Downton Abbey: When Bates Cried, We All Cried

A better episode, but the series will never be back to form. And I must accept this and move on with my life. Which includes the show, because I’ll keep watching until the last husband dies, the last engagement is broken and we figure out what is going on with Thomas and the new lady’s maid.

The Characters

Mr. Carson & Mr. Molesley. Mr. Carson. What a snob. But then, we knew that. And poor Molesley has done it again, managing to make the most of his downward mobility. Carson will never forgive him now. As an aside, I’ve noticed that Molesley and Gil Gundersen from The Simpsons have a lot in common; receding hairlines and a long string of employment woes are just a few of the ways in which they are alike. Each character turns up in an episode just long enough to get kicked around for a few minutes before slinking out a side door. And each character is a cartoon.

Ol' Gil from The Simpsons and Molesley from Downton Abbey: brothers with no mothers.
Ol’ Gil from The Simpsons and Molesley from Downton Abbey: brothers with no mothers.

Mrs. Hughes. She told Bates! Thank God, she told Bates! I’m not sure I could stand the tension of watching everyone suffer and Mrs. Hughes bite her lip, trying to figure out which secrets to keep and which ones to tell.

Bates-n-Anna. They hugged! When Anna cried talking to Bates, I cried too. And when Bates cried after he stepped out of the room, I cried even harder. Really, these actors deserve a lot of credit for ringing real pathos out of this melodrama. I was so happy they finally came together and reaffirmed their love that I hardly cared about the murderous gleam in Bates-es eye. Even the music playing ominously as he stomped away in spite of his limp couldn’t fully undermine my happiness. But I did observe that Mrs. Hughes looked genuinely frightened by Bates-es rage, which bodes ill. If Mrs. Hughes is scared, I should probably be scared too.

Lady Grantham. Lady G. had a big task this week: she had to inform Mrs. Patmore that a refrigerator is on its way. This job was so exhausting that she was unable to accomplish anything else. It was just too much for Lady G. to both inform Mrs. Patmore that, yes, it’s really true that times are changing AND decide whether or not to throw a birthday party for Robert. More on that birthday party in the next episode, after Lady G. has had a week to recover from her conversation with Mrs. Patmore.

Lord Grantham. Lord G. showed a bit more grit this week, even if it meant sneaking around to do it. But at least he followed his own conscience and paid a tenant’s debt while avoiding gambling with any of the family fortune, so things are looking up. And the prospect of Tom leaving for America actually had him pacing around in his dressing gown, nearly breaking a sweat. He seemed genuinely distressed, and it was very exciting to see him move at a relatively rapid pace.

Tom. Yay Tom! He actually remembered that he used to be a socialist! But oh no! Now he wants to run off to America to give his daughter a better life. He wants her to have a shot at being a real socialist, as he knows it’s too late for him now. The family has ruined him with their fancy expectations, all their demands that he wear scratchy-looking brown wool suits and work every day running the farm. I hope he doesn’t go, because I would miss him and the meandering quality he brings to his character nearly as much as Lord Grantham would.

The Dowager & Mrs. Crawley. These two are back in fighting form as the mourning period, which involved a lot of unnatural mutual admiration, has come to an end. The Doctor is once more meddling with Mrs. Crawley in the most boring way possible, giving her all sorts of stuff to do that involves taking up causes, like finding a job for Young Peg. And why is Mrs. Crawley so insistent that Young Peg (or whatever his name is) the Under-Gardener Plant Waterer is an upstanding fellow, the finest fellow in all of Yorkshire, the very best of England? She doesn’t know him from Adam and there she is in the Dowager’s living room/parlour/front room/sitting room demanding that he be hired in the name of all that is holy. Over the last several episodes I really enjoyed the break we had from the excesses of Mrs. Crawley, but I guess it’s business as usual now, and the Dowager will have to fend off Isobel’s goodness with her sharp tongue. Or maybe her walking stick, if it comes to that. Which we would all support. Maybe a good wack across the head would make Isobel wonder why it is that the doctor is always hanging around drinking tea and offering unsolicited advice.

