'Downton Abbey' Season 2 Episode 5 Recap
We should’ve known we were in for a depressing episode of “Downton Abbey” when we saw the long shot of rats hanging out in a post-apocalyptic wasteland that started the episode. Sadly, it was all downhill from the rats. William and Matthew are wounded in battle and come home to Downton. The rest of the episode features breakups, double crosses, sad babies crying in shacks and the most depressing wedding of all time. There’s no musical medley to redeem the sad war stories in this outing. While war has changed things in the grand house of Downton, it’s never felt so oppressively grim before.
Before delving right into the depressing, let’s first touch base with Sybil. She’s still having lots of garage conversations with Branson, although I wouldn’t peg them as flirtatious anymore. Instead Branson continues trying to convince Sybil to run away with him by insulting her. When this tack doesn’t work he switches over to the time-tested ‘story about mass homicide’ which is shockingly more effective. Still, even after a moment full of brooding and sexual tension, Sybil walks away and Branson’s left with only his car for company.
Elsewhere, Edith is taking some being a boss lessons from the Dowager Countess who is determined to get William moved from his hospital in Leeds back to Downton Abbey. Once again, Edith is a wholly decent person. It’s so weird not to dislike Edith, but I’m starting to get used to her not scheming or backstabbing anyone. Violet prevails as we all knew she would after doing battle with the telephone and a distant cousin. Is there anyone the Crawleys aren’t related to?
Meanwhile, Mary has her own fish to fry. Because of O’Brien’s letter to Vera Bates the story of Mary’s deadly sex with the Turkish Mr. Pamuk is closer than ever to being revealed. Her only option is not a great one: go to Sir Richard with the tale and hope he’ll stop it from being published. This is exactly what she does. Sir Richard editorializes a bit about how this will make them equal in the marriage and then announces their engagement in the paper without telling her. Mary is pretty chill about this at breakfast while her dad is outraged.
Sir Richard gets Vera to sign away the exclusive rights to the story with a binding agreement, meaning that he now owns Mary’s scandal. When Vera finds out she got played she’s furious and says she’ll get Bates still another way. Sir Richard is like “who?” and then shrugs. As Kanye West would say, Sir Richard doesn’t care about poor people.
Things are grim downstairs as well. While Anna thinks that she and Bates have dodged their final Vera-shaped bullet, thanks to Mary’s warning Bates knows things are far from over. Former maid Ethel is hanging out in a ramshackle house that looks like it was previously inhabited by a children-eating witch. It has been at least 9 months since the last time we saw Ethel though, because she’s had her baby. She’s in a desperate situation with little cash and only Mrs. Hughes helping her out. When Mrs. Hughes tries to talk to Officer 70s-porn-stache about recognizing the baby, he shuts her down.
With Ethel gone, there’s a new maid hired to Downton. Her name is Jane and she’s a war widow. She thanks Lord Grantham for hiring her when she accidentally runs into him in the study and he pauses a little too long after she leaves the room. I know that pause sir and that pause means trouble.
The real drama downstairs, though, is about the returning wounded William. Poor William has a fatal wound to his lung and won’t live for very long. His only wish is to marry Daisy before his time runs out. Daisy, of course, is freaking out about how she never actually wanted to marry William in the first place and just got pushed into it by Mrs. Patmore. She thinks that marrying him would be lying to him.
The Dowager Countess talks to the priest, who is worried that Daisy might be marrying William just to receive widow benefits. Violet lays down the law on him, however, telling him that she basically owns him. And his little flowers too! He crumples like everyone does around the pure awesome that is Violet and her gigantic hats.
Eventually Daisy’s talked into it and she marries William with flowers draped all around his sickbed. It’s very, very sad. Everyone is in the room and everyone is crying. Even the Dowager Countess, although she professes to be sick. The night after the wedding, William dies. It’s probably the most depressing wedding of all time.
The Mary and Matthew of it All
Things aren’t much better for Matthew, although he’ll survive his injuries. He’s brought back to Downton and Mary even volunteers to help Sybil with her Matthew-related nurse duties. That’s how you know Mary really loves Matthew, because I can’t imagine her doing all this nurse stuff otherwise. Matthew’s mother Isobel, returning at the episode’s end, is just as shocked to see Mary playing nurse. If this was a cartoon Isobel’s eyes would have been somewhere from five to ten feet away from her body. Mary plays it off like it’s nothing but Isobel disagrees. So basically everyone but Mary and Matthew know they’re s till in love.
It turns out Matthew has spinal damage and will probably never walk again. Also, his whole downstairs area is basically non-communicado which means no kids and no sexy times with anyone. As you might imagine, this is pretty bummer news for everyone. Matthew breaks up with Lavinia, telling her he doesn’t want to make her a nurse and a childless nun for the rest of her life. Lavinia is really upset but can’t talk him out of it. Later, Mary catches her crying and Lavinia fills her in on the lack of what’s going on below Matthew’s belt. Mary is suitably crushed as well.
Matthew sends Lavinia away and tells Mary he could never be with anyone now the way he is. Things are looking pretty bleak for our favorite star-crossed lovebirds. Lavinia might be gone (for now) but Sir Richard is more dangerous than ever. And Matthew’s funk means that even if he knew Mary’s feelings for him, he probably wouldn’t allow her to act on them. Why can’t these two ever catch a break?
Best Maggie Smith Line
Watch even a few seconds of “Downton Abbey”, and it’s pretty clear that Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess gets all the best lines. Here’s her best gem from episode five:
“It always happens! When you give these little people power it goes to their heads like strong drink!” – said when doctor Clarkson refuses to move William to Downton.
How depressed are you from a scale of one (O’Brien) to ten (Matthew or Daisy) after this week’s episode? Do you think Matthew and Mary will ever work it out? Sound off in the comments!