US Downton Abbey Season 6 Recap: Episode 2

I’m not entirely comfortable saying that this episode might be the best of the post Matthew era just yet, but I think there’s a good chance it might be. After last week’s mediocrity, I would have laughed if that thought had been presented before. Downton Abbey has always been a show about change and it’s been at its best when it embraces it. Part of the reason why the reception for series four and five has been lukewarm is that the most of the characters were kept in an awkward holding pattern with no clear direction.

The reason for this high praise is simple. We all know the end is coming. With only nine episodes in a series, the show does need to establish where it’s going, but t12042667_10206763092509513_6897481636038711571_nhat doesn’t mean it needs to be the only thing that matters. I initially rolled my eyes at the Drewe subplot as I thought it was harmful to Edith’s bigger picture storyline at the newspaper, which I highlighted as the strongest aspect of last episode. Once again, the Edith plot was the best part of the show.

It worked so well because it didn’t try to shy away from the fact that the Crawley’s have completely screwed over the Drewe family. I was prepared to slam the whole episode until Lord Grantham addressed the rather large elephant in the room. The Drewe’s did Edith a huge favor last season and they’ve been repaid by having their whole lives completely uprooted. This kind of aristocratic injustice has been quite rare over the course. It took guts not to sugarcoat the terrible situation.

The Daisy storyline also progressed well. It’s clear that Daisy is going to go work with Mr. Mason and the show can’t afford to lose her this early on, so there’s no need to rush. Mrs. Patmore once again served no other purpose than to be involved with other people’s sexual affairs, this time hinting that Barrow should avoid another Jimmy incident.

One thing that really bothered me was Carson’s coldness to Barrow over his interview. He treated him with pure contempt that made no sense whatsoever. We’ve seen little over the course of the show to suggest that Carson likes him, but Barrow has been under butler for five years now. There’s no way he would stay at Downton if his boss treated him like that on a daily basis.

Barrow’s interview was a little clunky as well. He knows the world is changing. Vocally expressing disdain for the workload involved with being an “assistant butler” was foolish. I wasn’t a huge fan of the homophobic butler and didn’t really see the need to make him dislike Thomas for that reason. We know Barrow’s entitled and the butler could simply dislike him for his words rather than his sexuality.

Why isn’t Molesley looking at these jobs? Surely he’d rather be an “assistant butler” than a footman. It’s a point that the show should address even if he doesn’t end up going anywhere because the show needs Kevin Doyle. I shall christen this the “Molesley Dilemma.”

I do wish Molesley could have more of a plotline. His humor won him a regular role on the show, but his sincerity was what won him the viewers’ hearts. There can never be enough Molesley and he should be awarded a spinoff.

Not a big Andy fan. He’s essentially a blander Alfred, which I didn’t think was even possible. I like that he’s at Downton, since the show benefits from having a young person in the house, but I never feel like I need to see more of him. I suspect that he’s gay and will eventually have some fun with Thomas so I’m okay with him doing absolutely nothing until then.

No Spratt or Denker. It took me a series to forgive Spratt for sabotaging Molesley’s shot at a dignified job, but he’s grown on me. He was probably in the kitchen critiquing Denker’s broth.

I criticized the hospital plotline last week because I thought it was too repetitive. It worked in this episode because the show was able to convey Violet and Dr. Clarkson’s passion without making them sound like power hungry elitists (though Clarkson is middle class). People don’t like to give up control and they’re not necessarily at fault for being reluctant here. The ability to control one’s healthcare is still an issue in the year 2015. This isn’t necessarily an instance where Isobel and modernity are completely in the right.

The Carson/Hughes wedding reception debacle was quite strong and showed a different side to Carson’s reverent idolization of the Crawley’s. Mrs. Hughes and Lord Grantham were essentially on the same page in acknowledging that while Carson/Hughes belong at the house, that’s not how they belong.

