Just when you thought life couldn't get more depressing for Edith, it does.
Big time. Turns out the Gods of Aristocrats can't give poor Edith a break. Was her indiscretion with that farmer really worth so much karma?
Look, it's not like her living happily ever (old person) after with the so-fragile-you-touch-him-and-he'll-fall-apart Anthony Strallan was ever a safe bet. 1) He's nice enough but sort-of creepy. 2) He looks like a ghost from a Henry James novel. 3) His arm = busted. 4) The entire family is either indifferent to their union or totally against it.
Still, as Season 3, Episode 2 begins, preparation for the big wedding day is underway. I wonder what the village of Downton thinks about this quickie nuptial. I imagine they all were laughing at the pub when someone offered that, "Oy! Maybe's she's pregnant."
"At my age, one must ration one's excitement," the dowager countess says when she comes to visit. Not exactly a ringing endorsement (or showcase of grandmotherly love).
Edith: "Something happening in this house is actually about me!" Ugh. You had to go and marry a 60-year-old one-armed man for this to happen, Edith.
Lord Grantham, for his part, is doing his reserved daddy bit after reluctantly letting Edith and Strallan get back together. He dines with Strallan (Matthew and Tom, disinterested in the whole mess, quickly excuse themselves to play billiards), and assures Strallan that the whole, "Don't you dare marry my daughter!" thing was "never personal."
You know, you're just old. And can barely move. But "nothing personal!"
Later, Edith goes on and on about the honeymoon. "Two weeks in Rome, then Florence, then Venice." It was about at this point when one could tell that this honeymoon would never happen.
Before the wedding, the dowager and Lord Grantham talk again — again! — about how dumb this is. Still, the wedding is on — no cheers from the community as they ride to the church this time — and Anthony looks a mess. He doesn't smile. Nothing. Because he realizes he's, you know, marrying Edith.
"He looks as though he's waiting for a beating from the headmaster," the dowager says when she spots Anthony at the altar.
And before she walks down the aisle with papa, Mary gives her sister the kiss of death. "I know we always haven't gotten along and I doubt things change in the future. But today I wish you all the luck in the world," Mary tells Edith, planting a kiss on her cheek. Oh, that Mary. The queen of the reserved nice remark.
The minister barely speaks before Anthony shouts, "I can't do this! I can't do it. You know it's wrong." Grantham is shocked but tells him that "it's too late." The crowd seems apathetic.
It's all like: "Really, we're supposed to care about the middle Crawley child now? What's her name? Elizabeth?"
Anthony: "I pray that you are going to be happy. As long as you don't waste your life on me."
Edith, refusing to give him up — even now. Really — tries to argue with him, until the dowager steps in and tells her to give it up. "He's doing the most sensible thing he's done in months. Let him go."
So he walks — no, runs — out. Cue Edith dramatically running back to the house, throwing her veil down the stairs and falling into bed.
Cora asks if there's anything she can do for her daughter. "Look at them, both have husbands. Sybil pregnant, Mary probably pregnant. Just go. I mean it, go," she says.
Cora mumbles something about her daughter "being tested." Tested about what exactly and for what reason is not clear. At all. But OK, mom. Go with that.
The most depressing moment in the history of "Downton": Anna asking Edith, "What would you like me to get you?"
Edith: "A different life."
See, Edith. This is why people don't like you. I mean, we all feel bad about about your marriage and, well, bad about your attitude and general being, but still, come on.
And in the end, she calls herself a spinster. "And spinsters get up for breakfast."
Well, at least she's getting out of bed. Maybe she can become the dowager's bridge partner for life?
MATTHEW SAVES THE DAY
There's nothing Matthew can do about the Edith situation because even he isn't charming enough. But he's still fighting with Mary about what to do with Reggie's money — and it's getting a bit tedious.
While the ill-fated wedding's being planned, the family talks about moving to one of their other properties. Perhaps they'll name it Downton Place! They talk as though it's going to be some slum, but we know better.
Matthew tells Mary that Reggie Swire's lawyer is visiting to hand over the death certificate and a letter. But he remains unmoved when it comes to accepting the money. "So this is the moment that you receive a huge fortune that could save Downton and you choose to give it away!" Mary repeats.
So we visit this other home. And it's huge. Not "Downton"-huge (because what is?) but, like, a mansion. Mary calls the whole thing "torture for the family," which is laughable, but I guess if you're used to 234 bedrooms it makes sense.
Stubborn Matthew refuses to read the letter from Swire. So Mary takes it upon herself to read it, and then tells Matthew that Lavinia must have written to her father on her last day because she told him all about her urging him to cancel the wedding and Reggie says he knows about Matthew's "sacrifice" of his own happiness and to take the money, you fool!
Matthew all out accuses someone of forging the letter, which is mean, but seems like something Mary might do. Still, it won't change his mind.
