Downton Abbey: The Comeuppance of Mary Crawley

It’s taken five years, but someone is finally calling Lady Mary out on her shit.

The proximate cause? The wedding of Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes.

Last week’s drama revolved, in part, over where their long-awaited nuptials would take place. Mrs. Hughes wanted the wedding reception held at the school. Mr. Carson wanted it held at the Abbey; the servant’s hall, as suggested by Lord Grantham, was fine by him. Lady Mary, busybody that she is, insisted on the Abbey’s main hall.

Cora, who occasionally isn’t vapid, recognized that her eldest daughter was railroading Mrs. Hughes on her special day and, in front of everyone is the sitting room, asked Mrs. Hughes what she wanted, which she forthrightly explained with occasional “shush”es from Cora when someone, like Mr. Carson or Mary, attempted to interrupt.

Then, after Mrs. Hughes departed, Mary attempted to swing things back to her view.

And BOOOOM! Cora drops the hammer. Mary’s perpetually arched eyebrow has no place to go.

Don’t think that Mary learned a lesson from this, because she didn’t, and her failure to learn a lesson ends up blowing up spectacularly late in the episode. There was an issue with Mrs. Hughes’ wedding outfit, and Mary’s solution was to borrow a coat from Cora’s wardrobe. Cora finds the staff trying on coats in her room, she blows up at them and all but accuses them of stealing from her, their protestations that Lady Mary approved this fell on deaf ears, and things did not look good for the wedding.

Thankfully, Mary does calm the waters, and the wedding goes off without a hitch.

And then, at the reception, the long-awaited return of Tom Branson!

Tom and his daughter Sybbie had moved to Boston after last year’s Christmas special. At the beginning of this episode, Mary received a letter from Tom that, to be frank, was florid and overwrought.

Then, at the reception, he’s suddenly there. He says he had to go all the way across the Atlantic to realize that his home was at Downton Abbey.

I’m skeptical.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he lost most of his money in the car business, and he and Sybbie were able to get some money from Cora’s brother or mother to sail back to Britain. Maybe that will be a secret that drives the rest of the season.

In the episode’s other major development, Edith publishes a magazine!

In London because the magazine is due to go to press that day, Edith has an encounter on the street with Bertie Pelham, the agent at Brancaster Castle. They have a brief and awkward conversation, he asks her to meet him for tea, she says it has to be at seven (because of deadlines).

Then Edith sacks her editor after one tirade too many, and she has to edit the magazine herself. Burying herself in her work, she soon realizes it’s seven o’clock, she promised Bertie she would meet him, and she does the responsible thing — she rushes to the restaurant to tell Bertie that she can’t meet him for tea because of work.

To her surprise, Bertie offers to help in any way he can. He can make coffee. He can fetch sandwiches. He can even write some copy!

Will Edith make her 4 am deadline?

Deadline made! Pages are mocked up, photos are selected, the pages are sent off to the printer. An exhausted Edith and Bertie sit on the sofa in the editor’s office.

Nothing like that happens, of course, but you can tell he’s smitten by her and she sees he has more depths than just a mere estate agent.

Back at the Abbey, Edith shows off her work to her father and sister. Robert is suitably impressed. Mary is bored out of her skull. My thought — Edith did more in one day than Mary has ever done.

Called out by her mother, eclipsed by her sister, Mary is not having a good episode. 🙂

In our recurring plotlines, the fight over the hospital continues, and Cora has decided to get involved. She’s chosen a side — merge with the royal hospital in York — and the Dowager Countess is not pleased. She’s alone on an island with Dr. Clarkson, protesting for the independence of their hospital, and matters are just going to explode.

Thomas continues his job search.

He lands an interview at another estate, discovers that it’s rundown and its owner is half-mad, and walks out of the interview. He sulks the rest of the episode.

And Daisy remains hopelessly naive.

Is she right that Cora’s unvoiced plan is to have Robert offer Mr. Mason a tenancy at Yew Tree Farm when the Drewes vacate? Quite possibly. But she could also be very wrong, and giddily telling people that Mr. Mason’s situation is solved could very easily backfire on her.