My only real complaint is that there wasn’t enough time spent justifying Mrs. Hughes position. We can accept that she feels out of place, but the schoolhouse simply wasn’t a good alternative. Like the hospital, it’s a case where the battle lines are a bit murky, but in this case, but Hughes just doesn’t look like she’s trying hard enough to express her feelings to Carson.

The low point of the episode is unsurprising. I hate the Bates so much I don’t even want to write about them. They makes frequent mentions of their suffering and do nothing about it. Why can’t they do anything besides be depressed? I wish Bates would drown in the pond he threw his leg brace into so Molesley could have his job.

Despite some criticisms, this was a very strong episode. The show felt more alive than it has in years. As long as they stay away from the Bates and murder, this should turn out to be quite a good final series.


US Downton Abbey Season 6 Recap: Episode 1

Between the Mr. Green murder resolution and the Carson/Hughes/Patmore game of sexual telephone, I couldn’t help but wonder if Fellowes was trying too hard to appease the masses. The Green saga has been frequently singled out as the show’s worst storyline and fans have been clamoring for a Carson/Hughes romance for years now. I can’t say I’m disappointed that Fellowes has decided to give the people what they want, but his writing left a lot to be desired.

The celebration over the revelation of Green’s killer felt like it was more for the audience than the characters themselves. Did that news really call for a party? Wasn’t Anna in the clear already? A woman’s arrest seemed like an inappropriate thing to celebrate, but then again this did mark the end of an “error.”

I’m not completely surprised that someone like Mrs. Hughes would be uncomfortable discussing coitus with a man, even if it was her future husband, but Fellowes took it too far by actually having Mrs. Patmore talk to Carson. The whole thing went from an awkward joke to an equally clumsy attempt at sincerity. It felt sort of like an excuse to give Patmore something to do as involving her felt both forced and ridiculous and it robbed the story of much of its emotional impact.12037880_10207693413522917_1481630557_o

Unsurprisingly, much of the episode revolved around change. Barrow’s plotline was my second favorite of the night. He’s in a pretty rough position. He’s not old enough to retire like Carson and not exactly young enough to completely switch professions either like Andy. As an under butler, he would also be at a disadvantage competing for job opportunities against trained butlers who might find themselves in the situation Spratt almost believed he was in.

I liked how Thomas didn’t immediately resort to malicious scheming after he learned his job was in jeopardy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this happen in the next few episodes, but it’s nice to see Barrow evolving as a character. He certainly deserves more after all these years.

Speaking of Andy, his introduction is mildly puzzling. Given the shortage of background servants, it makes sense that they introduced him if for any other reason than to occupy space. I don’t really care that he wasn’t given much to do. I didn’t love the “don’t trust Thomas” retread, but it wasn’t a major plot point either.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 MICHELLE DOCKERY as Lady Mary Crawley with HUGH BONNEVILLE as Robert, Earl of Grantham

Downsizing is inevitable, though I’m glad it’s not doing it under the pretense of “Downton is failing.” The Dowager was also right to bring up the issue of people losing their livelihoods, especially considering how the characters justified the necessity for Downton’s survival as a place of employment back in series three. It’s a case where you see both sides of the equation.

My favorite storyline belongs to one of my least favorite characters. I thought Edith’s scenes were all perfectly done and I like the direction they’re going in with her character. Her romantic storylines have been far less interesting than her professional ones and it does make sense that she should move on from Downton, unless they want to replace Isis with 100 cats.

I wasn’t too impressed with the Violet/Isobel hospital feud. It’s already been done before and with an episode that heavily dealt with change already, I found it hard to care. Very little of it felt organic.

Which is explained by the scene where the Dowager lays down the law with Denker in front of Isobel. The hospital fight felt very reminiscent of series one. Even though the two have always been on opposite ends of the change spectrum, it still felt like a weird fight for them to have.

