I apologise in advance for the incoherent feels that accompany this post. Feel free to delete them if your reblog:
Basically, I love this scene so very very much it’s hard to explain. It’s so tragic and heartbreaking, and yet so wonderfully understated, and Siobhan and Sophie are such amazing actresses and I just lose all ability to can. (Obviously Phyllis is amazing too but she’s no the focus of my feels right now. Probably another time.)
Firstly, Daisy, because her little face just breaks my heart. This is the first time, I think, that she’s ever actually considered the possibility of William’s death. Of course she knows the country is at war, and of course she knows lives are lost at the front, but given her youth and innocence everyone (including Mrs. Hughes here), has been trying to protect her, intentionally or not. Maybe they believe she is too young or sweet so needs sheltering, and given the nature of her job she certainly didn’t have any time to hang around asking questions. But then O’Brien just bluntly states the truth, and this snaps poor Daisy back to a reality she hadn’t even been aware existed, leaving her absolutely terrified.
But Daisy isn’t the only one suffering in this scene.
Mrs Hughes just dismisses O’Brien’s words here as more trouble making, or at the least as deliberate bluntness, but, come on, look at that face. That hardly looks like the face of a trouble maker to me (well, at least not at the moment). No, I think this is one of those times O’Brien does something not out of spite or guilt or anything like that, but because she genuinely cares. She knows what it’s like to have a loved one go missing at war - she probably received a very similar telegram to Daisy and Mary and thousands of others at that time. She knows what it’s like to spend nights praying and hoping for a loved ones safe return, tricking yourself into the false sense of security that by some miracle they have survived and are coming home (we know how good O’Brien is at manipulating others, why would she treat herself any differently?), only to be utterly crushed a short while later when that second message arrives. Perhaps this is why she doesn’t try and shelter Daisy like the rest of them - because O’Brien knows it’s better to accept the idea of your loved one’s death while it’s still only a possibility, than to cling so desperately to hope that in your mind you erase all other, and honestly far more likely, possibilities.
Libbie posts flawless commentary and my god Siobhan’s face in the second gif.
But, uh, I’m just going to attach a ramble about Elsie too because my mission in life is to stare at Phyllis Logan’s face and overanalyze housekeepers.
Mrs. Hughes here is, yes, sheltering Daisy, but I feel like that was Elsie’s role throughout the war effort. She had to pretend things were normal and if they weren’t, she had to pick up the pieces and keep moving. Mr. Carson falls ill? She has to keep the house going. And Elsie Hughes really witnesses the most grief - or a very large extent of it - though she doesn’t feel any directly (that we see). She fills in for Anna when Bates leaves, she comforts Mrs. Patmore, to a certain extent she deal with Daisy’s nerves and emotions, she’s there when Lavinia Swire dies. And she has to be there, she has to comfort those beneath her that it’s going to be all right (and not say much, not get involved when it isn’t her place because it isn’t her place) because she has to believe it’s going to be all right.
The war throws everyone in the house for a loop in multiple ways and Mrs. Hughes spends the entire time doing her job. Not because she any less feeling than the rest of them, but because they need normalcy and if the house runs properly, then maybe everyone can pretend things are normal. And if things aren’t normal, well at the very least things are all right. Mrs. Hughes isn’t a grand optimist, in fact I think she’s more pessimistic (a realist, she’d probably insist) than that, but she’s trying to keep everything in this house afloat (functions, feelings, everything) and in case, that means Daisy’s spirit.
One of the saddest looks, I think, we get from Mrs. Hughes is after the war when they’re all reflecting on it. And she looks so drained, because she fights this entire war long to ensure Downton is normal, Downton is all right and then the war ends and Carson tells her he’s leaving. “Just when we thought things were getting back to normal” - and I think that’s what was driving her through all of this, the idea that normal, real normal (not this fake sort she was trying to instill) was just around the corner. But she doesn’t get that.
And now this is irrelevant. I’m going to go back to staring at Siobhan’s face because oh my god. Sophie too.