Downton Abbey Series 3 Episode 7 Review — Love Hurts

Two of the lesser issues of this series so far finally bubbled to the surface in this week’s Downton Abbey. Upstairs, things came to a head between Matthew and Robert, with Matthew all but telling Robert that he wasn’t suitable to run the estate. Thanks to the old foreman quitting and Violet’s quest to keep the family happy and together, it wasn’t long before a suitable replacement was found: Branson. Downstairs, O’Brien’s scheming finally paid off when a misguided Thomas kissed Jimmy and was spotted by Alfred, who then told Carson what he had seen.

Also this week: Bates arrived back at Downton. Edith finally got around to accepting the columnist job, even if not all of her family were pleased. Branson’s brother came to stay and made the Crawley’s slightly comfortable with his dislike of their lifestyle. Alfred finally got Ivy to go out on a date with him, the pair getting on quite well despite her insistence that she doesn’t want to ‘lead him on’. Ethel was upset after a nasty encounter in the town, leading the Crawley women to come up with a plan to find her work somewhere where she can have a fresh start.

Never let it be said that Downton Abbey isn’t dramatic. I watched most of Thomas’ scenes terrified that he was going to do something stupid, and then…well, he did. It’s not often we see Thomas truly vulnerable, but when we do it’s easier to understand why he’s such a bastard the rest of the time. It was heartbreaking watching him hope that Jimmy might like him too, though that was nowhere near as bad as watching Jimmy and Alfred’s reactions to him the following day.

Carson pretty much left Thomas’ fate in Jimmy’s hands at the end of the episode. As Carson mentioned, Jimmy could easily go to the police. There would be little hope of a happy ending for Thomas if word got out about his sexuality, especially since he admits what he did. Will Jimmy decide to leave him be? Or are we about to lose another character from the show?

There will be need for one less valet upstairs, at least. After Matthew’s little blowout about Robert’s handling of the estate, the foreman, Jarvis, resigned. Robert was less than pleased, and Matthew was left wondering how to deal with the situation. Of course, Violet came to the rescue (as she’s wont to do) and suggested Branson for the job, which would keep baby Sybil close to the family. Robert had some conditions, like Violet and Cora admitting that they were wrong if it all goes badly. “Well, that’s an easy caveat to accept,” Violet said. “I’m never wrong.” Let’s hope that she’s right.

While the two main plots above were brilliantly done, the subplots fell short. Edith getting the columnist job was great, but the announcement felt anticlimactic. Branson’s brother might have been an entertaining character — if he’d had more than two relatively short scenes in which he was just an example of what the Crawley’s didn’t want Branson to become. Ivy’s flirting and hopes of romance with one of the boys is getting tiresome, although it might get more interesting if Jimmy’s flirting with her to make a point to Thomas is any indication.

And then there’s Ethel. I know Downton Abbey isn’t the best show to turn to for happily ever afters, but after Isobel brought Ethel into her home, and Ethel gave up her son to improve his life, I really hoped that Ethel’s tale would have a happy ending. Expecting the town to suddenly accept Ethel into their arms would have been ridiculous, but I at least hoped the Crawley women would continue to support her. Instead they’re planning to give her a good reference and let her find a job somewhere new, where she won’t have the previous ‘occupation’ hanging over her head. Good intentions, perhaps, but it feels like a waste of time if the audience won’t get to see Ethel’s self-improvement and her acceptance by society.

Overall, a great episode. I’m so glad they’ve decided to keep Branson in Downton, even if things have the potential to get a bit odd now that he’s simultaneously family and employee. It’s going to be interesting seeing how that turns out for him nonetheless. In addition to that, next week’s episode also sees a new arrival in Downton and Thomas’ fate finally decided…

What did you think of this week’s Downton Abbey? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!