This week on Downton Abbey
, Anna continues pulling away from everyone in the wake of her assault, Lord Gillingham falls in love with Mary faster than anyone has yet and we see the end of another Downton schemer.
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Plus, Rose and Edith both get scandalous with their love lives, as Tom Branson almost gets trapped with the oldest trick in the book. Fake babies! Is it just me or does it seem like there's been a fake baby epidemic recently on television?
If last season was all about the changing nature of the English aristocracy and season 2 was all about the repercussions of World War I, I'm currently hard-pressed to identify a theme for this season.
There are a lot of storylines, and some of them even move forward in this week's installment. But none of them feel like they add up to anything like a cohesive whole. Besides a few visits to jazz clubs, we haven't seen much of the world at large and the momentous changes society was undergoing in this time period.
In fact, it's almost as if the show is folding back upon itself. The struggles the characters are undergoing are almost entirely within their own circle or within the confides of the Abbey this season. No one is going off to war, no one is fighting for voting rights, and therefore the inter-house struggles have begun to loom larger in the frame without any historical context.
There's nothing wrong with this, per se, considering we've spent enough time to care deeply about what happens to all these characters.There's nothing wrong with finding out more about Carson's alluded-to past or watching Mary deal with more suitors. But the benefit of watching a show like Downton Abbey is being able to paint with all the colors of the time period. Right now, it certainly feels like there is a lot being left off the canvas.
The Dissolution of Anna and Bates
Anna is still dealing with the very painful repercussions of her sexual assault by Lord Gillingham's valet, Green, last week. She feels dirty and responsible, and it's horrific to watch such an innately likable character go through such a terrible ordeal. This story has been incredibly hard to watch, but Joanne Froggatt has been doing an absolutely phenomenal job with it.
Bates is trying to figure out, to no avail, what exactly he has done wrong. But Bates isn't the only one picking up on Anna's terrible mood. Almost everyone in the house can sense that something is off with Anna, but her lips are sealed on the cause of her pain.
Mrs. Hughes wants Anna to speak up, tell Bates and bring charges against Green. But Anna knows telling Bates will send him off to murder Green, and she doesn't want to see him behind bars again.
Unable to tell her husband what's happened to her and with few resources during the time with which to deal with sexual assault, Anna is completely alone and shut down. She asks to move back into the main house after Mary's trip to London, and Edna's departure as lady's maid gives her the perfect opportunity to do so.
"We live together, we work together. Sometimes, I think it's just too much," Anna tells Bates when he asks what's wrong. Could we be seeing the end of our favorite downstairs couple?
The big storyline of the episode upstairs revolves around Mary's love life, as Lord Gillingham decides he is truly, madly and deeply in love with Mary for no apparent reason. To say Gillingham's proposal towards the end of the episode comes out of left field would be far too kind.
The two characters have maybe a grand total of five scenes together before Gillingham is ready to get down on one knee and become Mr. Lady Mary. Does he know about her track record with dudes? There is no part of me that thinks Lord Gillingham is tough enough to survive Hurricane Mary.
Thankfully, Mary turns him down gently by mentioning how she's only spent a cumulative hour in his presence and it's only been six months since her true love died. For those looking for love life tips, "I'm sure your dead husband was a splendid chap!" is not the ideal way to start a proposal. Just saying.
Before the ill-fated proposal, however, Mary goes to London to figure out something about the death taxes on the estate. Riveting stuff. It's the jazz age, but I'm glad we're neck-deep in estate planning, death taxes and farm dues. That's way more interesting.
Thankfully, Mary brings Rose along to cause some trouble. Rose begs them to go to a dance club, because Rose is the Lindsay Lohan of the early 1920's. I can't wait until she drops her album Girls Just Want to Have Un-Chaperoned Fun!
At the dance hall, Rose's partner turns out to be bad at holding his liquor and she's rescued by the dashing bandleader. Of course, the scandalous part to Lady Rosamund is that this handsome bandleader is black. I think the more scandalous part is that he was right in the middle of singing and then jumped off the stage to dance with Rose. You had one job, man!
Elsewhere in scandal-ville, Edith says goodbye to Michael Gregson by finally giving up her virtue. Then Gregson puts all his affairs in her name and jaunts off to Germany, because what ever went wrong in Germany?
Anna isn't the only one being sexually preyed upon in this episode. After Tom has a moment of weakness, Edna is certain she'll become pregnant.
"You'll marry me if I'm pregnant, right? This totally isn't a scheme, I'm just talking hypotheticals. But if I was hypothetically pregnant, we'd have to get married and then I would be hypothetically rich, right?" As Edna talks, Tom begins to sense the full scale, width and breadth of her impressive level of crazy.
So off Tom goes to see Mrs. Hughes, the professional fixer of the Downton Abbey household. Olivia Pope's got nothing on Mrs. Hughes! Tom walks into her office, sighs his sad Irish sigh and basically says, "I've made a huge mistake." Mrs. Hughes immediately goes into crisis mode, reminding us that if it were modern times, Mrs. Hughes would make an amazing Scandal-style gladiator.
She calls in Edna, threatens to rip off her clothes in order to prove she's not pregnant and calls her out on having books about family planning. Edna fights back at first but eventually agrees to leave Downton quietly in exchange for not having her reputation ruined. "It's handled," Mrs. Hughes says. Seriously, what would that house do without her?
Aren't you glad they brought this useless character back just to banish her again in almost the exact same way?
Meanwhile, Mrs. Hughes gives Carson a framed photograph of his former lover to prove he once had a heart, causing my heart to grow three sizes. Those two are the best. I would watch a show just about Carson and Mrs. Hughes bickering over proper decorum.
And in the least interesting storyline of all time, which is still happening despite everyone's zero investment, the kitchen love square continues. Daisy is mad Alfred wants to go off to cooking school, so she sends him to find Ivy and Jimmy making time in a closet. Even Mrs. Patmore is like, "Girl, he's just not that into you."
What did you think of the episode? Were you shocked at how quickly Lord Gillingham fell in love? Are you glad to see the last of Edna? And will Bates find out what happened to Anna? Sound off in the comments!
Downton Abbey airs Sundays at 9pm on PBS.
(Image courtesy of PBS)