Eventually he does (which you must have seen coming, because what would "Downton Abbey" be without Downton), because Mary discovers that it was Daisy who mailed the letter for Lavinia.
After the wedding fiasco, Matthew breaks it to Grantham that he's going to accept Reggie's money and give it to his father-in-law.
Grantham accepts but under the condition that it's an "investment" in the property and that they become "joint masters." So Matthew went from wanting to move somewhere small and not even have a valet to co-owning one of the largest homes in England.
I'm sure he's going to love this.
LOVE: MRS. HUGHES AND CARSON
While Mrs. Hughes nervously anticipates her cancer test results, Carson overhears her talking to Mrs. Patmore about it (because he's nosy like that). He goes to talk to Dr. Clarkson who confirms that Hughes is sick, but he later sneakily gets Mrs. Patmore to reveal that it may or may not be cancer.
You can basically see Carson's heart breaking, which is cute/sad all at once. Carson suddenly professes his worry that Mrs. Hughes will get tired, which instantly tells Mrs. Hughes that he knows even though he doesn't outright say so.
Carson then decides to tell Cora about Mrs. Hughes. "Mrs. Hughes is very tired. I wonder if you can divert some of her work my way.
Cora: "I don't understand. What do you mean ... tired?" Oh Cora. Yes, servants get tired.
But Cora later proves how kind she is, by telling Mrs. Hughes that if she's sick, she'll always have a place in Downton. They'll take care of her here, and Mrs. Hughes is very touched. She never revered the family as much as Carson, but she suddenly feels like part of the family.
Side note: I wonder how frequently this happened between British families and their staff members. My quess: never.
Eventually, we learn that Mrs. Hughes is cancer free. Patmore tells Carson ("I put him out of his misery," she tells Mrs. Hughes).
Best scene of the episode: Mrs. Hughes spotting Carson in a jolly mood, singing and smiling as he polished the silver.
Maybe Mrs. Hughes and Carson are the ones who should have gotten married.
THOMAS AND O'BRIEN: IT'S ON!
Let the war begin, because Thomas and O'Brien are now beyond frenemies — they're just straight-up enemies at this point.
Still smarting from the Great Shirt Stealing Escapade from last episode, Thomas gets back at O'Brien by spreading false news to Moseley that O'Brien plans to leave Downton.
He tells Cora that he has a new lady's maid in mind, and now Cora is "deeply let down" by O'Brien. He also tells the whole staff that O'Brien is leaving, but O'Brien denies it. "I'll deal with you later," she tells Moseley with a death stare.
Later, O'Brien figures out that Thomas is behind the rumor. They run into each other and exchange glares in the fall and O'Brien tells him that "It will all be wrong with you before not too long."
Thomas looks scared. I know I am.
Meanwhile, in Anna and Bates land, Anna goes to talk to Vera's friend, Mrs. Bartlett, to see if she can get any clues about the former Mrs. Bates' state of mind before her death.
Mrs. Bartlett, who is found hanging laundry is what looks to be a London alley that Jack the Ripper once operated in, is not helpful, really. Bartlett goes on and on about how perfect Vera was and how scared she was of Bates. Interestingly, she also mentions that after she made that pastry she scrubbed her hands so much like she was tearing of skin (I'm sure this detail will come back).
Bartlett even says that on the day before he death that gas lamp light glowed around her like it formed a halo, prompting an eye roll from Anna and everyone watching.
Back at Scary Looking Should be Condemned British Prison, Bates is enjoying some recreation (aka: walking around in a circle with his fellow inmates), when he gets word that his cell mate is planting something in his bed to get him in trouble.
He finds the stuff (drugs I'm assuming) just before the guards swarm the room. He hides it, so they find nothing. And Bates officially now knows to watch his back. British prisons are no joke. It's like "Oz" up in there.
MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM EPISODE 2
Bitchiest Thomas remark: When O'Brien says that she doesn't think she could stand the shame if she was jilted at the altar, Thomas says, "Then it's lucky no one's asked you, isn't it?" Ouch.
Bad hair days: Isobel teaches the prostitutes to sew, but all the want is food. Plus, they sport some of the ugliest wigs I've ever seen. They can't even wash up for a second? It looks like rats live in there. A bit over-the-top.
Spit it out!: Ethel visits Isobel again — and again can't tell her what she wants. Can we just move on from this subplot?
Best stink eye: The Dowager Countess, after this exchange:
Edith: I won't sleep a wink.
Sybil: Tonight. Or tomorrow.
Dowager Countess: Sybil, vulgarity is no substitute for wit.
Sybil: Well, you started it.
Funniest reaction to a lady sitting in a front seat of a car: "Aren't you a wild thing!" — the Dowager Countess to Isobel.