The Daisy storyline was mostly good, though I wish they didn’t waste any time trying to get anyone to believe that Daisy would actually get fired. I suspect she will leave by the end of the series, but it seemed out of character for Carson to strongly suggest that she’d committed a “dismissible offense.” Carson may be a stickler, but he’s never fired anyone. The two who have been fired from Downton, Ethel and Jimmy, were sacked by Mrs. Hughes and Lord Grantham respectively (he did advocate for Thomas’ firing in series one, though he and his Lordship were on the same page. Edna technically left on her own accord).

The blackmail was a bit of a shock. Mary’s affair with Lord Gillingham wasn’t exactly something I expected to see surface again, but it was handled well. I was disappointed not to see Matthew Goode’s Henry Talbot in the episode. I suspect that Mary’s romantic endeavors will take a backseat to her managing the estate for the next few episodes.

What to say about Molesley, the greatest character of them all? He wasn’t given much to do. I wonder how much he gets paid. He wasn’t mentioned as being a luxury when Lord Grantham mentioned Barrow’s position, which suggests that he’s paid like a footman. That’s pretty messed up given his age, training, and tenure in service to the Crawley’s.

I’m really tired of the “Molesley as footman” joke. I understand that it’s necessary to keep him at Downton, but it’s not entertaining to watch how Carson treats him. He’s a grown man working a job meant for teenagers. The humor in that wore off a long time ago.

Tom and Lady Rose’s absences were felt. Rose had plenty of crap storylines and Branson’s departure was a bit drawn out, but the house feels empty without them and the kitchen maids, even if the children are allowed downstairs now. We didn’t even see the single hall boy!

All in all, I didn’t love this episode. It did what it needed to do, but the dialogue was a little rough around the edges and some of the storylines didn’t click as well as they should have. I do think it’s headed in the right direction, which is what really matters.

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 Delivers A Perfect Finale

I don’t know about you, but yesterday sure didn’t feel like the end of Downton. Maybe that’s because it was Christmas Day, a time where tears are usually reserved for children who didn’t get a Tickle Me Elmo. Or maybe it’s because the introduction of Henry Talbot as a Downton resident has the series feeling rather fresh on the day of its finale. Perhaps it’s because of all the movie talk. Regardless, it’s generally a good sign when a series hasn’t outworn its welcome.

This episode managed to pull off the seemingly impossible task of providing closure for the entire cast, something that I wasn’t expecting. After all, Fellowes said that not everyone would get a happy ending. It’s hard to say that the audience didn’t get everything it could possibly want out of a ninety-minute finale.

The Edith/Bertie plotline was the dominant storyline, but it didn’t take over the entire episode. Their breakup last episode was a little clumsy and I was happy to see that there wasn’t much of struggle in bringing them together here. “Edith must suffer” has been one of the mantras of the show, but it was time to put that to rest, though I wouldn’t have necessarily objected to a late episode cameo from Sir Anthony Strallan during the “does anyone have any objections” portion of the wedding.3366 (1)

Brancaster Castle was also well incorporated into the story. The past three Christmas Specials have served as “field trips” of sorts with the main characters venturing off to other magnificient estates. Since this was the finale, it would have felt odd to spend so much time away from Downton. A few scenes at Brancaster was just the right amount.

With Lily James’ busy schedule, I wasn’t expecting much more than a cameo from Lady Rose. Instead, she was reinserted back into the narrative as if she’d never left. Having her help Donk understand Cora’s role in the hospital was a great way to put her right back into the action and shows us just how valuable her character was to the show. I’ve said in the past that I don’t think series six necessarily needed her, but having Lily James is always better than not having Lily James.

It was also nice to see Shrimpie, though I’m not sure why he gave the toast at Edith’s reception. Maybe Fellowes wanted to give him more lines? Since he wisely chose not to reintroduce the horrible Susan MacClare into the mix, I won’t hold it against him.

Speaking of insufferable, we got to see Larry Grey again! As much as I hate him, he’s a wonderful villain and gave the Dowager a few opportunities to deliver some final zingers. It would have been nice to see him ruin another dinner, but he made the most of his limited screen time.

