At the beginning of the episode, everything seems to be back to normal at Downton thanks to the conclusion of World War I. Still, not everything is quite the same, as the war has changed the characters in such a way that they cannot revert to their old selves. Lord Grantham and the new maid, Jane, find themselves alone in the room and have a heart to heart about the end of the war. Lord Grantham asks her, “Do you ever wonder what it was all for?”
On that note, we are met with several ill-fated plotlines. Thomas decides to venture into the black market in order to make some money after the war.
Mr. Bates and Lord Grantham speculate on the death of Mrs. Bates, as Lord Grantham realizes that she would have had to buy the poison, so it is strange that she did not leave a suicide note. Thirdly, Sir Richard asks Anna to spy on Lady Mary.
Downton makes this request seem untrusting and classless. Though I agree that it is certainly not an admirable request, I do not think that it is nearly as bad as the characters make it out to be.
We then observe an intimate moment between Tom and Sybil. These two lovebirds are getting very serious, and now that the war is over Sybil must make up her mind about leaving Downton or leaving Tom. Another character that is considering leaving Downton is of course Carson, who Richard asked to come to Hacksby. Carson plans on going, but says, “I will regret it every minute of every day”. Then, based on the news of Richard asking Anna to spy on Mary, Carson decides not to come to Hacksby as he believes he cannot work for someone whom he does not respect.
In a less honorable plotline, Lord Grantham kisses Jane and then says, “Please try to forgive me”. This kiss seems to come out of nowhere. Though he has shown kindness to Jane in the past based on his interest in her son Freddie and this episode set up a more intimate relationship between the two characters, this act seems somewhat out of character. Then again, the characters themselves recognize that the act is out of the ordinary and unexplainable.
Following this bit of unbelievable actions, the truly incredible happens: Matthew stands. It turns out he spine is merely bruised rather than severed. The doctor admits his mistake and we are assured that there is a plausible explanation for this far-fetched miracle. Well, kind of assured if we let ourselves not think too much. Perhaps Lady Violet Grantham says it best with the phrase, “All of that unbridled joy has given me quite an appetite”. Here, here.
We now submerge into Ethel’s subplot. Ethel bore a child out of wedlock with the late Major Bryant. She makes another attempt to make contact and gain support from his parents, but the elder Mr. Bryant is horrible to her. The mother seems sympathetic to her case, and claims that he acts this way due to the fact that he is terrified of his own intense grief for their son. This plotline represents another apt advertisement for social welfare, in my opinion. If her earlier tale is one in support of birth control and abortion, this second plotline argues for child support and care for single mothers.
Lady Violet Grantham decides to take matters into her own hands, thank goodness. She approaches Matthew in his room and explains that Mary is still in love with him. Why Matthew seems somewhat surprised, I have no idea, but at least one of these tight-lipped Brits is willing to tell it like it is.
As expected, Mr. Bates has been framed for the murder of his wife. She wrote a note to a friend saying that she feared for her own life due to the rage of Mr. Bates. I think that she killed herself and made it seem as though he killed her in order to spite him and ruin his happiness. This woman clearly seriously hated him. Mr. Bates had always been somewhat of a Job character, and his troubles just continue to grow.
Sybil does not come down to dinner and leaves a note in her room labeled, ‘To my family”. In the note Sybil explains that she and Tom have chosen to Elope. Edith and Mary set out to find her. Arriving at a local inn, they realize that have come just in time to protect her virtue. They convince her not to run away like a thief and to explain to her parents her intentions. Tom seems displeased with the change of plans, but Sybil is still committed to him.
Another plan that goes wrong includes Thomas’s black market ingredients. It seems that he has been had and that the ingredients are mostly additives. He goes into a rage, as he has spent everything he had on the ingredients and then some.
Downton prepares for the wedding of Lavinia and Matthew, which is back on thanks to his newfound health. They decide to wed as soon as he is able to walk properly. Lavinia is glowing and makes tarty comments like, “any bride who doesn’t suck up to her husband’s mother is a fool”. They arrange their wedding gifts, which include a gramophone. Lady Violet Grantham observes the loot and remarks of Lavinia, “She’s so slight, a real necklace will flatten her”.
No one can remain cheerful for the long, as the Spanish Influenza strikes Downton. First Cora and Carson fall ill, then Mosely and Lavinia. Lady Violet Grantham reflects on the general malaise of Downton, saying, “Don’t be defeatist. It is very middle class”. It turns out that Mosely is actually just drunk and that Carson’s case is mild, but Cora and Lavinia are both quite ill. Meanwhile, Matthew and Mary listen to music on the new gramophone. They begin to dance and begin to kiss. Mary asks Matthew if he can dance without his stick, he responds, “You are my stick”. I understand the point of this line, but really, once more, “you are my stick”. Ok. Just as they acknowledge that they both want to be together but face too many obstacles, Lavinia walks downstairs. She acts as though she is confused and Matthew leads her back up to bed.
Cora is very ill and it is not clear if she will survive the flu. O’Brian never leaves her bed and nurses Cora through the night. O’Brian works so dutifully due to her guilt of causing Cora to miscarriage last season by placing soap by the bathroom tub. Cora makes it through the night and becomes well again. However, Lavinia takes a dramatic turn for the worse. The doctor makes it clear that she will not get well and Matthew begins to say his goodbyes. Breathing haggardly, Lavinia says,
“isn’t this better, really?” She then dies tragically and suddenly. Matthew should feel free to be with Mary now, but he believes that they cause Lavinia’s death. Because she overheard them talking, she lost the will to fight the flu and died of a broken heart. Matthew declares that now any relationship that he and Mary might have would be cursed. Obviously, Matthew and Mary should be together. They have let pride stand in their way, money, disease, other partners, guilt and now a curse. They must run out of hurdles soon. I expect a third season wedding, please.
Back to another failed romance. Jane offers to resign, but Lord Grantham will hear none of it. He then realizes that it is for the best for everyone if she leaves Downton. He offers her a lot of money, which he says is to give Freddie a chance at life and will make him very happy. What does this plotline say about Lord Grantham? Perhaps his concern with honor follows different rules that really have everything to do with class and little to do with honor.
Finally, the Bryants agree to meet with Ethel in order to meet their grandson and discuss his future. They recognize little Charlie as their grandchild and tell Ethel that they will raise him as their grandson, but only on the condition that Ethel will never see him again. She decides to keep him, thinking that a child needs his mother’s love more than money and connections. I am not sure if this decision is the best, what work she will find, and how this plotline will end.
Anna and Mr. Bates finally wed. They enjoy a honeymoon in one of the guest rooms, as arranged by Lady Mary and Jane. Bates is arrested the next day for the murder of Mrs. Bates. Anna stands by him, confident in his innocence and devotion to her. Another ghost of a woman threatens our other lovebirds from being totally happy. It seems that ghosts are ruining romance both downstairs and upstairs. The only couple that will be totally happy at the end of this episode is, shockingly, Tom and Sybil, who have received Lord Grantham’s blessing and are heading to Ireland. Lady Violet Grantham is already plotting a storyline for Tom, demonstrating her ability to defend the family name and the actual family simultaneously.