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Mary and Edith, Edith and Mary

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Since there has been discussion here about the dynamic between Mary (the Queen of The Hive) and Edith (Patron Saint of the Eternally-Antagonized), I thought would be good to open this discussion thread. These are two characters who inspire deep and passionate responses, none too favorable for QOTH, and many in defense of the Patron Saint.

 

For me, the contrasts between the two are pretty clear. Here are just a few:

 

* Robert and Cora have always preferred Mary to Edith. It is more than Middle Child Syndrome. A child knowing that his or her parents are comparing and finding that child wanting is soul-destroying

 

* Mary escapes the Scandal of Pamuk, while Edith has Gregson's love child

 

* Mary gets Matthew and the wedding and the carriage ride and the glitz and the Archbishop, while Edith gets jilted at the altar by Strallen with "poor old Travis" looking on

 

* Mary is loved by Carson ("Even a butler has his favorites") and adored by Anna (I want to see the backstory behind that, as this may be Anna's only flaw as a character, so to speak) while none of the servants (except for maybe Daisy in Season 2) have had any sort of relationship with Edith

 

To be fair to the Queen of The Hive, she can show an occasional compassionate streak (certainly with William Mason when his mother was dying), and Violet, who spent S1 obsessed with Mary's inheritance and getting Mary and Matthew together, has of late been the benevolent grandmother to the Patron Saint.

 

So, have at it. What do YOU like about both, either, or neither?

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I like both of them a lot which I know is a minority position. They have each had their moments of goodness and compassion and their moments of pettiness and foolishness which makes the show a lot more fun and interesting for me. I honestly have never understood the audience tendency to pit them against one another since the vast majority of their storylines rarely intersect. People will always have their favorite sister and that's perfectly fine. For me though, I see two strong women doing their best to plow through an era that wasn't the easiest for the female sex. Even beyond their bickering, I really do think that deep down they love each other. During some of their darkest moments (Edith jilted at the altar, Sybil's death, Mary finding out Matthew was MIA), the pettiness got pushed aside and they saw what really mattered.

Edited by NumberCruncher
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I also like them both equally. I couldn't honestly say which one I prefer. I also think they both are guilty in this dyfunctional sister relationship, but Mary gets to be blamed more, since she is the wittier and sharper one of the two. I don't see Edith as a completely innocent victim though. She would love to land a blow at Mary herself, it just doesn't happen very often and this is yet another strike of Edith's legendary unluck.

 

What surprises me is how emotional viewers get about one or the other. But ,maybe it is because I only like them, but neither of them is  my favourite character. Because of that I can still enjoy watching their relationship. I grimace when something nasty is coming up, sometimes I want to slap Mary,but also I admit I snicker when Mary says something outreagous like "I would rather sleep on the roof than sharing with Edith".

 

There are relationships like that. People don't always act mature and sensible. There are children who feel overlooked or are overlooked and people who are luckier than others. There isn't just love between family members, but a lot of rivalry, jealousy and nastyness. Actually I've seen more of these dysfunctional relationships between family members than this idealistic "we all love each other through good and bad" we usually get in TV shows.

 

So I'm in the minority, but I enjoy Mary/Edith. For me it is one of the most interesting relationships of the show.

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Well, to start, I like Edith more or at least admire her more.  Sybil will always be my favorite and IMO deservingly so.  They both have their flaws and good points.  But at the end of the day I prefer Edith because she gives more than she takes, whereas Mary takes more than she gives.  No one has really taken care of Edith (except Rosamund), yet she will still take care of others.  Everyone looks out for Mary, and she still usually looks out for herself first and foremost.

 

But frankly, I think I am angry at her parents and grandmother more than anything else.  Edith is unlucky, true, but no way in Hell is she JUST unlucky.  It isn't just Fate that has failed her:  it is her family.  They have demeaned her, ignored her, sabotaged her marriage then gone right back to ignoring her.  Robert comes to wish Mary well before her wedding, but when Edith is jilted (which was partly his fault) he shrugs "there is nothing to be done" and keeps puffing at his cigar.  

 

And the thing is, Mary KNOWS this.  She is fully aware that she is the favorite and gets most of the attention.  She takes it as her due even though she hasn't done anything to deserve it.  If this was a question of two sisters just going at each other, I wouldn't mind the sniping.  But I mind it because Mary always get the better of her:  she was raised to be Queen Bee, so she is really really good at it.  Edith the Family Loser can't possibly hope to combat Mary's onslaught of smug superiority.

 

I agree Edith would take a bigger chunk out of her sister if she could.  She did try in S1 and still makes a half-assed stab occasionally.  But for the most part she has abandoned the game she can't win, which IMO displays self-control, maturity, grace and perspective.  She used to be a sore loser, but she's not any more.  But Mary?  She won the war a long time ago. But instead of being magnanimous in victory, she has to constantly remind Edith who is boss.  It is important to be a gracious winner as much as a gracious loser.  Mary is an abysmal winner.

 

Is it amusing?  Sure, I guess.  But it doesn't reflect well on her.   She's a petty tyrant with her sister and she knows it.  It's not her fault she was spoiled, but it has shaped her for the worse and she hasn't tried (or been made to) change.

 

Example:  A new article came out about S5 and MD said that Edith's unhappiness is "irritating" to her because SHE is a "get-up-and-go person."  Thats BS.  Edith is just as get-up-and-go as Mary.  She might not do it with a smile but she does it.  Who spent the war tending soldiers?  Who learned to drive?  Who got up for breakfast the day after she was jilted at the altar?

 

Mary was unhappy for years over Matthew and everyone was understanding.  She was catatonic with grief for six months after he died and everyone had to drag her out of bed.  Of course it's understandable, but that's not the point.  This notion that she is more "get-up-and-go" is nonsense.  IDK if this is Michelle's head canon or Mary's attitude, but either way, it's just not true.

 

Edith was wasn't Mary's shoulder to cry on but she didn't give her a hard time about it either.  She didn't snap at her to GTF over it.  Mary has been given so much support and understanding, yet she can't spare any for her sister.  The fact that she gets "irritated" because her sister is unhappy and (probably) snaps at her about it?  That's selfish and bitchy.

 

Mary isn't a picnic when she's unhappy either, God knows, nor is she quick to snap out of it.  But she thinks she's the trooper?  That's typical.  Of course she (mistakenly) thinks she's better than Edith.  Sure, they don't know about the baby, but so what?  Mary mooned after a man for four years after they broke their engagement, and people were sensitive about it even when she didn't openly discuss it.  They sympathized.  But Mary can't return the favor.

Edited by ZulaMay
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I like this discussion because there's a lot to be mined in Mary's and Edith's relationship. I agree, it is one of the more fascinating dynamics of the show. So, here goes...

 

I disliked Mary before I liked Edith. From the very first episode, when Mary was moaning about having to wear black, all I could think was, "Who the hell does this bitch think she is?" I just found her so incredibly self-absorbed, and my opinion hasn't changed much. I know she's supposed to have gone through this major character growth because of Matthew, but I just don't see it. Yes, she has her moments (I love that she has never once wavered in her loyalty to Anna), and she inherited the delightful snark gene from her grandmother, but most of the time, I just can't stand her.

 

I didn't pay much attention to Edith in S1. She was just kind of...there...for a lot of it. But then she went and wrote the the Turkish Embassy and I was like, okay, this girl's got some chutzpah, I'm intrigued. Was it a shitty thing to do? Yes. Edith can match her sister in a bitch-off any day of the week. But it comes from a place of pain, whereas Mary's bitchiness comes off as entitled. I realize that's splitting hairs, but I think at the end of the day I just find Edith to be a more interesting character. I can understand and relate to her motivations in ways that I can't with Mary's. It just comes down to personal preference for me.

 

But I think another reason I'm resistant to enjoying Mary as a character is that Julian Fellowes obviously adores her and I find the writing surrounding her to be way too biased. She rarely gets called out on her shit, her family circles the wagons when she gets so much as a papercut, and meanwhile Edith is left to flounder on her own. I resent the blatant favoritism and big neon signs telling me I should like Mary.

 

I don't hate Mary. I doubt there's anything she could do that would make me throw my hands up in surrender and turn off the show for good. She's not as insufferable as, say, Rachel Berry on Glee. And I like Michelle Dockery. She's not the best actor on the show but she gets the job done well enough. And I don't wish for a storyline that will take Mary off the show, because I know there's no Downton Abbey without Mary.

 

But lol at adoring Mary being Anna's one character flaw. I knew she had one in there somewhere. Thank God, too, because this rape storyline is slowly pushing her into "untouchable angel" territory.