The show was wise not to dedicate too much time to the Isobel/Dickie romance as it’s been kind of dragged along this series. Lord Merton is a fairly likable character and it gave proper resolution to Isobel’s story. The whole misdiagnosis bit is more than stale by now, but I suppose that’s okay.

I complained about the Dowager’s plotlines for most of series six, but she was used perfectly in every capacity in this finale. Nearly every line she spoke was a gem and reminds us all of just how important Dame Maggie Smith was to the success of the show. If only she hadn’t been tied up in the silly hospital plot for nearly the whole series. I liked that she made up with Cora at the end, but I’m also glad that their feud wasn’t at the center of the episode.

The Spratt/Denker spat was hilarious right up to its resolution. From his introduction as a saboteur to Molesley right up to his moonlighting as Miss Cassandra Jones, Spratt has been a highlight of the show’s second half. I only wish he’d been in more episodes this series.

Though I wish Molesley had received more screen time (that’s true of every episode), I liked his resolution. We didn’t need to see a Molesley/Baxter romance in this episode. Leaving the door open to one was enough. I’m sure he’ll make a wonderful teacher.

I wasn’t expecting to love Barrow’s resolution and was very pleased that I got my series long wish that he’d become the Downton butler. We’ve seen variations of “Barrow must leave” in four of the six series of the show, yet seeing Master George wish his friend farewell was still as heartfelt as could be. I like that he actually did leave Downton for a bit before returning as well, solidifying the notion that it was truly where he belonged.

This episode deserve a lot of credit for successfully maneuvering around the downstairs situation. Here’s a look at what needed to happen chronologically:

  • Barrow needed to have a job in place before Molesley could accept his position as teacher.
  • Barrow also needed to depart before Carson’s tremors became unmanageable so that he wouldn’t merely be asked to stay on, possibly creating an awkward underbutler/butler dynamic.
  • Tears needed to be shed when Master George said, “goodbye Mr. Barrow.”
  • Molesley needed to decided to take the teacher position before he could be considered for the butler position (not that the show has ever cared about Molesley’s professional status). Molesley himself mentioned that he didn’t think he’d ever make butler last episode to Baxter.
  • Enough time within a single episode needed to pass before it was clear that Carson had to retire.

I suppose Fellowes was referring to Carson when he said that not everyone would have a happy ending. Problem is, Carson has been insufferable all series. Who cares that he needs to retire? He’s been mean-spirited toward just about everyone besides Donk and Lady Mary for far too long.

Allen Leech has reportedly been unhappy with Tom’s resolution, but I think it was fitting. Branson hasn’t been given much to do this series besides serve as the third wheel in Mary and Henry’s romance. There wasn’t enough time for a romance with Laura Edmunds and that’s okay. I felt the same way about the Daisy/Andy and Mason/Patmore plotlines as well. We had enough romance for one episode.

I do wish that Mary had married Henry earlier in the series, especially since he didn’t appear in the first three episodes. Seeing him in Downton was very enjoyable. I sort of see why it played out this way, but it’s hard to argue that an earlier upstairs shakeup wouldn’t have been an improvement and that spreading out the weddings a little more wouldn’t have been a good thing.

Obligatory Bates mention. I’m happy they got their happy ending. Somewhat disappointed that Bates didn’t kill anyone this series though. Oh well.

I am glad that no one died. While the show went from tons of deaths early on to none at all. A death would’ve taken a lot of screen time and that wouldn’t have been a great note to go out on, unless Larry Grey came to the wedding and started spitting up blood. Can’t have everything.

This episode will likely leave many thinking that the show could have gone on. That’s because it could have. Should it have? Absolutely not.

