See our Magnum Photos gallery on the English countryside.
You nameless offshoots of a drudge,
June, I agree that Thomas’ rise and fall and rise again, all in the space of a few months of Downton time, induced vertigo. The scenes of Mrs. Patmore, Mr. Carson, and others dismissing him with the cold joy that comes from years of disdain were amazing. How strange it was to see a character whom I think of as being always firmly in control reduced to a tantrum in a shed! “I’ve been taken for the fool I am,” he almost wept, as O’Brien looked on, her own desperate struggle with herself still ahead of her.
I guess Thomas was equally desperate in the trenches, and, as in the trenches, it didn’t take him long this episode to seize an opportunity for escape. You’re right that his position is still not advantageous, especially compared with his dreams of being a legitimate businessman, but I wouldn’t count him out. I have enough faith in his weaselly, snide brilliance that when Thomas showed up with a tray, I expected he was about to poison poor Mr. Carson.
Oh, how I hope for Downton Abbey: The Next Generation! Erin Branson will come back to Downton full of spit and vinegar, only to fall hopelessly in love with Baby Charlie, now a valet to Matthew Crawley (but still known as Baby Charlie). A German bomb will destroy the Grantham Arms, leaving John Bates Jr. out of work. P. Gordon will return for Edith at last, giving the spinster aunt a chance at love. And the dowager countess will be exactly the same.
I took note this episode of how difficult it was to be a doctor in 1919, thanks to Dr. Clarkson’s plentiful biffs and boners. First he blew Matthew’s spinal diagnosis (and didn’t tell him that another doctor disagreed). Then his miracle treatment of cinnamon and milk didn’t save Lavinia from influenza. (What a perfect engine for plot surprises was the Spanish flu, with its predilection for young adults over the elderly!) At least he correctly identified Molesley as a drunk rather than a disease vector. And his exasperated look when cousin Isobel insisted on coming along to help was priceless. No one has ever successfully hidden an emotion in the history of this entire show, thank God.
June, I certainly don’t think this is the end of Mary and Matthew. All that stands in their way now is Matthew’s self-loathing and Mary’s fiance, but those seem relatively trifling matters. They’ll be together one day, I’m quite sure, and when they’re married, they’ll dance once again to that song from Zip! Goes a Million. (Music by Jerome Kern, by the way, and lyrics by P.G. Wodehouse—someone revive this show, stat!)
When that wedding happens, it’ll be grand and expensive, I’m sure, but I’m quite fond of the ceremony that Bates and Anna had in Ripon, with only a justice of the peace and a select few witnesses present. (Who were they? Just a bunch of Riponers who really love weddings? I guess in an era before sudsy TV shows, entertainment was harder to come by.) I didn’t mind how the two of them looked in bed, but it can’t compare to Anna in her white dress and Bates in his suit, exchanging vows with a smile. Even the ring went smoothly; I thought there’d be a whole embarrassing moment where Bates had to pry Vera’s severed finger out of it first.
You are my stick,
Editor’s note: For the benefit of American readers who haven’t yet seen Season 2 of Downton Abbey, please do your best to avoid spoilers for next week’s finale when commenting.