This week on Downton Abbey, Green finally gets what he deserves, Mary's harem of suitors fan her with giant palm fronds and one love triangle is finally shot and buried out back. Thank god.
Before I start complaining, I feel I should clarify one thing: in the UK, this episode served as the season finale. In America, the season finale is what aired as the Christmas Special over in England, but in the original order this is where the season took a pause for a few months.
What in this episode would motivate someone to mark their calendars for the next episode of Downton Abbey? Don't ask me, I have no answers. Maybe there are people super invested in Mary's love life? I mean ... is that a thing? I'm honestly asking, because I can't even tell her blandly attractive love interests apart.
An Overstuffed Episode
This week's episode is much lighter in tone and spirit than much of this season, even with the implied murder. However, it all ultimately feels a little meaningless. There's so many storylines whirling around, it's really hard to invest in any single one.
Mary is fighting off suitors in one corner, Edith is deciding the fate of her pregnancy in another, while there's also murder, bazaars, Rose's relationship drama, Baxter and Molesley growing closer, Isobel and Tom gaining love interests and the horrible kitchen love square finally dying a much-deserved death. That's a lot of story action, yet by the end of the episode, we see little resolution.
The episode is just overstuffed; in the desire to service the stories of every single character, no one really has much time to shine. The only characters relegated to the sidelines are Carson and Mrs. Hughes, arguably the best characters on the show.
So much of this season has relied on either pointless wheel spinning (a gardener stole a knife? The horror!) or horrifying events (Anna's rape) meant to serve only to add a spice of drama to the proceedings. Having complained
about the rape storyline serving no important purpose other than to stir the pot last week, my feelings on the matter haven't changed any with this episode.
Once again, Bates is steering the ship on a storyline which should, by rights, focus on Anna instead. But now instead of understanding how Anna is coping with the trauma or how it's affecting her, we're left to wonder if Bates killed Green by shoving him into traffic. The only upside is if this leads to a story where we find out Bates is secretly a gentleman serial killer. He's at least got the right name for it.
Although it does suffer from being overstuffed with action, much of the episode is actually enjoyable. Mary dealing with her expanding list of suitors continues to be hilarious, even if I don't care a whit for a single one of her interchangeable dudes.
The bazaar is fun and it's interesting to see Tom on the other end of Sarah Bunting's socialist rants. Not so much fun being judged for your money now, is it, Tom? Remember when Tom was the Dan Humphrey of this show? They've done a good job gradually transitioning that character from a proletarian activist into someone who can straddle both worlds and see both points of view. Out of all of the characters, perhaps Tom's arc has been the most dramatic and the most organic.
Laura Carmichael also continues to do good work with Edith's struggle to decide what she'll do with her baby. The resolution of Edith's storyline is sad and messy, and I assume we'll be seeing more of the repercussions in the Christmas special, which serves here as the American season finale.
Once again, another episode heavily skewed toward the upstairs action. First off, let's discuss Mary and her Merry Men, which I'm assuming will be the name she gives her eventual Brother Husbands situation. She's got three dudes hot on the chase: Evelyn Napier, Charles Blake and Anthony Gillingham.
Real talk: I can't tell any of them apart. They are all blandly attractive white dudes with dark hair. So I've started identifying them by characteristics.
Napier is "Bad Judgement" since he's always bringing hotter guys into Mary's orbit for her to sex-kill. Blake is "Hot Pig Whisperer" since his distinguishing personality attribute right now is the ability to save pigs. Finally, Gillingham is "Oh Hey, That Guy" since as far as I can tell he doesn't have any personality whatsoever.
So those are Mary's romantic options. I kind of feel like "single and loving it" would be Mary's best course of action here, but that's just me. It seems to be Mary's preferred course of action as well, but these guys just really aren't hearing no as an option.
