Downton Abbey’s seventh episode haven’t had great revelations nor big surprises, none big plot twists, not even deep dramatic moments. But it may be remembered by all those little moments, the subtleties in scenes so beautifully played by its cast, in a script that finally weaves a plot that builds the story of each of his characters.
It is impossible to start talking about this episode without honor what has been the best of this season: the magnificent performances by Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton. Of course these two great actresses have always been brilliant throughout all seasons, but this year they are showing us really first class acting. Throw the first stone who wasn’t touched with the sad eyes of Violet Crawley when she realizes that she is about to lose her best friend and companion. Or with the mixed feelings in Isobel Crawley’s face after she had been insulted by Lord Merton’s horrid sons (not to mention haven’t been truly defended or comforted by him). Then, if this season hasn’t been so brilliant as the first and the second, we can always rely that Smith and Wilton will never disappoint us.
And since we are talking about Isobel and Violet, let’s start from here. In this episode a very proud and happy Isobel announces during dinner, the first one this season where we hadn’t people trying to jump on each other’s throats, her intention to marry Lord Merton. The revelation is a pleasant surprise for all the Crawleys (except of course Violet) and their guests for the evening, Lord and Lady Sinderby and their son, the (until now at least) adorable Atticus Aldridge and Lady Mary’s Suitors and Sympathizers Club: Gillingham, Blake and Mabel Lane Fox (in this case, sympathizer of the suitors, nor Mary, just to clarify). Aunt Rosamund is also present, since she came from London in the morning to help her family to find Edith, which didn’t seem to me a very wise decision because Edith is at London and not hidden in some remote corner of the county. But since wisdom is not the strongest virtue of the Crawleys, is Atticus who has the bright idea to start looking for Edith at the magazine that she has inherited from Michael Gregson. “Pretty obvious” dear Atticus? Oh, boy, you need to know your future family better because none of them has eyes to see the obvious. But you will love them nonetheless.
It is during Isobel’s announcement that the sadness on Violet’s face shows us how she really feels about her friend’s engagement. And is also during the dinner that Violet finally calls Mary out reminding her that in adulthood there is no room for childish bickering and lack of compassion, especially between sisters.
Cora Crawley finally learns the truth about Edith and Marigold through a conversation with Mrs. Drewe which we don’t see on-screen. But there is no need because the scene where she scolds Rosamund and Violet in her bedroom before dinner (the one of the wedding announcement) is enough to know how she received the news and how the mother is willing to face everything to bring happiness to her daughter and granddaughter. Applause for Lady Grantham, who, after finally locating her daughter working in the magazine office inherited from Gregson (surprise of the surprises) decides to hear Edith’s will about the situation and comes up with an idea to help her. Although her plan to bring Marigold to Downton’s nursery is bound to be quickly debunked by the members of the family and the ever watchful staff members (I really doubt that Carson, Hughes, Anna and Baxter won’t kill the charade at the beginning), nobody can fail to acknowledge her courage and proof of love for welcoming her daughter and granddaughter at a time when a child outside the wedding lock, especially among the aristocracy, was a scandal big enough to stain the history of a family for generations.
Lady Mary finally is freed from Tony Gillingham’s “persecution” with the help of Blake’s audacious plan, who, throughout this season stopped to be her suitor to fill the role of the brunette’s best friend. After witnessing a kiss between Blake and Mary (so fake that even Tony noticed), Tony finally leaves the scene with a gentle bow and a wish of good luck. Lucky Mabel Lane Fox who can again claim her place in the heart of the glamorous Viscount without competition. We find out that Charles Blake is also leaving to Poland for work and he will stay there for months, maybe a year. What is a pity since Mary and Charles, as well as potential romantic couple, are perfect as partners in crime and their schemes had always brighten the episodes in which they were present.
Once more a family dinner is completely ruined, this time (or should I say again) by Larry, that nice chap who is one of Lord Merton’s sons (that one that had poisoned Branson’s drink in the third season, now do you remember him?). Larry doesn’t spare anyone as he freely distributed his arrogant and prejudiced comments, attacking especially Isobel, his father future wife. It’s great to see again how the Crawleys, despite their differences, remain united as a family and stand up for each other. So when Larry offends Isobel, he offends each one at that table. And if Lord Merton is not efficient scolding his son (or defending the woman he loves) this time is Branson who angrily throws his napkin on the table (didn’t he learn it well from Lord Grantham?) to finally gives voice to everyone’s thoughts asking to the “bastard” to leave. Well done Branson! We all are grateful to you.
Talking about Tom, it seems that he has made up his mind about his future (not with out sorrow), and it seems that he has decided to change Downton for Boston, where he has a cousin living. The nice surprise here is the demonstration of how much Branson has became part of the family. If in the beggining of this season Lord Grantham became red in fury only of thinking about Tom and Sybbie leaving, this time he proves to be really more sensitive to his son-in-law problems. While they discuss in a peaceful way the departure of Mary’s suitors and the short (but certainly remarkable) Miss Bunting passing through Downton, Lord Grantham shows that even he knows that Tom can’t live alone for the rest of his life.
Meanwhile, downstairs … Daisy is about to give up on her studies, but after a very good advice from Thomas (underneath that facade of vampire in recovery still beats a real human heart, believe you or not), Mrs.Patmore comes up with a plan and writes a letter to Mr. Mason who readily invites Mr. Molesley and Daisy to visit him at his farm. In a demonstration that indeed he has a heart, Thomas gives a helping hand and convinces Miss Baxter to join the pair in their visit to Mr. Mason, after all, any help is welcome to keep Daisy’s potential geniality.
Mrs. Hughes confesses to a no surprised Anna Bates that she and Mr. Carson are planning to invest in a property together (I know Anna, no one buys their story they are just good friends). When Anna tells her that she had seen Mr. Drewe getting inside the first class train cabin that Lady Edith and Lady Grantham had left and that it was a child inside it, the good housekeeper once more proofs why she is the one for a secret: she advises Anna to not get involved in this affair.
Anna and Bates apparently had lived in this episode their last moments of peace before the storm promised for the next episode comes close. Besides loving glances, warm and soft smiles and conversations in the privacy of their cottage, the couple makes clear their dissatisfaction with Miss Baxter because she had spoken to the police about them. Baxter can easily end with this discomfort among them if she tells them her secret and both, Molesley and Thomas, tell her to do it. But Baxter confesses to Molesley at Mr. Mason’s door that she doesn’t want to worry the Bateses with her burden because they have already their owns. But after listening to a conversation between Lady Mary and Mrs. Hughes about the famous train ticket that could proof Bates’ innocence, she goes to the couple to tell them that she will swear to the police that she had seen the train ticket in Mrs. Hughes’ hand and that the ticket hadn’t been used hoping to help them.
There are now so many questions to be answered and I believe that many of them will have their conclusion only in the Christmas episode, which by the way this year is going exceptionally happen at Christmas time. But let’s talk about it in another post.