Gary Carr and Lily James in Downton Abbey, on PBS
Love is in the air at Downton Abbey. Okay, maybe not “love” exactly, in every case, but all the stories currently circling around the abbey have to do with love or the consequences of it. Rose continues her pursuit of Mr. Ross, who is at least a little more realistic about their chances, even as he fails to successfully rebuff her. Edith comes to terms with the fact that Michael may be gone to her but she has a responsibility to do right by his child (somehow). Tom meets a cheeky young lady at a local political talk. Nothing really happens, but it’s clear she’s being set up as the next girl to catch his eye. He sure likes the pushy types. Albert continues to be the stud of the kitchen, for reasons we (and certainly Jimmy) can’t understand in the slightest. Robert is off to another continent to lend his aristocratic hand to a brother–in-law he can’t stand. Anna and Bates continue to struggle with the idea of who they’re going to be now that one of them has suffered a traumatic experience. And of course Mary finds herself surrounded by a trio of men who are all fascinated by her and pretends – VERY unconvincingly, we might add – that she doesn’t freaking love every single second of it.
Let’s start with Mary and the irritating (to her, anyway) Mr. Blake. We make no predictions about where Mary’s going to wind up romantically, but Fellowes sure is selling this matchup as hard as he can. Lord Poutylips may take her breath away (literally; there was a lovely moment on the stairs where Michelle Dockery did the most perfect little gasp at the sight of him in white tie, which is, admittedly, a gasp-worthy sight), and Evelyn, bless his heart, will probably always remain stuck in the Friend Zone (why this charming and handsome aristocrat has spent the last decade-plus pining for a woman who never did more than offer her cheek for him to kiss is a total mystery), but Mr. Blake gets on her last damn nerve and as we all know, that’s the way to Mary’s heart. Remember the days when she was gasping at the sight of Mr. Pamuk and arguing with Matthew about… well…. everything? History repeating. She gets all hot and bothered over non-aristocrats showing up in her house and eating off her china like they belong there. We’ve been down this road before. First she yells at them, then she wants to tear their clothes off.
And when we say Fellowes is selling this matchup as hard as we can, we of course mean (because subtlety was never his strong point) that he’s hitting us over the head with some rather silly (and totally off-model for the show) rom-c0m motifs. The high-falutin’ gal who gets brought down to the real world in a hilarious, messy and humiliating way? Check. She loves every second of it? Check, check. She then proceeds to thank a man by cooking for him? Check, check – wait, WHAT? Talk about a needle scratch of a moment. We don’t know which part we found less believable; that Mary would laugh off having her couture ruined or that Mary would make a man breakfast. These scenes were supposed to come off charming, but we thought they were kind of dumb. The mud scene had its moments, but all of those moments were cliches.
Meanwhile, poor Edith is in the middle of the biggest crisis of her life and no one in her family seems to care. Well, no one except Aunt Rosamunde, who we suspect knows a thing or two about being the Forgotten Daughter. When a tearful and clearly distraught Edith asked her mother if she was bad, Cora didn’t swoop in, ask her what was wrong and ensure her that she loves her. No, she laughed, patted her on the head, said “Not exactly,” and moved on to more pressing matters, like sitting at a desk and holding a paper in her hand. That family all turn into sociopaths when it comes to the middle daughter. Edith needs to say “fuck this noise” and move to London permanently. Of course, she has to deal with the bun in her oven first, but still. We’d love nothing more than to see her speeding away from the Abbey in a car she bought with her own money and never looking back.
Other things happened, like Isobel coming to life because she gets to be a busybody again. And of course, the secret of Anna’s rape is one of the worst-kept ones in the history of the house. Now that Mary knows, it’s only a matter of time before Cora does, and then from there, it’s on to Baxter, because Cora still naively thinks she can talk about anything at all in front of her ladies maid. As for Baxter, we’re kind of rooting for her. She tried to pull an O’Brien a couple of times this episode and failed spectacularly at it. As much as Thomas wants her to be his own little O’Brien puppet, we suspect she’s going to disappoint him.
And Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson are bickering like two people in love lately. We’d keep an eye on those two. We suspect they’ve fallen in a sort of love for each other and don’t even know it.
[Photo Credit: Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2013 for MASTERPIECE]