The best finales leave the audience wanting more. Few shows improve into their seventh series and I doubt Downton would have been the exception. Having an end goal in sight gave focus to series six and this episode gave as much resolution as it could reasonably fit into ninety minutes. I didn’t give letter grades to these episodes, but this finale would’ve been a solid ten out of ten. If that’s not a good note to end on, I don’t know what is.

So we say goodbye to Downton, for now. With all the remakes/follow ups floating around TV these days, I doubt we’ve seen the last of some of these characters. Thank you for following along with me. Just like the Abbey itself, Downton World will go on with recaps of past episodes, memes, and features. We don’t know what the future will hold, but we will face it together!

Downton Abbey Series 6 in Review

The holdup for my review of series 6 as a whole can mostly be blamed on one difficulty I’ve had with Downton’s past eight episodes (plus grad school). I wanted to do a separate article on the series 6 “MVP,” but I had trouble coming up with one who fit the bill, which isn’t to say that everyone was terrible or that the series was bad. This conflict actually summarizes my thoughts on this series as a whole quite well.

The “MVP” candidate field was compromised of four candidates: Edith, Tom, Barrow, and Molesley. The latter two can (sadly) be eliminated simply because they weren’t given enough to do (more on this later). I’d pick Edith if I absolutely had to, but I can’t after what happened in the finale.dowton-abbey-0-1024

Edith’s storylines are defined by tragedy. With her magazine, Edith finally found an environment she could thrive in. For a character I’ve despised since Downton began, I was pleasantly surprised by how Edith carried the show in the first few episodes. Then of course, she had to get sucked into another horrible love plotline.

I can see how the Marigold dilemma made it tempting for Fellowes to want to give her another suitor. She didn’t need one. Most characters this series only had one major storyline and she already had the magazine. This isn’t to say that Bertie Pelham had to be a detriment, but he was. By making Bertie a Marquis and then leaving Edith in a rather hasty manner, Fellowes took the least interesting aspects of Sir Anthony Swire and Charles Blake’s arcs and tossed them right back in the audience’s face. No thanks.

I never bought into the Mary’s malice toward Edith either. Yes, Mary is often jealous and unhappy, but two of them haven’t really taken action against each other since the first series. We’ve seen plenty of sarcastic comments, but that’s about it.

Edith was fun to watch this series, which is rare for her. I almost always skip her scenes when I re-watch the show. I can’t call her the “MVP” when she ended the series in such a typical predictable Edith like fashion. Yes, we need some plot for the Christmas Special, but it didn’t need to be that.

Which takes us to Tom, who shined with every opportunity he was given. Problem was, he wasn’t given many of them. Whereas Edith received two plotlines, Tom had none. I can’t call him the “MVP” either when he didn’t do anything besides remind Mary that she doesn’t need to be unhappy for the rest of her life.

Series 6 had a split that we haven’t really seen Downton implement since series 3. Essentially, this series can be divided into pre-Tom (1-3) and post-Tom (4-8), which isn’t dissimilar from the series 2 World War I split or the Downton is bankrupt spell in series 3. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. Shifting the tone a bit helps keep the series fresh. The question we need to ask is whether or not this series needed that at all.

I’ve said it in previous recaps and I’ll say it again. Tom leaving was a mistake. It accomplished nothing and forced the show into a bizarre holding pattern until he returned. If Fellowes absolutely had to have Tom leave to reassure his loyalty to the Crawleys, fine, but he could have come back after the first episode, especially since the Carson/Hughes wedding was drawn out longer than it needed to be. Three was a waste.

But wait! You may be wondering, didn’t I say that episode 2 might be best episode of the post Matthew era? I still think that’s true, but I think the first few episodes created a strain on the rest of the series that ultimately proved problematic with a certain plotline we all wanted to see.

There was one man everyone wanted to see since his appearance in the series 5 Christmas special. Why did it take until the fourth episode to give us Henry Talbot? I’ve speculated that Matthew Goode’s busy schedule may have been to blame, but he didn’t really have a lot going on in 2015 for that to have been a problem.

