Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Downton Abbey 6x04 (Purpose and Kindness) [Contributor: Hope]

“Episode 6.4”
Original Airdate: January 24, 2015

A familiar face entered the Abbey this week, and her success brought almost everyone else’s troubles to the forefront. Because this week was all about change.

Wait, what’s that you say? That the entire series has been about change? That’s completely true, and this change in no way negates all that other change. However, this one is larger, spanning almost all aspects of the show and the characters’ societies. Unlike the Great War, which changed a lot for the show, this change is right on the cusp of something else: the modern era. Within a few years of the show’s end, the Great Depression will have struck, and Europe will be building towards WWII.

However, things are a little more peaceful at the moment. There’s a lot of internal struggles instead of international ones. Everyone — upstairs, downstairs, outside the house — feels they want more out of life. They’re all looking for something, and maybe they don’t even understand what that something is, but what it really is, is purpose. Maybe that purpose is something completely different from what they’ve been doing, or maybe it’s regaining old purposes or keeping their traditional ones.

All in all, purpose is a strange concept because it represents something tangible, something we think we can find, even though the word itself is very abstract. We want to make a difference in our lives, in others’ lives... we want to feel that we’re moving forward and making progress. When we don’t feel we’ve found our purpose, we feel lost and stuck. It’s something we can probably all relate to, but also something that isn’t resolved in a moment. If this season is indeed about conclusions, then everyone should find their purpose, ideally by the series finale. In an at least somewhat organic way.

No pressure.


There were so many characters popping up again or returning home in this episode. Lady Shackleton and her son, whom we’d previously met on separate occasions (Lady Shackleton needs to meet Lord Merton again, and soon), Gwen, Carson and Mrs. Hughes... and Sergeant Willis.

First, I need to say how happy I am that Baxter and Molesley have a storyline, an actual storyline, outside of others’ storylines. At the same time, we’re getting more background on Baxter, whose past had previously comprised a storyline without actually giving us much information. Baxter didn’t see the point in testifying in court and bringing up her crime again, but she came to see it as her way of helping others. It’s also a catalyst that acts to bring Baxter and Molesley closer together. He was there as moral support, and as someone to help guide her in the right direction. He talked to Cora, which WAS going behind her back... but nothing came of it. His conversation with Cora didn’t spur a scene between her and Baxter, and in fact, the only thing it did was create a very temporary rift between the two servants. I’m not even really sure why it happened, other than to prove that Molesley is not only going to support Baxter, but also interfere when she doesn’t know she needs him to. Not that she really needed him to in this case, because as I said before, it didn’t have that much of an impact. However, I understand and like what Fellows was going for.

Meanwhile, Barrow was having fun being butler while Carson and Mrs. Hughes were away. He sat in Carson’s chair like it was a throne, and he went on a bit of a power trip. However, since O’Brien left, Thomas has been showing more and more of his humanity, and Baxter is helping to bring that out in him. Unless Carson retires, though, his story isn’t looking so happy. He became envious and mean when Gwen turned up, and as Lord Grantham pointed out, kindness is the key to Carson’s long reign.

While I’m talking about the staff, we can’t forget that Mary (and Tom) rushed Anna to the doctor in London to prevent her having another miscarriage. Now Anna and Bates are going to have a baby, and maybe — could it be? — a HAPPY storyline?


I haven’t been as invested in this storyline as I probably should be. There’s so much else going on that the bitter tug-of-war just hasn’t caught my attention. This week, however, it gained something it needed: a defined central argument that goes deeper than the spat. It was there all along, but this episode brought it to the forefront. Violet’s point, “How could the interests of the village be protected if every decision is made in York?” makes sense without negating Isobel’s in any way. Isobel et al. want the most modern health care they can give the people in their community, but what Violet wants is more than just tradition. Having the gentry in charge of their individual communities makes decision-making more specific, and gives the villagers more of a voice than they might have if power was more centralized. This structure certainly isn’t democratic, but it does put the power in the hands of more than just a few. So although I agree more with Isobel, I understand the Dowager’s point. I’m with Lady Shackleton here — both sides have their arguments. Don’t make me choose.


