Downton Abbey Series 6 Recap: Episode 6

Series 6 has easily been Downton’s best in years. Episode 6 might be the second weakest of the series, after the premiere, but there was still plenty to enjoy. I certainly could not have said that about the past two years.

The pacing of the Mary/Henry romance is somewhat unnecessarily problematic. Mary was right to acknowledge that it was going fast, but she doesn’t need to be on the same page as the storyline its2DC5D7C500000578-0-image-a-119_1445817860767elf, especially when Fellowes can advance the timeline at his whim. It isn’t just going fast; it feels rushed.

I’d be more sympathetic if the upstairs character hadn’t been stuck in a bizarre holding pattern for the first three episodes waiting for Tom to return. He simply should never have left, or returned after the first episode. Looking back on it, Carson and Hughes should probably have married earlier as well, though I’m quite tired of misogynistic Carson.

Couple that with the Baxter drama and you have a decent amount of filler for a series that doesn’t necessarily need it. It could be because of Matthew Goode’s filming schedule, but it’s a shame that we only get Henry Talbot for a little more than half a series, especially when the first couple episodes were so stagnant for the Crawley’s social life.

This series has managed change quite well, recognizing that Downton is at its best when it weaves change into its storylines rather than use it as the storyline itself. This episode balanced that well, which was surprising since change was the storyline. The open house was a bit of a bore, but does hint at what’s to come for that lifestyle.

I was glad that several characters brought up how odd it was to have people pay to look around the Abbey. It didn’t help that no one really prepared. Watching Cora, Edith, and Mary stumble over their tours was mildly amusing, I would have been pretty pissed off if I was a paying customer. I definitely would have stolen some silverware, a snuff box, and Mr. Molesley. Donk being in bed all episode was kind of a drag, though I enjoyed his interaction with the boy.

I’ve been critical of the Dowager’s behavior throughout the hospital plotline, but she had a right to be pissed off in this episode. It makes sense that she should step down given her age and opposition to the takeover, but Cora, Clarkson, and Isobel didn’t need to go behind her back like that. Why couldn’t she kick off the ceremonies? It wasn’t like everything was finalized by then. Cora was deeply immature and disrespectful in this episode and continues to be one of the show’s least likeable characters.

Poor Barrow. One does have to wonder how hard it would be for Lord Grantham to secure him employment somewhere. Under butlers may have been a thing of the past in 1925, but butlers certainly weren’t, especially new ones who would be less expensive.

The other big problem I have with the whole downsizing thing is Molesley’s lack of role in it. Yes, we know he’s got his teacher storyline, but why does that mean he needs to be excluded from Donk and Carson’s discussions? Barrow doesn’t necessarily look like the obvious man out with a fifty-year-old footman running about.

It’s obvious that a Carson/Hughes retirement is around the corner and that Barrow is being groomed to be the next butler with Molesley teaching and Andy helping out part time when he’s not farming with Mr. Mason. The question really revolves around what to do with Barrow in the interim. It’s not too surprising to see that the show decided to go down the homosexuality route.

I wish it hadn’t though. Fellowes has always done a good job portraying Barrow’s homosexuality in a manner that respects history while catering to an audience that is far more sympathetic than the people of the time would be. But I don’t think it needs to be a plotline anymore, especially not in this slightly modified rehash of what happened with Jimmy back in series three. I’d much rather have the show confront Barrow’s deficiencies as a human being at this juncture in the show.

Molesley finally gets to do something! I hope his exam goes well. It’s time for the true hero of Downton to get a win.

Carson continues to be a terrible husband. Why did they even get married? Between that and his lecture with Barrow, he’s definitely the biggest stinker of the episode.

Fellowes really has done a fine job making Carson as unlikable as humanly possible this series. He’s been cold to just about everyone except for his Donkship. It’s hard to really see where he’s coming from in questioning Barrow when he’s been so cold to his under butler in just about every other encounter.

Isobel’s romance with Lord Merton was inevitable. It’s not terribly interesting, but it doesn’t take up much time either. I am mildly excited to see Larry Grey again. Dinners with him are always exciting!

