Monday, 23 February 2015

The Downton Abbey Episode That Made Me Bawl My Eyes Out

Hey hey, all you Downton fans! Everybody else, go away. This is going to be so irrelevant to you. It's like when you overhear people having an animated conversation about a common friend and common memories that only they share, and you're like "Who is Lady Mary and why should I care about her long drawn out romance with Matthew Crawley?" So go away, start watching Downton (preferably legally) and then come back and join the party.

Okay, so this is to give you some background to the bawling. I have had a tough, draining weekend emotionally and spiritually, and I've been waiting for Sunday night like the light at the end of a tunnel. Because Sunday night is the night I come over to my parents' and watch FIVE recorded Downton episodes in a row every week. So last night as I sat down to watch I was SO HYPERLY EXCITED about it. I had my chocolate (nope, didn't give that up for Lent), stretched out in front of the TV, and was ALL SET FOR THE AWESOMENESS. I wasn't disappointed.

Now background to the actual episode. Season 2: Christmas Special. We've all been following Lady Mary as she's grown from a sarcastic, selfish, mercenary young woman to someone who actually acts and lives selflessly. Ages ago she shocked and disappointed me when she allowed herself to be seduced by a visiting Turkish diplomat (he was supposed to be irresistibly hot? I didn't see it) who died of a heart attack in her bed (MELODRAMA FOR THE WIN!) but the ramifications of that are still being felt. Her mother knew, her grandmother, the awesomely sarcastic Dowager Countess knew, she was engaged to the Creep (aka Sir Richard Carlisle) who knew, and blackmailed her into staying engaged to him because he would publish all if she left him.

But the two big showdowns that hadn't happened were between her and her father Lord Grantham, and her and Matthew Crawley, the (distant) cousin, and now heir, she had once been engaged to, was still in love with. In spite of being in love with each other, their love story kept getting interrupted by a number or tiresome obstacles:

1. Lady Mary's selfishness (Matthew was possibly going to lose his title and the fortune)
2. Matthew's disappointment in her (she didn't stick by him in thick or thin, so fair enough)
3. Matthew falling in love with and getting engaged to Lavinia Swire (sweet but she's NOT MARY)
4. Mary being noble and not telling Matthew about her feelings (yay selflessness)
5. Lavinia Swire dying 'of a broken heart' making Matthew feel guilty because he believed it was because she knew he was still in love with Mary. "We deserve to be unhappy." Psshhhtttt.

 Lavinia Swire and her extremely melodramatic death

6.  Also, Mary is now engaged to the Creep. The creepy Creep. Did I mention that he creeps me out?

Violent, manipulative and controlling. C'mon, Mary!

Now this is set in a time and place where Appearances and Avoiding Scandal are the two most important factors on which all decisions are made (probably not super different from very traditional Indian homes). Marrying a Creep apparently was her only choice to prevent her name being dragged through the mud. But but but... everything in our hearts cried out against it! This is not right! How can you be with a man who so plainly acts like he owns you, who has THREATENED you? Lady Mary is one of the most outspoken, plain-speaking, strong characters I've ever seen in real life or TV life. She reminds me of me in her no nonsense, who cares about frills in speech, say it like it is attitude. How can SHE be tied down by this man?

 Lady Mary and her father Lord Grantham

And then... out of the blue, her father brings it up. (Her mother had finally told him.)

ROBERT Can I ask you something? 
LADY MARY Of course. 
ROBERT Do you stay with Carlisle because he’s threatened to expose the story of Mr Pamuk dying in your bed? 

Ahhhh! She knows he knows. How is he going to react? A man of honour who has very strict standards of what is acceptable and what is not. A member of the British nobility reared to also care deeply about Appearances and Avoiding Scandal. How would he react to his daughter's shameful secret?

LADY MARY When did you find out?

ROBERT Your mother told me when I asked why you were still with Carlisle when you look so tired of him.
LADY MARY How very disappointed you must be.
ROBERT Your Mama chose her moment well. And you’re not the first Crawley to make a mistake.

Oh yeah.. so he had a brief flirtation with a pretty housemaid, which was so out of character and really upset me (emotional investment much?), but his better nature prevailed as he did not have an affair with he. But now... maybe his brief lapse, had softened him, helped him realize how weak, how fallible we humans are. Anyone can mess up.

LADY MARY To answer your question, it is partly true, though not entirely. In Mama’s phrase, I am “damaged goods” now. Richard is, after all, prepared to marry me in spite of it, to give me a position, to give me a life. 
ROBERT And that’s worth it? Even though he already sets your teeth on edge? What about Matthew? How does he view the late Mr Pamuk? 
LADY MARY He doesn’t know.
ROBERT So that is not what split you apart; I thought it might have been.
LADY MARY Oh, no. Th—there are other reasons for that... to do with Lavinia.
ROBERT I see. And those reasons are final?
LADY MARY They are final for Matthew. So, yes, they are.
ROBERT Here’s what I think. Break with Carlisle. He may publish, but we’ll be a house of scandal anyway with Bates’s story. Go to America, stay with your grandmother until the fuss dies down. You may find the New World is to your taste.
LADY MARY He’ll keep my secret if I marry him.

And then... moment of truth! What matters most in the heart of this man?

ROBERT Once I might have thought that a good thing. But I’ve been through a war and a murder trial since then, to say nothing of your sister’s choice of husband. I don’t want my daughter to be married to a man who threatens her with ruin. I want a good man for you, a brave man. Find a cowboy in the Middle West and bring him back to shake us up a bit.
[Mary chuckles with tears in her eyes and rushes to hug Robert.]


