Downton Abbey: Season Six, Episode Seven

"But, do they live happily ever after?”

In many ways, Downton Abbey is a fairy tale. So, of course, as we come to the end, everyone must find his or her mate. There was a lot of that. Ironically, however, the two best story lines this week had nothing to do with romance.

We’ll get to them. Let’s begin with all the romances flying about.

Mary/Henry: What better way to keep these two apart (at least for the time being) than a fiery car crash? We didn’t know Charlie all that well, so his death probably didn’t bring a tear. What it did elicit from me was a bit of eye rolling.

Of course Mary is going to be stressed about watching a burning car and, of course, Henry is going to reach out during one of the worst nights of his life for someone to love. He has, after all, just lost his best friend. But, to have Mary turn him down so completely and then to have so many people comment on it (even Bates), felt wrong. It felt manipulative.

As did the scene where the sisters clutch at each other as they watch the car burn. I’m not sure what we are meant to take from that gesture. It is far too late for these two to become friends. Take for example the scene where Mary tells Edith that perhaps Bertie is coming to London simply to see her. Mary is shocked when Edith snaps back at her, but a lifetime of having your sister pick at you will take its toll. Edith finds the hidden sinister in everything Mary says.

Edith/Bertie: They are very sweet together and they are crazy about each other. The proposal made me smile at its simplicity and quiet grace. But, Edith must tell him the truth about Marigold. Of course, we can wonder why he hasn’t quite figured it out yet, but we do have two more episodes.

Mrs. Patmore/Mr. Mason: The most interesting aspect of this growing friendship is Daisy’s reaction to it. Both of these people are as close to parents as she has ever had, yet she is doing everything she can to keep them apart. She truly believes that if they love each other, they will love her less. I respect Mrs. Patmore enormously for how she is handling this. She is trying to show Daisy, she even tells her, that love is not finite. She is not, however, allowing Daisy to sway her from this friendship.

Lady Violet/Isobel: The friendship between these two is my favorite part of this entire series. They bicker and snipe, but they certainly have each other’s backs. Lady Violet going to see Miss Cruickshank was not only one of the highlights of this episode, it was one of the highlights of this season and this series.

Watching Lady Violet get the truth from that hopelessly out of her league young woman was a stunning scene. Lady Violet is pure steel and, while she has spent her life in ease and luxury, she has a clearer vision of reality than almost anyone else we have met. The twist in this tale was gorgeous. I fully expected Lady Violet to tell Isobel to run far and fast. To have her tell Isobel the unvarnished truth, in effect to have sympathy for Merton, was not what I expected. I loved it.

Even better, however was the Thomas story this week. That poor, conflicted man. It is important to remember how long Thomas has been at Downton, probably for fifteen years or more. It would be difficult not to lay some roots, as he says, in that time. Yet, he is being pushed aside by everyone.

The picnic showed us this brilliantly. As Thomas approaches, bringing the lemonade that Mrs. Patmore forgot, he sits outside the circle. Even worse, as he tries to enter the circle to help Andy (his one real possibility of friendship these days), he is pushed aside by Mr. Dawes. Clearly, Mr. Dawes just wants to help Andy and would be shocked to learn that he has hurt Thomas, but he has. Thomas has done some reprehensible things, things that I’m sure many at the house (and we viewers) find hard to forgive. But, watching him lose his home and his friends is very hard for me.

The race at Brooklands was the central plot line of this episode and was an apt metaphor for the series racing to an end. I have greatly enjoyed these last few episodes. This one was special.

Bits and Bobs:

-- Mrs. Hughes/Carson: Mrs. Hughes turning the tables on Carson was brilliance. I laughed as he got a healthy dose of his own medicine. Let’s just hope he took the lesson to heart.

-- Spratt/Denker: Who cares?

-- Tom/Laura: A bit late in the day, perhaps?

-- Baxter/Molesley: Three cheers for Molesley becoming a teacher. “There are Oxford and Cambridge graduates who know far less than you do. You should be very proud.” I certainly was and I welled up as he wiped away the tears.

-- Who was the man skulking in the bushes at Mrs. Patmore’s B&B?

-- Teo!

Well Said:

Daisy: “Does he appreciate all you do?”
Mrs. Hughes: “Does any man?”

Mrs. Hughes: “I will thank you not to take the name of the Lord in vain.”
Daisy: “I hope it’s not in vain. I need all the help I can get.”

Lady Violet: “While angry, I say things some people find hard to forgive.”
Only when angry?

Isobel: “I suspect she’s quite a tough nut.”
Lady Violet: “And, I’m quite a tough nutcracker.”

Lady Violet: “You’re a cool little miss, aren’t you. I’d feel sorry for Larry if I didn’t dislike him so much.”

Lady Violet: “My reason for traveling is to make myself eager to come home.”
A sentiment I completely understand and appreciate. Long stretches on the road are wonderful, but so is that first night back in your own bed.

Lady Violet: “I’d say your choice is harder now than before... Now, you must decide whether to abandon him to his selfish and greedy children.”

Daisy: “You deserve it.”
Molesley: “I never think I deserve anything. Perhaps I’ve been wrong all along.”

Mrs. Patmore: “You must share, Daisy. Love isn’t finite. If Mr. Mason makes new friends, it doesn’t mean he has any less love for you.”
Daisy: “Doesn’t it? I’ve never had much that was my own, you know.”
Mrs. Patmore: “Well, you’ve found the love of a father there and you can count on him. Just as you can count on me.”

ChrisB loves all things English, especially period drama.


Billie Doux said...

I really enjoyed this one too, although as you said, all of the obvious pairing offs for the series finale was worthy of a lot of eye rolling. I think I lost sympathy for Mary a long time ago, but I've been rooting for Edith and Bertie.

The other two characters who seem to be pulling my heart strings are Molesley (Molesley!) and Barrow. Molesley started out as a fussy figure of fun and has turned into such a genuinely lovely human being. And Barrow, as unpleasant as he can be, cares deeply about the house and all of the people, and I hate seeing Carson treat him like this.

Mrs. Hughes turning the tables on Carson was priceless. So was Violet verbally decimating Miss Cruickshank.

Lovely review, Chris. I'm glad Downton Abbey's last season has been so good.

Mallena said...

It's getting kind of hard to care about this show anymore. Don't get me wrong, I'll watch til the end and will enjoy it, but.... It just feels like everyone is going to get a happy ending, whether they deserve it or not. Looking at you, Mean Mary. I'm sure Edith will still get her man, Anna will have her miracle baby, Matthew's Ma will get Lord Merton. It just feels fake somehow. Someday I'll watch this whole thing again and follow along with your reviews, and that'll be fun....but.. I will dread having to watch that whole Bates jailing fiasco again, and Anna's horrible rape story. If the ending feels organic and not contrived, I'll be happy. We shall see. Barrow, why don't you just move to London?? He could work at Selfridges. He'd fit right in.