'Downton Abbey' Recap: Season 3 Episode 3

By Chris Baggiano,
Lady Edith just can't win

Poor Edith. While there often is a dark pleasure that can be gained from Edith’s multiple middle child disappointments but no pleasure could come from this episode’s disappointment. The fact that Matthew and Mary get to be the saving grace on what was supposed to be Edith’s big day is all the more saddening.

After the first episode’s storybook wedding took place in episode one of this season, Edith’s much less expensive and important wedding was meant to take place in this episode. With Edith’s wedding to be a much less grandiose affair, Mrs. Crawley made sure to express her disappointment with the fact Edith was going to be married by a lowly priest instead of the archbishop, Edith was still happy. Even Robert had come to terms with Edith’s choice in partner although he did not give his blessing. Unfortunately for Edith it was not meant to be as Anthony called the wedding off right at the altar, just as the ceremony was about to begin. The Dowager Countess made sure to get her wish by hilariously stepping in and allowing Anthony to say his piece but by the end of the episode Edith’s spirits were incredibly low. Anthony and Edith never seemed to be a good match, even on screen, and Edith’s comment as to how Anthony was to be “her life’s work” was incredibly odd in of itself.

Edith’s character could easily go one of two ways. Either she becomes stronger and finds another man or even finds a purpose to her life that she has been lacking since she was a nurse during World War I. Or she gives up and could become a very depressing presence in Downton. While her rising from bed to get breakfast because, as she put it, spinsters don’t get to eat breakfast in bed seemed to be a good sign, her defeated tone was very prevalent during her mourning stages especially when she refuses her mother’s comfort and said she didn’t know how many more tests she could take. She instantly becomes the most interesting character as long as the writers don’t sweep her struggles under the rug and have things back to normal or, even worse, have her mope around for the rest of the season and drag out her depression.

Meanwhile it was good to see the tiresome saga that was Matthew’s decision to accept the money from his dead, former fiancée’s estate end (hopefully). After Mary reading Mr. Swire’s letter out loud that confessed he knew about Matthew’s not being in love with Lavinia and found proof that Swire had written it and not Mary he immediately accepted the money. It would be a faux pas for his guilt to completely disappear but it is a relief to see that particular plotline hopefully resolved. This is Downton Abbey however and they do love to drag out storylines. It will also be nice to see the reactions of the family to Matthew saving Downton so hopefully the show will not deprive the audience of that.

The upstairs weren’t the only set of people to have a plotline seemingly resolved as Mrs. Hughes’s cancer test results came back negative. This seemed a tad dubious, however, as the words never came from her mouth that she did not have cancer but instead were relayed by Mrs. Patmore to Carson because she had spilled the beans to Carson earlier. Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore planned Mrs. Patmore’s discussion with Carson so it was unclear whether that was for Carson’s benefit, as Mrs. Hughes didn’t want him to know in the first place, or if it was the truth. Mrs. Hughes’s reaction to Carson’s happiness and relief upon hearing the news was pretty ambiguous as well as she cried either tears of joy or sorrow, especially since Mrs. Patmore was not present to react to Mrs. Hughes’s reaction. Of course 1920s medicine was not exact so it wouldn’t surprise if perhaps the initial test results were incorrect and this was revealed later in the season but for now it seems as though Mrs. Hughes has a clean bill of health and has seen the usually stoic Carson’s true feelings for her.

It seems as Daisy has a new crush as well in O’Brien’s nephew, Alfred (who will inevitably become the butler for a fairly well to do Wayne family in Gotham City…). The feelings seem to be mutual as well as Alfred makes a few different attempts and trying to spend a little time with Daisy while also making sure to hammer the point home that he likes the new 1920s woman. Hopefully her transformation into a free talking 20s woman will add some good comedy and some excitement to the buttoned down crew of Dowton Abbey.

Nothing was quite nearly as exciting as the brewing war between O’Brien and Thomas. Even though it wasn’t clear if Thomas had multiple motives, either just to get back at O’Brien or possibly gunning for the job of Matthew’s valet, for giving some fake gossip to Mosley about O’Brien leaving it is clear the battle is heating up between the once partners in crime. The warning shots O’Brien fired at Thomas at the end of the episode foretelling her revenge and escalation set up some good excitement for future episodes. Who wins remains to be seen but O’Brien is currently the slight favorite as Thomas’s pranks have been more childish than damaging.

Finally in the two least interesting subplots, Anna finds Vera’s former neighbor and friend and gives her a good chunk of money for very little information in return. Meanwhile Bates’s feud with his cellmate seems to be escalating as he received a tip with a fellow prisoner that Bates’s cellmate had planted a knife under Bates’s mattress that he stows in a crevice between two bricks right as the guards toss his cell. Also Mrs. Crawley finds Ethel, the former maid, who still refuses to tell Mrs. Crawley why she wants help although it would be a shock if Ethel weren’t trying to get Mrs. Crawley to raise her baby.

Potent Quotables

“Aren’t you a wild thing.”
The Dowager Countess in response to Mrs. Crawley sitting in the front seat of a car instead of Anthony.

“He looks as if he’s waiting for a beating from the headmaster.”
The Dowager Countess describing Anthony before his wedding of Edith.

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