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Why Downton Abbey‘s showdown between Edith and Mary needed to happen

After six seasons, it’s finally happened. The one moment Downton Abbey fans have been waiting for between Lady Mary and Lady Edith came to light during Sunday’s penultimate episode, which delivered some of the most powerful performances from Michelle Dockery and Laura Carmichael. 

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Just what moment am I referring to? The Crawley sisters had it out, and the fight was everything I imagined and hoped it would be. Like Edith said, “We had the row we all knew was coming.” Isn’t that the truth? Despite the unfortunate circumstances that caused it (more on that in a bit), the argument was glorious, especially seeing Edith ream out Mary. Now, let’s get to it.

The catalyst

Before I get to their fight, let me explain what caused it in the first place. Ever since ending things with Henry Talbot, Mary’s been quite bitter. Obviously, Mary is in pain, because she is in love with Henry and just can’t admit that she’s terrified of being with someone who could easily die in a car accident like Matthew — and rightfully so. I really do feel for Mary here. But, when Mary is unhappy, that means she has to make everyone else around her miserable, including the one person she’s picked on her entire life — Edith.

If it wasn’t bad enough that Mary was trying to stomach the thought of living without Henry, she soon learned that if Edith and Bertie Pelham married, her sister would outrank her entire family by marrying the new Marquess of Hexham. Well, that’s exactly what may happen, especially since the current Marquess (Bertie’s cousin) died, leaving Bertie to inherit everything. As Lord Grantham excitedly declared, “Golly gumdrops!” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Lady Mary
Image: Tumblr

In typical Mary fashion, she was in denial over the whole thing (jealous much, Mary?), which led to her officially crossing the line with Edith. Even Edith was trying to respect Mary’s heart by waiting to tell her that she and Bertie were going to marry, but that didn’t stop Mary. As Edith said, “The one thing that Mary can’t bear is when things are going better for me than for her.” She added, “I’m getting married and you’ve lost your man and you just can’t stand it.”

The break up

For some time now, Edith has gone and back forth over whether she should tell Bertie the truth about Marigold. Well, all of that came to a head. Rather than letting Edith tell her secret in her own time, Mary basically told Bertie and pushed Edith into admitting it out loud. Obviously, this didn’t go over well with Bertie and led to him breaking up with Edith. Just when Edith is on the verge of blissful happiness, it’s snatched from her in a matter of seconds.

As Bertie told Edith, she wasn’t fair in not trusting him and he can’t spend his life with someone who not only he doesn’t trust, but who doesn’t trust him. It’s hard to find fault with Bertie here, but did anyone else want to shake him and tell him to just forget all of it?

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The cowardly moment

Like Edith, Branson was more than angry with Mary. She tried to justify her actions, but Branson told her to forget the “I’m so innocent” act. I’ll let Branson’s words do the talking. He said, “You can’t stop ruining things. For Edith. For yourself. You’d pull in the sky if you could. Anything to make you feel less frightened and alone. How many lives are you going to wreck just to smother your own misery? You’re a coward, Mary. Like all bullies, you’re a coward.”

The fight

Eventually, Mary mustered enough courage to go see Edith. Of course, she tried to apologize, but Edith wasn’t having her crap of an apology. Not only did Edith tell Mary to “just shut up,” but she also called her a bitch. Finally, Edith let Mary have what was coming to her for a very long time. Over the course of the series, Mary has treated Edith like dirt on the bottom of her shoe. It all bubbled over to this very moment. Thank goodness Edith stood up to Mary, because it was a long time coming and Mary needed to be put in her place once and for all.

Lady Edith
Image: Tumblr
Lady Mary
Image: Tumblr
Lady Edith
Image: Tumblr

Edith ended up leaving and heading off to London, because, well, can you blame her? But before she departed, she so effortlessly told Mary, “And you’re wrong, you know, as you so often are. Henry’s perfect for you. You’re just too stupid and stuck up to see it. Still, at least he’s gotten away from you, which is something to give thanks for, I suppose.”

The guilt

While Mary and Edith were having it out, sadly, Thomas tried to kill himself by cutting his wrists. Thankfully, Baxter, Mrs. Hughes and Andy were able to get to him in time. After learning about Thomas’ suicide attempt, Mary’s guilt set in about Edith. So much so, she even said to Lord Grantham, “Do you still think dismissing Mr. Barrow is a useful saving, papa?” To which he replied, “That’s rather below the belt, even for you.”

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The sisterly bond

To make a long story short, Branson called upon Violet to come home to London and talk some sense into Mary about marrying Henry. Well, she did, and the two tied the knot. That’s right, Mary got her happiness, while Edith’s was destroyed. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Anyways, Edith came home to see her sister get married. The two had a heart-to-heart, where Mary gave an actual apology. Once again, Edith was on point and said, “I assumed you’d be fairly sorry, unless you’re actually insane.” Edith admitted that even though Mary is sorry and being nice to Edith because she is so happy, she probably won’t be nice to her forever, because that’s just who Mary is.

Then Mary asked the question most fans were wondering: Why did Edith come back? As Edith said, “Because, in the end, you’re my sister. One day, only we will remember Sybil, or mama, or papa, or Matthew, or Michael, or granny, or Carson, or any of the others who have peopled our youth, until at last our shared memories will mean more than our mutual dislike.”

Edith, you will forever be above Mary in so many ways. Here’s hoping she finds some happiness in the series finale, because she so deserves it. Lord Grantham said that Edith is filled with surprises, and he’s certain they haven’t seen the last one yet. Well, my fingers are certainly crossed.

Edith and Mary
Image: Tumblr

With that, let’s all say it together, “Poor Edith.”

Downton Abbey‘s series finale airs Sunday, March 6, at 9/8c on PBS.

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