In this episode of Downton Abbey, Rose ties the knot, Daisy falls in love with London, Branson officially sets a timeline for his departure, the war memorial is unveiled and Anna is finally arrested for Mr. Green’s murder. Also, there’s enough passive aggressive resentment to power London into the 21st century.
In the UK, this episode worked as the season finale, with the Christmas special as a bonus episode. As a season finale, it certainly works better than last year’s outing, which saw not much in the way of accomplishment or resolution. Weddings are always a big to-do at Downton Abbey, especially since almost all weddings in the Downton universe are served with a healthy side of scandal.
When the show brought Rose on to replace dearly departed Sybil, it had a real opportunity to take advantage of a younger character to tap into the quickly evolving times. In practice, however, the show never really had much interest in developing or utilizing Rose.
She is a fairly under-cooked character; a few seasons in and I still don’t feel like she’s brought much to the table. Fortunately, the episode largely works anyway, even if there’s not much investment in the primary romance driving the hour.
This is because the show has suddenly become rather meta about how many chapters are closing and how near we’ve finally come to the end of the line. When even Daisy is dreaming of widened horizons, you know it’s probably time to pack it up.
There have been rumors that season 6 will be the last chapter for Downton, and this episode certainly seems to point in that direction. Mary herself sees all the changes in Downton and how life as she’s always known it seems to be transforming. Branson is leaving, Daisy is imagining a new life and the time of great houses and the staff needed to run them is drawing to a close.
If next season is the final year, I hope the show uses the opportunity to take some risks and give payout to the journeys of our favorite characters. Little moments like those between the Crawley sisters and Branson, or between Mary and Carson, make it easier to swallow the more ridiculous elements of this show, like anything with the Bates’. Downton does best with quiet moments playing on the history between characters, and thankfully those moments are plentiful this episode.
Everyone is in a tizzy preparing for Rose’s wedding. Of course, because this is Downton, there are some bumps along the way. Two of the most prominent bumps are Atticus’ disapproving father and Rose’s garbage person mother. While Atticus and Rose are devoted to each other, the families are less keen on the match.
Star-crossed lovers stuff aside, there is actually some good stuff there with Atticus’ father, who has had to suffer plenty of discrimination on his rise up the ranks. His disdain for Rose and what she represents is at least understandable, even if slightly misplaced. Rose’s mother, however, is just an awful harpy who is consistently horrible in every single scene this episode.
In an effort to stop the wedding, Rose’s mother hires a lady of the evening to come on to Atticus so a photographer can take pictures of the “tryst.” Rose gets these pictures at a lunch with Mary, Edith and Branson.
It’s so nice to see these four characters out together, which made me wonder why this should be such a rare scene. It seems like the show should have utilized more group pairings instead of spinning characters off into their own separate, contained storylines.
Rose confronts Atticus, who initially thinks his father is to blame. Shrimpy, for his part, realizes it’s his horrible wife right away and tries to reason with her not to reveal their upcoming divorce. Again, because she is a horrible, one-dimensional, harpy woman, Rose’s mother decides to reveal the divorce to a room full of people right before Rose walks down the aisle. The joke’s on her, though, since the wedding still happens anyway, Atticus’ mom seems to fall even more in love with Rose and Rose finally tells off her horrible excuse for a mother.
Elsewhere, Branson finally decides to leave for Boston just as soon as things with the cottages in Downton’s village get sorted out. This announcement leads pretty much everyone on this entire show to beg Branson not to leave because, unbelievably, Branson has become easily one of the best characters on this show. I have no idea how this happened either.
This gives us plenty of nice scenes between Branson and both Mary and Edith. Mary and Branson have been such a charming combination this season that it really will be sad to see him go. Edith reminds Branson that she’ll also miss him, just in case he forgot, because people in Downton forget about Edith all the time since she is human wallpaper.
Unfortunately for Edith, her chameleon-like ability to blend into the surroundings at Downton is finally tested by her overwhelming maternal instinct. “She wants to be with her child all the time, taking care of her daughter. Isn’t that gross?” Mary laughs, downing a highball while a nanny carts her son away. “Why isn’t an hour in the sitting room good enough for her? It’s good enough for you, Branson!” It’s probably at this moment that Branson realizes this family is turning him into a monster.
