Feb. 4, 2013 at 12:14 AM ET
How does "Downton Abbey" rebound from such a draining, heart-wrenching episode as last week's? Quietly, and draped in the same sense one has when trapped in real grief, that nothing is moving forward, and that black will be worn forever. This week's episode was a subtle one, with threads gradually reweaving themselves, but slowly, life is moving on with a giant hole in the family fabric where Lady Sybil once was.
Are you getting the sense yet that this show does not like to actually show major events? We didn't see much of Mary and Matthew's wedding, and we also skip Sybil's funeral. Which actually works well -- after all, the cameraman doesn't need to show ever step of Lord Grantham and the dog walking to the house in order for us to realize they got there. So the funeral's over, but the grieving is not, nor will it be any time soon.
Cora can't forgive Robert for not taking any chance to save Sybil, and for siding with snooty Harley Street doctor Sir Phillip Tapsell over their own Dr. Clarkson. Seeing the suffering, the Dowager Countess takes things into her own hands, pulling Clarkson aside and getting him to research how much of a chance Sybil would have actually had with a C-section. She sets up a meeting, and he tells Cora and Robert that she probably would have died anyway -- though he probably believes that a little less than he makes it sound. Still, it works, and Cora and Robert collapse in each other's arms, a couple again, while the Dowager subtly looks away.
Ethel the prostitute-turned-cook was back again this week. With some coaching from Mrs. Patmore, she produced a delicious luncheon for Cora, the Dowager, and the daughters, which only got interesting when Robert barged in to rant about the scandal of eating streetwalker-cooked food, ordering his womenfolk to leave. Which none of them did.
In the staff quarters, Thomas is continuing his subtle, 1920s-style form of flirting with hot new footman Jimmy, who warns O'Brien that he's this close to going to Carson to complain. Ivy's gone full-on harlot by wearing rouge. The best bit from the staff room, other than Jimmy showing he's a better fox trotter than Alfred, was Mrs. Patmore snapping "You know the trouble with you lot? You’re all in love with the wrong people!"
Hey, what about the baby? Didn't someone have a baby? Oh yes, the motherless newborn is barely seen. Tom wants to name her Sybil which Robert thinks is "ghoulish," and have her baptized Catholic, which Robert thinks is even worse. And when Mary holds her with Matthew at her side, it's impossible not to wonder if they'll somehow end up adopting their little niece.
And finally, finally, we might soon be done with the horribly dull Bates-in-jail plot. Lawyer Murray met with Mrs. Bartlett, who wouldn't give in to him. But when Bates slammed cellmate Craig up against a wall and threatened to expose the behind-bars drug trade, things suddenly came together. All it took was one good threat, and Craig and Co. convinced Mrs. Bartlett to fess up, which magically set the gears for Bates' release into motion. And may we never see those dreary prison walls again.
Best Dowager Countess quotes:
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