It’s season finale time! Hasn’t this season gone by in a blink? What will happen? Read on and let’s find out.
“Lord Knows They Don’t Deserve Their Luck, These Two.” (Ugh, Right, Anna’s in Jail.) Our episode opens with a sobering reminder that Anna is in prison, which means this endless Green storyline is still going on. On the one hand, on some level Downton Abbey deserves kudos for finally committing to a story long-term and really being willing to see how absolutely every aspect of it could play out. (I’m looking at you, things like Thomas’s sudden decision to attempt to medically treat his sexual orientation.) On the other (much, much larger) hand, this storyline has gone on so long, absolutely no one cares anymore. There’s no tension, absolutely no one believes that Anna did it, and we all pretty much want to just move on. HAHAHA, you wish.
Anyway! Mary goes to see Anna in jail because I’m sure a lot of rich aristocrat families visit their incarcerated servants in prison. Like, all the time. It’s a nice gesture of solidarity though, so, let’s just go with it, particularly when Mary’s done little else this season to make her likeable and/or appealing. Anna’s all worried that the papers will get ahold of the fact that Mary came to see her, but Mary doesn’t care, insisting that if it comes to it, she’ll stand as a character witness for her, and so would the rest of the family.
They Found Russian Princess What’s Her Name. Thanks to the hard work of Shrimpie’s Minions, Violet has discovered the location of the missing Princess Whoever the Hell, wife of her sometime stalker/possible love interest Prince Igor. The Princess is coming straight to the Dowager’s home, because that’s not at all awkward given the fact that she doesn’t even like her. It is, however, proof that Violet is the absolute best person, beneath her snark and sarcasm and rules, and I am definitely willing to fight anyone on that score.
Violet has decided to host a small dinner for the Princess’ safe return and she’s invited Prince Igor and Isobel to join her. She’s also asked Lord Merton, despite all the issues that Isobel’s been having about their relationship, in the hopes of giving the princess someone else to talk to. Violet actually looks weirdly anxoius about this whole deal, but it's unclear whether she's nervous about seeing the Princess once again, or the Prince's reaction or what. (I've never been quite sure of the purpose of this storyline, so it probably could go either way.)
The Family Goes to Visit the Sinderbys. Rose’s new-laws have rented out the fabulously posh Brancaster Castle in Northumberland, because in case you’ve forgotten they are New Money and They Are Loaded. I mean, it basically looks like something out of an episode of The Hollow Crown. (In case you were curious the actual castle was used as a filming location for the Harry Potter films.) They’ve even brought their own butler with them, which is apparently a Big Deal That Causes Disruption because Brancaster probably already has a butler already there who knows the place best, so you can tell this will be a plot point. Bates is giving Thomas a crash course in how to be Robert’s valet, because he’ll have to stay behind at Downton, given that his wife is in the slammer. Baxter’s also getting stuck with extra duties, and has to handle Cora, Mary and Edith all together. Times they are a’changing.
It’s worth noting that the Sinderbys have not invited the Flintshires to come stay with them, because Himself is still angry about the fact that they’re divorcing. Everyone’s also sort of worried about the fact that Tom is coming along, since Lord Sinderby isn’t his biggest fan to begin with, either. But Mary sniffs and says Crawleys stick together, and Robert pragmatically points out that Tom’s a good shot and any hunting host is willing to put up with a lot for someone who gets the numbers up. (Robert has come such a long way, y’all.)
Thomas Has Met His Match Apparently. Upon the family’s arrival at Brancaster, Thomas meets Stowell, the angry, sort of troll-looking man who serves as Lord Sinderby’s butler. He’s kept up on all the gossip related to the Crawleys – he knows that Thomas is only a temporary valet to the earl, is aware that Bates’ wife has been arrested and is full of opinions on how gross it is that Branson, a jumped up chauffeur should be treated as though he’s the same as the rest of the family. Sowell also informs Thomas that he’s going to have to pull double duty as a footman, because the house is short-staffed.
A Hunting We Will Go. The Granthams, Sinderbys and their other various hangers on head out on the first day of their shooting trip – everyone’s wearing cute hunting outfits and carrying guns and are just generally pretty excited about proceedings. Rachel decides to partner up with Tom for the first drive, leaving Mary to make small talk with Daniel. It would appear that Rachel has ulterior motives, though, as she wants to quiz Tom about his upbringing, and the experience of his integration into the Crawley family, being so different from them and all. It’s sweet.
Mary, on the other hand, ends up talking to Daniel about the Flintshires and his refusal to have them come stay with them because of their impending divorce. He says he can’t pretend to approve of what they’re doing, and Mary wants to know why he can’t just learn to live with it for Rose’s sake. Lord Sinderby sniffs dismissively, because Lord Sinderby is kind of a huge jerk.
