Every resident of Downton Abbey has experienced his or her fair share of drama during the show’s run. But few have suffered as many trials and tribulations as Lady Edith Crawley, the preposterously put-upon middle child of the manor’s ruling Crawley clan. Played to brittle perfection by Laura Carmichael, Lady Edith has been beset by so many woes over the show’s five-season run that she’s earned her own Twitter hashtag: #PoorEdith. As the show enters its final season, premiering Jan. 3 on Masterpiece on PBS, Downton Abbey fans are holding out hope that Edith finds a modicum of happiness. In the meantime, if you’re looking to catch up her sordid saga, here are our picks for the Top Ten #PoorEdith episodes, ranked in order of Edith’s suffering.
Binge them all — along with the rest of the show — at Amazon Prime. (FYI: Prime is streaming the uncut U.K. episodes, so the episode numbers here reflect those versions rather than the ones aired on PBS.)
10. No Love From Matthew (Season 1, Episode 3)
When Mary makes her lack of interest in being wooed by newly-minted Downton heir Matthew plain, Edith attempts to steal his affections, preserving her family’s living quarters in the process. Her idea for a romantic outing? A picnic tour of the community’s old churches. Unfortunately, it turns out that Matthew is legitimately interested in touring houses of worship, and not so much interested in chatting up Edith. Nevertheless, she still tries to flirt in her endearingly awkward way: “It’s wonderful to think of all those men and women worshipping together through the centuries, isn’t it?” she sweetly muses to a distracted Matthew. Oh, Edith…sorry, but he’s just not that into you.
9. The Farmer in the Dell (Season 2, Episode 2)
With World War I raging on the continent, Edith decides to do her part back at home, rolling up her sleeves and doing some farm work — including some tractor driving — alongside suddenly hired hand-less farmer, John Drake. But the married Drake has more than mucking out the stables on his mind. “You’re pretty, and clever and fine,” he tells her, and also suggests that she should consider becoming a writer…a notion she acts on a few seasons later. But the fledgling fires of romance are quickly extinguished by Drake’s wife, who catches them smooching in the barn late one night and promptly informs Edith that her driving (and kissing) services are no longer required.
8. Asylum Seeker (Season 3, Episode 6)
Apparently, being a crush object for married men is another burden that comes with being #PoorEdith. Having developed feelings for magazine editor Michael Gregson — feelings that are intensely reciprocated — she learns of his difficult situation. His wife, Lizzy, has been in an asylum for years and while they’re still married under the law (mainly because her mental status isn’t grounds for divorce), they haven’t been “man and wife” for some time. So she’s is basically left with the unenviable option of giving up a chance at love or becoming a mistress. It’s Edith’s version of a Sophie’s Choice.
7. Blast From the Past (Season 2, Episode 6)
After her short-lived stint as a farm laborer, Edith turns her efforts towards tending to the many wounded soldiers who pass through Downton’s doors after the manor becomes a WWI convalescent home. One veteran in particular makes a big impression: a badly disfigured man who claims to be the long-missing and presumed-dead Titanic traveler, Patrick Crawley, original heir to the manor and Mary’s fiancé. Nobody else believes this soldier’s story, except for Edith, who always nursed a serious crush on Patrick and falls for him all over again. The man who may be Patrick leaves suddenly after Lord Grantham finds significant evidence to disprove his story, but Edith is still left wondering.
6. Pregnant and Alone (Season 4, Episode 5)
Gregson has come up with the theoretically great idea of going to Germany to make a divorce from his mentally unsound spouse a reality instead of a pipe dream. In practice, though, this plan predictably goes horribly for #PoorEdith. Not long after arriving in Germany, Gregson promptly goes missing, leaving his would-be bride freaking out. On top of that, Edith learns that she’s pregnant from their one night tryst before his departure.
5. Rejected, Part I (Season 1, Episode 7)
Having carefully wooed elderly landowner — and eminently eligible widower! — Sir Anthony Strallan, Edith hopes for a marriage proposal come crashing down thanks to Mary’s vindictive machinations. “I know there was some old boor she was trying to dodge,” the eldest Crawley child cunningly tells Sir Anthony at a Downton garden party, making it all to clear that he’s the old boor. Instead of an offer of marriage, #PoorEdith watches Strallan sneak away from the shindig, while Mary raises a glass of champagne in her direction, celebrating her victory.
4. Goodnight, Sweet Sister (Season 3, Episode 5)
Over the course of one long night, the Crawley family experiences the joy of welcoming a new family member — Tom and Sybil’s daughter — and the tragedy of saying goodbye to another — Sybil — well before her time. Edith is in the room when her good-hearted younger sister passes, and can only look on in shock and disbelief while Tom and her mother weep. Even sadder for Edith is the encounter she and Mary have the following day while saying a final goodbye to Sybil. “Do you think we might get along a little better in the future?” Edith asks hopefully. Replies Mary, brutally: “I doubt it.”
3. Burning Down the House (Season 5, Episode 1)
Despondent over the still-MIA Gregson and not being able to be a full-time mother to their daughter, Marigold — currently in the care of a local farmer couple — Edith throws one of his books and a picture of her little girl into her bedroom fireplace. The resulting conflagration almost leaves her and the rest of the family homeless. Fortunately, since this is Edith we’re talking about, she doesn’t actually succeed in reducing the house to ashes.
2. On the Lam (Season 5, Episode 6)
In the grand conclusion to the almost-operatic four-act Gregson Tragedy, Edith learns that Michael is really and truly dead (assaulted by soldiers affiliated with a certain mustachioed German despot) and makes off with Marigold to live in exile in London. It’s a good thing she’s welcomed back into the Crawley fold by the next episode, because based on Edith’s woeful track record, we’re not sure how long she or the kid would have lasted on their own.
1. Rejected, Part II (Season 3, Episode 3)
A glutton for punishment, Edith re-dedicates herself to winning Sir Anthony’s affection and actually gets the lummox to ask for her hand in marriage this time. And boy, oh boy does she come to regret it. Rather than let her down gently before the big day, Strallan waits until she’s standing next to him at the freakin’ altar to bail. “Edith, I can’t let you throw away your life like this,” he tells her, like he’s doing her a favor via this public humiliation. Meanwhile, Edith’s heart shatters into a gazillion pieces. And unlike future generations of jilted brides, she can’t even shake off the bad vibes by dancing to the yet-to-be written disco hit, “I Will Survive.”
The first five seasons of Downton Abbey are streaming on Amazon Prime. The sixth and final season premieres Jan. 3 at 9 p.m. on Masterpiece on PBS.