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You've hit a couple of nails on the head for me:

 

- Edith's bitchiness comes from pain, whereas Mary's come from being spoiled and entitled.  Because as you said, Edith is left out in the cold and Mary is wrapped in goosefeather blanket.  And worse, she hogs the damned blanket. * 

 

- The blatant favoritism and neon sign are insulting and annoying.  No matter how much men or her parents or Carson gush over Mary I am not buying it.  It's a cheap sell.  If he wants me to like her or think she's worth this adoration and good fortune, he needs to show me why.  And frankly, if he wants me to believe she's the Great Beauty of the family and Edith's a troll? He should have cast the three sisters differently.  If you ask me it's just relentless, transparent and largely false advertising.  

 

*This goes back to what I said about sportsmanship.  In S1 Edith was a sore loser and Mary was a bad winner, constantly delivering the verbal equivalent of an end-zone dance.  But over the seasons Edith has grown far more composed and chin-up in defeat, whereas Mary is just as ungracious in victory as she ever was.

Edited by ZulaMay
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The blatant favoritism and neon sign are insulting and annoying.  Sorry, no matter how much men or her parents or Carson gush over Mary I am not buying it.  It's a cheap sell.  If he wants me to like her or think she's worth this adoration or deserves everything on a platter, he needs to show me why.  If you ask me it's just relentless, transparent and largely false advertising.

 

Mary's problem is that she has no clue how snobby and selfish she sounds, or how transparent she is when she is cheerfully trying to use someone to further her agenda - so it grates when she continually gets away with being completely self involved. I admit to being a Matthew fan (I'm probably the only one) and I did like the fact that one of the few people that ever pitched back at Mary was the guy she ended up marrying, simply because it made her a better person to know that someone would call her on her shit. At least with Matthew, she was willing to acknowledge that the entail business wasn't all pie in the sky happiness for him either. As ridiculous as Matthew's decisions could be, at least he was the one person willing to stand up to her and point out that he actually had feelings and opinions about inheriting Papa Swire's money that weren't  all "Yay, Lavinia's dead and I can save Downton" and actually stand by it until she could prove, sorta, that she didn't forge the letter from Papa Swire - which was silly as a plot point but marked Matthew as a rarity at Downton, someone who says no to Mary.

 

She needs someone to say no to her, which is why I would put her with Blake (the obvious Matthew replacement as opposed to Tony who is wayyyyy too needy)

 

Edith in contrast just needs a nice guy, and or a career, or someone, or something to validate her. If anyone in this household would benefit from a vacation to America for a few months, it would be Edith. She needs to get away.

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The blatant favoritism and neon sign are insulting and annoying.  No matter how much men or her parents or Carson gush over Mary I am not buying it.  It's a cheap sell.  If he wants me to like her or think she's worth this adoration and good fortune, he needs to show me why.  And frankly, if he wants me to believe she's the Great Beauty of the family and Edith's a troll? He should have cast the three sisters differently.  If you ask me it's just relentless, transparent and largely false advertising.

 

Well said, @ZulaMay. And it points to seomthing I have been thinking for a whie.

 

I think Fellowes and Neame used standard conventions in casting...The Viprous and Haughty Oldest Child (Mary) who has the air of sophistication and elegance, the Passionate and Rebellious Youngest Sister (Sybil) who had grace, and then...Cinderedith in the middle. There have been comparisons of Edith to another middle child, Jan Brady. I think the comparison is a bit off, because Marcia never administered the beatdown on Jan that Mary does on Edith.

 

For me, using Edith as his Upstairs Torture Doll while smoothing out the rough waves Mary may face shows an intellectual laziness on Fellowes's part. When Matthew died? Season 4 was about Mary coming back into the land of the living. Really? And when Strallen jilted Edith (Robert's line to Strallen about his being happy that Strallen was making Edith happy, and that's quite enough happiness to be going on, was, IMO, the auteur speaking to the audience)? Stiff Upper Lip, Edith, because what spinsters do is get up for breakfast.

 

 

I disliked Mary before I liked Edith. From the very first episode, when Mary was moaning about having to wear black, all I could think was, "Who the hell does this bitch think she is?" I just found her so incredibly self-absorbed, and my opinion hasn't changed much.

 

@HelenaMonster, what did it for me was S3 where Mary is concerned.

 

She may have inherited the snark gene from Violet, but she also inherited her healthy distaste for Americans, and like Violet, she can love Americans when it suits her and they serve her ends. The episode where they tried to extract more Yankee dollars from Martha to save Downton was so telling, considering that is was American money that saved Downton in the first place. Their scorn for Americans is palpable, until Martha comes over from the States for Mary's 21-gun-salute, 5-star wedding. Scheming with Violet to bilk more bucks was hideous. All this, while saying to Cora, "I will be the Countess of Grantham, and to me, the Countess of Grantham lives at Downton Abbey." (If Cora were better written as a character instead of being a bubblehead, she would have reminded Violet and Mary that it was the foolishness of the very British Lord Grantham that put Downton in jeopardy, and that she had been robbed of her own wealth by Violet's husband. But, alas, to paint Americans as smart instead of emptyheaded, crass creatures may be asking for too much.) The sense of entitlement in that statement, trying to scavenge ever more cash so she can keep the castle, summed-up who Mary Crawley is, at heart.

 

As I have said previously, she has good points, and can show compassion. But all too often, she is caught up in "the magnitude of being me." I don't really dislike the character of Mary, but I find it difficult to really like her.

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I found her attitude toward the Swire money just as bad, frankly.  Not because her point wasn't valid:  Swire wanted him to have it, and as heir he had some duty to take steps to save the estate.  I understand that perspective and even share it to some degree.

 

But her tactics and her attitude were appalling.  When she found out about her father losing the money and Matthew told her he would not take the inheritance?  She got angry and demanded sternly:  "Oh, but you WILL."  Then she accused him of being against them, threw her hankie and ran away.  She continued to harangue and guilt him until she finally resorted to opening his mail behind his back.

 

And it's not like she ever talked to him about the importance of the estate to the village or the servants, either.  She didn't try to bring him around with talk of his responsibility or of the good he could do.  She whined about "losing her home" and about moving into a ten-bedroom house.  She threw a fancy party for their Toff neighbors, but said not a word about the tenants or anyone else.

 

She had no respect for his scruples or feelings,  as though she had forgotten how poor Lavinia caught them in a compromising position.  She accused him of being responsible for them losing the house and urged him to give the money to the real culprit, Robert.  And finally she dissed her mother with her "I am to be the Countess of Grantham and you Americans don't get it" line,  ignoring that her (horrors!) American mother IS the Countess of Grantham and her American money kept that damned house standing in the first place.

 

That whole situation was what put me off Mary for good.  I found her behavior disgusting.

Edited by ZulaMay
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Not because her point wasn't valid:  Swire wanted him to have it, and as heir he had some duty to take steps to save the estate.  I understand that perspective and even share it to some degree.

 

See, here's my problem... Because I do get this perspective and frankly, I think Matthew was being a bit of a martyr queen over it (he took the title from Bates briefly) but NO ONE was ever willing to talk to Matthew about it in a way that didn't sound completely mercenary. As heir he does have some obligation to at least try to save the estate. However....

 

But her tactics and her attitude were appalling.  When she found out about her father losing the money and Matthew told her he would not take the inheritance?  She got angry and demanded sternly:  "Oh, but you WILL."  Then she accused him of being against them, threw her hankie and ran away.  She continued to harangue and guilt him until she finally resorted to opening his mail behind his back.

 

She had no respect for his scruples or feelings,  as though she had forgotten how poor Lavinia caught them in a compromising position.  She accused him of being responsible for them losing the house and urged him to give the money to the real culprit, Robert.

 

 

This. Matthew was being a drama queen about it but the whole Lavinia thing seemed pretty genuine to him. He felt bad about how she devoted herself to him even tho he was paralyzed blah blah blah never would be a man blah blah blah....and lets be honest, she wasn't getting a prize in having a guy marry her because he felt obligated by guilt. And then she finds out he smooched his old flame and promptly lets herself die of the flu, twisting the knife at the end with the "isn't this better" line... and then her dad leaves him an inheritance. I get why the money felt dirty to him, because he clearly felt guilty about Lavinia's death, and Lavinia's dad was unlikely to know about the ahem, infidelity.... But really, god forbid the man have a conscience about his part in fucking Lavinia over. You're absolutely right - Mary had no respect for his feelings at all on this... and he wasn't being unreasonable in pointing out that people just didn't need to live like this.

