(sorry for the low quality…I don’t have the HD d/l)
Can we talk about this moment for a minute. It’s probably one of my favorite subtleties of the Christmas Special. I’m not sure many people even notice it (you know, people who don’t watch it over and over and over again, like us); or if they do, don’t put much weight on it. BUT I simply adore everything about it.
It’s Mary and Matthew’s reactions (shown above, obviously) to Carlisle’s statement:
Lavinia knew it you know? She knew you never loved her… Oh, she said it once, it was late, she was tired, and you two were locked together in the corner of the room…
He literally points out the large elephant in the room. The issue they’ve ALL (Matthew and Mary) been avoiding this whole time. And I just really appreciate the acting here. It’s almost as if you can feel their shame. They both turn their heads because they know…and not only do they know but it’s that realization that someone has finally said it out loud…to both of them…at the same time.
Carlisle doesn’t need to say more. He’s made his point. And I really feel that this is the reason Matthew hits him. The catalyst is bringing up Lavinia but the real push is Matthew having to own up to the truth. Lavinia was aware of his feelings the whole time. The kiss she witnessed was just the nail in the coffin so to speak. It just confirmed what she already believed/suspected.
But unlike Mary, he still apprehensive about accepting the truth; that he has loved another woman the whole time. He wanted to be with Mary the whole time. He preferred it. And frankly, that’s not very honorable. It completely conflicts with his belief code. Hence the guilt comes flooding in…and what does he do? Le punch. (He goes DOWNTON ON HIS ASS!)
I guess everything isn’t always so black and white, is it Matthew?
What a great detail to point out! Yes, it IS easily overlooked, and hence affords us more to dissect on our end.
In that GIF you’ve selected, it’s telling how Mary and Matthew very briefly but intensely stare at each other. And you are right, for it’s a knowing look. However, I wonder whether it’s one of acknowledgement, acceptance, resignation, or conspiracy. Are Mary and Matthew looking at each other as partners in crime, or as victims? Is it all a game—and they know it—have they woken up from a sleep, or are they caught red handed?
So what do they do about it? Well, Matthew is the only one who reacts because Richard’s comment was directed at him. It’s interesting that Mary does not deny any of those accusations. It’s not in her nature to lie.
Is Matthew’s punch spontaneous (it may seem like it) or actually planned? And what did he hope to achieve by it? I am sure he doesn’t relish in breaking vases, so there must be more to it. Matthew is also not a violent man by nature (ah! or is he?) and Richard never threatened Mary at that moment.
So he punches Richard, but then, so what? Does he want to hide the truth, or does he want to stop lies from being said? Can he not handle the accusations, and if so, why? Is it embarrassing or hurtful? Would it have made a difference if Lavinia was in Mary’s place?
Well, to start with your last question, of course it would have made a difference because it would have been 1000 x more awkward with Lavinia in Mary’s place since the honesty in this entire interaction was the fact that Matthew always loved Mary more than he loved Lavinia.
From the very first time I saw this scene, I always thought it was terribly important. I feel like it’s Dose of Honesty, Part 2 for Matthew. The first part being the dose that Lavinia dealt after having witnessed their kiss and Matthew’s confession. As with the Lavinia/Matthew confession, Matthew never denies the underlying truth of Carlisle’s accusation: that he never loved Lavinia. Just like he never denies Lavinia’s version of events and the best he can offer is that it doesn’t matter because Mary is already engaged to SRC.
I absolutely loved SRC’s allusion to one of the instances where Mary and Matthew were locked in a corner together because it validated what S2 was trying to convey to us. Fellowes intended to only show us Matthew returning to DA through Mary’s eyes because that was what really mattered to us and to Matthew. Those moments that felt like they were the only two in the room were intentional. The brief look shared between them in the gif above only confirms that this is what they were feeling as well. I just love that my interpretation of these scenes was confirmed.
And, finally, I’ve never felt that Matthew’s punching Carlisle was about Lavinia. It was all about Matthew’s feelings of guilt over loving Mary more and the fact that SRC not only hones in on this but indicates that Lavinia knew it and wished that Matthew would have been honest about it hits the sorest of Matthew’s many sore spots. The funny thing is that, although SRC thinks this will drive a further wedge between M/M thanks to Matthew’s surprisingly good talent for wallowing in guilt and self-loathing, it instead manages to help draw them together towards honesty and happiness.
boy, that's not your look