What happened this week? The Russians came, we got a glimpse into Violet’s past which may have included (brace yourselves now) a flirtation! Mary had bad sex with Gil and, because both of them are recklessly stupid, got found out by her grandmother’s butler. Robert got to have more opportunities to act like a sulky child, Edith got told off, and Cora actually started to have a storyline of her own, elevating her beyond the role of ‘smiling idiot’, which she’s been forced to inhabit since the end of the war.
I’ll confess, on the clothes front, not a whole lot happened. But let’s have a look at what was there:
Cora’s been relegated almost to the background for several seasons now, but finally she’s allowed to step out and start getting some of the attention she deserves (as opposed to the near-constant abuse her family gives her and which she, tragically, barely even seems to notice). Since this is a romance plotline, her costumes have become quite lovely, floaty, and, well, romantic:
That’s fantastic. Absolutely gorgeous. The big hat is dramatic and frames her face, and the outfit itself is striking. You can’t not look at her (it helps that she’s lit throughout her scenes in the museum so she’s standing right in a pool of light). No wonder Bricker’s entranced. And you can tell she’s found a place where she seems to belong because she actually colour coordinates with the museum walls. Notice that in most of the scenes with Bricker she’s got that scarf collar untied–baring herself, to some extent–but at the very end of their day together, when she gently puts him off and then goes inside and sees her husband, she’s all wrapped up again.
One more thing about this outfit: it reminded me a lot of this costume of Edith’s:
That copper colour is also one favoured by Cora’s mother. She wore it a few times in the Christmas special last year.
And of course, in the scene where Baxter finally shares her story, Cora’s in conflict blue:
Also, the painting Bricker takes Cora to see after the della Francesca is Minerva Protects Pax from Mars, also known as ‘Peace and War,’ so feel free to make of that what you will.
On to another couple: Mary and Gil. Oh, these two. What idiots. Probably doomed idiots, because clearly Mary thought the sex sucked. This is not the face of a woman who’s just had a great naughty weekend:
And as I noted in the recap, Mary and Gil, who have supposedly been having sex all night, are snuggling almost fully dressed in bed the following morning. That’s a tiny bit weird. But at least she put on something more lingerie-ish than that ugly, heavy robe she wears at Downton (she did throw a black-patterned shawl over it to get her breakfast tray, though).
I’ve mentioned Robert and Gil being somewhat similarly costumed before, but it’s never been quite this explicit. Could the similiarities to her father be subliminally putting Mary off? Is she afraid of becoming her mother, married to an uptight Old Etonian who dismisses her and resents her for having an identity separate from himself? (This episode is not, by the way, the first time Robert’s gotten himself bent out of shape because Cora had a life of her own. He hated her war work because it would mean she’d have less time to serve him. He sucks.)
And while we’re on the subject of Robert, of course he wears blue as he prepares to go surprise Cora in London, the move that’ll bring some of their serious marital problems right to the surface:
For a meeting with granny in which Mary tries to insist that she is not, in fact, a slut, she’s very covered up:
Spelling more doom for the relationship, Mary continues to wear black when discussing her future with Gil:
Which ended disastrously when Mrs Drewe realised that Edith’s behaviour has, in fact, become rather creepy, intrusive, and obsessive. She lays down the law with her husband, who goes to see Edith and tells her she has to back off indefinitely.
This dress does an interesting thing. It ties her to Drewe through the colour, while the richness of the fabric illustrates their very different stations in life. They’re brought together while simultaneously pushed apart. Edith is not part of Drewe’s world, however hard she tries to be. She belongs at Downton and needs to stay there for a while. The dull, depressing colour also reflects her mood after their meeting.
Meanwhile, at the Russian tea:
Makes sense. There’s a fair bit of conflict here–the Crawleys are arguing, Mary’s wrestling with her decision, Sarah’s doing her thing, and the Russians are only in the country because of a particularly brutal and bloody conflict.
And yet, amidst all that blue, one person stands out:
But he’s not the only one Violet made a connection with this episode.
Not only are they in the same colour (though slightly different shades), the style of their clothing is very similar, with the wide lapels and cream-coloured blouses underneath. Violet is teasing Isobel again about her relationship with Merton, but there’s a definite connection here, because soon these ladies will be in the same boat, potentially facing dating at a time of life when both would have probably expected to be past such things. By the end of the episode, they look like two peas in a pod:
To give credit where it’s due, I really appreciate that Downton is exploring later-in-life romance and relationships, instead of focusing entirely on the younger generation (which is pretty universally boring anyway). Dating in your 50’s (or beyond, in Violet’s case) is vastly different from dating in your 20’s and 30’s. And at this time, it wouldn’t generally be expected for a grandmother to start seeing someone. Women of a certain class, especially, were typically expected to enter a dignified widowhood and cling to the memories of their dead husbands. But the times they were a-changing, for everyone. I think this could be a really compelling story (or pair of stories), Isobel’s especially, as she tries to balance her outspokenness and staunch middle-classness with feelings for a member of the aristocracy, a class that’s been snubbing her and trying to make her feel small for years now. I certainly think it’s more interesting than Mary’s nonsense.
But speaking of Mary, here’s a bonus. Her ‘busted’ face:
Mrs Drewe has to take one of the kiddies into town to visit the dentist, so she gets to be a tiny bit more dressed up than usual:
Oh, of course Sarah wears all blue to go antagonize the Russians.
When are the Crawleys going to stop inviting her over? Especially to events where she actively expresses contempt for the other guests? Rose, take note, you’re not actually obligated to invite someone to stay for a party just because they happen to have wandered into your kitchen.