From one tragedy to another, this episode saw the very last remnants of the war leave Downton Abbey, ushering in one of the worst pandemics of our time, the Spanish Flu. There was barely time for characters to celebrate before they were confronted with even more sickness and dying.
For some reason, I never took to the maid who replaced Ethel, Jane, although Robert has always felt very comfortable talking with her. I was wondering if there was something shady going on, considering their flirtatious looks and longing glances and how Robert was dealing with the incorrigible Cora and losing his manliness. You just knew he was enjoying the attention.
Does one scream "oh no" at the top of their lungs during Downton Abbey? It appears the answer is yes. When Robert went in for a kiss on Jane, even after just thinking everything I noted above, I never imagined he would really plant one on her. Yet a part of me had a miniature fantasy where he threw Cora to the curb and had a lovely life with her. That's how far Cora had fallen in my eyes during this second season. I wanted Robert to rid himself of her. As if!
That moment had me so flustered that I completely missed the falling object that popped Matthew up out of his chair. Robert's kiss was far more surprising to me than learning Matthew was not paralyzed for life. Can you believe everyone just brushed over the fact that the doctor decided against telling Matthew the differing opinion of the other doctor just so he couldn't get his hopes up? As we later learned with Lavinia, hope is the one thing people can grasp onto when they most need to heal.
Sybil couldn't stand to think about life without all of the hustle and bustle and decided it was time to join Branson in a life outside the Abbey. She chose the right route, to run away and elope. Mary and Edith caught wind and brought her home, but she stood her ground. I was so proud of her standing up to her family to do what she thinks is best for her own future.
Oh my gosh, I was also so incredibly proud of Violet for being the one person in the family who was willing to listen to Sybil and Branson. On one hand, she she hopes that everything goes back to the way it was, but on the other, she was so far ahead of the times that she didn't close the door on her granddaughter. For all of her snarky comments, she has more brains than any other member of the Crowley family. I just wish there had been more of her in the episode.
If we thought Major Bryant was a pain in the arse, we now know where it came from. When his parents went to see where their son died, his own father was nothing short of embarrassing. Ethel saw their visit as a last chance to try to get them to recognize their grandson. To her credit, she wasn't looking for a handout, just some sort of place in their lives. I don't think she even knew what that would look like.
They brushed her off as if she were a flea on a dog. Mrs. Bryant was on the edge of cracking, but women didn't often go against their husbands in those days. They left believing Ethel a gold digger. Mary was particularly unfeeling toward Ethel in light of her own plight. She was stuck with Richard Carlisle because of a decision she made, and almost vindictively enjoyed seeing someone in a similar situation. Not that their circumstance can possibly be compared. Mary will always have more than Ethel could ever dream.
After a time, the Bryants had a change of heart and offered to raise Charlie as their grandson, as long as Ethel promised she would have no part in his life. She thought about that for the sake of her son, but she's far stronger than they gave her credit. As she said, what could they provide that would possibly be better than the love of his mother? No doubt she will make a good life for them both.
As word of the Spanish Influenza was bandied about, both Cora and Carson found themselves feeling under the weather, and then Mosely started coming down with something. Within the span of one dinner party, at least four people were taken ill. The Spanish flu has been used as a barometer for all illnesses that have come after, and watching them fall was really quite frightening.
I still don't understand Mrs. O'Brien's devotion to Cora. But she didn't run from her responsibility of aiding Cora, instead staying by her side every minute. It was quite impressive. Cora was close to death, and it knocked some sense back into Robert. Lavinia, who seemed as though she would pull through, gave up after seeing Matthew and Mary in an intimate moment. If you don't have something to fight for, giving up seems the easier choice. Lavinia stopped fighting, wished Matthew and Mary well and died.
Amidst all of the pain and suffering, Anna and John were married. It seemed such a long time coming, and a simple affair, but their love certainly withstood some of the very worst of times. Thin and thin, as Bates put it. They spent their wedding night together thanks to Mary, and it was the first time I had seen Anna with her hair down. Amazing how formal it all is when you see the brief informal moments played on screen.
After Lavinia's funeral, awaiting Bates were two policemen to arrest him for the murder of his ex-wife. The neighbors can't possibly be envious of this particular family and their staff. For them, happiness is barely a blip in an otherwise desolate world.
- Ethel's baby had a wooden binki. I never thought about that before.
- I do admit to feeling a little sad when Thomas discovered his attempt to make a go at business was a trick. He sure did pick up his act trying to take over for Carson while he was down. I feel a little infighting coming on.
- As the day of the wedding of Matthew and Lavinia drew closer, Matthew was angry he was still using a walking stick. From thinking he was going to be in a chair for life to being perturbed at a stick. Get your head out of your arse man!
- Richard Carlisle will never understand the ways of the British. Asking Anna to spy on Mary was downright stupid. Together with everything else, it would point to him losing her. Will he use what he knows to get back at her?
- I always wondered if Carson and Mrs. Hughes would some day get together. Wouldn't they make an adorable couple?
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.