I wasn’t a fan of the Edith/Mary feud. It’s tiresome and Mary should’ve been able to figure out the Marigold secret by now. I assume it will lead to some sort of resolution between the two, but I can’t say that I care.

Daisy’s behavior was also unnecessarily odious. Spiteful Daisy has never been enjoyable. Why does she care if Patmore and Mr. Mason give each other vegetables?

Oh the Bates . Always something with those two. Why can’t they be happy?

It was nice to see Evelyn Napier again. He continues to be one of the show’s best longtime tertiary characters. I wonder if he’ll speak to Henry Talbot about a certain Turkish gentleman.

Despite some criticisms, I did enjoy this episode. It wasn’t as exciting as previous ones, though it was far less bloody. His Donkship appears to be in the clear, which makes me wonder who will have a tragic ending. Barrow looks to be the obvious candidate, though I wouldn’t rule out the hall boy who has to clean the Carsons’ silverware. Leave a comment if you’d like to share your prediction.

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Downton Abbey Series 6 Recap: Episode 5

I hate to say it, but I was definitely okay with the idea that Donk was going to die. As soon as he started erupting blood, I was reminded of Nate’s death from Six Feet Under (and no, that’s not a spoiler. The show is ten years old). Lord Grantham’s death makes a ton of logistical sense from a plotline perspective.3366

It seems unlikely that Mary could marry Henry Talbot with his Donkship still alive when he’d presumably need to move into Downton, especially after how Matthew objected to it at first even as the heir. It would also allow Carson to move on from Downton and pave the way for Thomas to become butler. Fellowes did say that not everyone was going to have a happy ending.

The blood spitting was completely comical, even for a show as soapy as Downton. How is anyone supposed to feel the emotion of losing a beloved character when he’s recreating a scene out of The Evil Dead? I expected something bad to happen to Lord Grantham, but I didn’t expect it to make me laugh out loud.tumblr_nwfsfxnQkU1swrlk9o3_500

The question is, will Donk join Isis and the Turkish Gentlemen up in Downton heaven? It’s certainly possible. I did think this episode would be a bit early, but he could certainly take a turn for the worse next week.

Counting the Christmas Special, there are four episodes left of Downton. If Donk dies sometime next episode, the characters could spend episode seven mourning the loss of one of the Canadian railway’s most ardent backers, which allows them two episodes to move on and wrap everything else up. With the time jump, it could be years later, making a happy ending possible.

The Mary/Henry romance is being handled wonderfully. Mary’s snobbery is expected and not exactly unjustified either. Even in today’s day and age, there are plenty of taboos associated with wealth and social class in marriages. This has also been a great opportunity to get Tom back into the narrative in a productive way.

We finally learned things about Andy! He likes pigs and he can’ t read, which is two more things we know about him than we’ve been told in the preceding six episodes. The whole “Andy is cold to Thomas” thing was getting a little old. He does seem destined for a pairing with either Daisy or Barrow, which should be interesting.

The farm stuff was good and served as a great way to get Andy and Mrs. Patmore involved. I don’t think a Mason/Patmore romance is going to happen, but I like that they’ve built a little group outside the main house. Mr. Mason’s arc this series has been pretty incredible for a longstanding minor character. The show has done an excellent job incorporating Downton’s earlier days into this series.tumblr_nwfsfxnQkU1swrlk9o2_500

Barrow’s storyline is the only one that didn’t move forward at all. That’s okay, especially if he ends up leaving Downton, but no mention of it at all was a little old. There wasn’t room in the episode for another awkward interview, but a passing mention would have been nice.

The Carson/Hughes scene was weird. I think we’re supposed to think that Carson is having trouble adjusting to an environment where his opinion isn’t the only one that matters, but he came across as too rude to really get behind him. I’d like to see a little more affection between the two.

