In the aftermath of Lady Sybil’s shocking death last week, this week’s episode of Downton Abbey deals with the grief of the family that is left behind, and the most potent of the stages of grief, anger.
Anger seems to be running rampant throughout this episode, starting with Lady Cora and her red hot anger toward Lord Robert for his support of Sir Philip Tapsall, the “fashionable” doctor Lord Grantham favored for his daughter over the family doctor, Dr. Clarkson, whom Lady Cora believes may have been able to save her daughter, had he been given a chance. Lady Cora’s anger is unflinching – she won’t let Lord Robert into her bed when he barges in like the well-trained chauvinist he is: “I thought I’d move back in tonight, if you’ll have me,” he says. Think again!
Such treatment from his wife and the overwhelming guilt he feels for his daughter’s death makes Lord Grantham the angriest of them all. It seems nothing is going right for the patriarch as he takes his anger out on Branson, who wants his child to be baptized Catholic; on Matthew, who is trying to tell Lord Grantham that change needs to come to Downton sooner rather than later; and even on kind Mrs. Crawley’s innocent luncheon, as he barges in on the meal to demand the ladies return to Downton because they are being served by a former prostitute (they don’t, of course, as they rebel against his tiresome demand). Poor Lord Grantham is getting bucked at every turn as the world continues to change around him, to the point, I think, that he feels helpless.
The anger doesn’t spare anyone below stairs either, as Carson becomes incensed to find out that lady of the night Ethel has asked Mrs. Pattmore for help. He, too, is a relic of the past that is holding on by such a thin thread. His outrage at Mrs. Pattmore and Mrs. Hughes falls flat as the women are much more progressive in their thinking than he is.
It is the Dowager Countess who comes to the rescue when she sees how the acrimony between Lord and Lady Grantham could destroy their marriage. She persuades Dr. Clarkson to tell the couple that Sybil’s chances of living had been very slim and that ultimately, he believes she would have died anyway. This revelation finally brings them together.
The other big news of the night is that Bates is getting out of jail – if only after a little “coercion” by means of a shiv at the throat of Bates’ nemesis in prison. Looks like he’ll be back to cause Thomas some employment trouble.
There was also a bit of foreshadowing in this episode, as O’Brien planted her seed with Thomas by leading him to think that footman Jimmy had a crush on him. I can only think this path won’t end well, especially since Jimmy was ready to call the police on Thomas because of his touchy-feely ways.
A solid episode overall, as the family and the servants worked through their grief after the death of Lady Sybil. What else may be down the line for the Crawleys? If you’ve already watched the rest of the series on iTunes or on the DVD released this past week, then you know what’s happened. For anyone who hasn’t skipped ahead, I say pay attention to what Mary said to Matthew in this episode: “We must never take anything for granted.”
Best line in tonight’s episode goes, as always, to the Dowager Countess, upon learning that Ethel is a former prostitute and now Mrs. Crawley’s cook: “I suppose she has an appropriate costume for every activity.” Ha!