The season finale of Downton Abbey aired last night and I could use this word count to gripe about a certain someone getting too big for his or her period-accurate britches and leaving the show … but I think we’re all bummed out enough without harping on the demise of Old Blue Eyes 2.0. Nah, instead, I’ve decided to compose a bit of an ode to the ever-slighted, constantly berated Lady Edith Crawley. And here’s why:
Everyone who watches Downton has a favorite Crawley daughter. For me, that was Sybil. She was sweet, smart, stylish, and lovely and she said, “fuck it” to the social class system of the time, bringing the dreamy Tom Branson further into our lives. Next comes Lady Mary, the volatile heroine of the series. She can be a pill, that’s for sure, but girl knows how to lock down a man and can conjure both sympathy and likability despite her little cruelties throughout the show.
Then there’s Edith–middle Crawley daughter and favorite character of approximately no one. At least, until halfway through season three. The first real exposure we ever got to Edith’s personality is when she heard about Mary dragging the dead body of her out-of-wedlock lover down the Downton hallway in season one. What she chose to do with her knowledge of the clandestine matter served to nearly ruin her sister, almost forcing Mary into a loveless marriage. God knows Edith takes enough shit from her sister to have harbored some extremely pent up anger but, regardless, Edith didn’t come off as likable in any way.
In season two, we saw said Crawley black sheep flirt, and make out a little, with a married farmer. Strike two, Edith. Get your act together.
But then comes season three–a series of episodes highlighting the changing abbey, family, and entire world (the Charleston makes an appearance, as do an evolving social system and business methods. This is all kicked off with sad sack Edith getting jilted at the altar (Mary couldn’t have planned it better, herself). It’s the first time you don’t really loathe Edith and, actually, you feel pretty bad for the girl. She really loved that stodgy old gimp and now she’s pretty much definitely going to be a spinster, no matter how low she sets her sights.
And then things start to change.
Edith writes a letter to the editor of a London-based paper in which she champions women’s voting rights. It gets published and, in a scene straight out of my wildest dreams, she’s offered a weekly column with no interview, no references, and no previous experience of any kind. She gets to write about whatever she wants, because she’s a lucky bitch, and Julian Fellowes starts allowing her to dress not heinously–a huge step forward for Edith. She even takes to wearing berets, effectively stealing my entire essence.
Yes, the season closes with what looks like a blossoming affair between the lady and her editor. (I’m kind of not super okay with this whole situation; wife is crazy and locked up? How hackneyed is that?) But still. Edith is really starting to get hers. She’s been kicking ass when it comes to making her dad open mouth, insert foot and she and Matthew have even gotten kind of chummy, raising her cool factor by, like a thousand percent in the John Hughes high school that is Downton Abbey.
What I’m saying is this: Edith got off to a rocky start for the first … seven years of the show’s timeline. But this eighth year has made her way more likable and relatable–at least for someone like me.
Yeah, I really wish I was a voluptuous, sexy clothes-horse-with-a-heart-of-gold like Sybil. I’m sure we all do. But, in reality, I’m a lot more like plain, outspoken, oft-alone Edith who’s modern, independent, and strong.
And you know what? Now that I think about it, I’m okay with that.
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