Monday, January 13, 2014

Downton Abbey Season 4, Episode 2 recap: While hearts are buoyed on wings of song upstairs, a brutal crime occurs down below

Cora asks Carson to rescue Dame Nellie Melba from Siberia and make a place for her at the table with the other guests.
In scenes reminiscent of the film Gosford Park (which Julian Fellowes also wrote), the gentry and their attendants descend on Downton for a house party. Among them are Viscount Anthony Gillingham (left) and his valet (whom Mr. Carson insists they all call “Gillingham,” although his real name is Green. So quaint.)
What looks to be a delightful episode takes a horrible turn when Mr Green / Gillingham rapes Anna downstairs whilst the entire household is far away, listening to Dame Nellie Melba sing after dinner and are impervious to her screams.
Sweet Anna with Bates, before the atrocity happens.
This shocking development provoked a firestorm of criticism in England last fall when the episode first ran. Many people were sickened that Fellowes had caused such brutality to happen to such a particularly beloved character. We don't even have the faint satisfaction of seeing the repulsive Mr Green get what he deserves, because Anna is afraid Bates will kill him and be sent back to jail. Only Mrs Hughes knows what happened. Desperately trying to cover up her emotional and physical wounds, Anna acts odd, and of course Bates can't figure out why. Please don't let them be estranged! They had to fight so hard to be together. It's all a bitter, bitter pill for us to swallow, Mr Fellowes!
Some modicum of satisfaction was gleaned elsewhere via two instances whereby supercilious Robert got a bit of a comeuppance. Having ignorantly relegated a celebrated artist to a solitary supper in her suite, he is reprimanded and seated next to Dame Nellie by Cora—discovering in the process that the famed Australian soprano is not such a yahoo as he thought and knows a thing or two about fine claret.
Cora: “Robert, a world famous singer is in our house. A great artist, honored by the King. But you felt it beneath your dignity to eat with her? Am I the only member of this family who lives in the 20th Century? You will have her next to you at dinner, and you will like it!” [Go Cora!! We like you in dominatrix mode.]
Robert: “But what do I say to her? What does one say to a singer?”
The second development was quite gratifying for Edith. Her dear Mr Gregson scored massive points by exposing a card shark and winning Robert back a heap of cash. Well played, Mr G!
I'm glad to say that Mary lightens up a bit at the dinner party, even though Isobel Crawley looks stricken. And just when Violet had to work so hard to get her to come at all! What's a Dowager Duchess to do? Tom tells Isobel that it’s the first time he’s heard Mary laugh since Matthew’s death.
Isobel: “I know. And I don’t want her to spend her life in sorrow, she’s not the Lady of Shalott. It’s just I find it hard to join in the merry-making.”
Tom: “We haven’t all been making merry.”
Isobel: “But you see what it comes down to in the end is this nice Lord Gillingham and Sir John over there, and him and him and you…you’re all alive. My son’s dead.”
Ever the dancing fool (and usually apt to put her foot in it), Rose brings down a gramophone and some folks begin to dance (including the Duchess of Yeovil, who innocently asks Tom if he knows this or that upper-crust person  from Ireland). Mary catches one sight of the gramophone (which reminds her of Matthew) and flees upstairs to re-don her widow's weeds.
Mary: “I loved him [Matthew]. But he changed me. If I were as tough as I was when I met him, maybe I'd be happier now.”
(Mary confides this to Gillingham as they go riding about the estate the next day.) Other favorite lines from the episode:
“Oh you know Mary, she's always quite opaque.” (The understatement of the century from Isobel.)
“If I were to search for logic, I would not look for it in the English upper class.” (The Dowager, of course.)
Next week: Tom tries to keep that relentless hussy Edna from compromising him.  Mary and Rose go up London and are taken to a night club.
What do you think of the Anna plot twist? In an article called "Why Is Downton Abbey So Horrible to Its Female Characters?"June Thomas of Slate calls it sadistic.
Don't miss the Daedalus Books "Roaring Downton" Forum—a nexus of books, DVDs, news videos, quizzes, fan chats (where you can dish on episodes—including this one), and other fascinating items relating to the series.

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