It should be known that I’ve quite enjoyed Downton Abbey. I’ll be watching Season 4 as it airs on PBS, and sharing a few comments from a worldview perspective on each episode, provided I have time, of course! There will, of course be SPOILERS for each episode, and I will assume readers know about each previous season and episode’s content as well. It will be assumed that readers are familiar with the characters and circumstances. I will not be summarizing the plot of the episode; I will merely interact with the content from a perspective of worldview. BE COURTEOUS AND DO NOT BRING UP LATER EPISODES THAN THE ONE DISCUSSED HERE IN YOUR COMMENTS.
It seems to me that this episode was particularly focused upon the issue of trust. Lady Grantham’s trust in Thomas was increased, but it was actually merely a fluke that Thomas’ hint about the nurse’s mistreatment turned out to be true. Trust can easily be misplaced. Of course, as my wife pointed out, it is possible to see this scene through the lens of “What you intended for evil, God intended for good” (see Genesis 50). Clearly, Thomas’ hint turned out to bring about a great good: the ridding of an abusive nurse.
Another example might be found in the young man’s trust of Rose’s story about being a housemaid. Although these may appear to be “white lies,” it is clear later in the episode that such lies can potentially bring about great harm. The first aspect is the fight the young man got in over Rose. The second potential for harm would be when the man showed up at Downton itself seeking Rose. Although the situation was handled comically, it seems clear it could also have ended in great emotional harm for the young man and possibly Rose as well.
Of course, “Downton Abbey” is largely centered around themes of trust. The way viewers see the interplay of truth and lie is part of the interest of the show. We know who is trustworthy (usually) and not, but the characters do not. It is telling that so many people turn out to have little value so far as trust is concerned.
The times, they are a-changing! The women of Downton are seeking larger roles for themselves, whether it is Rose’s constant striving to explore and be entertained, or Lady Mary’s taking her rightful place as a co-owner of Downton. The show has continually done a good job of showing the interplay of power between patriarchy and the emergence of more egalitarian views in society. Of course much of this is steeped in our own cultural biases as a show is made about the past, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting.
The relationship between Lady Edith and the editor (whose name I can’t recall at this moment) will be interesting to monitor. For the first season in particular, Edith was kind of the whipping child for the show. Everyone seemed to take her for granted. Yet she has emerged as her own person, only to get involved with a married man. Of course, the man’s marriage is to someone who is, with the standards of the time, deemed mad. One might wonder how such a relationship will play out. Moreover, from a worldview perspective, how might we deal with the question of his attempt to divorce his wife due to insanity to marry another? Part of the difficulty of analyzing the situation migIht be found in the fact that (as my wife pointed out), we never meet his wife. Insanity could mean any of a broad spectrum of things; so it is hard to pinpoint the meaning and discussion here. Edith’s whole character continually raises tough questions, which makes her an excellent foil.
My primary prediction for this season is that the housemaid that Lord Grantham kissed is going to turn up; likely dredged up in some fashion by Thomas or some other character with a major agenda against the family.
There is, of course, much more to comment on regarding this episode. I’m curious to have your thoughts on the episode and series. Again, do not spoil anything past this episode. What do you think of Edith’s relationship? How might the newfound trust in Thomas play out? What other worldview issues do you see in the episode?
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I was a little troubled by Thomas in this episode. I though his homosexuality was very sensitively handled when Miss O’Brien manipulated him into making a pass at someone… just for him to eventually save him from a beating. Thomas took the beating instead, to save the object of his affection. Some Christians might disagree with making him a sympathetic character, but I saw it as an acknowledge that people who are sinners in other people’s eyes can still be self-sacrificing; and people like Carson who are repulsed are capable of putting their judgments aside for the sake of being good to someone. I really liked that.
Then we come this episode, and we suddenly see Thomas him getting lucky with a stab-in-the-back move against the nanny, and then telling an outright lie toward the end that took advantage of the new found trust he had “earned.” This seemed to be contrary to who the writers had established him to be… but then it occurred to me it was exactly what Ms. O’Brien would have done, and she is now gone from the series without even appearing in the episode. It makes me suspect that aspects of Thomas’ actions this episode were actually written for her, and they didn’t expect her leave the series. So they had to pick someone (Thomas) to tip the dominoes that future stories depend on. I’m intrigued enough to see what dominoes fall from this, but I hope they redeem Thomas’ character in some way, because making him the bad guy would (in my opinion) undo some of the good accomplished through his character last season.
I’m also on the fence about Edith’s marriage potential… her fiance going to Germany so he can divorce? Despite what was done by Germany in WW1? This would seem clearly scandalous, and I am expecting a lot of fall-out from it. And he isn’t even discussing his responsibility to continue caring for his ailing wife. By the way, I though he did say last season that his wife doesn’t even know him anymore. The word “ravings” comes to mind as well. I like them showing Edith be strong… but exercising such poor judgment?
I think poor judgment is theme worth exploring!
One last thought… my devotional this morning was Psalm 118, and it has the following verses. Seemed thought provoking in the context of reviewing a non-religious show from on a Christian blog…
8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in humans.
9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes.
If there is one thing that every character in Downton Abbey is missing: they need to take refuge in the Lord!