Sunday night’s episode of Downton Abbey felt different. What seems to be a simple domestic drama can be read, instead, as a dream-like meditation on the menace of war and the corrosive power of secrecy. This episode works through symbols and allusions, rather than Downton’s usual blend of realism and exposition.
Can hard work get you ahead? Will laziness be punished with a fall? To what extent do our parents’ fortunes determine our own? The answers to these questions say a great deal about what it’s like to live in a particular time and place. If this season of Downton Abbey has an argument thus far, it is that social mobility is increasing.
It is 1925, and change is coming to Downton. No one who watched Sunday night’s episode could possibly have missed this point. Repeated by numerous characters, it was underscored by the rumors of impending staff reductions at the Abbey -- and even more by the auction held at a neighboring manor house, Mallerton, after its owners have been forced to sell.
American society is always interested in what makes us Asian; it is rarely, if ever, interested in what makes us American. If no one understands what can happen when that second half of the term is stripped from us, no one can keep the injustice committed against Japanese Americans from being committed against other communities.