There’s an odd chronology at work here – the caption tells us that some six months have passed since the previous episode (when Miss Elizabeth stormed out of 165 Eaton Place) and yet all the other evidence (Rose bringing Elizabeth a case of clothes, for example) suggests that only a few days could have elapsed.
Elizabeth continues to rail against the conventions of the society she was brought up in – desperate to help the poor on the one hand and break free from the stifling embrace of her parents on the other – although Rosemary Anne Sisson’s script manages to lob a few well-aimed barbs her way. One minute Elizabeth tells Rose that she’s her friend and the next she’s passed over all her dirty washing (brushing away Rose’s complaint that she’ll never be able to get it past Mr Hudson as a matter of no consequence).
Rose, by keeping secrets from the rest of the staff and her employers, incurs the cold wrath of Mr Hudson. He, of course, knows his place and brings Rose back into line. Elizabeth, by disavowing the conventions of respectable society, is positioned as a disruptive element – breaking the harmony that exists between master and servant. This is a theme that’s been touched upon before and will again in the years to come.
Speaking of disruptive elements, Sarah (yet again) returns – this time as a bawdy music hall star (the toast of Camden Town). A pity that the budget didn’t run to filming in a real music hall, but Sarah’s big number (set to the UpDown theme music) is certainly a talking point. Sarah’s relationship with James picks up steam here, although the real pay off won’t occur until series two.
Introduced in the previous episode, the effete poet Lawrence Kirbridge (Ian Ogilvy) continues to loll about, dispensing bon mots in the style of a cut-price Oscar Wilde. A little of Lawrence tends to go a long way, but there is one small moment when his public image wavers and we get to see the real man beneath (a much less confident and far more real person).
Plot-threads in this first series tend to be rather disjointed. In the last episode Elizabeth was infatuated with Lawrence but he only viewed her with indulgent indifference. Now the pair seem to be in love and marriage may be on the cards.
Except that Elizabeth is insistent that there’s no way she’d submit to such an old-fashioned concept as marriage. That is, until after the second ad break when we see her sorting through her wedding presents. Hmm.
Having spent most of the episode reacting with horror at Elizabeth’s actions, Richard and Lady Marjorie are later gifted a few nice comic moments. Slowly warming to the possibility of welcoming Lawrence into the family, Richard can’t help but critique Lawrence’s latest poem whilst the pair visibly cheer up once they realise that he comes of good Tory stock.
There’s plenty of other good character touches scattered throughout the script – Rose’s reminisces of how she sat with her dying mother all night (and how Lady Marjorie also kept vigil with her) or the way Rose gives the cheeky young Edward a hard slap, for example. A favourite of mine is the arrival of Sarah at the wedding, loudly mixing with the nobs downstairs whilst the servants (kept well out of the way in the upper balcony) look on with a mixture of amazement and horror. Hudson, of course, is horrified ….