anglican seemed particularly compelling, but I’m willing to accept that it might have struck a chord with more religious-minded viewers.
Bates’ quest for freedom almost came to an end this week after a prison warden coerced Mrs Bates’ friend into lying about what she had seen. That scary side of Bates came out again as he threatened the prisoner working with the corrupt warden — who arranged for her to lie — and it wasn’t long before the witness was spilling all to Bates’ lawyer. By the end of the episode, Bates’ freedom had been ensured.
While Bates was pardoned, Ethel found some forgiveness. She enlisted Mrs Patmore’s help preparing a luncheon for the Crawley women, much to the annoyance of Carson. His reaction, however bad it was, couldn’t compare to Robert’s. He went to Isobel’s house and asked his family to leave, but in a Sybil-esque display of solidarity and support, they all refused. Back at Downton Abbey, Mrs Hughes even welcomed Ethel in when she came to thank Mrs Patmore for her help.
Downstairs, the love woes continued. New kitchen maid Ivy flirted with Jimmy, and to a lesser extent, Alfred, and even went as far as to wear rouge while in the kitchen (which Mrs Patmore was none too pleased about). Poor Daisy thought she was in with a chance with Alfred when he asked for her help learning to dance, but she soon found out that he wanted to impress Ivy. At this point it seems as if Daisy is right out of the picture with the boys. But which of the boys will Ivy pick — eager Alfred or smarmy-but-pretty Jimmy?
Speaking of love woes and Jimmy, Thomas was still getting handsy with him this week, prompting Jimmy to tell O’Brien that he would ‘go to the police if it’d make him stop’. With O’Brien more than happy to stir the pot, this isn’t looking good for Thomas’ future at Downton Abbey.
It was Daisy who got the most surprising offer in this week’s episode. Her father-in-law Mr Mason asked her to move to his farm, where he would teach her how to run it and make a livelihood, all in preparation of him leaving his farm to her. Of course, this is Daisy, and so she was awkward and unsure what to do. It seems like a great offer, one even Mrs Patmore was envious of, but will Daisy go for it and leave Downton? Only time will tell.
This was a solid episode that blasted through a lot of points which needed clearing up after last week. That said, it didn’t seem like a particularly important episode; it’ll be interesting to look back when series 3 has finished airing to see whether this episode was entirely necessary. Some of the issues had already been seen to some extent (Ethel, the love triangle), and others felt like they could possibly have continued for longer (Robert and Cora’s relationship trouble, the debate about the christening).
While it was nice to finally get Bates out of prison, that subplot could easily have been reduced to Anna getting the letter about his release; that last bit of will she/won’t she regarding the witness may have added a bit of tension, but the more of this darker Bates we see, the less I want to see him back at Downton Abbey. Still, this episode set up a good base for next week’s episode, which will see Bates back at Downton finally, and the family starting to move on after Sybil’s death.
What did you think of this week’s Downton Abbey? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!