Gilbert: Joe, I think one of the problems with Anna and Bates is that, as much as the audience might want them to be happy together, the curse of television is that happy couples almost inevitably make for boring viewing. As we saw in this episode, the issue is amplified in Anna and Bates’ case by the fact that the couple are almost unbearable when they’re not plagued by trials and tribulations—the very worst kinds of gossipy, judgmental smug marrieds. Luckily, they’re almost certainly going to suffer anew next week. “Do you feel the whole business of Mr. Green might be over?” Anna asked. “So we can dare to plan our future again? Like normal people?” Never has fate been tempted quite so recklessly by a woman who, as far as can be told, is still one of the prime suspects in a murder.
As someone who’s been irritated all season both by Edith and by her family’s neglect of her, it was mollifying to see Cora remember her middle daughter this week, and to see Mary finally chastised for being so unbelievably vile to her last surviving sister. Dowager Countess #realtalk never fails to put people in their place, whether it’s Mary, unpleasant dinner guests, or the increasingly put-upon Spratt. And like you said, Katie, thank goodness someone had the sense to think that missing Edith might pop up at the publishing company she'd just inherited. In fact, all Cora, Rosamund, and Violet had to do was show up in London and start arguing with a receptionist, and poof, there she was, sporting a sassy pinafore and holding a sheaf of papers, just like an Interwar Tess McGill. She even has childcare options! Maybe Edith’s publishing empire can support the rest of the family when Tom leaves for Chicago/Detroit, Lord Grantham fulfills his life's mission to run the estate into the ground, and Mary’s too busy toying with various chinless bachelors to care.
Speaking of Tom, Joe, I have to raise my objections at the touching moment between him and Lord Grantham in the library. Yes, it was heartwarming. But let’s remember: they are English. And they are men. And it’s 1924. I grew up in London in the positively touchy-feely ‘80s and ‘90s and I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times my father expressed emotion! Everyone knows British people have historically been more capable of vocalizing feelings for animals than people, which is why the Queen has so many corgis, Prince Charles was such an emotionally stunted individual, and Lord Grantham is so devastated by the ailing Isis. The idea that a man and his former chauffeur would have any kind of a conversation involving the word “love” is so much of an anachronism that Tom may as well have pulled out an iPhone and sent Lord G. a text full of heart emojis. Preposterous.
Still, Lord Grantham’s unlikely but ultimately touching acceptance of Tom is in stark contrast to Lord Merton’s two terrible sons, both of whom deserve to be taken out back and whacked with a copy of Debrett’s Peerage. Yes, I know I’ve been an ardent fan of Lord Merton, but there’s nothing more unappealing in a man than an inability to reprimand his thoroughly snotty and unpleasant brats. It was also a reminder that the family desperately needs Tom, because no one else has the working-class chops to shout “bastard” in a crisis, or to threaten physical violence in the presence of servants. “And suddenly we’ve slipped into a foreign tongue,” was Violet’s response, but someone had to say it, as Lord Grantham himself admitted.
The cartoonish villainy of the two unpleasant Merton sons was only matched by Lord Sinderby, who’s apparently as sneering and cold as Atticus is charming and kind. Will he spar with Shrimpy, or with Rose’s equally unpleasant mother? Will Isobel decide she can’t deal with her two insufferable in-laws? Why does everything have to be so difficult in this ridiculous village?