The Downton Dish – Downton Abbey Season 2 Episode Recap
British television maven and blogger Deborah Gilbert keeps you in the know with entertaining recaps of each episode of Downton Abbey Season 2. Count down the top 5 moments of each episode, including the Dowager Countess’ best zingers.
If you are turning to this Downton Dish after just watching this week’s episode, you (like me) are probably a little sad right now. I suppose it had to happen though; it would have been too unrealistic for the story to go all the way through the Great War without anyone we know being killed on the Somme — and, of course, it was inevitable that it had to be an innocent rather than an antagonist. Still, we’re so very sad to see William go. But we must soldier on…
5. One Ringy-Dingy: The Dowager Countess Uses One of Those Newfangled Talking Machines
Like last season, when she wrestled a swivel chair to a draw, Violet’s encounters with twentieth century technology are always a delightful revelation. So much so that even though I’ve never been a big fan of Dr. Who (I just can’t get with the whole traveling through time in a porta-potty thing) I’d love to see an episode where the Doctor visits Downton Abbey and the Dowager Countess tries to use an iPhone 4S, and has it out with Siri. That is a conversation I want to hear. And not for nothing, but the hardest working woman in show business has got to be Laura Carmichael who, as Lady Edith, had to somehow do that scene with a straight face! She deserves an Emmy nod for that alone. And I do so hope we get to meet Lord Shrimpy before the end of the season, don’t you? Maybe he’ll be invited for cocktails.
4. Feelings, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Feelings: Sybil Answers Your Questions
In this episode, Sybil is given the task of answering the question Julian Fellowes (Lord Fellowes if you’re nasty) must know the audience is asking by now: These aristocratic characters are so reserved, do they have any feelings? When she says to Branson, ‘We do have feelings, and don’t make the mistake of thinking that we don’t', it seems she is hinting at her fear of what expressing her feelings to Branson would lead to: A broken heart. Then again, she doesn’t seem to truly grasp that Branson has feelings as well because, even though she protests to Mary that ‘he is a person’, she (still) does treat him like a servant (giving him orders without saying ‘please’) in that entitled way that is always an undercurrent in the Upstairs/Downstairs relationships, regardless of how intimate these relationships may seem on the surface. The unspoken reality is, that intimacy across the great divide is always predicated on everyone remembering their place. On the other hand, she did come very, very close to kissing him, didn’t she? I’d say, if you’re thinking about getting into an office pool this week, forget about the Giants: The smart money is on Branson.
3. And Your Little Dog Too!: Mrs. Bates Returns
Trailing flying monkeys in her wake, Mrs. Bates saunters back onto the scene like a matronly tornado. She is just so gleefully evil, in the face of Bates and Anna’s earnest reserve, that as much as we hate her torturing our valentine couple, it’s kinda fun to watch her operate, isn’t it? But we’re also left wondering: Why is she so bitter? Was there a betrayal by Bates in the past that caused this? Was it the guilt of that that caused him to take the rap for her thievery? Or is she just inherently miserable? She looked so perfectly low-rent Cruella, barging back into Sir Richard’s office after getting her big payoff (like an Edwardian lottery winner), that we were left asking, how many ferrets had to die to make that coat? Then again, we never saw Isis after the opening credits, did we? But seriously, Mary, Anna and Bates really needent worry; If Sir Richard doesn’t get her, PETA will. Somehow I don’t think we’ve seen the last of her though. And then there’s O’Brien’s conscience showing up a day late and a pound short – again. Regrets? She has a few, but then again, not too few for Thomas to mention — and out it spills that she resents being at his beck and call. How interesting is it to see this crack in O’Brien and Thomas’s relationship grow a bit wider? Who do we think will throw the other under the bus first? It seems that Thomas has more dirt on O’Brien, but O’Brien has those ever present powers of hypnosis over Cora, so its hard to say.
2. Richard the Third Rate: Sir Richard Saves Lady Mary From Scandal
…but can she save herself from the clutches of this abusive man who lobs veiled threats at her when she humbles herself to ask for help? Where is that bold and haughty Lady Mary we used to know? That Lady Mary who would have rolled her eyes and flicked him off like just one more mosquito? Why is she even with this jerk? She may think she needs him but she doesn’t. What she needs is a BFF who will tell her straight; If he refers to you as ‘the cold and careful Lady Mary’ before you’re even married, what can you expect after the wedding? Maybe Anna needs to say to her what she said to Bates, ‘I’d rather have the right man than the right wedding.’ Amen to that, sister. Though what was that throwaway line Bates said to her right before she said that, ‘You should have had a church wedding.’ Should have had??? Past tense? It cannot be that they’ve gotten married without inviting us. He must have meant that, after paying off Mrs. Bates, there’s no money for Anna to have the big circus wedding. But that’s OK – she doesn’t seem like the Bridezilla-type anyway. As for Mary, she clearly does not love Sir Rupert, so what is the hold he has on her? Is this what depression looked like before a pint of ice cream in front of the telly was invented? She seemed so non-plussed to hear the surprise engagement announcement in the paper; doesn’t she realize that this was emotional blackmail? Even Lord Grantham, who is a bit slow on the uptake, had an epiphany right before our eyes, and now realizes that Mary is in love with Matthew. Is he going to step in to save poor Mary, or will that task be left to Carson?
1. Prince William: William Saves the Heir and Gets the Girl
With his act of throwing himself onto Matthew, to shield him from the explosion, William exhibited true nobility; the kind that is earned by deed, not inherited via the genetic lottery. Juxtapose that against the behavior of Major Bryant who, because he is an officer, we must assume is an Aristocrat, and who used and then left poor, dumb Ethel, and his baby, in the lurch without so much as a second thought (and by her reaction when Mrs. Hughes mentioned Jane, the new housemaid, am I the only person who thought that Jane isn’t really a war widow afterall?), but I digress. Back to Sweet William: We know that Daisy only agreed to marry him under duress, but in the end, she really did realize she loved him, didn’t she? She must have, otherwise why would she have had that feeling that someone stepped over her grave when he was injured? And Violet showed her softer side as well – though how odd was it that Lord and Lady Grantham didn’t attend the wedding? As for the survivor, Matthew; was setting Lavinia free noble or self-pitying? Or both? Either way, it clears the way for Mary. Or at least it would, if that damn Sir Richard would just shove off.
5. “…I hope it’s not vulgar in me to suggest you find a way to overcome your scruples.”
4. “I have a cold.”
3. “See, sometimes we must let the blow fall by degrees. Give him time to find the strength to face it.”
2. “It always happens when you give these little people power: It goes to their heads like strong drink.”
1. “Is this an instrument of communication or torture?”
The answer to that last one can be found in the little known history of the woman who was the inspiration for the Dowager Countess; who lobbied (unsuccessfully) to have the telephone designated a violation of the Geneva Convention. And by the way, does anyone here have a Downton Abbey ringtone yet? It doesn’t quite rise to the level of torture, except for the fact that there’s no butler to answer it.
Downton Dish is written by Deborah Gilbert, a British television maven and editor of the E20 Chronicles, a free, weekly Eastenders e-newsletter, and an Eastenders column in the Union Jack Newspaper.