Downton Abbey: Series 4 – episode 5
We’ve passed the hallway mark for series four, and if there’s one thing we’ve learnt is that even in peace time, life at Downton is always verging on all-out war. This week, Mrs Hughes’ confidentiality agreement with Anna effectively expires under Mr Bates’s interrogation; Mary and Robert’s differing approaches to the management of Downton are brought into open conflict; and Thomas (surprise, surprise) is trying to manipulate the new lady’s maid before she’s even really had time to hang up her coat. Downstairs, Daisy’s pining for Alfred is threatened as she watches him pursue a career change.
In the wake of what is probably the most controversial occurrence in Downton Abbey history, this episode is mostly focused on the Bates/Anna relationship, as their growing estrangement is the heartbreak amidst what is an otherwise quite humorous episode. As opposed to dragging out the rift between the troubled-but-much-loved couple, Fellowes makes the wise decision to use this episode to stage a series of tense but effective confrontations that lead to Bates discovering the truth.
The scene where he declares the depth of his love for Anna is a truly crowd-pleasing event for fans; while we never expected he would shun or reject her, it is one of the series’ most genuinely moving developments, managing to be sensitive but not melodramatic. It also showcases Bates at his most interesting and complex. In one moment he is loving, compassionate and tender. In the next he exposes an almost homicidal rage – the man we see at the close of the episode is hell bent on vengeance, and his expression in the final moments suggests that Lord Gillingham’s valet is very likely a dead man walking. For a moment he’s more Norman Bates than John Bates.
After weeks of tiptoeing all over each other’s hormones, the Daisy/Alfred/Ivy/Jimmy unrequited love saga finally gets an interesting development that changes what was becoming a rather stale dynamic. The Ritz interview scene is hilarious to behold – it’s essentially a 1920s Masterchef, an interrogation that marries culinary excellence with a military-style aggression.
If the beloved Mrs Patmore ever moves on from Downton, we can only hope Alfred’s interviewer/drill sergeant arrives to replace her (he makes Carson look like the Sybil of butlers, and that’s saying something). It’s also nice to see the usually doe-eyed Ivy develop something resembling a backbone, as her unquestionable adoration for Jimmy shows some signs of thawing. Although he still has her under the thumb, she actually stands up for Alfred this week (and no doubt she’ll become less and less impressed by Jimmy as the weeks go on).
While Lady Mary’s love life is nothing to sing about at the moment, Fellowes’ decision to give her weightier story material appears to be a good one. The Robert/Mary struggle over Downton is subtle but entertaining (and it appears as if both characters have learned a few tricks from Violet about scheming). It’s also nice to see the series exploring the fates of Downton tenants, raising questions about rights to ownership that will become crucially important in years to come.
In a surprise turn of events, Lady Rose is rather well-behaved this week and it’s Edith who is on the verge of a scandal. Just when it seemed as if the most underappreciated Crawley sister was finally getting the attention she deserved, her hopes appear to have been dashed again. Since their romantic encounter in last week’s episode, there’s been no news from her married newspaperman; has Edith been jilted (again)? And what will she do if this really is the end of the affair?
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