The last episode Gwen was in was the season one finale, which in Downton Time was over 10 years ago. In all that time, no one ever found that Sybil helped Gwen. Sybil was a bridge between the two worlds of the show, because she never saw them as necessarily separate. It’s not that the others never entered their opposite worlds, only that Sybil was way ahead of every other character. Now these characters might consider doing such a thing as Sybil did — setting up a job interview for a servant, helping them to break out of the service — but even that’s a stretch. Gwen certainly took initiative herself, but her success owes a lot of credit to Sybil. The sheer pride on everyone’s faces — especially Tom’s — was beautiful and touching. Even Barrow was put back in his place, because he always did have a soft spot for Sybil.

I don’t think Mary was the only character hit with the impact of it. Everyone there at that moment was reminded that Sybil was the best of them. She lacked prejudice and cared for everyone. And, perhaps, she was the only one who saw through everything and had a clear view of what the world should be. She had purpose. She would have adjusted to society’s changes faster than they are. Actually, she’d probably already BE adjusted. You know that Sybil would have loved that Gwen was providing higher education for women. Edith’s going to be a trustee, as is Rosamund, but Sybil would have been so proud of Gwen. She probably would have helped her, too.

By bringing up a very old storyline, and bringing in some past characters, Downton is continuing to draw the series into a nice, full circle. The use of theme in this episode worked very, very well, and everything is setting up for the second half of the season. Some storylines are closed (thank God Mr. Mason got his farm and Daisy doesn’t have to be angry any more), and some are concernedly open (someone take Lord Grantham to a doctor already), and there are probably other storylines still lurking in the shadows.

Can happy storylines “lurk in shadows”? (Fingers crossed.)

Odds and Ends
  • “I hope I didn't steal their thunder.” Oh Tom. You kind of did. Not that anyone minded.
  • “Makes a nice change.” “Good to know we can joke about it.” “Well, it’s no joke to Miss Baxter.” This was more than not being told about the sergeant’s visit. Barrow was standing up for her. 
  • “All that's needed for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.”
  • “Are you here to help or irritate?” 
  • “Now we’ve both been snubbed.” 
  • *angry mashing of potatoes* CUT TO *classy dinner party* I adore the pacing of this show. All other shows should look to Downton as an example. The way it juxtaposes different scenes is part of its humor, charm, and believability. 
  • Violet: “Really Robert, you paint me as such a schemer.” Robert: “No one has sharper eyes than a loving son.” Violet: “You read that somewhere.” Robert: “Why do you think I can never make anything up?” Violet: *amused look*
  • “How can I present myself as an expert when I don't know the facts?” “That's never stopped me.”
  • “She's still on tracking form.” “If she was 20 years younger you’d just call her a tyrant.”
  • “Well, you're stronger than you think, and you're wrong about me. I mind what people say.” The character growth in Barrow is subtle and well-executed. 
  • “I wonder if Karl Marx might finish the liver pâté.”
  • “You worked here for two years and we never spoke to you. We're the ones in the wrong.”
  • “I’ll never forget her. Her kindness changed my life.” KINDNESS. CHANGES. LIVES. Note it, pass it along to every person who scowls at you. 
  • Oh, and Mary went on a date. It didn’t quite merit its own header in the review, but you can be sure he’s going to be a keeper. Not because he’s that great, but because there’s only so many episodes left. 
  • “You are your own worst enemy. “If I am, I’ve got competition.”
  • Everyone trying to hold Daisy back, and Baxter going along with her to Lady Grantham, was really touching.
  • “That was rather peculiar.” “I get the feeling I’ve just dodged something, and I don’t know what.”
  • “You've used your credit to rescue me.” Actually... it was William’s credit. The family feels loyalty to William. He saved Matthew’s life at the cost of his own. Daisy made them take that into consideration, but “credit”-wise, it was William. I’m just saying. 
  • “Rather as we resisted Anna being Mrs. Bates, would it be very irregular if we continue to be Carson and Mrs. Hughes?” “Oh, hallelujah!” Lord Grantham speaks for us all, especially this thankful reviewer. 
  • Carson getting sentimental and keeping the label from his room’s door was a really nice little touch. 


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