Episode 7 of Downton Abbey takes an odd turn. Firstly, it seems that the fortunes of our two heroines, Lady Mary and Lady Edith, have once again reversed. With Rose also desperately attempting to fill the void left by Sybil through recycling her romantic plotlines, these three roles have all but reverted to their Series 1 standings.
It seems Lady Mary is falling in love again, although not through the awkwardly obvious social calls that come courtesy of Tony Gillingham. The relationship she’s forming with Charles Blake is genuine and romantic, and they discover each other through shared experiences, namely a late night rescue of Downton’s new pigs. The minute they begin playfully smearing each other’s faces with mud, our romantic comedy-attuned senses immediately realise: this is the gentleman she’s supposed to be with.
The delightful plot of Mary’s romance is contrasted with a deeply upsetting digression about Edith. Her fiancé is still missing in Germany, and she discovers that she’s now pregnant from the night they spent together. She now faces a difficult choice: alienating herself and raising a socially stigmatised child, or getting an abortion. Increasingly, the show is tackling issues of greater weight, and relevance to modern society. Ultimately we admire Edith for the brave decision she makes: one that will profoundly affect the rest of her life.
In addition, we’re happy to watch Branson gradually reclaim his political ideals. After suffering a long and confusing identity crisis, it seems he’s reconnecting with his former self – he even attends a speech and dares to disagree with the speaker. This reclaiming of ideals may perhaps be coupled with a reclaiming of romance; at the speech, he also meets a woman. We’re very glad to see his life move forward; however, just as we were dissatisfied with Mary’s suitors after Matthew, we’re wary that this romance could compete with that of Sybil.
“Rose, I leave you in charge of fun.”
As Lord Grantham departs for urgent family business in America, he utters this line to Rose. He perhaps wouldn’t have if he knew her imminent plans: to sneak through London to see Jack Ross, the black musician from last week. After only a few flirtatious comments, it seems odd that they’re so committed to each other; however, that is indeed the situation. Rose wishes Lord Grantham would accept Mr Ross and potentially pave the way for marriage – it’s a more rushed and less romantic version of Sybil and Branson’s relationship.
Isobel Crawley. When Lady Grantham contracts bronchitis, Mrs Crawley is immediately at her bedside. She nurses her day and night, feeding her and fending off pneumonia, and when she gets better, Mrs Crawley still stays to play cards with her. This is a testament to the fact that even with Matthew gone, his mother is still relevant at Downton.
How much are we over Matthew?
Almost completely. This is the first week we’ve seen a genuine romance reminiscent of Mary and Matthew’s relationship. Is Matthew being replaced in Mary’s life? Perhaps, but we still don’t seem to mind. Charles Blake is unlike any other character on the show. He provides a sharp contrast to the unoriginal boring Lord Gillingham, and if Mary is to marry again, we’d rather it be to Mr Blake. It would undeniably give Downton a very new flavour.