While I enjoyed its resolution, the set up to the Denker/Spratt throw down was a complete unrealistic mess. Are we really supposed to believe that Denker would stand up for the Dowager like that? Or that Dr. Clarkson would dare write a letter criticizing a member of her staff? If it wasn’t unrealistic enough already, we’re then expected to think that the Dowager would actually fire her lady’s maid over that. Why wouldn’t she use that as ammunition to prove to Clarkson that the people of the village are against the takeover?

The Dowager has repeatedly noted that finding skilled staff is increasingly difficult and at her age, it might be difficult to find a good one who wouldn’t be able to find better job security somewhere else. Beyond that, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as Daisy’s outburst, which was barely even considered a fire able offense. I love watching Spratt and Denker feud, but Fellowes couldn’t come up with a far more believable buildup.

The Dowager is also back to being totally unrealistic and childish about the hospital. Her reasoning just doesn’t justify her behavior. Blackmailing Neville Chamberlain was mildly amusing, but seemed a little out of place with Exorcist Robert.

The same is sort of true for Mary’s Marigold revelation. I get why it happened because of timing and all, but I’m really not interested in seeing a Mary/Edith feud this late in the show. Given how quickly Donk and Tom processed the information, I don’t see why she couldn’t have found out later unless they’re going to make a big deal out of it. I’ll hold off fully judging this until we see more. I didn’t like how much focus there was on other plotlines after Donk’s bloody emissions.

I haven’t liked how little we’ve seen of Spratt this series. I hated him for most of series 4 after he sabotaged Molesley’s audition, but Jeremy Swift is an excellent actor who really endears the character to the audience. Spratt’s spats with Denker have consistently been among the highlights of the show since her introduction last year.

Speaking of Molesley, he continues to shine in his supporting capacity. I am concerned that we’re more than halfway through the series and he hasn’t been given a plotline beyond being Baxter’s support system, but Kevin Doyle is always a treat to watch. The end of the Baxter plotline was a little anti-climatic, but that’s okay. It’s not a storyline that needs to last the whole series.

The Bates finally got to have a not so depressing scene! No harvest! No sadness!

That’s it for this week. Despite the Donk theatrics, it was a very strong episode. I hope next episode brings something good for Molesley to do, possibly another cricket match.

To end with a bit of self-promotion, the ebook editions for two of my books are on sale for .99 cents this week. If you enjoy these recaps and my writing, you may want to check out Five College Dialogues and Five More College Dialogues. Thank you for your support.

Downton Abbey Series 6 Recap: Episode 4

Henry Talbot returns and brings the old Downton with him. Tonight was the first night that Downton looked like anything other than a funeral home in far too long. The world is changing but that doesn’t mean we can’t have juicy upstairs drama along the way.

I think holding off on a return was a smart move. As Tony Gillingham and Charles Blake have shown us, a Mary romance is strongest when it favors brevity as opposed to the Mary/Tony/Charles failed love triangle over the past two series. Both of them were good characters, but they overstayed their welcome. I’m a huge Matthew Goode fan and I was very impressed with how well he meshed with the rest of the characters.Everything_you_need_to_know_about_Downton_Abbey_s_Henry_Talbot

The party was a big hit. Many of Downton’s best scenes have come from the dining room, but this series’ dinners have been fairly depressing. Having a full boisterous table was one of many callbacks to the early days.

As was Gwen! Her reintroduction was handled quite well. I was skeptical considering how long it’s been when you consider how many people in the house never really knew her, which was also exacerbated by Carson and Hughes’ absence. I loved how Sybil was effectively woven into the narrative. It’s been a while since the characters actually reflected on her as a person rather than just bringing up how much they miss her and it was great to see her legacy factor into the Mr. Mason decision.

I was very conflicted about The Dowager’s behavior until the end of the episode. She delivered a few zingers throughout the episode, but her quest for power was very childish. I don’t love that Fellowes waited four episodes to divulge this fairly important detail. We’ve rarely seen the Dowager act without good intention and it was shocking to be lead to think that could be the case for this long.

Poor Barrow. His “outing” of Gwen was juvenile and quite frankly a little beneath him at this point. We don’t need nasty Barrow back, especially after his heart to heart with Baxter.