 

This whole little sequence, especially with Mary coldly plotting to entice the American relatives to donate cash to the estate, and pushing so hard that she opened Matthew's mail to where he finally loses his temper and accuses her of forgery made me really not like her because it was just monstrously selfish and directed at the guy she supposedly loved.

Edited by ZoloftBlob
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I think Edith sabotaged her chances with Sir Anthony just as much as anyone else.  I'm not sure if this scene aired in the UK, but she tells him not long before the wedding that she wants to make taking care of him "her life's work."  

 

Now remember before that, she always acted as if his injury didn't matter to her although obviously it bothered him and it bothered the Crawleys.  

 

It's like as soon as he realized that Edith expected to spend their marriage being his nurse, he couldn't go through with it.

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Badger, consider if it had been Mary with Strallen...I was gonna come up with a real snarky and unflattering dialogue between them, but the fact is, Edith would have made it her life's work to take care of the man she loved. Yes, she was probably feeling lonely, but I think she genuinely loved Strallen, who was a good and honor-bound man. Mary wants and expects her man/men to take care of her.

 

Now think of Mary and her "desire of suitors," as Edith's mom...I mean...as Rosamund calls them. the only thing that matters to her as it concerns Blake is that she now knows he's "one of us." ,Money and land as a toff. Gillingham regretted telling Mary about The Ulster Toff, because, being a fortune hunter himself, or at least seeming that way, I am betting he can see the markers in her. 

 

The name "Edith" is from the Middle Ages, and it means, "prosperous in war." That's Edith, the good soldier. The name "Mary" is Hebrew-based, and means wished-for child, rebellion, and bitter. Yep, that's Mary, the wished-for, rebellious, bitter princess.

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I like both Mary and Edith and have found it surprisingly easy not to take sides in their quarrels.  A lot of factors come into their issues.  

 

First and foremost, they have completely different approaches to life.  Siblings can be as different as night and day.  The Padmuk incident aside, Mary is extremely conventional.  She believes in following the "rules."  They are reshowing Season 3 in my city, and I just watched her refuse to throw Lavinia under the bus to get Matthew back.  Why?  Because she did not think it would be cricket.  

 

I think she and Sybil, my favorite of the sisters, got along because Sybil followed the rules, too.  They were not Mary's rules, but they were rules.  Neither ever waffled from doing what they felt to be the "right" thing.  Sybil believed that marrying Tom was the right thing--she followed the marry for love rule--and she owned what she did.  Mary could respect that.

 

 In contrast, Edith follows her heart.  She's twice had an affair with a married man.  She did something she believed was outside the rules, and she has not been able to "own" it.  She even said something last season like, "If Sybil had a baby out of wedlock, she would be fine with being ostracized by society, but that's not me." 

 

Second, birth order and the family dynamic do come into play.  Mary is in many ways just like Robert, which explains why she is the apple of his eye.  Sybil was in many ways just like Cora--not a stuffy bone in their bodies--which explains why Sybil was Cora's favorite. Poor Edith just doesn't seem to have a lot in common with either parent.  It's not that they don't love her, they just don't get her.   And she doesn't get them either.  She doesn't know how to approach them.  Mary may be Robert's favorite, but Sybil, the baby, could win him over with her sweetness every time.   

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I have to disagree with you there.  Edith put she put off Gregson  for a long time because he was married, to the point where he pursued her to Scotland to try to convince her.  At that point it had been a full year since she put on the brakes because of his wife. She intended to follow the rules but her heart won out in the end.  

 

When it comes to sexual amorality, they are about even.  Edith has the farmer and Gregson, and Mary has Pamuk (which would have been considered immoral and wrong by the standards of the day) and Lavinia.  In both cases Mary tried to follow her head, but her heart and hormones overruled her.  She's no different to Edith.

 

She did not follow the rules or "play Cricket" with Lavinia.  Yes, she was nice and didn't directly try to steal Matthew from her.  But she and Matthew walked a tight rope and finally fell off.  The way they were always hovering close to each other in the presence of their fiances, the way she rushed to his bedside at the hospital as though she was his fiancé, instead of letting someone like Sybil (a trained nurse and his cousin) care for him until Lavinia could take her rightful place there later that day, the way she kept Richard on the hook because she still wanted Matthew.

 

Finally, while Matthew's almost-wife is sick upstairs, she sidles up to him when he starts to play some music, walks into his arms for a dance, and returns his kiss fervently....right up to the moment where they realize Lavinia is watching.  That kiss was a direct infraction of the rules, every bit as much as Edith kissing the farmer.  No, Matthew and Lavinia were not married YET but they were close enough to the finish line that it was still cheating to trip her up like that.  And Lavinia was supposedly her friend.

 

And that's exactly why Matthew felt guilty about the money.  He didn't play cricket with Lavinia, and neither did Mary.  Nor did she play cricket with Richard.  MD herself has said that Mary can be impulsive and let her heart rule, so in that sense Mary is no different to Edith.  She has acted wrongly and even betrayed a friend because she can't always follows the rules.

 

As far as what Edith said about Sybil being brave enough to live as an unwed mother?  Mary said something similar to Matthew in the S3 CS:  "Sybil is the strong one.  She doesn't care what people think, but I do."  So Mary had been willing to marry Richard, whom she didn't love and didn't even treat very well, for the sake of her reputation in society. 

 

Mary couldn't own her mistake with Pamuk, so she was going to hide it with a sham marriage, so she could have her "position" and not be ostracized.  She wasn't going to face the music if he published: she was going to high-tail it America to ride out the scandal and hopefully snag a "rich cowboy" there.

 

As for Edith not knowing how to approach or please her parents?  At least she tries, and works at it.  They just don't appreciate her efforts or her virtues.   She works hard and makes a difference at the hospital; but when a stranger praises her at the dinner table, they look SURPRISED instead of pleased and proud.  She gets a newspaper column and Robert demeans it.  She finds a suitable, titled, wealthy husband and Robert undermines it because suddenly he thinks he knows what's best for the daughter he hasn't even tried to understand (I mean, WTF?).  They make almost no effort to bond with her "get" her.  She's an afterthought.

 

"Not getting her" is a weak excuse.  She has tried to please them and be a good daughter, and they haven't returned the favor.  It isn't just "one of those things." It's a matter of one party trying to cross the bridge and the other parties not even meeting her halfway.  And as parents, the onus was on THEM to work at it, not on her.  Mary  is no easier to love than Edith is, IMO.  Only Sybil was.  But either way, loving her isn't enough:  they have to act on it and SHOW it, or it does her no good at all.

 

Finally, with regard to the baby.  I know some think by keeping her nearby Edith isn't owning her mistake, but trying to have her cake and eat it too.  I  disagree.  In her own way she is taking responsibility, ensuring the baby is in a stable and loving environment but also that she as her mother is able to watch over her.  Giving the baby away is what Mary would have done, and that is a perfectly valid choice.  But neither choice is weak or irresponsible:  they are just different ways of handling the consequences and different approaches to being a mother.

Edited by ZulaMay
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Finally, while Matthew's almost-wife is sick upstairs, she sidles up to him when he starts to play some music, walks into his arms for a dance, and returns his kiss fervently....right up to the moment where they realize Lavinia is watching.  That kiss was a direct infraction of the rules, every bit as much as Edith kissing the farmer.  No, Matthew and Lavinia were not married YET but they were close enough to the finish line that it was still cheating to trip her up like that.  And Lavinia was supposedly her friend.

 

And Mary did always seem pretty guilt free about this. Like, I understood her hovering around Matthew when he was wounded because I can allow that they were friends and relatives - she has the right to be concerned but when Sir Richard, her own fiancé is pointing at the wheelchair and saying "hey, you know you're engaged to me, right?" then she was stepping over the line.

 

The kiss is a direct infraction of the rules - Matthew, whether he loved Lavinia or not, considered it his duty to marry her since she'd been willing to marry him when she was basically getting the bad bargain while Mary consoled herself with Sir Richard... and lets be honest, Mary never would have married Matthew in a wheelchair. Its incrediblely noticeable that once Matthew is physically eligible, that Mary doesn't shove him back to Lavinia.

 

And poor Lavinia, the only person outside the Grantham circle that Matthew ever spoke to, seemed like she was chosen at random because he needed a girl to have the heir... It's actually a bit of a shame that the show didn't go there, Matthew in a marriage with Lavinia where he married because he felt obligated but not particularly in love (a more upperclass version of the Daisy/William thing) while Mary marries Sir Richard not because she particularly loves him but because he's the last chance she has to remain respectable. With Matthew and Mary actually in love... that would have been a hell of a season three

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I would have loved to see that version of season 3. Especially given that DS left the show. Star crossed indeed. My only issue is that because the plan was for Matthew and Mary to get together at season's end, Lavinia wasn't written as a stronger character. If she were to stay around as the mother of the heir, I'd want her to be a more kick ass character.

