Even before “Downton Abbey” first began, there was a tremendous amount of hype placed on it by the British press. Why? The simple answer is because the press were not allowed to watch it in advance, which suggested that there was going to be something of significance that took place during the hour. (Spoilers ahead for American viewers; you’ve been warned now.)
While there were multiple scenes and locations shown off, this may as well have been an old-school bottle episode: Nearly everything was all about the Abbey, a place where there was some tremendous activity courtesy of a grand party. An opera singer was paid a huge sum of money in order to perform, and traditional social dynamics were fully at play.
For Tom Branson, this was beyond awkward for many reasons. He felt that he didn’t belong, and the actions of most of everyone around him more or less proved his feeling. But with a moment of consolation to Isobel Crawley at dinner, he proved yet again that having a big heart is something that matters more. Matthew was not present physically at this event, but he certainly was in spirit.
Meet Lord Gillingham – This brings us to the arrival of the much-anticipated new love interest for Michelle Dockery’s Mary in Gillingham, a man who has a deep history with her. He certainly appears to be nice enough, and the two could form a friendship here that lasts deep into the show. At the same time, though, the events of this episode made it very much clear that Mary is not ready to be courted again just yet.
But know that this is not the last that we will see of Gillingham, and there is so much more drama still to come. (The promo here for next week proves he will be back again.)
The servants suffer – For one, Mrs. Patmore had herself an anxiety attack trying to make everything go off without a hitch, and there was also some sort of random game that got Bates and Anna into a tiff. This little moment was evidence again of one of the problems that they have in their relationship: He is as serious as they come, and she often is not.
But the “suffering” was hardly anywhere on par with what happened next. Did Mr. Green rape Anna while the opera singer in Dame Nelly Melba performed on stage? The majority of the actual incident was kept off-screen, but you can clearly assume something horrible and devastated from what we saw. This is extremely uncomfortable to write about, though it is also not surprising given the dark subject matter that is occasionally talked about on the series.
It’s hard to proclaim something with such a devastating event as being a part of a fantastic episode, but it was a well-done hour of television. The only part that may be dubious here is Anna telling Mrs. Hughes to not speak of what happened to her, and how she does not want to contact authorities or tell Mr. Bates in fear that he would murder Mr. Green. We understand that there may be vulnerabilities that come with such a devastating moment, but hopefully time will start to turn things around. Mr. Green seems to nonetheless be gone for now, but he doesn’t deserve to bandy about and pretend that all is well in the world.
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