Downton Abbey Series 5 Episode 2 Review


The great fire of no consequence got my back up last week on Downton Abbey’s series five opener, but this week’s episode was an improvement if only because it didn’t try to draw us in with big, flashy dramatics just for the sake of it.

It didn’t pretend to be anything other than what it was, and there’s something inherently more endearing about Downton when it’s being honest than when it’s openly manipulating its audience. That was a sizeable problem last year, when it decided to epically mishandle its rape plotline without so much as a thought towards the wider impact on the loyal audience and wider discussion of the show in general.

I hate when this show decides to get sensationalist because, as we can all agree, it has never come close to sensational in practice.

So nothing really happened in episode two, and that kind of feels like the way it should be. Ongoing plotlines like Edith’s place in little Marigold’s life, Mary’s sexual liberation and Mosley’s confliction over Baxter’s past are all ticking along slowly and quietly and, as all of this is going on, Downton welcomes the wireless into the house to fulfil the ‘times they are a changin’ quota for the week.

Edith’s story continues to tug at my heartstrings, and I suspect that its ongoing assault on my emotions has a lot to do with Laura Carmichael’s performance. You really feel each beat of hope and hopelessness as the prospect of being in her daughter’s life or alternatively having her snatched away, and this is one plotline I wouldn’t mind seeing unfold slowly. I’ve always had a soft spot for Lady Edith.

We saw in the preview for next week that Marigold’s adoptive mother is going to stand in Edith’s way where her daughter is concerned, but whether she succeeds depends largely on who Edith decides to let in on the secret. Maybe this is a way for her and Mary to find some common ground (especially since Mary seems fully aware of how easy it would be to fall into such trouble), but that could just be wishful thinking on my part.

Something that seemed to get wrapped up far too quickly was Jimmy’s employment at the Abbey, as we learn that his actions last week, discussed off-screen, have indeed gotten him the sack.

This leads to a beautiful little scene between him and Thomas, in which all of the viewers (me included) who had held out hope of these two eventually becoming ‘special friends’ (Anna’s words, not mine) shed a tear for what could have been. We were promised a Barrow storyline this year, so hopefully this is the setup for bigger and better things down the road.

The one truly scandalous thing in this episode was Mary’s little adventure with Gillingham at a Liverpool hotel, which is her way of making sure he is good enough to be her second husband in ‘close quarters’.

Of course, Gillingham is a viable candidate for having murdered Green – and yes, the big rape/murder plot has reared its ugly head again – so maybe this will take him out of the running automatically. It’s worth noting that Mary’s other suitor popped up again this week, possibly to remind us that she has other options as soon as her illicit affair goes tits up and she has to dive back into the dating pool.

Because this is almost certainly going to end badly for her, which is a shame because the sentiment it a good one and fits with many of Downton’s ongoing themes, but I can’t see exactly how yet. It can’t be a pregnancy, unless that mysterious form of contraception she sent Anna to get doesn’t quite hold up. Nevertheless, I don’t trust Gillingham, and wish Mary and Branson would just hurry up and get it together.

What did you think of the episode? Will Tom return to his old, rebellious ways under the influence of Ms Bunting? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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