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The kiss is a direct infraction of the rules - Matthew, whether he loved Lavinia or not, considered it his duty to marry her since she'd been willing to marry him when she was basically getting the bad bargain while Mary consoled herself with Sir Richard... and lets be honest, Mary never would have married Matthew in a wheelchair. Its incrediblely noticeable that once Matthew is physically eligible, that Mary doesn't shove him back to Lavinia.

I wouldn't say that kiss was Mary's fault at all. Matthew was clearly the instigator of both it AND the dance. Yes, she responded in the moment, which given Lavinia's current state wasn't very appropriate, but I wasn't going to pile on her for getting swept up in the moment. There were many times Mary could have tried to break up Matthew and Lavinia but she didn't, and the one time she even came close, she stopped herself. And I also don't agree that Mary wouldn't have married Matthew in the wheelchair since you couldn't pry her away from his side the whole time he was in it--especially the scene when they're outside of Downton talking about him being in it while Richard's inside watching them and getting upset that Mary is paying way too much effort in her nursing of Matthew duties. I could maybe see S1 Mary not marrying a wheelchair-bound Matthew, but definitely not S2 or beyond. Had they both not been engaged to other people, I wouldn't have had a hard time believing they would have gotten married. I know people keep bringing up that Mary was such a bitch about Matthew's proposal back in S1, but they always forget to include that Mary pretty much told Rosamund that she was still leaning towards him even when the question of the inheritance came up. It came across to me that Mary hadn't made up her mind by the time Matthew confronted her, not that she absolutely would have said "no" even if Cora's baby would have lived.

I also don't buy that Mary was consoling herself with Richard--she was protecting herself and ended up trapped in a relationship she didn't want (and which showed every sign of being potentially abusive). She was trying to play by the rules like @TVFAN mentioned and she ended up in too deep.

I'm also going to mention this in response to @ZulaMay but I'm not going to get into a long debate about it because people all across the spectrum see so many blurred lines about it and it usually just ends with the argument going in circles, but I give pause to using the Pamuk incident as a great example of Mary defying convention because so many people question whether it was truly consensual to begin with.

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I also don't buy that Mary was consoling herself with Richard--she was protecting herself and ended up trapped in a relationship she didn't want (and which showed every sign of being potentially abusive). She was trying to play by the rules like @TVFAN mentioned and she ended up in too deep.

 

Oh consoling is probably the wrong term - the relationship with Richard was a pretty cold, mercenary action on her part. And Matthew was definitely part of the problem in the Lavinia situation. He would have been better off actually talking with Lavinia about the fact that he was marrying her because he felt obligated since she didn't leave him and frankly... maybe he did love her, who knows, we certainly don't since we ahem, very rarely saw Matthew and Lavinia in scenes alone.

 

That said, Mary would never have left Richard for Matthew in the wheelchair because Matthew probably would have refused marriage to either Lavinia or Mary if he had remained paralyzed. Mary also wouldn't have left Richard because with Matthew in a wheelchair, the payoff of marrying Richard is too great - she maintains her position, which is important to her, she maintains her reputation, again, important to her, she lives close by so she can continue to see Matthew, who if he remained paralyzed, would hardly be cheating on her with Lavinia, Lavinia gets all the problems of being married to Matthew, while Mary gets a husband who can give her a child and gets a boyfriend she doesn't have to actually tend.

 

Mind you, I am turning a rather cynical eye to her motivations, but we are talking about the woman who dumped the love of her life because he *might not* inherit, hooked up with a potentially abusive dick (and Richard did strike me as someone who would handle Mary's attitude with his fists) and dumped said potential abusive dick when her preferred guy finally was freed up. And then when the love of her life dies, she's cheerfully, a year later, applauding her pack of suitors fighting over her. Sometimes I kinda wonder what Matthew saw in her ;)

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I actually don't think Mary is that mercenary. Ironically, I think part of the reason for her nastiness, is that she's not. She could have certainly agreed to marry Matthew from the beginning or strung him along, as the Dowager suggested, after they found out about the baby. I think her emotions get in the way of her pragmatism and her inability to reconcile the two sides of herself makes her lash out at others and make poor, insensitive choices. I absolutely hated the way she dealt with Lavinia, especially when she was dying. I don't think she had any business being in that room. But, I thought she was at her most sympathetic during season two because her inner conflict was palpable. I've never been convinced that she would have married Carlisle even if Matthew didn't get better. The problem was that she didn't have the guts to tell her father the truth about the Pamuk situation. All she needed was his absolution.

 

I must say, though, that after season 3 especially, I also often wondered what Matthew saw in her. I know "the heart wants what it wants" but given his personality, I could more see a reversal of what was scripted - with Mary falling for him first and Matthew being turned off. But it seems that he fell in love with her from the moment she said, "I wouldn't want to push in."

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I'm clearly biased when it comes to this relationship, because Edith is the only upstairs character on the show I like, besides perhaps Isobel and Violet who I sometime like and sometimes dislike to varying degrees. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that she's been the most put-upon of the lot, which makes her more relatable than someone like Mary, who was always loved most, who always got everything she wanted, and who ended up with the loving husband, the heir, the money, the adoration--the whole shebang. Even when her husband snuffed it, she gets loads of men chasing after her. But it's not just in comparison to Edith--Mary was the only one of the three sisters I just never liked.

 

Although Edith is no saint, I have to admit the way Mary acts towards Edith is one of the biggest reasons I dislike that character. Mary does act as if she's superior to Edith, when the only thing she's done better than Edith is being born first and with good looks--neither of which she did anything to earn, which makes her come across very pathetic lording that over Edith. If most of their "rivalry" weren't at its core so steeped in their difference in appearance, I probably wouldn't dislike Mary as much.

Edited by TheGreenKnight
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Oh consoling is probably the wrong term - the relationship with Richard was a pretty cold, mercenary action on her part. And Matthew was definitely part of the problem in the Lavinia situation. He would have been better off actually talking with Lavinia about the fact that he was marrying her because he felt obligated since she didn't leave him and frankly... maybe he did love her, who knows, we certainly don't since we ahem, very rarely saw Matthew and Lavinia in scenes alone.

 

I had left the Lavinia situation alone, but I do want to weigh-in here.

 

* Lavinia was first and foremost a prop to move the Matthew and Mary story along. OF COURSE, she was going to die from Spanish Flu (or be put on a bus, or find someone else) once Matthew the Maimed became Matthew the Magic Man again

 

* Matthew never seemed very affectionate when Lavinia was in a scene with him 

 

* At least early in S2, Mary did all she could to let Matthew and Lavinia be happy together

 

* Mary resisted attempts by Rosamund and Violet to wreck Matthew and Lavinia's relationship 

 

* Mary was willing to marry Carlisle to keep the Pamuk secret "Vee-ra" wanted to blare

 

The cold moments for Mary included her chastising Carson for not coming with them to Haxby, even though she knew that Carlisle had tried to hire Anna as a spy. And, oh yeah, she castigated Anna for it to. Also barely lifting her glass, and doing so begrudgingly, when the colonel visiting Downton raised a toast to Edith for taking care of the troops.

 

S2, imo, was the season in which Mary was humanized a great deal. And, as others have noted, her relationship with Edith had thawed some. They worked together to talk Sybil out of eloping with Branson (sorry, he will ALWAYS be Branson to me).

 

But to underscore the dynamic between Mary and Edith, when Sybil died, Edith asked if Mary and she could get along better. Mary, of course, said, "I doubt it," but then offered a token gesture about loving each other as sisters should, "for now." 

 

Heaven help Edith if Mary ever finds out her secret.

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Mind you, I am turning a rather cynical eye to her motivations, but we are talking about the woman who dumped the love of her life because he *might not* inherit, hooked up with a potentially abusive dick (and Richard did strike me as someone who would handle Mary's attitude with his fists) and dumped said potential abusive dick when her preferred guy finally was freed up. And then when the love of her life dies, she's cheerfully, a year later, applauding her pack of suitors fighting over her. Sometimes I kinda wonder what Matthew saw in her ;)

But Mary didn't dump Matthew--he was the one who withdrew the proposal which was my point--Mary hadn't made up her mind and Matthew (rightly) wanted an answer. Every indication was that she loved and wanted him but she foolishly let her fear of losing her status give her pause.