It was very interesting to see him as butler. Over the past three series, we haven’t seen much of what he actually does as underbutler other that serve things and open doors. The Barrow/Molesley dynamic has always been a bit awkward, but it worked here. I was sad to see Barrow tell Molesley he should save his pity for himself. How rude.

I see two possible outcomes for Barrow. I think he could kill himself once he’s finally forced out, but I do think that his lordship will die and Carson and Hughes will leave to start their Bed & Breakfast. The only thing that really complicates this is the Mary/Henry storyline, but I’m also not very convinced that they’ll actually end up together. A flirtatious subplot seems just as likely.

Molesley had a role in multiple storylines for a change. We don’t really know what his storyline is. There’s been hints of wanting to be a teacher and he is wooing Baxter, but he doesn’t have anything of substance of his own. It kind of undercuts Barrow’s search for a job since Molesley would presumably also want to find a more permanent position than as the oldest footman in England.

Andy showed some life for once. I imagine he might leave to help Mr. Mason and Daisy run the farm. I’m glad we got a little more screen time with him as it makes it easier to care that he exists.

Daisy’s outburst was a little over the top, but it kind of worked. If we assume that she’ll leave to help Mr. Mason, this does set up her exit. Seeing the whole downstairs staff try to talk Downton Abbey | Series Six We return to the sumptuous setting of Downton Abbey for the sixth and final season of this internationally acclaimed hit drama series. As our time with the Crawleys begins to draw to a close, we see what will finally become of them all. The family and the servants, who work for them, remain inseparably interlinked as they face new challenges and begin forging different paths in a rapidly changing world. Photographer: Nick Briggs ROSE LESLIE as Gwen Harding & SOPHIE MCSHERA as Daisy Masonher out of it felt too soapy, even for a show like Downton.

 Edith didn’t get as much screen time, but her character continues to shine. I like that they’re balancing her career and personal life better than previous series. It was smart not to have her fret over the Drewe’s departure since let’s face it, Edith spends way too much time depressed.

As does Anna. Was the miscarriage drama really necessary? Can the Bates go a single episode without having cause to cry? Please Fellowes, either kill them or let them be happy. This suffering needs to end.

This is a bit of side note, but I found it odd that Rosamund has a footman. Shouldn’t Mead (who hasn’t been seen on camera since series one) be able to run Belgrave on his own? IT just seemed awkward when Mary was there and earlier this series when Edith was visitng. I initially rolled my eyes when Rosamund was featured in yet another episode, but she was okay this time. She is a supporting character best appreciated in small doses.

Unlike Spratt, who should be every episode. Why was he missing? Unacceptable.

Cora continues to be fairly unlikable, though she earned points for supporting the farm. I didn’t like how she assumed Molesley was gossiping about Baxter, but she also admitted that she didn’t say a word to Gwen for the two years she lived there. I wish we could’ve seen Daisy ream her out. I’m sure she deserves it for one thing or another.

The Baxter storyline isn’t that interesting. Neither is she. I don’t think the show necessarily needs filler so I’m not a huge fan of the storyline.

Not a fan of the Carson/Hughes reception. Would calling her Mrs. Carson have truly been the end of the world? Sure it was slightly amusing, but they took it too far.

That’s it for this week. Another strong episode. We’re halfway through the regular series. So far, I’ve been impressed with the way the show’s balanced entertainment and wrapping things up.

Downton Abbey Series 6 Recap: Episode 3

Two thoughts crossed my mind as Tom Branson entered the schoolhouse. What was the point of his departure and does it matter? While I can’t answer the first question, the answer to the second is rather obvious. It’s good to see old Tom back.

Given that Branson’s return and not his departure was the true resolution to this multi-series long storyline, it essentially mirrors the closure of the Greene murder. It feels odd that they’re both being resolved at the beginning of a new series when they should have been dealt with at the end of last year.downton-branson-1--z

I was critical of Hughes’ rationale last week and was happy to see a logical reason provided. Hughes doesn’t want Downton as a physical entity to encroach on her day. Considering how reverently Carson upholds the integrity of the house, I can’t say that I blame her one bit.

