Downton Abbey recap, Season 6, Episode 1

Last night’s episode did not make much sense to me, character-wise. Lady Mary decided to deal with a blackmailer by, honestly, not dealing with the problem, and she is praised for it. Mrs. Hughes takes a similar stance on her marriage with Mr. Carson (honestly, what on earth did she think it meant to get married to him? And why face the issue by avoiding it? It is not like her). Daisy has a loud outburst that was not only out-of-character but so awkward that it made me literally cringe for her. The Dowager Countess and Cousin Isabel embark on an extremely boring battle over the local hospital. The Dowager Countess’s lady’s maid, Denker, decides to cause trouble with word of possible downsizing. Anna is silently being destroyed by secrets she is keeping from her husband.

It seems only Lady Edith acted at all sensibly.

Let’s start with the Lady Mary storyline. A maid from the hotel that Lady Mary stayed at with Tony Gillingham says she has proof of the affair and will go public with the story if she does not pay up. Lady Mary chooses to ignore the threat even as the blackmailer makes extremely bold visits to Downton. It was like Mary was pretending that, if she waited long enough, the problem would resolve itself. However, the potential blackmail did not just involve her and her reputation. It could have ruined Tony as well, and, being self-absorbed Lady Mary, she did not even think of that. Instead, she was very lucky indeed because Robert found out and managed the situation properly, by offering a much smaller sum of money and threatening to call the police. In a puzzling display of pride in his daughter, he then told Mary that he was proud of her and that this proved to him that she should take the place of Tom Branson and run the estate. What? How did he reach that conclusion? She handled everything very poorly by ignoring the problem, did not stop for a second to think about how her actions would affect others (namely Tony and Mabel), and was only saved because her father was much smarter than her.

Oh well.

Next, Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes. I think, here, the script could have used a bit more subtlety. In Emma, for example, Jane Austen does not describe the heroine’s response to the proposal. She simply says that Emma said exactly the thing that she ought, and that’s the end of it. Why, oh, why couldn’t it have been left to that? Mrs. Hughes is smart enough to have accepted a proposal fully aware of whatever “wifely duties” there were. Why does it have to be her who is worried that she is not good enough? She makes poor Mrs. Patmore have the conversation with Mr. Carson. It is not at all like the Mrs. Hughes viewers have grown to love over the course of the show. The fact that everything is resolved for the better makes me feel like this storyline was simply unnecessary filler to put off the wedding for a few weeks. And the worst sort of unnecessary filler is awkward unnecessary filler.

Now, Daisy. The estate where her father-in-law, Mr. Mason, is a tenant farmer is being sold, and he is worried that he won’t be kept on. Because of Daisy, he does not have to worry about it any longer for it seems a certain thing that he will not be kept on. I did not understand why Daisy made her angry, hostile speech to the new owner. Is it supposed to show that she is becoming more educated? If anything, it showed the opposite. As it was, she made a fool of herself and worsened Mr. Mason’s situation and would have been dismissed herself if it had not been for the kindness of Lord and Lady Grantham.

There is a battle over the hospital, and it is so dull that it is not even worth mentioning. Suffice to say that Dame Maggie Smith is being criminally underused. Can’t she get a better subplot than a hospital?

Lord Grantham is also not feeling that well, still. We saw this last season, and it seems he does not want to worry his wife with the news. He goes to rest after a hunting party and asks Mary not to tell Lady Grantham. This will turn out well, I’m sure.

In other news, Lord Grantham is starting to realize that having a large number of servants at Downton Abbey is not only ridiculous but not economical. I feel that someone might remind him that one has an under-butler because one’s current butler is growing old and getting married and possibly could be leaving soon, but that is neither here nor there. Denker gets word of the news and causes havoc among the servants, with Thomas realizing that he might be the odd one out. Does anyone else miss scheming Thomas? He made the house more interesting, true, but it is nice to see him acting like an actual human being, giving piggy-back rides to young George and Marigold. I feel that the news of possible downsizing might bring out the worst in him. Anyway, Denker thinks that she is indispensable, being a lady’s maid, but the Dowager Countess rules by fear and, in one of the better moments of the night, reminds Denker who is boss and that she is not as irreplaceable as she might think.

Meanwhile, Anna is walking the halls of Downton Abbey, crying, and apparently no one has noticed and confronted her before this? This show has some of the nosiest and will-not-give-up-until-we-find-out-what-is-wrong characters on all of television, and no one has managed to realize that Anna is silently falling apart. Finally, it comes out while she is talking to Bates. She has had a few miscarriages and is worried that she will never be able to give him the children they both want. It was a heart-breaking storyline, but I wish that Anna would have said something about it before so that she did not have to suffer alone. The couple get very good news when the Green murder cause is resolved, and Anna is finally no longer under the pressure of a potential murder charge.

Finally, we get the only character who made any sense at all: Lady Edith. She is beginning to wonder if she might not have a better life in London, where she could live freely with her daughter, Marigold, and run a paper and have a life of her own, rather than stay at Downton Abbey where she has only the sniping of Lady Mary and potential judgment about being an unwed mother. Edith, as she should, seems to have decided on London. I do hope that is where the character is headed. Otherwise, it seems such a waste to have her wallowing around Downton, unappreciated.

This has been an episode about the dangers of ignoring problems or keeping silent (Lady Mary, Mrs. Hughes, Anna, Lord Grantham) or telling too much (Daisy and Denker). Only Lady Edith was completely and appropriately open about potentially moving to London, though I wonder if the secret daughter will come back to haunt her later in the season.



3 thoughts on “Downton Abbey recap, Season 6, Episode 1

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