With the exception of the final scene, which offers a ray of hope, this is one depressing episode of Downton Abbey.
Everyone is mired in individual misery, and some plot points look as if the characters will have to suffer quite a bit more.
For a handsome man, Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) had been looking ghastly. His color was bad, and during a servants’ lunch he mentioned he had to visit his dying father. The story sounded mendacious, but who would question this?
Later, Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) finds him, sick, and espies his drug paraphernalia. Wretched because he is gay – this is an English estate in 1924 – Thomas has made a desperate move and is taking drugs that purport to cure homosexuality.
Lady Mary’s unpleasantness is building to greater nastiness. She has decided against marrying Tony Gillingham (Tom Cullen). Mary plans to meet him and of course he is certain she is meeting him to finally start planning their wedding.
Gillingham is incensed that Mary is breaking up with him.
“I refuse to believe that a woman like you, a lady, would give herself to a man without first being certain he was the one,” Gillingham tells her.
Mary, who has clearly done a lot of thinking about being independent and modern, is mystified that Gillingham is not accepting her decision, as a gentleman should.
“So what are you saying?” Mary asks.
“Simply that this is something we have to get through together,” he replies with all the confidence of centuries of breeding that he is the most superior creature on Earth.
Cousin Rose’s (Lily James) parents are divorcing. Though the Granthams maintain that they will be neutral in this matter, the earl advises Rose’s father to stay married and live apart.
The matters of broken hearts extend to the past. The Dowager Countess and Isobel (Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton) have a chat that was half a century in the making for the countess.
“I take it you and Prince Kuragin were once attracted to each other,” Isobel treads lightly into the conversation.
“As it happens, he asked me to run away with him,” Violet says.
“But you didn’t go?” Isobel asks.
“No, Lord Grantham gave me a frame by Faberge with two pictures of the children in it and I saw sense,” she replies.
And that was that.
This is a woman who did her duty over the decades, yet she must have always wondered: What if? Now with the old, broken man, who was the prince she could have run off with reappearing, she must realize what her life would have been like had she followed her heart. She knows she made the right decision.
Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) takes another step that could haunt her and after dropping off a note for Tony Gillingham, walks around where the man who raped her lived and died. Her actions prompt more inquiries from the police.
Anna is anxious and nervous, but at least she’s not weepy and furious as is Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol). Her sadness is because her nephew can’t be recognized as a war hero because he was classified a coward. She feels he was a hero for enlisting.
Miss Bunting (Daisy Lewis), who has never met a dinner party she could not ruin, takes her bombastic self-righteousness to new levels. She tries to embarrass the earl (Hugh Bonneville) at his own table, and insists on calling Daisy (Sophie McShera) and Mrs. Patmore to the table, which makes everyone ill at ease while the cooks have to explain that Daisy’s lessons are not interfering with the running of Downton.
Miss Bunting, whose heart is in the right place but who has the finesse of a rutting rhino, manages to enrage Lord Grantham so much that he throws down his napkin, tells her to never return, and storms away from his own table, rather dramatically.
But the depths of unhappiness, the true misery that one feels in the bones, must, of course, go to Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael).
In a very touching scene, Edith sits with her father, the earl. Someone from the office of her long-lost lover, Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards), called. Gregson may have been in a fight with Brown Shirts. They very well may have killed him. Intuitively, Edith knows this. After all, he is now missing a couple of years and he did adore her.
“It will be very hard for you, my darling, but it will be better to learn the truth,” Lord Grantham says to his daughter.
“As long as I don’t know, I can keep him alive,” Edith says.
As if the gnawing suspicion that the love of her life is long dead were not enough – because this is Edith and apparently her despair is bottomless – Edith must then have her heart ripped out. She visits the Drewes, to see her daughter, Marigold. Mrs. Drewe, fed up with Edith’s hovering, shuts the door in her face.
Finally, in this episode that leaves us feeling awful for everyone, there’s one sunny moment. As Tom (Allen Leech), Mary and the earl survey the property, Lord Grantham maintains he will not sell off bits of Downton just to turn a quick profit.
“I intend to expand without spoiling,” Lord Grantham says. “We will build. We will even make money for the estate, but we won’t destroy what people love about this place.”
Courtesy of © Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2014 for MASTERPIECE