Down with Downton: Part IV
When last we left Downton Abbey, Mary and Matthew were on the outs, Edith was a conniving spinster, Mr. Bates refused to be with Anna because he’s technically married, and the whole world was about to enter a Great War with Germany. So much unresolved angst! Let’s get right back into it.
1916: The war is in full swing, and Matthew is an officer on the front lines. He gets to jet back and forth to England a lot though, so he doesn’t have it quite as bad as Thomas, who is stuck in the trenches and hating life. Being a footman doesn’t look so bad now, does it Thomas?
In all the fighting, however, Matthew has managed to find a pretty little girl to marry, named Lavinia Swire. She’s upper-middle class, like Matthew, so is easier for him to relate to. And she’s probably not just into him for his future money, Mary. Mary immediately is like “I HAVE A BOYFRIEND TOO” and tells everyone about Sir Richard Carlisle, her rich, older man who owns a bunch of newspapers. Eventually Mary and Matthew decide to be friends, a thin veil for their true feelings.
Downstairs, the mysterious Mrs. Vera Bates has shown up and is not looking super pleased that Mr. Bates wants to divorce her and marry Anna. She has heard through the servant grapevine about Mary and Mr. Pamuk, and Anna’s role in it all, and threatens to tell her story to the press if Bates doesn’t come home and play husband. Because blackmail is always a super sturdy basis for a relationship. Bates agrees until he can figure out how to ditch the bitch, and Lord Crawley isn’t pleased that he’s losing his valet. He says some mean things about loyalty and Bates’ lack thereof, and Bates just keeps his head high, apologizes, and leaves. Awww.
Sybil isn’t happy to just sit there and get letters about how people are dying in the war, so she decides to train as a nurse.
Mild opposition from her family notwithstanding, she gets a job in the local hospital and Branson confesses his undying love for her (must have been the uniform). She is shocked and wants to forget he ever said those things, but he insists on waiting for her. Hang in there Branson, won’t be long.
Back in France, Thomas decides that he’s sick of all this nonsense, and purposely gets shot in the hand, in order to be sent back home. O’Brien fixes things so he can be brought to their local hospital and work as a man-nurse there, so he can be close to Downton Abbey. And he gets closer still, when Isobel and Sybil convince the family that they need to turn Downton into a convalescent home for recovering soldiers. Granny and Robert are not pleased, but eventually agree to it, after much ballyhoo about the terms. Thomas is appointed Manager of Downton, representing the hospital’s interests, and Carson is not happy to have a thief in their midst, but can’t say much since Thomas is now a wounded vet.
Now it’s William, the other footman’s chance to go to war, and he’s weirdly happy about it. The only thing holding him back is his love for Daisy – if she’ll only be his sweetheart, he’ll march happily into war and have her memory to keep him warm. Daisy is sort of weirded out by this, but Mrs. Patmore tells William that Daisy accepts, and suddenly they’re engaged without really having meant to be.
Now that the house is filled with eligible soldiers, the new housemaid, Ethel, is working overtime to make sure their blankets are tucked in, if you get my drift. One officer in particular has caught more than her eye, and she ends up being unceremoniously dismissed when Mrs. Hughes catches them in the act. Soon after, however, Ethel comes back and tell Mrs. Hughes and the officer in question that she’s pregnant.
Speaking of pre-marital sexy times, Mary is forced to tell Richard Carlisle about a certain dead Turkish bloke when Bates leaves Vera again and she threatens to make good on her promise to tell the world about the scandal. He doesn’t really care, being a sort of low-brow type himself, and Mary is pretty unapologetic. So Richard tells Mary he’ll keep her secret, and pay off Mrs. Bates, if she’ll marry him (what was that I said about blackmail and relationships earlier?). Mary doesn’t exactly accept, but Richard announces their engagement, so it’s basically a done deal.
In the meantime, both William and Matthew have been injured in the war. William was more severely hurt, trying to save Matthew who is now paralyzed from the waist down (yes, including his manhood). As William lays on his deathbed, Mrs. Patmore convinces Daisy to marry him so that he can die a happy man. Daisy is still dubious, but does it anyway, and sits with him until he passes. Get your hankies out, ladies.
Matthew is rolling around the Abbey whining about not being fit to be anyone’s husband, despite the fact that Lavinia and Mary are both gagging for him. He insists on setting them both free to find a man with a working… um, soldier… but they both turn him down. Lavinia is at a slight advantage, being his fiance, but Mary isn’t giving up the good fight, despite being betrothed to Richard Carlisle.
Mr. Bates and Anna are getting ready to be married, now that Mrs. Bates can’t tell her story, and has been petitioned for divorce. But it’s not meant to be, as the wiley Mrs. Bates contests the divorce, stating Mr. Bates paid her off. It’s true, but maddening nonetheless. He goes to confront her in London, and comes back that night in a huff. The next morning, they find out she is dead – the pie she had eaten was laced with poison! Dun dun dun!
The war is soon over and life is gets back to “normal.” Matthew suddenly regains the use of his legs (and presumably other parts as well). Richard Carlisle asks Anna to spy on Lady Mary for him, which makes everyone hate Richard Carlisle. Ethel, the maid with the baby, confronts her baby daddy’s parents (baby daddy having been killed in the war), and they offer to take the kid off her hands and give him a better life. She says she’s willing to take her chances in the cruel world, and refuses to let him go. And Branson renews his affections for Sybil and asks her to run away with him. They go, but not very far, when Mary and Edith track her down and drag her ass back home.
All these weddings (Matthew & Lavinia, Branson & Sybil, Mary & Richard, Edith &… just kidding! Not you, Edith!) are put on hold, however, when the Spanish influenza strikes Downton Abbey. Cora and Lavinia seem to be a in race to see who can die first, but eventually Lavinia eeks into first place. Even though her dying words were to give Matthew permission to marry his true love (Mary), he is guilt-ridden and tells Mary there can never be anything between them now. We’ll see about that.
In light of all the illness and death and Downton, Lord Grantham agrees to give Branson permission to marry Sybil. Hurray! And Bates and Anna get married in a small, secret ceremony and then partake in one of the most uncomfortable sex scenes ever committed to television. Ew!
The season ends with Bates being arrested under suspicion of killing his late wife, Mrs. Vera Bates, may she rest in peace.
Except just kidding, there is a Christmas special! Sybil and Branson are married and pregnant! Mary leaves creepy Richard Carlisle, tells Matthew about her slutty past, and they get engaged! Mr. Bates gets life in prison! Merry Christmas to all, until season three!