The romance felt rushed when it didn’t have to be. Tom played a useful role in the courtship process, which also shows why he shouldn’t have left in the first place. Five episodes wasn’t really enough time for them to become reacquainted, fall in love, and then marry when you think about how stretched out her relationships with Matthew and Tony/Charles (counting them as one) were. I get that maybe Fellowes didn’t want the final series to just be about Mary’s love life, but what alternative did he really put forth?

The hospital plotline was pretty underwhelming. There haven’t been many storylines that have involved the majority of the cast and there’s a reason for that. Downton is a show that thrives when its plotlines are diversified, which allows it to endure a few stinkers. I wouldn’t necessarily call the whole plotline a stinker, but it went on for far too long.

Beyond that, who looked good coming out of the hospital resolution? Cora was as unlikable as ever going behind the Dowager’s back, but even Lady Violet looked pretty petty refusing to give up control just because she hates change. Donk’s projectile blood spurting didn’t even really play a role in it at all in its resolution. The story shouldn’t have gone on longer than two or three episodes.

I don’t think there was a moment that fans looked forward to more than the Carson/Hughes wedding. Unfortunately, Carson decided to turn into the most unlikable character on the whole show, behaving nastily to just about everyone he interacts with. I loved the way Mrs. Hughes handled him, but the actual romance was sorely lacking throughout the series. I constantly found myself wondering why they were even together beyond the canned “it’s what the fans want.”

Oh Barrow. I mostly loved him this series, aside from his nastiness with Gwen, which seemed out of character by this point in the show. I dreaded the inevitable suicide, but felt that it was handled with grace by all the characters. Barrow’s hesitance to leave Downton shows the struggle that many in service had to endure, forced out of places that were their homes in every way except for the physical deed to the property. My only problem was that it was a little drawn out and prevented him from doing anything else this series. He could have done more with Master George!

The Mr. Mason storyline served as a nice contrast to Barrow’s struggles. I loved how he was integrated into this series after pretty much only making cameo appearances in previous series. He shows that while that way of life changes, it does so gradually and that there are happy endings.

The Mr. Mason farm dilemma also allowed Daisy to really come into her own. Her interactions with Cora were among my favorite of the series as they put Lady Grantham in her place and allowed Downton to do the right thing by one of its own. I didn’t care for her outburst at Mrs. Patmore, but the three of them plus Andy and Molesley have formed a refreshing dynamic in the show that I wasn’t expecting.

The Bates weren’t terrible, but it would have been nice to have them involved in something that wasn’t pure misery. Oh well. At least there wasn’t another murder.

I wish we’d seen more Molesley, especially while Barrow was looking for other employment. The show oddly ignored the elephant of the room of the 50 year old footman at a time, though Kevin Doyle shined with whatever he was given. Seeing him come into his own as a teacher was my favorite moment of the series.

Regarding Molesley and Baxter, I think Fellowes made the right decision not forcing a romantic pairing. I like that they’re “friends” in a way that doesn’t necessarily preclude them from taking it further. We’ll see what happens with the Special, but I won’t be disappointed if the two don’t get together.

Spratt and Denker have quietly become two of the best supporting characters in the series and I was disappointed to see their frequent absences. Denker only appeared in half the episodes and Spratt only did her one better. Considering how delightful their scenes were, this was a shame, especially when the insufferable Lady Rosamund bested her series high by two episodes (making the safe assumption that she appears in the finale).

The best part of the series is perhaps the fact that Downton isn’t closing. We know what’s coming for big houses, but we don’t need to see the end in 1925 just because the show is ending. The series lacked the depressing tone that I was worried about after watching that sad trailer back in August.

I could go on for another thousand words, but ultimately I did enjoy series 6 immensely. Having a clear end goal in sight helped focus the show and this has clearly been the best series of the post-Matthew era. The pacing problems prevented it from being the best series, which I genuinely think it could have been, but this has been a very satisfying conclusion to the show.