The hate-romance between Lady Mary and Charles Blake this season has been as tiresome as it’s been obvious. Like an unlikable version of Matthew, Blake (Julian Oveden) has burst onto the scene as an aggressor building schoolyard chemistry even as both he and Mary proclaim their distaste for each other. It’s a repetition of the formula that makes sense for the character (apparently Mary has a type), but it’s been poor service for anyone hoping that the estate would prove to be a genuine focus. Here we are a brief time after Matthew’s death, and Mary has a gaggle of suitors. Because — what other story could there be for a well-bred woman of the 20th century?
Fortunately, with the help of some ailing pigs, we’ve seen a new side from Blake. Or, at the very least, we’ve seen that he has a take-command brand of expertise. He’s slightly less unlikable, which is convenient since the story seems determined to focus on him as a Matthew-replacement.
But it’s Mary who we’ve truly seen a new side from, and hers is covered in mud.
A great moment for a stuffy character, we’ve never seen a smile that big on her in the entire run of the show (let alone since Matthew’s death). Michelle Dockery has always come close to leaving the character as an ice queen reshaped by plot points and compassion rather than her demeanor — which is probably why seeing the actress in modern clothes is a bit jarring — but seeing her able to let loose in the pig sty was like watching the first exhalation following a deeply-held breath. It was a tense situation, but it appropriately dominated the middle of the episode and was given a sincere weight considering it was a life-or-death problem meant also to connect two lovers. Designer outfits be damned.
Meanwhile, Robert was sent away to America in a move that, without seeing his side of the story, felt like a vacation for the actor more than anything else. It’ll pay off with the introduction of Cora’s brother Harold (Paul Giamatti) in the flesh, but it’s unclear why Robert had to take the transatlantic trip for the Teapot Dome name-check.
Speaking of exile, Edith continues a loneliness marked by its enormity. She’s always been a figure out on the edge of the family, but now her pregnancy has pushed her so far out of the comfort zone that she’s seeking help from Lady Rosamund. The question of whether she’ll get an abortion is drawn out with difficulty and unease her, pushing an already-depressive character beyond the fear of losing one loved one into the devastation of losing another. Both the highs and lows surrounding Edith this season have been profound and without easy answer — but her walking out of the illegal doctor’s office seemed to be the first real assertion of power.
But what happens now? It seems unlikely that Edith’s bastard would find a happy home in the Downton nursery.
At the top of the tension this week was, no shocker, Mr. Green eating with Anna and Mr. Bates. And bragging. It was a bit like eating dinner with Satan and having to offer him seconds. Absolutely squirm-worthy in its ethics-challenging ability to make you wonder if renegade justice might have its place in proper society. There’s no chance at this point that Mr. Bates doubts it was Mr. Green and not some fabricated outsider. With only one more episode (and a Christmas special) to go, we’re only inches away from seeing what the red right hand has planned.
No doubt that will dominate as we head into the season finale, but here are this week’s pearl-clutch-worthy moments:
- Edith’s abortion — an impossible situation handled with gripping grace, and it’s still not resolved. Hard to imagine what the DC would have to say about an unplanned new family member
- Mary’s meat cute — it’s a testament to the time when seeing a woman getting dirty ranks high on the outrage scale (or maybes it’s simply a surprising move for a stiff figure)
- Teapot Dome — hard to say, but it could be potentially ruinous considering 1) how fast fortunes turn on the show and 2) how strange it is that Robert’s involved at all
- Rose’s continued romance — The Dowager Countess would definitely not approve, but it would be encouraging to see them push further with good ol’ Jack Ross
- Mrs. Hughes stands up to Green — Hell, yes.
- The DC’s sickness — played almost purely for the “Next Week” teaser, it was still sweet to see Isobel’s bedside manner. Plus, even though she was never in any real danger, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see the last of the DC next season
See you next week when we enjoy a delightful bazaar.