Just What Anna Needs: More Trauma. Is it time to start wondering why Julian Fellowes hates Anna so much? Bates goes to see his wife in prison and attempts to convince her that not only is she innocent, but the cops have no evidence to convict her of anything anyway. Anna is morose, because she has the worst life of anyone on television, and also because she’s convinced that the intrepid London cops who can’t seem to find anything ever have somehow figured out that her step-father was abusive back in the day and that she attacked him with a knife to protect herself. Has anything nice ever happened to Anna? This is getting ridiculous.
Anna asks Bates if he ever doubts her innocence and he says he asked her that once and his answer is the same. Never, not ever and it’s the same way he knows the sun will rise in the east the next day. The swoony Bates/Anna theme music starts up in the background and it’s clear we’re meant to be taking this as a romantic declaration of sorts, but it’s just hard not to concentrate on how dumb and annoying this story is. Poor Joanne Froggatt and Brendan Coyle. They deserve so much better than this!
Carson and Mrs. Hughes Go House Shopping. While the family’s off on their trip, Carson and Mrs. Hughes decide to take advantage of the situation and look at some real estate possibilities, because they’re still apparently planning to buy a house together and rent it out as a bed and breakfast since they are too dumb to just admit they are in love and should get married and be together forever. (Not that I am emotionally invested in this situation or anything.)
Anyway, they get all dressed up in cute outfits and take the bus and go view two or three different places and are so adorable I can’t stand it.
Awkward Russian Dinner Party Fun Times. Prince Igor arrives at the Dower House for the Russian Princess Reunion Dinner and it’s about as awkward as you’d expect. He seems pretty nervous about his appearance, which is probably natural but also seems weird considering he was just openly propositioning Violet like two days ago.
The Princess – whose actual name appears to be Irena; Igor and Irena SERIOUSLY? – arrives and the awkwardness intensifies. She is super rude and aggressive with everyone, and clearly hates the hell out of Violet, which is not entirely surprising, but is definitely a bold reaction considering everything the Dowager has done for her. Unfortunately, the show seems to have decided to bulldoze ahead with making the Princess a complete caricature – every line she’s given is dark, depressing or focused on how much her life sucks now that her life in Russia is gone and she’s poor and has nothing. The first time, it’s kind of funny. The seventh time…it’s just really uncomfortable. Isobel, bless her, keeps attempting to make small talk with either and/or both of the Kuragins, and failing rather spectacularly.
After the Princess flounces off to bed – making her exit in a simultaneously dour and dramatic fashion – the Dowager asks what time Prince Igor will be by to pick up his wife the next day. He asks whether Violet is sure that’s what she want – because I guess he’s still cool with the whole “run away together and live in sin” plan despite the sudden reappearance of his wife. Violet just looks at him like he’s crazy, and says that things are how they must be.
After Lord Merton walks Prince Indecent Proposal out, Violet sits down with Isobel, who asks whether she told the Prince his suit was hopeless. The Dowager says yes and says she’s a bit sad about it, since she’s never again going to receive an immoral proposition. I think that she’s rather selling herself short, because IMO there is no more perfect person on this show, but I digress.
The Stowell Situation Intensifies. The Crawleys are, as a whole, generally pretty shocked about how much the Sinderby’s butler, Stowell, sucks. He’s a giant snob and treats Branson awfully, in particularly, literally refusing to respond to his requests for, well, anything, even something as simple as sugar for his tea or a roll at breakfast. Rose and Mary are shocked that this behavior has been allowed to go on, and decide to recruit Baxter to recruit Thomas – who’s fame as a master schemer is clearly world renowned at this point – to help take him down a peg or two. (Yes, this is a real storyline. IDEK.)
Thomas, of course, is totally down with this plan, because Stowell’s been rude to him too on this trip. Baxter volunteers to help Thomas with his scheme since it’s what Lady Mary wants and Baxter has apparently completely forgotten the fact that Thomas is a huge jerk who tried to ruin her life. It’s fine. Thomas ends up forging a letter of some sort, which he tells a kitchen maid has been left for Branchester’s cook. She trots off to deliver it and Baxter’s just worried someone will manage to trace the letter back to them.
This letter turns out to be some sort of forged special request about dinner, which completely ruins Lord Sinderby’s meal by stuffing it full of things he hates. This is so juvenile, but it is a bit fun to watch him rail incessantly at Stowell’s stupidity, call him unprofessional and just generally be an embarrassment. Unfortunately, because Thomas is stuck serving as a footman at dinner he also comes under fire from Lord Sinderby who calls him a “stupid fool” in his anger. So, I think we all know who Thomas will be working to destroy next.
Oh, Edith. Edith is still laboring to maintain the fiction that Marigold is not in fact her flesh and blood child, despite the fact that she’s so terribly bad at it it’s amazing everyone doesn’t know by now. (Her father, as a matter of fact, has guessed already, but is keeping quiet because Cora wants him to.) She nearly refers to herself as Marigold’s mother when the family heads off from Downton, she keeps fussing about what the children are doing while they’re all away and in general doing a truly epically poor job of hiding the fact that she’s moping about missing her daughter.