That said, the wedding was very underwhelming. The bride and groom showed very little in the way of actual love throughout the episode. Carson saying he was the happiest and luckiest of men considering he was usurped from that role a minute later by Lord Grantham when Mr. Branson and Sybbie walked in. Three cheers for Donk!

Do Carson and Hughes truly love each other? I’m not sure there’s ever been a point besides the last scene of the series 5 Christmas special where that’s actually been apparent. Their match is logical, but it isn’t as emotional as I would like.

Let’s talk about Carson’s ushers. Would it have really killed him to be nice to a single one of the male servants? His bride is being showered with affection and he names Andy as an usher before either Bates or Barrow.

Coatgate was a bit odd and put a damper tone on the episode. I’m not really sure what purpose it served other than to drive a further wedge between Hughes and Downton. When you look at how Barrow’s job search is going, I think there’s a good possibility that Charlie and Elsa’s Bed & Breakfast is going to be open for business sooner rather than later.

Barrow’s job interview fell flat once Barrow started sabotaging himself once again, this time going after the house rather than the occupation. Baxter and Bates hinted that he might have stronger feelings for the area than he’d ever care to let on, which could foreshadowing his rise to butler. I’m hesitant to say that definitively as the show wouldn’t want to lose Barrow this early anyway.

The dinner scene did look a tad ridiculous as there were as many servants as there were diners and Carson and his Lordship both discussed the Barrow situation. The pacing on this plotline is odd.

Speaking of odd, Andy. I’ve said before that I don’t care that he doesn’t get much screentime. While that’s still true, it does suck all the life out of the Barrow/Andy story. The audience just doesn’t know enough about him to really connect with his attitude toward Barrow.

What is Lord Merton doing in Downton? I forgot to bring this up last week and it’s been bugging me. Why should he get to go to the hospital meetings? I know his presence likely points to a renewed relationship with Isobel, but Fellowes could do a better job weaving the (eventual) romance.

Edith was enjoyable once again. I loved the magazine storyline and am happy that she found a match that isn’t a blatant disaster. Though I wouldn’t be disappointed if Sir Anthony reappeared.

I rarely mention Cora, usually because she does nothing of significance. She was oddly active in this episode, playing an active role in the majority of the plots. Her outburst at Mrs. Hughes and co. seemed forced, but I like where the Daisy farm plot is going.

The hospital continues to be fairly interesting. Violet delivered some first rate stingers this episode and Clarkson had some of his finest moments. It’s a plot we all knew the ending to already, but an entertaining one nonetheless.

We also saw a glimpse of a Molesley plotline. Personally, I hope he goes to help Mr. Mason and Daisy on the farm, but a Professor Molesley is fine by me. I do hope his future isn’t treated as a gag as it’s time Molesley got a win. The show missed a golden opportunity for a Molesley father/son heart to heart by having some stranger deliver the flowers. Hearing him say he’d missed out on everything brought a tear to my eye.

Very little of either Bates. That’s a good thing. I did enjoy Anna’s excitement over the wedding.

As much as I enjoy watching Spratt and Denker go at it, I don’t love the current power dynamic. We already saw corrupt Denker with Andy last series. Having Spratt as putty in her palm feels like familiar territory. I’m okay with him suffering considering what he did to Molesley back in series 4, but he’s at his best when he has some leg to stand on.

Overall this was a solid episode. It wasn’t as good as last week, but plots are all progressing quite well. I’m looking forward to seeing Gwen next week. I hope she brought her typewriter.

Reconsidering Sarah O’Brien

“Her ladyship’s soap,” tells us all we need to know about Sarah O’Brien, doesn’t it? After all, who really missed Cora’s scheming lady’s maid? Besides Cora of course. Alfred seemed rather indifferent to the disappearance of his aunt and protector against the evil Mr. Barrow.

While Edith and Isobel have their detractors, it’s hard to argue that O’Brien isn’t the most disliked regular character on Downton Abbey (with the possible exception of Ethel). No one else on the show left soap on the ground to remove potential heirs from the equation. Something about writing O’Brien off simply 024-downton-abbey-theredlist-1because of the soap incident doesn’t sit right with me.