As for Mary getting engaged to Richard, why wouldn't she? As far as Mary was concerned, Matthew didn't leave her with any hope of repeating his proposal so why should she remain alone in her unrequited love? At that point, Richard was selling his desire for her hard. It wasn't until much later that he showed any indication of being an abusive dick. I'm glad she started pushing back when he became controlling and I really cheered when she dumped him.

Edited by NumberCruncher
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I don't fault Mary for getting engaged to Richard.  It was clear he understood what they were both getting in the bargain.  She never told him she loved him.

 

But I blame her for keeping him on the hook for so long while she longed for another man.  Yes, he was threatening to publish, I get it.  Of course they had to give her an excuse for not breaking it off.  But she still mistreated him:  he bought her the house and she insulted it, talked down to him, she flirted with Matthew in front of him.  Like I said, she wouldn't face the music and the consequences of her actions:  marry the guy or end it and deal with the fallout.

 

For the record, there is no question as to whether the sex with Pamuk was consensual or not.  I understand that the scene was ambiguous, but both Fellowes and Michelle have said it was consensual and something she wanted.  The writer was not happy that people misinterpreted the scene.  It's his own fault because of how he wrote it, but they have confirmed it was consensual.  And Mary herself told her mother he didn't force her and told Matthew that she did it out of lust. People will interpret it how they choose but the writer, actress and character have all said it was consensual.

 

As for her kissing Matthew?  If you are going to say it is not her fault AT ALL, then you have to say the same for Edith.  Both acted impulsively, both got caught up in the hormones and emotions of the moment.  The fact that Matthew initiated it does not absolve Mary of her part in it.  She has free will and she chose not to pull away, but to kiss back for quite a while.  Yes, she was not thinking logically but neither was Edith.  Mary was not a puppet being pulled by Cupid's strings.  There are no all-powerful love magnets in her lips.  She's a grown woman and she knew it was wrong, although she seemed to forget all about it when she wanted Swire's money.

 

To say Mary is blameless but Edith was culpable is a total double standard.  Just because M/M might have been an "OTP" doesn't make them less responsible for their behavior.

 

Also, Dan Stevens has said that Matthew did in fact love Lavinia. If he hadn't visited the house and rekindled his feelings toward Mary, he probably would have married her.  And even been happy.

Edited by ZulaMay

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But Mary didn't dump Matthew--he was the one who withdrew the proposal which was my point--Mary hadn't made up her mind and Matthew (rightly) wanted an answer. Every indication was that she loved and wanted him but she foolishly let her fear of losing her status give her pause.

 

Yeah but that's a bit like saying Matthew needed to be her doormat. She promised him an answer and put him off and put him off and we all know why - because she was afraid he wouldn't be the heir. He gave her a zillion opportunities to say yes, it wasn't like he popped the question and immediately demanded an answer. She had plenty of thinking time and then dragged it out further and further... was he supposed to beg her? She was basically humiliating him by hesitating because if he wasn't the heir, he wasn't good enough for her.

 

Also, Dan Stevens has said that Matthew did in fact love Lavinia. If he hadn't visited the house and rekindled his feelings toward Mary, he probably would have married her.  And even been happy.

 

Which also would have been an interesting season three. And also puts Matthew's guilt over the money in better perspective  - if he did love Lavinia then he knows he drove a knife into her heart.

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As for her kissing Matthew? If you are going to say it is not her fault AT ALL, then you have to say the same for Edith. Both acted impulsively, both got caught up in the hormones and emotions of the moment.

To say Mary is blameless but Edith was culpable is a total double standard.

Agreed...since I've never said Edith is culpable, nor did I say Mary wasn't also in the wrong (just that Matthew put her in the situation to begin with). :) I like and have defended them both. I just think that Mary gets piled upon unnecessarily in the name of defending Edith.

She had plenty of thinking time and then dragged it out further and further... was he supposed to beg her?

No and she didn't ask or expect him to. It was her decision--she just hadn't made it before he took the question back. I certainly don't blame Matthew for reacting the way he did, nor do I blame him for not wanting to wait, but regardless, he didn't know Mary was going to for sure say "no" either. She was just a fool for hesitating. Edited by NumberCruncher

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No and she didn't ask or expect him to. It was her decision--she just hadn't made it before he took the question back. I certainly don't blame Matthew for reacting the way he did, nor do I blame him for not wanting to wait, but regardless, he didn't know Mary was going to for sure say "no" either. She was just a fool for hesitating.

 

She had weeks. And she did promise him an answer upon her return from London and then refused to give him an answer. Her hesitance was about the inheritance issue and I can see where even Matthew, who tended to be a doormat, would get offended at the idea that she loved him but couldn't decide on marrying him until she was certain of his status as the heir.

 

I mean, it wasn't like she had a lot of options at that point. She was still tainted by the Pamuk incident, and while not as much of a catch as say, heir to the Earldom, Matthew was hardly a lower class farmboy. I mean, I get it from a writing standpoint, keeping Mary and Matthew apart means, and meant, another entire season of will they won't they, but Mary's actions made her look more cold and mercenary thank I think she was.

 

Also, no, he didn't know she would say no.... but she refused to give him an answer when she said she would and then dragged it out further and further and with the added backdrop of the potential lack of inheritance, only a moron wouldn't know why she was hesitating.

Edited by ZoloftBlob

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He knew why she was hesitating.  Robert said it had seemed settled between them at Sybil's ball, and Matthew said "You WERE sure".  You was only after they found out about the pregnancy that she started to stall for time and seem a lot less sure.  She didn't even deny it, she just told him he "sees everything in such black and white."  To which he responded "it is black and white: do you love me enough to spend your life with me?".  And she couldn't say yes to that.  

 

I don't think she was even wrong to hesitate, although I understand why he was very upset.  Mary did want the status and wealth, and she genuinely didn't know if she's be satisfied without them.  Rosamund told her "Sybil would be happy in a cottage, not you."  I think that's true.  Let's face it, Mary never would have looked twice at Matthew if he were not the heir.  If he had just come to visit as a distant cousin?  Even if they hit it off, she wouldn't even consider marrying him.  No way.  So it would be wrong to deceive herself and him about that, and to commit only to withdraw if Cora had a boy.

 

And Mary proved Rosamund was right in S3.  She finally had Matthew:  but when he could have the money but didn't want to take it to save the estate, she got angry and demanded he take it. And almost dropped him again.  The ten-bedroom house was hardly a "cottage," but even that (and the half of the village they also owned) wasn't enough for her.  Nor did she want to leave Downton to live alone with Matthew, not even for a little while.

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I begin to think a season four with Matthew alive would have been fun, just to see the marriage collapse.

 

That would have been fascinating. For all of Mary's marching toward humanity during S2, she became the Queen of the Hive in S3. She got her man, she got the townspeople waving flags, she got to keep the castle...everything went her way. It would have been interesting to see her revert to S1 Mary in terms of Matthew (the sea monster), but I think Robert would have intervened for the sake of societal appearances if Mary and Matthew were having structural issues in their marriage. (Which, to get tangential for a moment, for all the social considerations Robert has, do we really think he would have kept Thomas on after the Jimmy incident, if he couldn't play Cricket? But that is a question for another thread.)

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As for Edith not knowing how to approach or please her parents?  At least she tries, and works at it.  They just don't appreciate her efforts or her virtues.   She works hard and makes a difference at the hospital; but when a stranger praises her at the dinner table, they look SURPRISED instead of pleased and proud.  She gets a newspaper column and Robert demeans it.  She finds a suitable, titled, wealthy husband and Robert undermines it because suddenly he thinks he knows what's best for the daughter he hasn't even tried to understand (I mean, WTF?).  They make almost no effort to bond with her "get" her.  She's an afterthought.

 

And that's another huge difference between Edith and Mary. Edith has never gotten her parents' approval, no matter how hard she tries for it. In the S4 CS, she made sure Robert knew she never wanted to disappoint him (probably because on some level she knows this whole Hot Farmer Adoptive Daddy Drewe thing is going to fall to shit), even though she should really be at the point in her life where she's given up on trying to please her parents. Meanwhile, Mary, who has gotten her parents' approval just for basically existing, is so unbelievably rude to them. How many times has she said to Cora some variation of, "You're American, you don't understand"? If I spoke to my mother the way Mary speaks to hers, there'd be a shitstorm brewing in my house. Although Cora, unlike my mother, has been lobotomized, so there is that.

 

I would have loved to see that version of season 3. Especially given that DS left the show. Star crossed indeed. My only issue is that because the plan was for Matthew and Mary to get together at season's end, Lavinia wasn't written as a stronger character. If she were to stay around as the mother of the heir, I'd want her to be a more kick ass character.