Robert finally puts together that little Marigold looks an awful lot like Michael Gregson, and Cora confirms for him that he has another granddaughter. Robert is pretty chill about the whole thing, surprisingly enough.
He’s also been busy in his entirely ornamental position overseeing the war memorial. Getting a tombstone for Isis, his dog, helps him come up with a way to honor Mrs. Patmore’s nephew Patrick. While his name isn’t on the war memorial, he does give him a plaque on a nearby wall to commemorate his sacrifice. It’s a really nice moment, and even Carson seems touched.
Finally, Mary bumps into Anthony Gillingham and Mable Lane Fox, who still has the best name ever, at Rose’s reception. Things are awkward, and then Mary invites herself to their wedding, which is the kind of hilarious trolling I assume she learned from Charles Blake. I miss you, Blake!
Her encounter with Gillingham combined with all the changes finally upsets the implacable Mary, and Carson finds her hiding out in the hallway. It’s there that Carson tells Mary that she is the bomb dot com and that Gillingham wasn’t good enough for her anyway. Carson and Mary scenes are always my favorite scenes, and this one is lovely.
So much and yet so little happens downstairs in this episode. First off, Mr. Molesley and Mrs. Baxter take Daisy out for a day on the town in London. “There are museums and books and I haven’t baked a single cake today. This is what it’s like to live!”
Daisy, high on London life, announces to Mrs. Patmore that she’s going to give in her notice and head to London. Mrs. Patmore is crushed, because she loves Daisy like a daughter, and cries in the kitchen. It is probably the saddest thing I’ve ever seen on this show, besides that time the dog died, which I’ve mostly repressed.
After the memorial dedication and in the face of Mr. Mason’s earnest fatherly love, Daisy decides to stick around Downton a little longer, at least for now. Honestly, at this point, the show really is going to have to end after season 6 because there aren’t going to be any characters left.
Carson and Mrs. Hughes have to hire an extra footman for the wedding, and this poor guy gets duped into going out with the Dowager Countess’ crazy, alcoholic lady’s maid. No wonder poor Sprat hates this woman; she’s kind of the worst.
Thomas, being able to scent a scheme on the wind like a bloodhound, turns the table on her and valiantly saves the new guy. What I like about Thomas is how he will save any attractive dude who looks like a damsel in distress.
Finally, in the storyline I hate most in all the world, Anna is arrested for the murder of Mr. Green. “Hey, doesn’t it feel like we’ve been here before, right down to our indignation at the police for daring to cart away our servants?” everyone says. Mr. Carson even remarks to Mrs. Hughes that the justice system worked for Mr. Bates once, so of course it’ll work for Anna.
So we all remember that we’ve seen this exact same storyline happen, right? And yet this is a narrative decision the creative team felt comfortable making? Downton Abbey: saving the environment by recycling storylines.
The best thing to come out of this whole stupid story is the moment when the police officer looks at “Lady” Mary like she’s a crazy person when she corrects his use of titles. As much as I love Mary, the presumption of these crazy rich people is staggering sometimes.
Elsewhere Around Downton…
— Is it just me or does Prince Kuragin look like the Most Interesting Man in the World from those Dos Equis commercials? Either way, homeboy is fine and totally vibing on Violet. He wants them to be together, even though there’s no way to know whether or not his wife is alive. The Dowager Countess is tempted and finally tells Isobel that life is short. “My dearest Isobel, YOLO.”
— Speaking of Isobel, she’s still estranged from Lord Merton after that horrible dinner party with his terrible sons. She’s not sure she wants to get in the middle of whatever awful family situation is going on over with the Greys, but she does still seem to care about Lord Merton.
— Robert is going to sell off the painting Mr. Bricker so admired in order to raise money for the cottages because the painting reminds him of how he didn’t trust Cora. It’s nice to see those two so solid, especially in the moment when Cora shames a prejudiced guest by dropping a mention of her Jewish father.
— Mary’s so upset that Branson is going to leave her all alone with Edith. “When you read in the paper I’m on trial for murder, it will be your fault.” Things might be changing rapidly at Downton, but Mary’s disdain for Edith is eternal.
What did you think of the episode? Will Branson really leave? Will Daisy? Will Rose? What did you think of the wedding? What’s going to happen to Anna? Are you as sick of that storyline as I am? Sound off in the comments!
Downton Abbey airs Sundays at 9pm on PBS.
(Image courtesy of PBS)