Downton Abbey, Episode 3.2
Written by Julian Fellows
Directed by Andy Goddard
As Downton Abbey is prone to do, its latest installment gave with one hand, took with the other, and dragged its feet on other matters best resolved sooner rather than later. When Edith extols, “something happening in this house is actually about me,” it’s easy to imagine scores of Edith supporters bobbing their heads up and down and crossing their fingers that this means brighter days ahead for the quieter Crawley daughter. Edith hasn’t always been an angel. Since her introduction, she’s often represented the agent of spite or envy and served as a complication in already difficult situations.
As time went on, Edith managed to grow up some and to prove herself a more helpful figure, but she has yet to overcome her symbolic pitifulness in the shadow of her more spirited sisters. While this episode did her a favor by allowing her to visit the foreground longer than ever before, it did nothing to remove her stigma as the lamentable middle child. Adding insult to a history of injury, Edith Crawley can now add jilted at the altar to the long list of reasons to feel sorry for herself. Yet hope remains that she’ll brush herself off and become a more resilient character for all her suffering, though the evidence of that chance won’t be found in this hour-long program.
And Edith isn’t the only person to suffer some humiliation this week. O’Brien finds herself embarrassed in front of her employer thanks to a prank pulled by her former confidant, Thomas. The O’Brien/Thomas rivalry is shaping up to be one of the highlights of the Downton saga so far. Until now, the ramifications of their squabble have been fairly inconsequential, but it looks like Thomas may have pushed things too far this time. Regular viewers know the extremes O’Brien is capable of, so when she cautions Thomas to expect the worst, we know she means it. Turning the two most conniving characters against one another was a stroke of genius, and the anticipation to see who winds up on top results in a juicy piece of intrigue. Not to mention, the pettiness of their motivations affords a slight easing of tension from the heavier conflicts brewing upstairs.
But there was some good news tonight. After all the nervous breath-holding over Mrs. Hughes’ potential illness, the ultimate sigh of relief felt so gratifying when her diagnosis came back benign. And the worry over her health was also worth it to see incredibly touching displays of affection from both Carson and Lady Cora herself. Mrs. Hughes is unquestionably a moral compass for the show, and her removal would have been a sure sign that it had lost its way. Fortunately, her voice of reason survived this scare and can be expected to keep the often rigid Mr. Carson in check for many more episodes to come.
And some nervous fans can also breath a sigh of relief that the Crawleys will be around to call the shots at Downton for the foreseeable future, but a regime change might still be on the horizon. With the help of Mary and a note from a dead man, Matthew finally set aside his guilt and accepted the inheritance from his would-be father-in-law, Reggie Swire. Robert, whose pride hinders him from accepting Matthew’s money as an outright gift, proposed that they become partners in Downton’s stewardship. The ever-changing character dynamics continue to stay in flux, and if Matthew takes a more active role, it should be very interesting to witness how two masters with such drastically disparate approaches to privilege cooperate in the running of the household.
Several characters found speedy resolutions to most of their troubles in this episode. The only drawn out affair still being Bates’ tenure in prison, which unfortunately pulls focus from more engaging storylines and has yet to comfortably insert itself into the other goings-on back at the mansion. However, while these resolutions appear permanent, many of them were far from perfect and will assuredly usher in new conflicts in the near future.