 

Yeah, this is why I never even bothered to get invested in Lavinia. Also, this is another example of neon signs that read "Mary is the Specialist Snowflake the World Has Ever Seen, DO YOU LOVE HER YET?!" When Lavinia first showed up at the concert at Downton, and Violet made that crack about Matthew choosing "that little blonde piece" ...ugh! Mary could have married Matthew if she really wanted to, but she let her desire for status get in the way. Why shouldn't Matthew have moved on (even if it was with someone he probably didn't really love, but that is neither here nor there)? What is so fantastic, so irresistible about Mary that people are just expected to put up with her shit at the expense of their own desires and happiness? Yeah, I get it, Violet wanted her granddaughter to be Countess of Grantham (which, in a cruel twist of irony, she never will be), but she hadn't even spoken two words to Lavinia and she was already gearing up to dislike her because poor wittle Mary's feelings were probably being hurt by the whole thing. The propping is incessant and annoying and probably the main thing that is stopping me from liking the character. Mary wasn't even involved in that exchange but I still found myself disliking her more.

 

I think another reason I dislike Mary is because of her displays of grief. She's managed to make two deaths 100% about herself. When Patrick died, she moaned about wearing black before admitting that she "wasn't as sad as she should be, and that's what made [her] sad." When Matthew died, she didn't know whether she was "mourning him, or the person [she] was when [she] was with him." I mean, I know grief generally tends to be a selfish emotion (people are upset that they won't get to spend time with the person they love more than they're upset about the person actually dying), but Lord in heaven, it's like she has no idea that the world does not revolve around her.

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I remember thinking that.  Mary was the only one in the family who didn't genuinely mourn Patrick.  And she said to Sybil "I'm not as sad as I should be and that makes me sad."  Well, at least try to look sad for the sake of appearance! Don't whine about the black dress:  put it on for the sake of appearance and genuine decency and quite your incessant whining!  This is not the time to focus on yourself!

 

I also felt that way with Matthew.  Tom was gut-punched by his wife's death but he didn't make it about him.  He named his daughter to honor her memory even though he admitted to Robert that it would be "painful at first."  He bonded with his child, his only link to her.  He held his ground on baptizing her in his faith.  And finally he took a job that kept him in a place where he felt alienated, mostly for her sake.

 

But Mary was 90% consumed by her own grief and what she had lost.  Not on her child at all.  Isobel expressed her reluctance to smile and move on because she felt she would be "forgetting" him and dishonoring his memory,   Mary still had Matthew "filling her brain" (as she told Tony), but she didn't indicate that she felt she'd be dishonoring him by moving on so quickly.  Only that she wasn't over him or ready yet.

 

I cut anyone slack when she's lost a spouse, to be fair.  But especially with Patrick, she was a complete narcissist about it and her behavior was wrong and unseemly, period.  And the truth is, Mary is a narcissist.  That's her fundamental flaw.

 

But like you said, it's the whole "Mary is Specialist Snowflake" attitude of the family and the show that is so annoying.  The way Violet and Carson had the claws out for Lavinia (who was a very pretty, stylish, lovely girl) was appalling.  Carson said "I don't mind her being happy, I just don't want her being happy here."  Oh, God forbid Lavinia should be happy as the mistress of HIS house and deprive HIS Mary of her due!  She was Matthew's fiancé and she deserved their respect as such.  Lavinia didn't steal Matthew from her, for God's sake.

 

And the way everyone kissed her behind on her wedding day?  Gushing about how proud and happy they were (Robert), how romantic it was (Sybil), how beautiful she was (Cora).  Staring agape at her as she descended the stairs in all her glory?  Please.  She almost called off the wedding after an ugly argument over money!  How romantic.  And I didn't even think she looked drop-dead gorgeous.  Her dress and hair were a let-down. But the whole time she took it in with a self-satisfied smile, believing every bit of it.  Of course.

 

At the end of the day, the Special Snowflake treatment, the way her family and the show spoil her rotten and her attitude toward Edith are the main reasons I don't like  her.  If they would stop presenting her as some all-deserving Goddess and she'd dial back the nastiness with her sister?  I would enjoy her character so much more, to the point of actually liking her as I did at the end of S2.

Edited by ZulaMay
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Carson said "I don't mind her being happy, I just don't want her being happy here."  Oh, God forbid Lavinia should be happy as the mistress of HIS house and deprive HIS Mary of her due!  She was Matthew's fiancé and she deserved their respect as such.  Lavinia didn't steal Matthew from her, for God's sake.

 

Well, to be fair to Mary, this is much more about Carson's unpleasant fascination with her than Mary's actual actions. As it happens, I agree completely that Carson was being a total ass about it because.... Yeah, Mary had her fucking chance, didn't she? And she let Matthew dangle and dangle until Matthew finally found a shred of self respect. Mary could have had Matthew before the war started and Carson knows that, so his (and Violet's) attitude about Matthew finding a woman who would actually say yes was out of line.. Carson out the door probably would have been Lavinia Crawley's first staffing change.

 

And if I recall, Carson was on the "Matthew Crawley is a dastardly interloper stealing Mary's money" train in season one.

 

I can't fault Mary for not mourning Patrick in that if she didn't love him, then she didn't love him and it seemed generally understood by all of the family that she wasn't on board with having to marry Patrick because she was obligated to. (and considering that its later implied that she and Edith grew up with Patrick, then there's some Westermarck effect squick).

 

I get from a writing standpoint why Mary needs to be a swinging single and I don't think she was meant to sound cold but it is how it comes across in season four. I think it's implied that Mary was gut punched and numb about Matthew's death but because that was like only shown in episode one and the audience probably needed more grief before Mary's life became all about leading her new suitors around.

Edited by ZoloftBlob

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I don't fault her for not being sad about it.  I fault her for making no effort to at least pretend and for whining about wearing black.  Even Robert was disappointed in her.  There are decencies to be observed and she resisted because she didn't feel like observing them.  That's just cold and unseemly.

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I don't fault Violet for her attitude towards Lavinia. Read any Jane Austen novel & the family of girls that do not inherit the estate is always cold to the "outsider" who is going to be in charge of the place someday. It's not hard to imagine Violet was disappointed that it wasn't Mary.

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It's not Mary's fault that she didn't love Patrick, just as it wasn't Edith's fault that she did. But you don't have to be head-over-heels in love with someone to mourn them properly. Hell, she didn't even have to cry...some people aren't very emotional, I get that. I haven't cried at every funeral I've attended. But even if she didn't love Patrick, even if she isn't a very emotional griever...to be so caught up in yourself as your family deals with such a shocking tragedy is absurd. Especially because Patrick, as far as we've heard, was a good person. Violet called him a "nice boy" and one of the servants (O'Brien? Anna?) said something along the lines of, "We were all very fond of Mr. Patrick." He was well-liked and deeply missed among the family and staff. And she didn't say a single word about how terrible it was that a nice, young man died so early in such a tragic manner. It was all about Mary and her needs and her sadness.

 

And then, AND THEN, she has the nerve to chastise Edith for displaying emotion at Patrick's death. She knew how Edith felt about Patrick and she still had to make some insensitive crack about Edith shockingly having trouble dealing with the loss of a man that she'd known her whole life and that she was in love with. It shows a lot about Mary that she thought Edith crying was making a spectacle (or whatever phrasing she used) and not authentically mourning.

 

Edith just seems more like a human being to me, while Mary spends a lot of her time in robot territory. We've seen Edith cry and pout and throw a fit, and we've also seen her light up with happiness a few times. Mary just comes off as varying degrees of annoyed and pleased, with the occasional exception, like Matthew's death. But even then...I get it, his sudden death triggered postpartum depression, but that "poor little orphan" comment she made about George, who says shit like that? Out loud? With people in the room? We all have the occasional horrible thought, but most of us have been socialized enough to know what is and is not okay to actually verbalize.

 

As for Carson and Violet and everyone else who drinks daily from the fountain of Mary Kool-Aid, I understand it's not Mary's fault that so many people think the sun shines out of her ass. But the propping by other characters as a device the writer uses to endear us to Mary is annoying and makes me dislike her more. I think I'd find Mary and Edith more evenly matched if JF didn't make who his favorite was so obvious.

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Somehow this thread mutated into the "oh God is Mary awful" thread. Are there only Mary-haters here?

 

I find it funny that people always complain about JF adoring Mary, when he so obviously writes her deeply flawed and far from perfect. He doesn't give excuses for her sometimes cold behaviour and he is the one who makes you dislike her so. He is the one who writes her parents being so unfair to Edith or has young men coming to the house falling for superficial beauty instead of character! JF has said in an interview, that he always was the Edith in his family and that only very late in his life his luck changed. Personally I find his writing from this perspective even more interesting.

