A Note For the American Recaps

While Downton’s finale has come and gone for much of the world, the fun is just beginning in America. Since Downton World has followed the British schedule, we’ve done all our recaps for series six already. After careful consideration, we’ve figured out the best way to provide our American fans with a spoiler free recap experience.downton401b

For the duration of Downton’s American run, past recaps will be labeled as “UK Recaps” and can be found in their entirety in their own section at the top of the page. Each week, a recap will be added to the section “American Recaps,” which can be found of the main page. These recaps are the same as the British ones, but as they were done week to week, there will be no spoilers other than what had already aired up to that point.

Note: The “Articles” section is also free of series six spoilers for the duration of the American run. The series six review can be found in “UK Recaps.”

Downton Abbey Series 6 Recap: Episode 8

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.stream_img

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.

Mr. Molesley: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

From his first appearance in episode two, it would be hard to tell that Joseph Molesley would become one of Downton Abbey’s most endearing characters. From butler to valet to laborer to footman, Molesley has a list of occupations rivaled only by Thomas. The backwards progression of these jobs naturally lead to a consistent suffering matched only by Lady Edith. Yet as season five comes to a close, Molesley goes on, earning both the adoration and respect of his fellow workers and viewers alike.

Molesley begins his time on Downton as the butler to Mrs. Crawley, a job that appears to have been organized by either Robert or Violet as Molesley was away from the area at the start of the show. He continued to be a minor character and occasional comic relief throughout the first season. His standout moment was perhaps when Matthew struggled to embrace his services, creating a unique moment where the lavish excess of the upper class is countered by the pride that a person like Molesley takes in his duties.

We see this evolve in season two as Molesley finds himself with little to do in Mrs. Crawley’s absence. Rather than sit around twiddling his thumbs, Molesley makes himself useful at the big house. This is overshadowed by his accidental drunkenness brought on by wine tasting and his failed romantic overtures directed at Anna. Season two establishes Molesley as the good-natured Mr. Bean like klutz destined to be Julian Fellows’ whipping boy.

This “Molesley must suffer” mentality continues in season three. With Matthew engaged to Lady Mary, it makes sense that Molesley would be destined for the big house as the valet to the heir of Downton. Problem is that Matthew doesn’t want a valet. But then he gets one for some strange reason, only it’s not Molesley. It’s Alfred. Without the interference by a jealous Thomas, who insisted that Alfred was not ready for such duties, Molesley might still be in the service of Mrs. Crawley.

Molesley’s high status as Matthew’s valet was short lived. While Mary and Mrs. Crawley could recover their statuses following Matthew’s death, there was no one for Molesley to valet for. Season four showed Fellows’ love of making Molesley suffer as convenient landing destinations for his services were foiled using spotty logic. Mrs. Crawley could’ve easily taken him back as butler and Spratt could have been kicked to the curb following his sabotage of Molesley’s audition. So poor Joesph had to settle for the lowly job of second footman.

The problem is that the positive outcomes would’ve taken him away from the big house, which at this point is where he belongs. The staff has taken quite a beating over the past two years, seeing O’Brien, Alfred, Jimmy, and Ivy all leave. The latter three weren’t exactly replaced by new characters, making Molesley even more important.

There are two distinct versions of Molesley that the viewer gets to see. There’s the drunken bumblehead who loses at cricket and can’t seem to catch a break. But then there’s the man who shows a genuine desire to help others like Baxter and Daisy and of course, the strong man victory in the season three Christmas special.

Mrs. Patmore’s scolding of Daisy for her treatment of Molesley was what prompted me to write this article. In telling Daisy to be nice to people who are kind, Patmore reminds us why people like Molesley are special. They’re rare.

Molesley has had his fair shares of ups and downs, but besides his reluctance to accept the footman position, which received a rather rude response from Carson, he takes his fortunes in stride (even his strong man carnival victory). How many of us can say the same?

Through five seasons, Molesley has grown from a background comic relief figure to the heart and soul of Downton Abbey. He’s an older worker facing uncertain times without the capital of Carson, Hughes, Patmore, and the Bates, who can all invest in retirement options. But you wouldn’t know that just by looking at him. He’s neither the best looking nor the most interesting person on the show, but his consistent good nature sets him apart from the rest of the cast and earns him a place in the viewer’s hearts.