Plus, there’s a light comedy plot with Spratt and Denker, who squabble like an old married couple, and Molesley may have finally found his calling — teaching.

In short, it was a decent episode. We need more conflict in the hospital plot, such as someone taking a drastic action to defend what they see as their turf. We also need some resolution to this Barrow nonsense; three weeks of it, and I’m ready for it to be over. We need to see Edith grow in confidence and move to London entirely. And we need to find out why Tom returned to Downton Abbey and what role he’ll take now that he’s back.

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

5 thoughts on “Downton Abbey: The Comeuppance of Mary Crawley

  1. Your analysis of Mary is wrong. She is a far better person than whiney old Edith. Edith SUCKS big time! “Edith has done more in one day than Mary ever had?” ????!!!! Are you kidding us?! Edith has never helped around the house/estate. Mary has been toiling to get the estate back up and running after her father almost wiped out their finances. Mary’s job as estate agent is far more complex and difficult than edith’s who got a free inheritance of a publishing house that was built by Gregson, not her. The magazine was kept afloat by Gregson’s trained employees, in particular, Mr. Skinner, who. Edith fired because she doesn’t know how to exert her position as boss. Compare that to Mary in that scene with Mr. Finch — how easily Mary commands the attention and respect from men. So next time, before you write such a horribly unfair article, please shed your biases before you watch another episode!

    1. “toiling”

      Well, I guess we did see her feed some pigs once? With help.

      Mary as land agent is a very Downton plot. There’s no concept of what it is she actually is meant to be doing, what’s at stake, or what her responsibilities and qualifications are.

      In S5 there was a bit of dialogue about dealing with the houses on the estate and how best to make the most money out of them and she very nearly had a conversation about it. But then Mary went and got a haircut which was apparently way more important.

      1. “There’s no concept of what it is she actually is meant to be doing, what’s at stake, or what her responsibilities and qualifications are.”

        Indeed. Her qualifications, as given last week, is that she watched what Tom did for a few years so she’s confident that she can do it.

        Part of me wants to see Mary acting as the agent blow up in her face with results like Robert squandering the family fortune back in season three.

        1. In season 4 and 5, Mary talked about ideas for modernization. The pigs were her idea. Allyn, you have a knack for belittling Mary’s many capabilities. Perhaps you are jealous of her. That must be it. You have an inferiority complex. The truth is, Mary is a savvy businesswoman. She is a real businesswoman. Edith is NOT a businesswoman. Edith is just a writer/editor for a magazine that Gregson created and made flourish. When Gregson died, it was his trained staff, including Mr. Skinner, who ensured continuity of the magazine – NOT Edith. Everything was handed to Edith on a gold platter. She’s not even often in London enough to oversee things. Gregson did a great job of building a publishing house that literally runs itself. So basically, Edith has done NOTHING. While Mary has already proven she can handle the vast amount of responsibilities of running the estate. If you don’t know what her job description entails, or you simply refuse to know and turn a blind eye to all the clues shown since Matthew died, then you’re a complete moron and bigot. Here’s a sampling of what Lord Grantham said about the amount of responsibility that it takes to run an estate like Downton and keep everything running smoothly: “You think Robert sits around not doing very much, just looking at a few bills here and there, but the reality is that he is running a vast organisation and all the cogs in the engine room need oiling all the time. It is not something I would have liked to face.” He adds: “including running the local village and safeguarding the livelihoods of that many people working for the Crawley family, among many other things.” This is why Robert got the ulcer – as you will see in an upcoming episode. Mary has been doing it in partnership with Tom, for a few years now. She has already proven herself. You will see more of the manifestations of her business prowess in the coming episodes.

        2. Even the Dowager talked about all the heavy lifting involved in being an estate agent. And Cora even emphasized that it required brains as well. Everyone in the family knows that Mary is the sharp one among the 3 sisters. And Edith is the stupidest one.

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