‘Downton Abbey’ season 3, episode 4 review: Ethel’s pain, Bates’ hope

There’s no way of beating around the bush here: Sunday night’s new episode of “Downton Abbey” may very well be among one of the most painful hours of television that we have watched in recent memory. This was a tough, taxing hour of TV for many of the characters we have come to love, in particular some who were already going through some tough times already.

For one example, just look at what happened with Tom and Sybil. Tom arrived at the Abbey out of the blue, and the impression was made that he had abandoned his wife in Ireland in order to protect himself from some legal woes. When Sybil did arrive to the Abbey herself, she did her best in order to convince them that he was not out just to cause trouble for everyone … but we’re not entirely sure that they were buying just what he was selling. Ultimately, and with the help of Grantham, there was a deal ultimately arranged so that Tom would be able to escape prison, but he may not be allowed to return to Ireland over his role in helping to destroy property in the country. (The only real positive story we saw from the Abbey was watching the arrival of new footman Jimmy, who is being forced to go by James.)

Meanwhile, Bates was starting to feel as though Anna was giving up on him, and she was really feeling the same way. This was all due to him not being given all of the letters that were being sent to him, and he was starting to feel like no more were going to come. This was a nice example of seeing a glimmer of hope come out of despair, and he and Anna may have a chance to make it yet.

As for the final painful scene during this episode, we saw a rather tragic sequence of events that led to Ethel giving up her son Charlie to her father-in-law, mostly in that this would guarantee that he would have a good life. She had received an offer of money for him, but it was just enough to survive … and not enough to be happy.

The final story of the episode really unfolded in an excellent final few minutes, as Matthew proclaimed that there are some changes that need to be made in Downton, and he needs to find a way to do them discreetly.

What do you think about this episode? If you want to take a look ahead at what is coming up for episode 5, you can do so over at the link here.

Photo: ITV

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