This episode had an unusual job to play. Past penultimate Downton episodes have wrapped up their series quite well as the Christmas Special tends to have more of a “field trip” type setting. Tasked with wrapping up the entire show, this episode had to figure out the balance between story and finale, knowing that the special wouldn’t be able to wrap it all up.
While the resolution to the Mary/Henry romance was overshadowed by her cruelty with Edith, the episode navigated through that mess admirably. The Mary/Edith feud has been trivial since series one, popping up sporadically to remind the viewers that the two still dislike each other, even though they continue to live under the same roof. I never cared much about Mary learning about Marigold’s past and don’t think it was completely necessary here.
Did Bertie need to be a Marquis? If the Marigold nonsense had been settled already and it was merely the cherry on the top of Edith and Lord Hexam, I’d be okay with it. We’ve seen the “I’m actually nobility” card played already with Charles Blake and a similar twist with Matthew inheriting the Swire fortune. Here, it seemed kind of unnecessary.
As did Mary’s involvement in their falling out. It was almost anti-climatic after Donk, Cora, and Rosamund all argued about whether or not she should tell for several scenes. She should have just told him herself and been done with it.
Edith’s plotlines have (surprisingly) been among the best of the show this year and it does make some sense that her resolution would be held over until the Christmas Special. If the show is committed to weddings for both Mary and Edith, it makes sense that they’re in separate episodes. Edith’s wedding would take her away from Downton itself while Mary’s would not. It wouldn’t make much sense for the finale of Downton not to primarily take place at Downton.
Initially, I was annoyed that the show was spending time with Edith’s magazine since so few characters have ever had two major plots progress in the same episode, but Spratt was priceless. Or should I say, Miss Cassandra Jones. Spratt hasn’t received much screen time this season, but Jeremy Swift has made the most of every opportunity he’s been given.
I see why Mary is Carson’s favorite. They’re the two most selfish people on the whole show. Why on earth would Carson give Molesley a hard time about trying out teaching or object to Donk, Cora, and Rosamund wanting to bail out poor Mrs. Patmore? Doesn’t he realize that these people have futures to look out for and won’t be his to boss around for the rest of eternity? Carson has easily become the least likable character on the show.
Barrow lives! His suicide attempt was way too predictable to carry much of an emotional impact, but the scene with him, Mary, and Master George was one of the highlights of the whole series. Mary and Barrow have always lived by similar philosophies toward others and it’s a shame that they haven’t had more scenes together.
Given what Mary had done in the episode, it might be easy to agree with Donk in saying that her criticisms of him getting rid of Barrow were below the belt, but she was completely on point. It’s important that Donk and Carson felt remorse over their handling of the situation as it reaffirms the value of Downton to everyone who lives there, not just the upstairs residents. The show has to address the changing world, but it doesn’t have to send Barrow away before the show ends. I still hope he takes over for Carson as butler though it seems possible that he’ll go work for either the Dowager or the Marquis of Hexam
Mr. Molesley the teacher was perfect. Beyond that, it was dignified. Unlike Carson, most of us want to see Molesley live up to his full potential. For once, Bates said something I agree with. Molesley is a kind man indeed.
The Patmore and the “house of ill repute” saga was mostly well handled. I hated how much the characters laughed about it for the first half of the episode as the situation was one that could ruin Patmore’s entire retirement, but it all worked out in the end. Beryl’s House of Ill Repute has a nice ring to it!
Not enough Dowager this episode. While her presence would’ve naturally affected the Edith/Bertie situation, sending her away until the final part of the show wasn’t a great solution. She’s too good of a character and too important to Downton as a show to leave her out of so much of the penultimate episode.
I’m not sure I’d ever complain about not having enough Isobel in this episode, but her scenes were all excellent. The show has done a great job dealing with the potential awkwardness between Isobel and Mary and their meeting in the graveyard was a great way to honor Matthew and solidify the case for Henry. I’ll be very upset if Larry Grey isn’t in the Christmas Special.
It’s hard to argue that there was too much Rosamund in this particular episode since she had a role to play, but there’s been too much of her this series in general. Assuming she’s in the Special, Rosamund will have been in six episodes this series. Her episode breakdown for the other five is one, three, one, four, and three episodes. She isn’t a terrible character, but this has been too much of a fairly okay thing.
Tom might be the MVP of this episode. He’s shined this series despite being given little to do. I’m glad the show chose to acknowledge that Tom was the best man at both of Mary’s weddings as that was exactly what I was thinking when he stepped inside the car. I was also glad he acknowledged how much he’d meddled in the Mary/Henry romance. Transparency is certainly rare at Downton.
This was a pretty good episode that mixed story and finale quite well. I am excited to see Rose in the Special and to see how it all wraps up!
Just a programming note for the site, I will post a review of series 6 as a whole and some character analysis articles in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading! Just as a side note, my books Five College Dialogues and Five More College Dialogues are still .99 cents on amazon if you’d like to check them out here.