Okay Sue, calm down. But really, I wept sweet, sweet tears. This is TRUTH,. This is real LOVE. This is GOD'S love. This is the love humans were MEANT to have for each other. Undeserved free unconditional love. Love that doesn't withdraw when it is disappointed or hurt. I have been more and  more reflecting on GRACE being at the core of my Christian faith, and how desperately the world is in need of grace, how much I need to extend grace to people, without for a moment judging whether they 'deserve' my love.

Okay, as if that wasn't enough for one episode, she tells Matthew about it too. I love Mary and Matthew's interactions because they're so real, so authentic. They know the worst and the best about each other. Their conversations are always so honest.

LADY MARY Why were you up at the house this evening? Did Papa summon you?
MATTHEW As a matter of fact, I came to see you. I wanted to find out what you meant when you said you had to marry Carlisle and that I’d despise you if I knew the reason.
LADY MARY Yes, you would.
MATTHEW Whatever it is, it cannot be enough for you to marry him.
LADY MARY That’s what Papa said.
MATTHEW So, you told him?
MATTHEW And does he despise you?
LADY MARY He’s...very disappointed in me.
MATTHEW Even so...please tell me.

So she does... And then..

LADY MARY Say something...if it’s only goodbye.
MATTHEW Did you love him?
LADY MARY You mustn’t try to--
MATTHEW Because if it was love, then--
LADY MARY How could it be love? I didn’t know him—
MATTHEW Then why would you—?
LADY MARY It was lust, Matthew! Or a need for excitement, or something in him that I...Oh, God, what difference does it make? I’m Tess of the d'Urbervilles to your Angel Claire. I have fallen. I am impure.
MATTHEW Don’t joke. Don’t make it little, not when I’m trying to understand.
LADY MARY Thank you for that. But the fact remains...that I am made different by it. Things have changed between us.
MATTHEW Even so, you must not marry him.
ADY MARY So, I must brave the storm?
MATTHEW You’re strong. A storm-braver if ever I saw one.
LADY MARY I wonder. Sybil’s the strong one. She really doesn’t care what people think, but I’m afraid I do. Papa suggested I go to New York to stay with Grandmama to ride it out.
MATTHEW You can find some unsuspecting millionaire.
LADY MARY Preferably one who doesn’t read English papers.
MATTHEW Go or stay you must sack Carlisle. It isn’t worth buying off a month of scandal with a lifetime of misery...... You were wrong about one thing.
LADY MARY Only one? And what is that, pray?
MATTHEW I never would...I never could despise you.

I love that we can see the hurt in his face, that they don't act like it wasn't a bad thing. I feel like nowadays it would be like "What the heck? It was just a sexual adventure, which was my free choice to make and nobody better have an opinion about that."

And then, right at the end of the episode... sweet sweet fulfilment of all that we had been waiting for, for two seasons...

First at the Servant's Ball, he dances with her. (The traditional sign of a man's interest in a woman.) Our heartbeat quickens. Is he softening? Has he changed his mind, and decided that he is not expected to live with guilt forever? Maybe, maybe.... And then, later-

[Matthew joins Mary as she stands out in the falling snow with no coat.]
MATTHEW That was fun. There'll be a few thick heads in the morning.
LADY MARY No doubt they think it's worth it.
MATTHEW You're really going to America.
LADY MARY (nods) Mm.
MATTHEW Would Carlisle make your life a nightmare if you stayed?
LADY MARY I couldn't tell you. Maybe. Even if he does let me go, my story's still out there and always will be.
MATTHEW Would you stay...if I asked you to.
[Mary looks at him in surprise, then shakes her head and looks down.]

We hold our collective breaths... On the brink of happiness. Can it be? Will it be?

LADY MARY Oh, Matthew, you don't mean that. You know yourself we carry more luggage than the porters at King's Cross.
[Matthew chuckles.]
LADY MARY And what about the late Mr Pamuk? Won't he resurrect himself every time we argued?
[Mary looks at him in hopeful surprise.]
LADY MARY You mean you've forgiven me?
MATTHEW No, I haven't forgiven you.
LADY MARY Well, then.
MATTHEW I haven't forgiven you because...I don't believe you need my forgiveness. You've lived your life and I've lived mine. And now it's time we lived them together.
LADY MARY We've been on the edge of this so many times, Matthew. Please don't take me there again unless you're sure.

Yes, we have! Please don't do this to us, Matthew. Only say it if you mean it. Don't play with our hearts, please. We've been waiting for this for so long.

MATTHEW I am sure.

Swoooon. He's sure! He looks strong, and confident, and happy, and sure, the way a suitor should look.

LADY MARY And your...vows to the memory of Lavinia?
MATTHEW I was wrong. I...I don' think she wants us to be sad. She was someone who never caused a moment's sorrow in her whole life.
LADY MARY (nods) I agree.


MATTHEW Then, will you?
[Mary looks into his face, her face lighting up]

Come on, Matthew, that's the best you're going to do? Nope, Lady Mary's got it.

LADY MARY You must say it properly. I won't answer unless you...kneel down and everything.
[Matthew sighs in amusement, kneels down and takes her hands.]
MATTHEW Lady Mary Crawley, will you do me the honour of becoming my wife?


I love how they don't just passionately kiss, but laugh as he lifts her up and spins around. Like real life when you're happy you laugh and you just can't stop smiling. Not look melodramatically romantic. They are just happy happy happy and we rejoice in their happiness because we waited so long for it, and rooted for them through the struggle and sacrifice and pain and hoping and waiting. So beautiful.

Sorry for making you sit through that. Until next time.

P.S. If you're way ahead of me, past Season 4, read this: The One Where I Slap Thomas (season 4, Episode 1)


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  2. Downton Abbey fan here - missed this episode cos of some stuff I'd rather not remember... My mom told me the gist back then but I stumbled across this blog and I love the way you described it - made me feel like I've actually seen it! Thanks :-)