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I dislike Mary, but it has very little to do with her rivalry with Edith. I just find her (Mary) to be overly cold, and at this point quite boring because her story has been "who will she marry"/"must save Downton" for four seasons.

The propping doesn't help, even though I try to separate my feelings about the character from the way the character is written. Every time some character points out that Mary is the most beautiful/clever/eligible widow in all the land I just RME.

Matthew made Mary relatable. I didn't really care about her (or her sisters) in season one, to be honest. I just wanted M/M because Matthew wanted her, and I wanted him to be happy. Without him, she's just bouncing back and forth between newbies that I care even less about than her. We all know she'll get whoever she finally decides on, and we know any obstacles that arise in the way of her happiness will magically fall away. The only lasting misfortune she's had is Matthew's death, which was inevitable because of DS leaving.

In contrast - I don't like to compare, but it IS that topic - Edith's story has made me care about her, even though I didn't like her in the beginning. She's seen a lot of growth (not all of it positive), but she HAS changed, and her storyline has always been interesting. She makes mistakes, but she pays for them, which makes her easier for me to root for.

Plus, LC plays Edith with such a lovely vulnerability. Even when she's being horrible (nasty to her sister or coming on to a married guy) I can see the layers of emotion beneath the surface. I continue to be astonished that she hasn't seen more recognition for this role.

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Somehow this thread mutated into the "oh God is Mary awful" thread. Are there only Mary-haters here?

 

 

When I started this thread, I noted that Mary, as a character, doesn't instill a lot of sympathy. People replying to this topic clearly have taken sides in the DA narrative, and the intensity is stronger than I imagined. And I have said, for myself, that it is not that I dislike the character, so much as it is that I find it hard to like her as a character.

 

My overall sense is, there are two elements in play, in any discussion of Mary and Edith:

 

* Fairness. Everyone likes fairness in a story. To many, seemingly more so in this discussion, Edith has been punished. In the story of these characters lives, Mary has always had things turn out her way, not because of luck, but because of what is strongly perceived as preference, while Edith is "unlucky." Mary has been drawn as a major antagonist of Edith. Every story needs someone like Mary, someone who never has to atone for a mistake while being quite cold to others, which can seem unfair to observers of the story. The contrast between these two characters, in terms of the narrative, is pretty clear. This is not to say that Edith has not had her champions in DA, or at least, characters who encouraged fairness and sympathy toward her. Matthew and Branson come to mind, as also Rosamund and Violet. 

 

* Equality, which is subtly different from fairness but can be seen as the opposite side of the same coin. Mary will always will be first among equals in this story, and that may be the privilege that attends being the firstborn. It could help explain why Robert and Cora have always spoken well of Mary and looked out for Mary (and Sybil), but were perplexed about what to do about "poor old Edith."

 

FWIW, Michelle Dockery and Laura Carmichael have said they like the interplay between these characters, and have mentioned that there will be more snottiness coming in S5.

Edited by DeepRunner

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BTW Laura Carmichaels also said that Michelle (and others of the cast) sometimes say: "OMG why do I have to be so mean to her!" and really don't want to do it, but it is in the script so they have to play it.

 

I do think it is pretty obvious that life is not being fair to Edith and that everyone seems to favour Mary just because, but I actually am one of those who love that. It makes Edith's story stronger and it makes the leading lady of the piece an anti-heroine, which is so much more interesting than having Mary actually BEING wonderful. And I also like Edith's streak of distress. Life is not fair. It is terribly unfair to some people and for no reason. I hate this modern attitude that if you are a good person and work hard, you'll get what you deserve, because it is not true. You don't and Edith is the best example that we're not in control of our life at all. It's just wishful thinking.

Edited by Andorra
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I think there are three reasons this thread is piling on Mary, Andorra.  First, because of how Fellowes and Mary pile on Edith.  Second, because Mary acts like a smug, entitled bitch a lot of the time but the characters on the show seem curiously blind to it or at least ignore it.  For every incident of someone chiding her for being bitchy, there are at least five of someone treating her like a Goddess and even like a swell person.  Third, she gets everything she wants in the end but doesn't seem particularly happy or grateful for it a lot of the time. 

 

He wants Edith to represent the unlucky women who never married after the war?  Fine.  So let her be single.  But having her jilted at the altar (which would have been unthinkable for a gentleman like Anthony) and having her lover disappear after one night of sex that leaves her pregnant? Disappear because he happens to run across a group of Early Nazis in 1923 and get beaten?  Come on.  That's not misfortune, its practically satire.  It's a sick joke.  It's like Edith is standing under a thunder cloud or right under a grand piano that is about to fall onto the sidewalk.  It's quite literally cartoonish.

 

And all of this:  Mary's good luck (the windfall inheritance?  Lavinia dying? Everyone trying to move Heaven and Earth to get her and Matthew back together?) and Edith's preposterously bad luck?  It all happens with a transparently self-indulgent flourish of the writer's pen.  He might as well be writing fanfic when it comes to Mary.

 

And the sniping would actually be a lot funnier if Edith got back at Mary at least once in a blue moon.  Or had at least one well-deserved good thing happen that didn't blow up in her face immediately.  It would make for more compelling drama if Mary actually ever had to suffer the consequences of her actions, but she never does.  Not in the long run.  It all falls into place, but not because she truly works for it.  Because the obstacles (some of her own creation, at least with regard to Matthew) fall out of the way like magic.   Again.....fanfic.

 

Is it realistic that life isn't fair?  Yes.  But it's not realistic for everyone to adore a person like Mary.  But in that house, the only (likable) one who doesn't have his/her head up her ass is Mrs. Hughes.  Granted, Hughes is the wisest and most perceptive character on the whole damn show so there's that.  But even she hasn't talked smack about Mary since the start of S3.  Too often the other characters are treated like props to tell us how wonderful Mary REALLY is and how much she deserves to have everything and be happy.  Even Tom was put to that purpose in S4.  Tom whom she treated like an untouchable in S2.

 

Fellowes shows Mary as flawed, but he is still too in love with his own creation.  So we as viewers see her flaws but are scratching our heads as to why the people around her are all in love with her too. S4 is the biggest example, with the Three Stooges panting after her.  If she is truly painted as a flawed character as you say?  Then she should be treated as what she is in the context of the show.  But she's not, and it rings false.

Edited by ZulaMay
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It would make for more compelling drama if Mary actually ever had to suffer the consequences of her actions, but she never does.  Not in the long run.

 

This. I like Mary in that I admit, while I wouldn't want her as a friend in real life, she's an interesting character to watch in a weird Walter White kind of way. She a narcissist to a point, and she has some understanding that she hurts people and can be hurt, but the way the show is written, its frustrating that NOTHING sticks.

 

Not even Matthew's death - she's dating in six months and refereeing her boy toys after a year and all that is said is that people are happy she's over it. The Pamuk thing should technically still be an issue and her age and her status as a widow should be isolating her and instead she's pretty much ready to be a swining flapper. It just feels off, like she's teflon.

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Well, I see it differently. I don't think it is fanfic to make Mary so unlikeable in many aspects. And personally I don't find it unrealistic that unlikeable people are more liked than nice people, just because they're stunning or in a position of power. It happens in many families IMO.

I think it is just how life is and that's what I like. Unfairnessm nastyness and unhappiness and all. I have no problem whatsoever with the way Mary is written.

 

Do I like her? Sometimes. She can be lovely if she wants to. She IS intriguing to me and I do understand the fascination. I do understand why there are so many men in the show fall for her and not for Edith and I credit Michelle Dockery and Laura Carmichael for making it so very believable to me. Laura manages to have Edith alway slightly grey-mousish even though Laura is very pretty and Edith has a job by now and is more interesting than Mary on paper. But the way Mary carries herself, her wit and confidence makes it absolutely believable to me that she is the one to get the attention.  It is unfair, but it is believable and interesting.

 

But I can understand if people, who don't like Mary and love Edith have to be frustrated by now. I don't think the luck is going to change though. I do think Edith will get her happy ending in the very end, but she will have to go through dark, dark times before. And Mary will get an even better ending. I'm still sure she will get it all. Title, money and Downton. I would be very surprised if it wouldn't happen that way.

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And Mary will get an even better ending. I'm still sure she will get it all. Title, money and Downton. I would be very surprised if it wouldn't happen that way.

 

Money and Downton, she already has but from a historical standpoint, she can't have the title.

