Episode 3 of Downton Abbey, which aired on Sunday, left fans unsatisfied. (Spoilers: Be warned.)
The first concern for everyone is Anna’s mental well-being. After a terrible sexual assault that thankfully happened off-screen (unlike Sybil’s dramatic labor and death scene), Anna feels too “dirty” to be around Bates any longer. She moves out of her cottage into the servants’ quarters, leaving Bates devastated and suspicious. No one blames her for fearing Bates’s reaction should he find out who raped her, but we suffer watching her bear blame for Mr. Green’s horrendous actions. She thinks the incident is her fault, and by keeping Bates ignorant there is no one but Mrs. Hughes to reassure her otherwise.
The closing scene of episode 2 showed Edna sneaking into a drunk Branson’s room. The morning reveals they enjoyed a night of drunken pleasure, but Branson’s guilt is evident. Edna attempts to lock him into marriage by claiming she could be pregnant. It takes Branson confiding in the ever-wise Mrs. Hughes to weasel his way out of Edna’s schemes. Mrs. Hughes finds a book on married love techniques in Edna’s bedroom, exposing that Edna really isn’t pregnant and planned the entire encounter. Edna, infuriated, leaves Downton and we all cheer on her exit.
What we can’t cheer for is Edith’s naïve relationship with Mr. Gregson. The night before he leaves for Germany to get his scandalous divorce, he has Edith sign a contract (which she fails to read) and unveils his plans for the night – staying home in his flat. This act of seduction takes Edith down, but when Aunt Rosemond finds out she spent the night with Gregson, Edith gets a stern, well-deserved lecture. The 1920’s disaster at romance proclaims she has no regrets, while everyone watching doubts Gregson’s faithfulness.
Edith seems unconcerned with the moral values of the early 20th century and the feisty Rose couldn’t agree more. In Rose’s case she finds herself enamored with the black Jack Ross, a jazz-singer who dances with her when her drunk partner stumbles off the dance floor. Branson walks on the floor to retrieve Rose from this “unsightly situation,” and I had a mental flashback to when Branson dared to challenge societal norms when he married Sybil. But even the socialist Branson can’t stomach Rose dancing with a person of color. Where Edith is foolish, Rose is tenderhearted. Nonetheless, their naiveté could get both girls in a mess of trouble.
Widowed Mary hardly has time for scandals, but even she gets a second chance at marriage. Matthew still haunts our memories, but the strapping Mr. Gillingham is proper, kind, and handsome. (I can’t help but wonder where he was during the first 3 seasons of Mary’s topsy-turvy romances.) As with Matthew, we can’t find a fault in him. He proposes to Mary, even offering to wait a few years for her to heal over her lost husband, and there we are – stuck. To reject Mr. Gillingham means Mary loses him to his current fiancé, and after World War I, men are scarce. However, to take his offer so soon after Matthew’s death seems irreverent. Mary gently turns him down, but not until they share a spark-inducing first kiss.
The ends are all untied—can the women of Downton recover after such devastation, foolishness, and difficult decision-making?