Downton Abbey: series 2 episode 6

Episode 6 Season 2 1

SPOILER WARNING: Plot points will be revealed in this episode-by-episode discussion of ITV period drama Downton Abbey.

Written by Julian Fellowes. Directed by Andy Goddard. Originally broadcast: 23 October 2011, ITV.

The household mourn for footman William, Sir Richard makes plans for his married life with Mary, and a man called Patrick Gordon claims to be the heir to Downton and its wealth…

When is it set? Early November 1918.

Where is it set? The house. Isobel’s house. Haxby Park, the nearby stately home that Sir Richard plan to buy. The cottage where Ethel’s living.

Debuts, deaths and guest stars:
* Patrick Gordon (Trevor White) is a Canadian serviceman who’s been disfigured in the war and is recuperating at Downton. He claims to be related to the Crawley family and that he spent time with them as a child, but no one can remember him. He then has to spell it out to Edith: he says he’s Patrick, the heir to Downton previously thought drowned on the Titanic. He says he survived the disaster, though with amnesia. He signed up in 1914, then was caught in an explosion at Passendale that brought back his old memories. When the others find out, Matthew immediately twigs that, if the claim is true, he’d no longer be the heir. Robert asks his solicitor to look into the situation, but the findings are inconclusive. So Patrick leaves… (Rather brilliantly, we don’t learn if he was the genuine article or not.)
* New maid Jane is now working at the house, and shares a flirty look or two with Robert. When Robert luncheons alone, Jane serves him and they get to know each other…
* We learn that Major Bryant, the cad who fathered Ethel’s child then didn’t give a stuff, has been killed in the war.

Best bits:
* “That life of changing clothes and killing things and eating them – do you really want it again?” – Isobel suggests that Downton might not return to normal once the war is over.
* Mary and Carson’s relationship is routinely charming: she’s a lady, he’s a servant, but she clearly likes and respects him and he has an avuncular love for her.
* Sir Richard asks Carson to book him on the morning train to London. Carson replies that Mr Bates will be on the same train… The next day, Bates returns from the capital with a scar on his face and Sir Richard comes back late. A day or two later we hear the news that Vera Bates has been found dead. Has one of them killed her?!
* Matthew feels a twinge…

Worst bits:
* Daisy’s sackcloth-and-ashes routine is getting boring now, as is Sybil and Branson’s glacially slow romance.
* Violet’s dialogue can often be the highlight of an episode. You sometimes get the impression that Julian Fellowes spends as much time crafting her acerbic barbs as writing all the other characters put together. But occasionally the metaphors become painfully tortured. This week, Cora says that Isobel is being awkward and “has the bit between her teeth”. Violet replies, “Well, change the bridal. Find a course than needs her more than Downton.” Cora then says Isobel wants to be a martyr. Violet: “We must tempt her with a more enticing scaffold.”
* Edith isn’t sure whether Patrick is the man she was deeply in love with six years previously. Robert is similarly unable to recognise him. Even with an accent that’s changed a bit and a scared face, is this plausible?

Real history:
* Pushing Matthew in his wheelchair, Mary says she’ll have arms like Jack Johnson if she’s not careful. Nicknamed the Galveston Giant, American boxer Johnson (1878-1946) was the first black man to be world heavyweight champion.
* Cora tell us that, “Turkey’s about to capitulate and Robert says Vittorio Veneto will finish off Austria.” The Battle of Vittorio Veneto (24 October-3 November 1918) was an Italian victory that secured the downfall of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
* Patrick claims he was pulled out of the water by Fifth Officer Harold Lowe (1882-1944), a real-life officer on the Titanic who was one of the few to return after the ship sank to look for survivors.
*
Branson and Carson discuss European politics, disagreeing over whether Germany will soon be a republic and namechecking American President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924).
* Robert walks into the servants’ hall to announce that the war is over. The ceasefire will commence on the morning of 11 November. At the allotted time, the household gather in the main hall as the clock chimes 11 times…

Upstairs, Downton: There’s a passing reference to European refugees, a piece of real history that Downton Abbey has mostly ignored. The Upstairs, Downstairs episode A Patriotic Offering (1974) saw a family of Belgians come to stay with the Bellamys. Additionally, the First World War ended in the Updown episode Peace Out of Pain (also 1974).

Maggie Smithism of the week: “I don’t dislike him, I just don’t like him, which is quite different.” She’s talking about Sir Richard.

Mary’s men: Sir Richard is hoping to buy – and renovate – a house close to Downton called Haxby Park. He even offers Carson a job as its butler. But Mary is still having doubts, telling Matthew that she needn’t get married. He insists that she do: he wants her to be happy. Later, Mary’s shocked when Sir Richard makes it plain that she’s not to jilt him. “You have given me the power to destroy you,” he points out. “Don’t ever cross me.”

Doggie! Isis is spotted at Robert’s feet in an early scene.

Review: The Patrick subplot is hoary nonsense, but it does put the cat amongst the pigeons. The various reactions to his claim – Edith’s, Robert’s, Mary’s, Matthew’s, Sir Richard’s – are all very interesting.

Next episode…

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