Downton Abbey: The Return of Gwen Dawson

With Carson and Hughes away on a honeymoon–and it turns out she will stay Hughes, in one of the earliest instances of a wife keeping her last name after marriage–it’s time for everyone else to take turns in the spotlight in order to move them forward to their own happy endings. Or, in the case of Lord Robert, probably his doom. (Someone really should arrive with the 1920s version of Tums for the man, no?)

Lady Shackleton: “How can I present myself as an expert when I don’t know the facts?”
Violet: “It’s never stopped me!”

The downstairs crew are pushed forward this week by the sight of one of their own who now has her own happy ending, and a middle class one at that. Gwen Dawson, that plucky little maid who got herself a typewriter and then a secretary’s job Beyond the Wall where she met a nice Night’s Watchman who knew nothing, has returned. Lucky for her she married better than a Snow, to a man by the name of Harding, and is now being received by the Granthams as a board member to a ladies college, who may not exactly be their equal, but who isn’t expected to serve tea either.

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Thomas gets the meatiest story this week, and the one to call out Gwen in front of everyone in order to embarrass her. But, in a scene which was ultra delightful in that it showed how things are changing instead of telling us that things are changing, instead of upper class horror and snide class jumper whispers and so forth, the scene turns into a tribute to Sybil. Yes, the third Crawley sister who stopped being necessary once there was not an Edwardian world to rebel against is issues a touching tribute by Gwen to all and sundry. Even her new Harding husband who never knew Sybil is touched. Let it be a lesson to all the Granthams that moving with the world instead of fighting against it is the best way to be remembered.

Daisy: “Not possible”? Don’t give me “not possible.”
Mrs. Patmore: All right, Madame Defarge, calm down and finish that mash.

Thomas may have failed, as Thomas often does and instead of humiliated Gwen receive a humiliation of his own from Lord Robert, who all but says he’s be downsized out in a minute if he doesn’t learn to behave. But in doing so he gains pity, both from the audience, and the staff downstairs. He’s discovering what it’s like to be The Butler, you see, and he’s enjoying it way too much. Enforced respect in better than none at all. It might be easier on the man if he really didn’t care no one respects him. the problem is he does want their respect. He just has no idea how to earn it, other than getting promoted into it. That’s unfortunate, since by the end of the episode Carson is back. But the taste of it is sure to push Thomas forward to wherever the script is planning for him to go next.

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Also in the downstairs march to happiness–Anna is pregnant for long enough that she tells Bates about it. One might worry that when the Sargent shows up that Bates went on a celebratory murdering spree. (Doesn’t he have anything better to do?) But no, he’s here for Baxter, who has to testify against the Monster she was once in love with in order to ascend to the levels of Molesley goodliness required for the two of them to marry by the end of the series. In more amusing news, Daisy is all ready to quit and go full Viva la Revolution, until she discovers that her cause has deflated. The Granthams have taken their only farm and given it to to Mr. Mason, who is the only man who wants to be their tenant. I don’t know why Daisy thought it would be any other way. Turns out Marx would finish that liver pâté.

Aunt Rosamund: That was nice of you, to praise Edith’s plan.
Mary: A monkey will type out the Bible if you leave it long enough.

Branson’s return has been something of a disappointment this week. Edith had a great line about Mary losing her job as Estate Manager, but Branson doesn’t seem interested in taking it back. Apparently now that he’s been to America, “where the hard-working man can get ahead,” he realized what a great thing the landed gentry had going in the UK all these years, and he should go back and take advantage of not working while being served hand and foot while it’s still available. Someone should tell Daisy this is how most revolutionaries end their days. At least Edith got off the one good line. Unfortunately this week was more about assuring the audience she isn’t hiring any more eligible men to work for her at the magazine that could disrupt her budding romance with Bertie Pelham. Yes, Mary, hiring a woman as co-editor is a splendid notion that way.

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Speaking of Mary, now that we brought back Branson and Bertie, it’s time to also round up Henry Talbot and have him drive in on his grand white steed or a 1920s motorcar. Not that he’s technically here for that. Turns out that hospital fight that I keep ignoring is responsible for his return. (Don’t worry, he’ll be on the side of Isobel and right, since it is clear the point of the exercise is for the Dowager to lose to modernity.) But the best part was seeing Matthew Goode’s name in the opening credits. He’s officially here for the duration. Now, which coat do we think Mama should give away for this wedding?

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2 thoughts

  1. The point of the Great Hospital Fight Plot is for Robert to suffer greatly and nearly die due to the lack of Modern Health Care Facility, thus bringing around the Dowager to reluctantly embrace modern medicine. He won’t die, because this is Happy Endings Season.

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