“Secrets and lies… Isn’t life sordid and banal?”
Mariana Lawton has made herself awfully difficult to dislike. Between her glamorous fashion sense, overdramatic tendencies, and ability to match Anne’s wit with ease, it’s an absolute delight whenever Suranne Jones and Lydia Leonard share the screen — even though it usually spells bad news for the show’s central couple. The fourth episode picks up right where the last left off, with Anne and Mariana having it out over dinner (“I waited for you for nearly twenty years — did you really think I wouldn’t move on?” “But… her! What is she even?”). This argument essentially takes them through Miss Lister’s entire visit. They have brief moments of relief — where Mariana can almost pretend Anne hasn’t married another woman while Anne tricks herself into thinking their relationship remains unchanged — but for the most part, neither of them can be free of their bitterness. Even reminiscing about old times has a way of turning sour on them: recalling a blissful night of sex in Scarborough reminds Anne that Mariana always doubted her and refused to take a chance on her — which in turn reminds Mariana that Anne didn’t even try to fit in when they were together. Plus, she always pretends she had a choice in marrying Charles when she obviously didn’t.
Speaking of Charles, a piece of Wonder Bread so utterly boring that we forgot to pay him any mind, it turns out he’s absolutely despicable, which explains why Mariana has been so wretched. Along with revealing that an affair from several years ago left him with a bastard child who now works in their servant’s quarters, Mariana shares a harrowing story about a girl in the village who Charles has been sexually harassing. None of which is very well hidden, meaning people know and Mariana is very embarrassed. (Embarrassment hardly seems like the big takeaway here but okay then.) Having Anne around is a comfort because it means she isn’t entirely alone, but also serves to make Mariana more miserable and bitter — because Anne is just visiting, only to return home to a life that Mariana isn’t part of.
The rift between them is layered: as much as Mariana resents Anne for moving on and however much Anne continues to love her, neither of them can deny that all the things keeping them apart remain true. All the old arguments have a way of rearing their heads — like Anne’s inability to appear ladylike and Mariana’s refusal to believe in her. The other issue is that Mariana sees Anne’s marriage as no different from her own: Ann is the other woman, as she so deftly summarizes. Ann is a marriage of convenience, for comfort and money, not for love, just like Charles is for her. Except that we and Anne both know that to be untrue. Mariana might know it too, but refuses to admit it — and she’s only proven “right” later in the episode when Anne does what she tried so hard not to — she breaks her vows and spends a night with Mariana.