Column: Jessica Fellowes on Episode 5
Jessica Fellowes offers behind-the-scenes access to the world ofDownton Abbey, from the cast to the castle, like no one else. Now, Fellowes shares her insights into the most explosive and moving moments from Downton Abbey, Season 3. Find out what Fellowes had to say about Episode 5. (Note: The following contains plot spoilers for Downton Abbey, Season 3, Episode 5.)
I look like a frolicker?”
the black dresses and the dark shadows of grief dancing around the walls of
Downton Abbey, the wit of writer and creator Julian Fellowes was thrown into
even sharper relief this week. The notion of Mrs Patmore being led down a path
of wickedness by Ethel was not only brilliantly funny, but just what we needed
to dry the tears.
was in action-packed form in this episode, with several plotlines neatly laced
together, and the Dowager Countess there at every intersection, knotting up any
loose ends. She does like things resolved, does Violet.
Dowager is based on Julian’s own great-aunt Isie, a woman he said, with the
same “mix of severity and kind heart.” She was formidable, a woman who had
married into a great fortune but suffered her own difficulties and tragedy.
During the First World War, she went to the docks to greet her husband
returning on leave. She expected him to run down the gangplank and sweep her
into his arms; instead, he was carried off dying. Violet this week hinted at
her own past tragedies. “I do not speak often of the heart,” she said. “Since
it is seldom helpful to do so. But I know well enough the pain when it is
were other marvelous lines – almost maxims – that I could only recognize
as being my uncle’s: “People like us are never unhappily married” and “anyone
who has use of their limbs can make salmon mousse” (Mrs Patmore’s ready wit
almost matched the Dowager’s this week).
more, however, it is not just the many characters and their storylines (Bates
will be free -- that was good news) which pull us in, but the insight into the
human condition. The death of a child often, sadly, causes a split between the
parents when blame is conferred, however mistakenly. Both Cora and Robert were
devastated by the loss of their daughter in quite the same way, but how this
manifested itself in each was markedly different. Cora withdrew into herself:
she blamed her husband and Sir Philip Tapsell, and this led her to conclude
once and for all that any kind of allegiance to titles, the aristocracy, the
old-boy network or even Harley Street, could only be nonsense at best, fatal at
Robert, struggling to do his best in the face of huge guilt, is beginning to
feel that everyone is against him – not just his wife, but Matthew, too,
with his implication that he has been incompetent running the estate and then
his own grandchild becoming a Catholic (“a left-footer”). The scene when Robert
turns up to remove all the women from Isobel Crawley’s house neatly
demonstrated his sense of futility – although it was Violet’s attempts at
diplomacy that really made it for me: “Well, you know, servants are very hard
to find these days.” (Not to mention the laugh-out-loud line, on sight of
Ethel: “I suppose she has an appropriate costume for every activity.”)
scene between Robert and Mary, when he unburdens his sorrow to her was touching
– she is the power in the household in many ways, the natural heir to
course, it is the Dowager who has the last word, finessing the doctor’s truth
when it came to Sybil’s death (“‘Lie’ is so unmusical a word”), but only
because she has a higher cause in mind. But I don’t think I’ve ever been so
moved by the back of someone’s head, as the moment when Violet turned as her
son and his wife sobbed together in grief and love.
Jessica Fellowes is the bestselling author of The Chronicles of Downton Abbey, The World of Downton Abbey and Mud and the City: Dos and Dont’s for Townies in the Country. Buy books by Jessica Fellowes at ShopPBS.org.