Downton Abbey Season 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.

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Downton Abbey Season 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.

Downton Abbey Season 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 ofDownton’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 likeDownton.

 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.

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.

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.