“It’s a changing world,” Mr. Finch says to Mary early in the second episode of Downton Abbey’s final season. At this point, we really don’t need the coordinator of a fatstock show to tell us that 1920s British society is evolving because: 1) The show reminds us in each episode, and 2) every story line in this particular installment speaks to those changes.
This week, the poor are finally getting a taste of things the wealthy take for granted, like wedding-reception venues and treatment of incompetent cervixes. (So help me, that is a real medical condition.) Job opportunities have shrunk for those, like Thomas, who seek employment in the bustling manor market, where the motto has become, “Do more with less.” (Three 6 Mafia was right: It’s hard out here for an under-butler.) Women are running magazines and working as agents of estates. (You’ve come a long way, Edith and Mary, which is why you’ve finally earned the right to be yelled at by old white-male editors and choose which hogs to enter in the Downton version of a county fair. That’s right, Mary Crawley is now the equivalent of a 4-H member. Feminism!) The changing world also means that loyal farmers like Mr. Drewe — whose wife kinda sorta kidnaps a child — must figure out how to move on, literally, to new pastures.
In an episode that focuses on day-to-day minutiae — with light hints at the aforementioned social upheaval — the Drewe drama is the only truly exciting bit of business. Near the end of this Downton hour, just as Mary is declared the Sausage Queen of Yorkshire (or something) at the Fatstock Fair, little Marigold disappears, proving true that old maxim by Robert Frost and Ponyboy from The Outsiders: Nothing Marigold can stay. It turns out that Mrs. Drewe — Marigold’s former adoptive mother, who still can’t accept having to give her back to Edith — was merely available to “babysit” the girl. I was sure this episode would end on a cliffhanger, with a frantic Edith searching for her daughter, while we’re left wondering if the child will ever be found. This season, though, Julian Fellowes and Co. seem intent on resolving conflicts quickly. So Marigold is found with Mrs. Drewe, then Mr. Drewe tells Robert that they clearly can’t keep living on Crawley land.
It seems wildly unfair that the Drewes have to move, since all they’ve ever done is accommodate the Crawleys. (Not to mention how they help them win pig fair after pig fair.) The good news is that their departure creates a convenient opening for Mr. Mason, who may be able to occupy the vacated farm. (Daisy can even live there with him when she inevitably pursues a Ph.D in gender studies and becomes Sarah Bunting 2.0.) The bad news is that the departure of the Drewes decreases the likelihood that Mary will realize that Edith is Marigold’s mother. Then again, Mary has a tendency to think two and two makes 53, and she also suffers from Edith Blindness, an extremely specific subset of face blindness that makes it impossible for her to see who Edith really is. Maybe she never would’ve realized anyway.
Oh, there’s one other downside, too: We’ll never again hear Mary say, “Let me discuss it with our pig-man,” which is what I plan to say from now on, whenever anyone seeks my opinion about anything.
“Where do you want to have dinner tonight?”
“Let me discuss it with our pig-man.”
“Do you think Steve Avery is innocent or guilty?”
“Let me discuss it with our pig-man.”
“Do you think Babe: Pig in the City is simply underrated, or has it been deliberately marginalized by film historians?”
“Hmmm, I’m going to say … let me discuss it with our pig-man.”
It’s such a wonderfully versatile phrase! You know what isn’t a wonderfully versatile phrase, though? “Incompetent cervix.” It’s the reason why Anna Bates has difficulty sustaining a pregnancy. And, as previously noted, this is a legitimate medical condition. But I must ask: What in the holy hell? Why would you refer to someone’s cervix as “incompetent”? It sounds like her lady parts got a lousy performance review from a supervisor: “Your cervix is incompetent. Also, your ovaries are on three-month probation.”
I feel like “weakened cervix,” a term also used to describe the condition, would be a better option here. (Or perhaps, the even more complimentary “svelte cervix.”) Anna Bates does not need to be told her cervix is incompetent. She’s been put through the emotional wringer more than any other living woman, according to Mary, and quite possibly most of the dead ones. At least that London doctor says he can (maybe) fix the condition, which hopefully means she’ll get pregnant and give birth right after leaving the Hughes/Carson wedding, making for the happiest day in Downton history!
Side note: That conversation between Mary and Anna prior to their trip to London is a weird, enjoyable trip down memory lane:
Mary: “I certainly owe you after you helped me hide that fearful Dutch thing-a-majig.”
Anna: “You mean the diaphragm that made my husband irrationally angry at me for part of an episode? Yeah, that was the best.”
Mary: “Oh, oh! Remember the time we carried that dead hot guy out of my bedroom?”
Anna, wiping away tears of mirth for a change instead of tears of abject despair: “Oh my, yes. It reminded me of that old saying: ‘Every time a Crawley sister has sexy time out of wedlock, a man dies and gets his angel wings.’”
Both women erupt into giggle fits.
Mary, suddenly no longer laughing: “Wait, what?”
Enough about incompetent cervixes and dead Pamuks, though. Let’s talk about the only other thing that matters in this episode: Mrs. Hughes has turned into Bridezilla. (I suppose all that business about the hospital allegedly matters, too, but all I have to say about it for now is this: Cora’s hospital-arguing hat is the *best* hat.)
Maybe Mrs. Hughes isn’t exactly Bridezilla, but what she says to Carson has a whiff of Bridezilla to it: “I am the bride. We’ll be doing it your way for the next 30 years, I know that well enough. But the wedding is mine.” She’s actually being reasonable, if you think about it. She wants her wedding day to be about her and Carson, not about Downton, which Mary feels strongly should be the venue for the blessed event. (Nevertheless, thank God Mary steps in with that offer. If Robert had gotten his way, the wedding’s theme would’ve been, “Celebrating Love, and the Fact That Someone Chucked Up a Couple of Streamers in the Servant Dining Room.”)
The problem is that Mrs. Hughes and Carson perceive themselves differently. Mrs. Hughes wants to define herself, and her new life, outside of the walls and social limitations of Downton Abbey; Carson, on the other hand, feels inextricably intertwined with the place and the Crawley family. He wants to get married there not only because Mary’s offer is kind, but because it feels like home.
Once again, we come back to this: Carson likes the old ways. Mrs. Hughes wants to embrace the new. Frankly, this seems like yet another reason why these two probably shouldn’t marry. And yet, damn it, here I am, still wanting them to get married because that is where Downton must inevitably end: The people downstairs finally get to celebrate with pomp and circumstance, buoyed by the promise of better days ahead. It’s a changing world, after all. Even if they don’t see eye-to-eye, and even if they never have sex without their clothes on, Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson still deserve some happiness in that changing world.
Don’t you agree?
Ah, of course. You’ll have to discuss it with your pig-man.