Mary. Mary picked up her child this week and actually held him in her lap! There he was, Li’l George, propped up on Mary’s bony knees like a stuffed monkey while she looked like she was at yet another funeral. But at least she was there. For ten minutes anyway — all the time she had until the dinner gong sounded. And it was nice to see Mary breezing into the nursery like she’s actually familiar with the place, so she must be making regular visits, though the viewers wouldn’t know. Another fun discovery offered up in this scene: apparently there is an actual Nanny on the premises, though again, the viewers have no way to verify this. But someone must be taking care of those kids in between dinner gongs because they look hale and hearty, if a little stupefied. It was hard to believe that Sibby was actually playing “hurrakin” with her dad, or playing much of anything. Tom just made that up in an effort to avoid having a conversation with Mary about how awful and barren an English childhood is. In other Mary news, she smiled at Napier! Her face actually contorted into an expression of delight, which was delightful for all of us. Also, equally as surprising, she seemed thrilled at her father’s loan to the tenant, allowing him to stay on the farm. I don’t know what this is all adding up to, but the prospect of Mary being a decent human being is very exciting. Of course she still yelled at Edith, but being nice to Edith is apparently a bridge too far and more than we can ever expect from Mary, no matter how many times Napier comes to tea.

Edith. There’s really nothing to say here, except to acknowledge the disappointment and tragedy just over the horizon, and to wonder: why hasn’t anyone in the family figured out that what’s-his-name, her fella, is already married? Would such a thing have been a secret?

Rose. Rose who? Oh yes, that girl. The one who hangs around on the couch in the library and shows up at dinner every night. Rose’s assignment for this week’s episode was to repeatedly bring up the birthday plans for Lord G. which, it just so happens, she has a smashing idea for. I’m no soothsayer, but something tells me that this idea involves hiring a dance band. A dance band with a leader who croons like a little girl. Hiring this band will be of the utmost importance to Rose, and her birthday gift to Lord G. will be to keep him busy watching her act crazy at his party.

Jimmy-Daisy-Alfred-Ivy: Alfred didn’t make the cut in the French sous chef’s cooking competition (was anyone else surprised by how un-Gallic and un-terrorizing that chef was? I expected him to destroy Alfred and serve him up cold in a bowl of vichyssoise, but instead the chef asks him all sorts of sympathetic questions about his hopes and dreams, like a therapist). So Alfred heads back to Downton so that Daisy can stare longingly at the side of his face for years to come. And while he remains about a foot too tall for the kitchen, or anywhere in the house really, he is still the best cook and Daisy still cares but does Jimmy care for Ivy and what exactly does he have in mind for her and why is he such a boring villain? Is Jimmy even a villain?

Thomas and the new maid: Whoa. Finally, we have a story line that doesn’t fully foreshadow its own ending the way every other story line on this show does. Thomas is back to being the same crafty downstairs man we love to hate, but this time he’s playing the long game with an unknown quantity, the new Lady’s maid whose name escapes me. Where did she come from, exactly. In what way does she owe Thomas something? Will he be the puppet master he has strived to be for so long? And will Lady G. catch on that something’s amiss with this maid? We doubt it. The way to Lady G.’s heart is simple. Pour her some orange juice and pat her hairpins in place and she’s yours forever.

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4 thoughts on “Downton Abbey: When Bates Cried, We All Cried

  1. All that being said……..I’ll still show up and watch every second of the upcoming episodes. (and continue to read your blog)

  2. Sarah, you are brilliant. Since you know so much, who is Napier, and why does he make Mary so happy? What bad things are going to come of him and his boss staying over at Downton?

    • Ha! Thank you, and I am THRILLED that you actually read the post AND commented. Never thought I’d see the day, but again, I am thrilled. And as far as D.A. goes…I think Napier was Mary’s pseudo-suitor from the first season (the one who introduced her to that dude who died in her room) and it looks as though his boss is going to undermine the estate in some state-sanctioned way, like maybe excessive taxes? But his boss will no doubt be a love/hate interest for Mary, because all the available men in England find her brand of icy cold misery so alluring.

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