Is it murder? I don’t think the show thinks it is. Why? She was never punished for it. Characters in fiction don’t get to escape the guilt of murder scot-free, or by risking Spanish flu.

Beyond that, it’s ridiculous to assume that O’Brien could’ve placed the soap in such a way that it would guarantee a miscarriage. She also tried to stop it as it was happening, remarking that such was not in her character. If you want to hate her for ensuring that Matthew would remain the heir, fine, but O’Brien is actually a very complex character.

If you look at O’Brien’s relationship with Thomas, you might think that it simply came to be because the two were chain smoking villains. That’s really not all there is to the story. While, I suspect that she genuinely cared for Barrow, at least until series three, it was actually likely the other characters’ fault that the two were brought together.

Carson and Hughes are extremely picky as to whom they spend recreational time with. Carson only likes to hang out with Mrs. Hughes, treating Molesley like pure garbage even though the two are likely closest in age of the male servants. He’s happy when Bates comes back for some strange reason, but the two don’t spend any real recreational time together. It doesn’t appear that Carson would ever invite Bates to go fishing in ponds for limp correctors.

Hughes is a bit more complex due to the presence of Patmore, who is under her command even though the two don’t really work together, at least after Mrs. Bird lead the kitchen revolution to give Beryl control of her own pantry. The two are clearly friends. Hughes also plays a maternal role to Anna, Daisy, and to a lesser extent, Gwen.

Where does O’Brien fit into this? Hughes has her confidant in Patmore and as lady’s maid, she’s above the others, though she does participate in eavesdropping with Anna and Gwen precisely one time. Who is supposed to be O’Brien’s friend?

You could argue that she brought that upon herself with her abrasive personality. Except she’s nice to Mr. Lang. Maybe that’s loneliness, or maybe the other characters just didn’t give her a chance.

There’s also the fact that she did have a part to play. The show needed a villain and O’Brien and Barrow’s schemes played a large part in the show’s success. Problem is whereas Barrow is highly regarded by many fans, myself included, O’Brien is despised. Is that fair?

From everything we know about O’Brien, she’s a woman who’s fiercely loyal to those who show kindness to her. We see this in her interaction with Cora, Barrow, and Alfred. She’s someone who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty to benefit the people she cares about, especially if it means that Bates find himself lying in the dirt.

With that in mind, we can sort of blame Hughes for their distant relationship. Hughes had a friend and didn’t need O’Brien. It doesn’t make sense that O’Brien would be intentionally hostile to her boss. It makes much more sense that she was lonely and jealous of her relationship with Patmore.

I wanted to start and end my evaluation of O’Brien with the soap because that really was her defining moment. From everything she’d heard, Cora was replacing her. Cora even talked about it directly to her. This was all one big misunderstanding and while I won’t excuse what she did with the soap, I do understand where she was coming from.

The aristocracy often sent servants packing and at that time, it wasn’t always easy to find other work. O’Brien felt she was faced with losing her livelihood and she lashed out because of it. Wrong, yes. Human, yes. Cora essentially controlled her entire existence and from her perspective, was flaunting it right in front of her. To write O’Brien off completely because of the soap feels wrong.

Her biggest flaw appears to be her lack of likability. She wasn’t very nice to Molesley when he feared for his own job during the “Matthew doesn’t need a valet for all of one episode” debacle. She lacks Barrow’s wit, which endears him to the audience. I wouldn’t say she’s more a villain than Barrow, but her shorter tenure on the show didn’t allow her to be as complex as he grew to be.

It’s hard to really say she wasn’t missed either. Even if she isn’t that well liked as a character, series four and five weren’t great. Could that be because there wasn’t one epic O’Brien/Barrow showdown to end their feud once and for all? I’m not sure we can rule that out.

These points may not make you like O’Brien and that’s okay. She isn’t a very likable character, though certainly more so than the insufferable Mr. Bates. To write her off simply because of her ladyship’s soap ignores her considerable contributions to the success of Downton.