Oh, Poor Edith! “Downton Abbey” Season 3, Episode 2 Review

The character of Lady Edith Crawley is often compared to Jan Brady. She’s super jealous of her older sister and knows that her younger sister can do no wrong.  What’s a middle sister to do? Over the last two seasons of Downton Abbey she’s been the odd girl out, stuck in the middle between her elegant older sister, Lady Mary, and adventurous sister, Lady Sybil. At times she’s been whiny, the subject of many an eye-roll from her sisters, family, and the audience alike, and she’s often pushed aside – you can just feel her clutching her fists in anger and stalking away every time the limelight is on her sisters.  But in last night’s episode of Downtown Abbey, Lady Edith Crawley’s final chance at happiness seemed to be dashed away as she was jilted at the altar by her old-man fiancé, Sir Anthony Strallan.  We really got to see Edith in all her desperation, and her sadness, for she had tried so hard to find happiness for herself.

It’s not a surprise that Edith pretty much beat Strallan into submission in order to get him to marry her.  Her father and her grandmother tried to stop it, concerned that he was too old for her.  Edith knew she didn’t have many options when it came to suitors.  Her delight in finally walking down the aisle made this episode ever more heartbreaking when she’s left at the altar.  Strallan realizes that he is trapping Edith in a marriage to a much older man and doesn’t want her to waste her life on him. Despite the protest of her father, it is the Dowager Countess who steps forward to snap Edith back to the reality that she needs to let Strallan go. As Edith runs back to Downton Abbey, she casts her veil aside in frustration that her world has seemingly ended and she is doomed to be the “helpful spinster” she seems destined to be.

Whether you love or hate Edith, it is a testament to actress Laura Carmichael that we feel this way about her. Carmichael’s ability to be at once snarky and the next so vulnerable makes the character of Lady Edith so much more real to viewers. She is not cold like Lady Mary or bubbly like Lady Sybil.  We feel her pain and sadness, as her mother tells her she is “being tested.” Edith is not one to dwell on her pain, however, and in true British fashion puts her chin up and gets on with it.  I hope there is happiness in the future for Edith – I think she deserves it.

The fate of Downton continues to hang in the balance for most of this episode, as Matthew stubbornly refuses to accept the inheritance from Lavinia Swire’s father, not wanting to read a letter from Reggie Swire explaining why he chose Matthew for the inheritance.  This kind of annoys me – Matthew is so annoyingly good at times it is really frustrating. It could be that this aspect of the story was drawn out so long – I wanted to shout at the TV and say, “just take the damn money already!”   Mary feels the same way – she just goes ahead and reads the letter, where we find out that Lavinia wrote a letter on her deathbed to her father explaining that she knew Matthew loved another and that she forgave him, not wanting him to not choose being with the one he loved.  Of course it still takes a bit more convincing for Matthew to believe Lavinia sent a letter (really?) and when Mary tracks down the letter poster (Daisy) he finally gives in.  When Matthew tells Lord Grantham the news, Lord Grantham doesn’t feel he can actually take the money but would rather have Matthew invest in the estate – leaving them both to be “masters” together.  It should be interesting to see how this takes shape.

Downstairs at Downton, Thomas and O’Brien face off yet again, as Thomas brings in poor old Molesley into the scheme, using him to spread the rumor that O’Brien is leaving. O’Brien susses out the source, of course, and warns Thomas that his scheme will be his last and revenge will come. It should be interesting to see what happens – these two are almost worse than Emily on Revenge when it comes to exacting revenge on one another.

Mrs. Hughes’ health scare comes to a head in this episode.  It’s touching to see the relationship between Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson.  Carson pretends not to know that Mrs. Hughes might be ill but does everything in his power to make sure she doesn’t exert herself and that Lady Grantham is made aware of the issue.  You have to wonder if Carson isn’t just a little sweet on Mrs. Hughes – especially when he starts singing as he polishes the silver once he’s learned that Mrs. Hughes is in the clear.

Anna continues to try to find evidence to prove Mr. Bates is innocent of killing his first wife.  She visits with an old friend of Vera’s to try to find out Vera’s state of mind prior to her death.  The friend doesn’t provide much in the way of clues, only saying that Vera was terrified of Mr. Bates.  Meanwhile, Bates finds trouble in prison.  This “trouble in prison” storyline is a little contrived and predictable to me, and I’m still trying to figure out why they hate Bates so much.

Another great episode overall this week. I’m looking forward to seeing how Edith picks herself up and dusts herself off after her heartbreak and it should be interesting to see what happens now that Matthew has some control over the estate.

2 thoughts on “Oh, Poor Edith! “Downton Abbey” Season 3, Episode 2 Review

  1. [“Strallan realizes that he is trapping Edith in a marriage to a much older man and doesn’t want her to waste her life on him. Despite the protest of her father, it is the Dowager Countess who steps forward to snap Edith back to the reality that she needs to let Strallan go.”]

    Why? Because he is older than Edith? Back in Season 1, the Crawleys had no problems with Sir Anthony becoming an in-law via Lady Mary or Lady Edith. In fact, no one did. Now some six to seven years later, he’s suddenly too old for Lady Edith? And you don’t see the idiocy of this writing? Because I do. Sir Anthony is probably barely 50. If Edith is mature enough to have a decent relationship with him, I saw no problems with them as husband and wife.

  2. I think they’ve left the door open for a few plot twists – 1) Bates may have actually done it: between the angry admission of being a murderer to his cell mate (which may have just been bravado) and the story from Bates’ wife’s neighbor, the door is still open. 2) O’Brien didn’t say she wasn’t leaving. 3) No one but Mrs. Hughes was in the room when she allegedly got a clean bill of health.
    The real question tho – will you buy the rest of the season on ITunes now or watch it on PBS each week?

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