Elsewhere, Aunt Rosamund convinces Edith to go with her to Switzerland to have her baby and give it up for adoption. Violet immediately cottons to the plan, because she's the only person in the family who treats Edith as a human being instead of human wallpaper. She co-signs the plan, even though Edith's preferred method would be having the baby and giving it to farmer Drewe's family for safekeeping. What is it with Edith and farmers?
With Robert away trying to get Uncle Harold out of the Teapot Dome Scandal -- something we're given very little background on besides it being a thing that happened -- Cora needs to throw the village bazaar. She does a great job, of course, because throwing parties and wearing giant hats are activities entirely within her wheelhouse.
Meanwhile, Tom sees Rose out to tea with Jack Ross, the least cool jazz age singer of all time. Shouldn't they be steaming up a back room at a jazz club? Dancing the night away? Doing literally anything interesting? Instead, the big scandal is that Tom saw them having tea in public. Jack Ross is far too attractive in his face parts to be this boring, my god.
Rose tells Mary to stay out of it, because she's in love with Jack and she's going to marry him. "Ours is a true and steadfast love, based entirely on my desire to piss off my racist mummy! All the best love stories start out this way!"
Mary rolls her eyes and goes directly to Jack to tell him that it's totally his call, but he's marrying a moron. Jack is like, "Yeah, I figured that out. Also, I'm sick of tea. I really thought an illicit love affair with the aristocracy would be more exciting." Actually, what he says is that he's in love with Rose (when did that happen?) and that if the world were a better place he would marry her.
Is it just me or are people falling in love awfully fast this season on Downton Abbey? So many of these couples have nothing in common, almost no scenes together and some of the people involved have no discernible personality.
I mean, Mary's band of Merry Men aside, name one distinguishing characteristic of Jack Ross besides "black" and "jazz." Those aren't personality attributes, because Jack Ross doesn't have a personality. So how am I supposed to care one whit what happens between him and airheaded Rose? And if I'm not supposed to care, why am I being forced to watch it? The character development for new characters this season has been pretty slipshod.
The big news downstairs is Gillingham's return, because it means Mr. Green is coming back. Mr. Green is as evil and cartoonish as ever, complaining about missing the London life. Let the record stand that Mr. Green is also an idiot. When Bates starts asking Green where he lives, Green basically draws him a map and puts a little skull and crossbones over his house. "Great," Bates says happily, "Kill ya later!"
Which is exactly what happens. While Mary goes to tell Gillingham to get rid of his rapist valet, Mr. Green is mysteriously killed when he falls into traffic. Of course, this is also the day Mr. Bates decided to take a personal day to go to York. Or, more likely, he took a personal day to get a little murdering off his to-do list.
Mary is visibly shaken by the news that Green is dead, because unlike Green she is not an idiot. The Bates murder puzzle pieces are pretty easy to put together, and she does almost immediately.
She asks Bland Love Interest #2 what he would do if he knew someone had done something very bad, but for good reason. He says that since she doesn't blame the person, she should just do nothing. Meanwhile, Mr. Bates skips by whistling and sharpening his shank for the next person who does him wrong.
Meanwhile, Alfred comes back into town after asking Ivy to marry him, and things are awkward. Ivy turns him down, and Daisy finally comes around and says goodbye, wishing him well. Both Mrs. Patmore and I shed tears of happiness, for lo and behold, the love square no one on earth ever cared about is finally dead.
Elsewhere Around Downton...
-- Isobel Crawley has a new suitor. Get it, girl.
-- Isobel recommends Tom start a political career. Now that is a storyline I would be interested in seeing, even if Tom isn't quite sure of his politics anymore. I'm sure we'll just get another romance storyline instead, though.
-- New ladies' maid Baxter continues to be one of the more intriguing and fleshed-out new characters of the season. Her shameful background and her connection to Thomas remain a mystery, but her budding relationship with Molesley is very sweet.
What did you think of the episode? Did you think it was too overstuffed? Can you tell any of Mary's dudes apart? And if so, which is your favorite? Sound off in the comments!
Downton Abbey airs Sundays at 9pm on PBS.