There we were, making fun of Cora’s crazy eyes and rapidspeak (“YOUREBEINGSILLY OFCOURSEWEHAVETOTALKTOTOM!” “IWOULDHAVESENTHERANHOURAGO!”) and Robert’s thickheaded aristocratic buffoonery, when the rug, it was pulled right out from under our feet.
Blubbering. Like you wouldn’t believe.
That was the first time we saw this episode. Last night, the fourth time we saw it, our reactions were lessened not a bit, and when Tom begged someone to do somethng and Cora implored her baby to stay with them, stay with them, please stay with them; we lost it, again. For the fourth time. Yes, Downton Abbey is a soap opera and at times, a really bad one, but this was easily one of the finest moments of the show; a devastating emotional scene that skirts right up to the line of being maudlin, filtered through the lens of history and the veil of the aristocracy. After all, it wasn’t a coincidence that the only people in that bedroom having an open and healthy reaction to the horror were the two people who weren’t English and weren’t born into the aristocracy. It was the Irishman and the American who begged and pleaded and wailed to the room while all the English aristocrats (and Dr. Clarkson, the only correct person in the room and one who is also, not coincidentally, not an aristocrat) stood around, wide-eyed, helpless, and of no use to anyone at all. Julian Fellowes gets rightly accused of sometimes elevating the aristocracy and whitewashing what a life in service was really like, but this one scene was the absolute most damning indictment of the upper classes the show has ever depicted. When thick-faced Robert said in impotent confusion, “I don’t understand. She’s 24 years old,” he left off the last part, “and she’s my daughter, a lady of the House of Grantham.” This isn’t supposed to happen to his kind, not when he puts faith in more of his kind to tend his family’s needs. We have never hated Robert so much as we do right now. His prissy over-reaction to the use of words like “urine” and “womb” – while discussing a woman in labor, who’s in danger – made us want to slap him. Made us want to never stop slapping him.
And now, Cora apparently does too. There’ve been minor cracks and bumps in the road of this marriage, but this latest event may just be the one that derails it completely – and we wouldn’t blame Cora one bit for it. It’s a testament to the writing and acting of this episode – as well as the somewhat silly, rarefied world they inhabit – that a line like “Tell your father to sleep in the dressing room tonight” falls like an axe. Burn the whole place down in your rage and grief, Cora. We wouldn’t blame you one bit.
Oh, and Thomas and Anna outside the kitchen? Wrecked again.
There have been plenty of silly moments and maudlin melodrama in Downton Abbey, but the show really nailed it last night. Compare Sybil’s death with Lavinia’s. Granted, we didn’t care as much about the latter, but even so, her death scene was ludicrous and Matthew’s subsequent zombie act was unintentionally hilarious. This time, everyone was quietly and not-so-quietly devastated, upstairs and down. A daughter of the house was lost and she was the one daughter that everyone in the house loved equally. This pain is going to go on for a long time to come.
- “Mary, do you think we can get along with each other now?” “I doubt it.” Funny, but COLD.
- Have we mentioned that Sir Philip Tapsell’s an ass?
- What’s going on with Mary and her lack of baby?
- A light at the end of the tunnel for the BateZZZZ storyline. Pastry! It all comes down to pastry! Of course it does. Wake us when it’s over.
- There’s quite the messy tangle of love connections going on below stairs. Daisy likes Alfred, who likes Ivy, who likes James, who likes himself. Also: Thomas is making his move and his move involves winding clocks. Oh, yeah.
- O’Brien’s an evil bitch. But we knew that.
- It’s true, y’know. No one ever could mistake Mrs. Byrd for a prostitute.
- Did we mention we’re wrecked?