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I do think Edith will get her happy ending in the very end, but she will have to go through dark, dark times before. And Mary will get an even better ending. I'm still sure she will get it all. Title, money and Downton. I would be very surprised if it wouldn't happen that way

 

I am not sure that Edith will get a happy ending, especially if Marigold is found out to be her daughter, and that Edith was the mistress to a married man. IIRC, Matthew knew that Gregson was married, but no one else in the family did. Old Uncle Julian has lots more darkness in store for Edith, I agree with  that completely.

 

Meantime, Mary has not had to atone for anything she has done, certainly not Pamuk. certainly not her cavalier dealings with others. I am reminded of what Martha told Violet in the CS: The old ways (meaning the privileged class and days of the toffs) were getting further and further away, and Martha's style was the coming thing.  What is true for Violet will be true for Mary. The time will come, as it always does, when Mary gets her comeuppance, and, like Thomas getting his, I don't know how many will weep for her.

 

It is intriguing how invested in these characters people are, though. This is a sign of reasonably good storytelling, good acting, and sympathetic contracts being established with the audience.

Edited by DeepRunner

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I sympathize with Edith but unlike many others, not with Mary.  I know she has a ton of fans who consider her a nuanced and likable character who has many flaws but is good "deep down." I used to believe it but I don't any more.  She became more unlikable to me in S3 and S4 than she was before, frankly.  I find her smugness and sense of entitlement (and meanness) insufferable.  And frankly she bores me.  Her story lines are not at all interesting anymore.  Everything goes her way for the most part.  She suffers a bit, but barely.  And for all her good fortune, much of the time she still seems dissatisfied.  

 

So IMO when it comes to Mary Fellowes' writing of the character has lost much of its nuance and subtlety.  I think it's grown stale.  Edith continues to interest me, largely because she has ACTUAL problems and handles them as best she can.  Mary has no real problems, unless you count juggling men and trying to hold onto every penny of her vast wealth like she was fighting for her life.  That makes her less interesting.  If she were nice and grateful and magnanimous, I could at least like her if not find her interesting.  But she's not.  

 

I think oddly enough, for all Fellowes loves Mary, Laura Carmichael has gotten better material recently and really managed to shine.  To that extent, I guess I "enjoy" her suffering.  He's not doing Michelle any favors by favoring Mary to such a blatant and excessive degree.  

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So IMO when it comes to Mary Fellowes' writing of the character has lost much of its nuance and subtlety.  I think it's grown stale.

 

To a point I agree with you. I liked Mary a lot more in season one and two where I saw her as someone trapped in a role that she didn't really want to play - forced to marry someone, anyone, in order to preserve her reputation, constantly hearing how lucky she was to be in the lucky position of potentially marrying her cousin, be it Patrick or Matthew, whether she loved either of them or not.

 

Season three where her love of Downton sort of went crazy just wasn't easy to watch simply because it was so mercenary on her part. There was nothing more transparent than her play to get American Grandmama's money and it is a story where the writing failed in that I would have liked to have seen Mary get more abruptly called on it, because she deserved it. To a small extent, Matthew called her out on reading his mail and possibly forging the letter to get what she wanted but then she gets the deux machina of Daisy mailing a letter for Lavinia, letting her off the hook.  (made worse that a magical letter from dead Matthew is also used in Season four)

 

But the real problem, to me, is that season four showed how tired the show is on plotlines and I think we would have been there even if we still had Matthew, Sybil, and O'Brien to smack about. Look there's problems with money and who inherits what and then a letter shows up out of no where to save the day. Mary leads several guys around by the nose and has to choose between a traditional choice (Tony, maybe Evelyn) and a less traditional choice that excites her more but is the more difficult choice (Blake). How is that not a rehash of season one? Meanwhile Robert snots at Tom, Tom looks sad and out of place and seems to have the same affair with servant girls again and again, Barrow twirls his absent evil mustache a bit and plots and fails, Bates and Anna are miserable, Isobel does something liberal, and Edith gets crapped on.

 

Did anything new or character altering really happen in season four? That, to me, is the big problem. I don't mind that killing off Matthew basically hit the reset button but just redoing season one was a problem

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Exactly, that was the problem.  We saw some character development from Edith (and growth in the Rosamund/Edith dynamic), but not from Mary or her parents or Thomas or anyone else really.  Tom ended the season with a bit more backbone, which was long overdue.  And yet in S5 Bunting is back AGAIN.  Was Edna's rerun not not enough?  He should have rid himself of that obnoxious schoolmarm for good by now.  Even Rose, who I thought seemed to mature a bit in the S3 CS and perhaps be on the path to a less impulsive and frivolous existence, ended the season on a rather bratty note.  

 

As for the magic letter Daisy mailed?  Frankly I don't see how it even let Matthew off the hook.   All it told us was that Lavinia had written to her father and told him she and Matthew were "having problems."  Perhaps he even knew she was calling off the wedding.  But nowhere in his letter did it say "BTW my daughter mentioned that she caught you making out with another woman in the hallway the night before her wedding/death.  Don't sweat it!  Please use this money for whatever purpose said other woman wants!".

 

That letter was a neat little deus ex machina but it didn't exonerate Matthew for that particular betrayal.  Given how guilt-ridden he was I was surprised that he decided to interpret it as a get-out-of-jail-free card for his worst crime against Lavinia.

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Frankly I don't see how it even let Matthew off the hook.   All it told us was that Lavinia had written to her father and told him she and Matthew were "having problems."  Perhaps he even knew she was calling off the wedding.  But nowhere in his letter did it say "BTW my daughter mentioned that she caught you making out with another woman in the hallway the night before her wedding/death.  Don't sweat it!  Please use this money for whatever purpose said other woman wants!".

 

That letter was a neat little deus ex machina but it didn't exonerate Matthew for that particular betrayal.  Given how guilt-ridden he was I was surprised that he decided to interpret it as a get-out-of-jail-free card for his worst crime against Lavinia.

 

Well, Lavinia's letter is to me an example of the writing starting to turn to shit anyway, along with "Robert loses the money in a bad investment exactly when Papa Swire dies and leaves Matthew, as third in line, his entire estate for no other reason than he might have married Lavinia two years earlier" because it's ridiculous that Matthew, for the *second* time, chances into an inheritance due to the death of two other heirs.

 

That said - the problem was that his entire protest to Mary was that Papa Swire left him the inheritance under false pretenses, that Papa Swire never knew that he was a cad about kissing Mary or that Lavinia knew she was about to enter what amounted to a marriage with a man who didn't love her but felt obligated to go along with it. If Lavinia wrote a letter to Papa Swire, then it was at least *possible* Papa Swire knew about the kissing incident and didn't leave the money to him under false pretenses. Since he was third in line anyway, Swire was scraping the bottom of the barrel for people to leave the money to anyway so "guy who almost married my daughter and broke her heart" becomes more believable.

 

I agree it doesn't let him off the hook, but I think his back was already against the wall since the whole family knew about the money thanks to Mary and his point of honor over it - that Papa Swire knew and gave him the money anyways - was certainly satisfied to everyone else's standards. It was obvious no one was happy he was standing on his honor to begin with and now he's standing on his honor over what becomes, in everyone else's eyes, a very petty point. Yes he feels guilty about Lavinia and that's all well and good, but her father theoretically knew about the kiss and left him the money anyway, Lavinia is dead and Matthew is  married to Mary. Time for Matthew to sing "Let it go" in the family's eyes since all it is doing is hurting people who are living and it won't bring back the dead.

 

And Mary would have torn out his heart and eaten it after mating with him, as befits the Angry Queen of the Hive. ;)

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I don't think anyone but Mary and maybe Violet saw it as petty.  Robert immediately accepted Matthew's decision.  He didn't push him about it at all and seemed to understand that it was a point of honor for him as a gentleman.  So while I don't think he was happy about him turning down the money, he understood and decided to let it go.  Cora didn't care and Sybil and Edith certainly didn't.  They never said a word about it.

 

The only ones who were butthurt about it were Mary and maybe Violet.  So given that it was Matthew's inheritance, his relationship with Lavinia AND with her father (whom they didn't even know), and that everyone else was accepting the change graciously and like troopers?  I think it was Mary and Mary alone who had his back against the wall.  At that point he would have accepted any "excuse" to concede to her incessant demands.

 

Like you said, she would have eaten him alive eventually if he hadn't agreed.  So even though it was only theoretically possible that Swire knew about the cheating (and just as possible that he didn't), the letter still didn't really exonerate him.  He chose to accept it as a loophole, though, so he could just take the money and save the house so he wouldn't have to be guilted and badgered about it for the rest of his life.  Because that would have been worse than holding onto his guilt over Lavinia.

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