‘Downton Abbey’ Episode 7 Review: Ignorance Is Swiss

Downton Abbey Season 4 - Edith

If you’re living inside a soap opera, and your young daughter says she’s going away for 6 to 9 months on a holiday that seems both spur of the moment and devoid of details, rest assured that she’s getting rid of an unwanted baby. Maybe she’s having an abortion, maybe she’s putting it up for private adoption, but she’s definitely (not maybe) pregnant.

Which leads us to Edith.

The loneliest island of the show has been forced yet again into a terrible situation that threatens to make her even more of an outcast from her family. So now she’s conspiring to keep them in the dark as she heads to Switzerland with Lady Rosamund to “learn French.”

Heading into next week’s finale (which was the Christmas Special as it aired in the UK), Edith’s predicament and Anna’s sexual assault remain the most stirring plots of a crammed season. Unfortunately, there’s a great disparity between showcasing Laura Carmichael as Edith (with her standardized woe) and Joanne Froggatt as Anna (who has proven her depth well).

There’s also a danger in how far afield both stories have gone. For Edith, the despair has morphed from her future husband disappearing in Germany to near-singular concern for a first trimester. There’s a angry dilemma at the center of all of it, a pull between loyalty to a man who you want to share every part of your life with and the social construct that would ruin you for life. It’s a tried and true plot tool (maybe foreshadowed by Anna’s own concerns about the possibility of a pregnancy), but here all of the screaming amounts to Edith calmly throwing her hands in the air and following Rosemary’s leash. “I can’t do anything,” has been her mantra.

It is, as Anna’s own situation threatens to be, a massive emotional tale that amounts to nothing in the end. Something that fizzles. As we near the finish line, a season that started off as a revolution beyond the usual soap opera kitsch has sunk back into what’s comfortable, deflated.

Because that’s where Mr. Green, in the Kitchen, with the candlestick seems to be going. Mary asks Lord Pirate Gillingham to pink slip the guy, and now he’s dead. Not at all suspicious that Mr. Bates asked where Green lived in London and was doing nameless errands on the very day that his nemesis ended up meeting a vehicle face-to-tire. So now the story has evolved beyond Anna’s deeply profound hurt into a bland Poirot mystery where we already know whodunnit.

The only real question now is how Bates managed to kill a man in full view of a crowd. Hopefully, they’ll fully wrap up the details in the final episode, because otherwise it will add to a pile of stories that seem to have lost what trail they’re on.

And now, the pearl-clutch-worthy moments of Episode 7:

Downton Abbey Pearl-Clutching

  • Edith’s croissant in the oven — This seems like it would be a shock, and it might be, but it all feels so tedious at this point, and the DC doesn’t seem fazed at all (except for bristling at the thought of spending time with the Swiss)
  • Alfred proposing to Ivy — One kind deed in a weary world, and he’s ready to get hitched?
  • Mr. Bates the murderer — Another heavy concept with drastic moral implications that’s been played surface level so far
  • The bazaar! — It went off smoothly, Strongman Competition and all
  • Mary cleans house — talking to Jack Ross and getting Green fired are all in a day’s work for the woman with 3 suitors
  • Tom and Sarah — Politics have completely been left in the dust
  • Lord Merton and Isobel — So it’s come to this, has it?

See you next week when we enjoy Christmas in February (with a coming-out party and a glimpse or royalty).

A veteran of writing about movies for nearly a decade, Scott Beggs has been the Managing Editor of Film School Rejects since 2009. Despite speculation, he is not actually Walter Mathau's grandson. See? He can't even spell his name right.

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