Downton Abbey, Season 4, Episode 7
Directed by Edward Hall
Written by Julian Fellowes
Airs Sundays at 9 PM on PBS
Many resolutions came to fruition in last night’s episode of Downton Abbey, and on the whole, most of them are some of the most delightful of the season. There were homecomings, leave-takings, an offscreen death of a minor and unscrupulous character. Schemes were hatched, clues dropped, engagements broken, and new relationships budded.
Now that Edith has decided to keep her baby, there’s the issue of what to do with the child. It’s hard to deny the practicality of Rosamund’s plan to take Edith abroad and let a foreign couple adopt her offspring, but Edith’s fierce desire to stay part of her child’s life provides just another reminder of the heavily weighted “lose” column on the imbalanced scorecard tracking her happiness. Luckily, Edith finds another ally in her grandmother, and Granny’s involvement means more screentime for the Dowager, which always benefits the show as a whole. Unfortunately for Edith, the Dowager is of a like mind with Rosumand, so the sad-faced girl, once again, finds herself outnumbered when it comes to the major decisions of her life.
Rose’s relationship with Jack Ross finally reached its inevitable end. Unfortunately, it never did see the development it deserved. Whether Rose truly loved her Jazz singer or if she just wanted to irritate her mother, as Mary suggests, well, it’s an assumption the show’s creative forces have decided to leave to our better judgments. It appears that they intended not only for Rose to keep the ins and outs of her dalliance a secret from the family but from Downton Abbey’s viewership as well. And for that matter, Mary’s confrontation of Jack is more electric than anything that ever passed between him and Rose. So as that engagement comes and goes, there’s little to no emotional investment to go along with it.
And then there’s the engagement that doesn’t quite happen, Alfred’s proposal to Ivy. The love triangle that played out in the Abbey’s kitchen every week began to sound like a broken record after the second week with a lot of the requisite squabbling, pining, and polite refusals. It’s no earth-shattering outcome that the triangle doesn’t resolve with a happy couple, but considering everyone emerges on friendly terms, we can count the ending a happy one, especially because it leads directly to one of the sweetest moments between Mrs. Patmore and her protégé as ever written by Mr. Fellowes. The bickering and melodrama of the Daisy/Alfred/Ivy mess won’t be missed, but the show’s great ensemble takes a blow as it loses Alfred’s inspirational sincerity.
Anna’s problem of Mr. Green seems to go away in a fatal collision with a lorry, but his demise might not be the Deus ex Machina it appears to be at first. It seems Mary and Anna are both ready to convict Mr. Bates of the deed, and he did request time off from Mr. Carson right before the accident occurred. So both motive and opportunity are accounted for. That just leaves the thread of means to be factored in at some later date. The brutality of Anna’s predicament caused much debate amongst fans and critics in the beginning as to its necessity and effectiveness, but as the ethical intricacies continue to mount, her narrative has raised a bevy of uncomfortable questions about how to respond in the face of injustice or whether it’s good to respond at all. It’s the sort of dilemma that demands continual introspection and meaningful contemplation of the so-called “right thing.” As a potential murder enters into it, the dilemma is further convoluted and the complexity renews itself. No easy answers are available, and so it’s shaped up as exactly the sort of crisis that keeps this drama so engrossing.
And then there’s Lady Mary, consistently justifying her occupation of the spotlight. Considering the bleak point from which she started the season, seeing her now juggle the attentions of an ever-growing collection of a suitors—a “desire” as Cora decides to label them—and noting with a smirk how much amusement it bestows to her family members, the giddy disorder of it all turns out to be just the lift her widowhood needed. And speaking of suitors, there might be one on the horizon for Isobel. It’s a little early to draw conclusions about Lord Merton’s suitability as Isobel’s love interest, but loyal Downton watchers can hold out hope that perhaps his introduction can provide a new and better opportunity for the good Dr. Clarkson to reassert his intentions. While on the subject of potential romance, the blossoming rapport between Molesley and the enigmatic Mrs. Baxter stands out as an unexpected bright spot for the episode.
The week’s new beginnings favorably balance out the host of endings. And as always the assurance of major changes ahead (one of which forecasts an appearance by Cora’s ignominious brother) secures the crucial intrigue for what’s to come next.