Downton Abbey: series 2 episode 8

Episode 8 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 James Strong. Originally broadcast: 6 November 2011, ITV.

As everyone prepares for Matthew and Lavinia’s wedding, Sybil and Branson reveal their shock plans to live together in Dublin. Also, Ethel receives an awful offer, Robert is indiscreet with a maid, and various members of the household succumb to Spanish flu…

When is it set? April 1919.

Where is it set? The house. The Grantham Arms (the local pub where Branson is now living). Ripon Register Office. Downton’s churchyard.

Debuts, deaths and guest stars:
* Lavinia is just one of many people struck by Spanish flu. It’s on the eve of her wedding to Matthew, which has to be cancelled. She then tells her fiancé that she saw him kissing Mary. She wasn’t surprised and attempts to let him free of his commitment. She later dies…
* Anna and Mr Bates get married. Only Mary knows so far – and as a wedding present she arranges for the newly-weds to secretly spend the night in a guest bedroom. (There must be a joke in here somewhere about John no longer being Master Bates or something.)
* Jane hands in her notice, because it’s clear that she and Robert wouldn’t be able to resist crossing a line. They share a goodbye kiss.
* Two coppers show up and arrest Bates for the murder of his estranged wife, Vera.

Best bits:
* Cora’s wide-eyed shock when Sybil reveals she’s going to marry the chauffeur.
* Robert and Cora disagree over how to deal with Sybil. She’s more lenient so he says, “If you’re turning American on me I’ll go downstairs.”
* Various people fall ill, including Mr Molesley. Everyone has Spanish flu… except, it turns out, Mr M. He’s simply drunk after testing the wines for the family’s meal.
* Anna tells Bates they’re getting married. He says they can’t, given that his wife has just died and he might be a murder suspect. But she insists. “If we have to face this, we will face it as husband and wife.” Aww.
* Miss O’Brien is genuinely distraught that Cora is seriously ill. She tends to her and even comes close to confessing that she was responsible for Cora once losing a baby…

Worst bits:
* A couple of episodes ago, Matthew was diagnosed as being permanently paralysed. Now he can cope with just a walking stick. He even has a dance with Mary.
* Robert insults Branson by offering him cash to abandon Sybil. He then tells the Irishman to leave the village. “Do you really want me to leave now,” replies Branson, “when I shall take her with me that same hour?” Who talks like this?!
* Even in a post-coital embrace, Anna is still calling her husband ‘Mr Bates’.

Real history:
* A gramophone is installed in Downton’s hallway. Matthew plays a recording of Look For the Silver Lining, a song written by Jerome Kern and BG DeSylva. He says it’s from a musical that flopped: Zip! Goes a Million (1919), which was based on the 1902 novel Brewster’s Millions and only lasted two performances. (The recording, by the way, is an anachronism. It wasn’t made until 29 December 1920.)
* Spanish flu, which was mentioned last episode, strikes the house. Big time.

Upstairs, Downton: Spanish flu caused devastation at 165 Eaton Place in the 1974 Upstairs, Downstairs episode Peace Out of Pain.

Maggie Smithism of the week: “Don’t be defeatist, dear,” Violet tells granddaughter Edith. “It’s very middle class.”

Mary’s men: With Lavinia ill in bed, Mary and Matthew share a moment – they quietly dance together, regret that things didn’t work out between them, and share a kiss. Later, Sir Richard shows up unexpectedly – and Mary soon rumbles why. If Lavinia dies, he wants to stop Matthew turning to Mary for comfort. As it turns out, after Lavinia pops her clogs Matthew is so guilty he tells Mary they could never be together…

Review: A longer-than-usual episode to conclude the show’s second series. The Russian-roulette plotting of which character will succumb to the flu is engaging. For the longest time it seems like Cora will be the one to die – then Lavinia takes a sudden turn for the worse.

Next episode…

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