So, it probably shouldn’t be that surprising when Robert, who has been experiencing some sort of personal existential life reevaluation of his own since learning that his doctor wants him to get some health tests when they return to Downton, decides to finally just fess up to his daughter that he knows the truth about Marigold. I guess this is a good move, because I hate storylines that rely on one or more people being willfully stupid, and it’s sweet seeing someone finally being nice and caring towards Edith if only because no one ever is otherwise.
Edith says that she hasn’t told Tom yet, but he may have guessed because literally everyone else has. She says everyone knows but Mary, basically, and she clearly has no plans ever to tell her sister about it. Apparently Robert’s cool with everything because he thinks that Gregson was an honorable man and would have married her if he hadn’t died, which is sort of I guess both a painfully progressive/optimistic viewpoint for a man of his time period and also probably not at all historically accurate, but whatever. Though you know this does mean they’ll now have to come up with another storyline for Edith, so start getting afraid now.
Thomas Levels Up His Game of Thrones. As we all knew he would be, Thomas is pretty darn livid about the fact that Lord Sinderby yelled at him and called him a fool in front of a roomful of people. So, he’s ready to turn his vengeance Eye of Sauron in a new direction. He goes straight to Stowell’s office to commiserate about what a jerk Lord Sinderby was to both of them. Stowell, however, is already mad suspicious of Thomas, and makes him write a test sentence on a piece of paper –ostensibly to prove that he didn’t send the letter that started all this. Thomas, of course, was not idiot enough to write the original letter in his own handwriting, and now, since he thinks he’s innocent, Stowell decides they are BFFs.
He starts going on about how much the other servants at Bancaster hate him and don’t want to work for him because he’s not their regular butler, and complains that his boss has a lot of dirty secrets and a title that he only bought five minutes ago. Thomas grins and dares Stowell to shock him, insisting he must know everything about Lord Sinderby there is to know. Dun dun dunnnnn…
Meanwhile, Back in Prison. Anna and Bates are having a meeting with the Crawley family lawyer. He’s concerned about the fact that the police are digging into Anna’s past, and says that the police are clearly trying to establish a pattern that when Anna gets attacked by men, she responds violently, by either stabbing them or shoving them in traffic. This story is so ridiculous.
The lawyer says that it would help if they could get the earlier incident with her stepfather ruled inadmissible, which would undermine the cops’ case and could guarantee that Anna wouldn’t see a trial. He vows to do everything he can to get that ruling for them, thought what that means is basically anyone’s guess. The lawyer mournfully tells Bates in private that the police have a strong motive – How?? Did I miss the bit where they found out about Anna’s rape? – and can prove opportunity since she was in the same city Green was, along with like 7 million other people. The lawyers on this show are as incompetent as the cops. Annalise Keating would not stand for this.
Everyone is Going to America. Maybe Season 6 of Downton Abbey can be set in America, at the rate that various characters are decamping for the USA. Tom seems to still be operating under the assumption that he’s moving to Boston after Christmas, and now Atticus has been offered a job in New York. This last bit of news isn’t that surprising, given the news in the press earlier this year that Lily James would likely be too busy doing promotion for her new live action Cinderella movie to take part in the filming of Season 6 this Spring. It’s still upsetting though, given how much Rose has grown over the past year and how utterly adorable she and Atticus are together.
This is the Only Storyline I Care About. So, Carson spends most of this episode bringing Mrs. Hughes various forms of wine, clearly as an excuse to hang out with her more. It’s an obvious ploy, but not a bad one, and it’s all super cute and wonderful and I’m very busy making a wide variety of squealing noises.
However, when Carson decides they should put an offer in on one of the houses they looked at, his enthusiasm over the situation prompts Mrs. Hughes to make a confession. She says she has to tell Carson the truth – and that’s that she can’t buy property with him, because she’s completely broke. She confesses that she has a sister named Becky, who isn’t “quite right in the head” and isn’t capable of taking care of herself. Therefore Mrs. Hughes spends – and has spent and will spend – all of her money on paying for her care and doesn’t actually have any savings to invest in real estate schemes with Carson. Mrs. Hughes further confesses that she’s a pauper, pretty much, and has no savings, and will pretty much have to work for as long as anyone will possibly let her – therefore, she’s got no need of a “retirement house”. The look on Carson’s face after all of this is devastating – Jim Carter deserves an award just for this moment basically – as Mrs. Hughes says there’s no place for her in his real estate project.
Carson tries to apologize for pushing Mrs. Hughes about the house plan and being insensitive and she tries to apologize some more for not telling him the truth straight away and it’s a total mess and now would be the time for one of them to admit they’re ridiculously in love with each other but this show actually hates me because that’s the exactly moment stupid Mr. Bates walks in with some telegram about Anna. Argh.
Isobel Decides Her Future. Isobel and Lord Merton still very much want to be together, but Isobel can’t get past the fact that both of his sons not only actively hate her face, but are upset at the thought of anyone trying to replace their mother. Instead of having their father repeatedly beat both of his devils’ spawn about the head until they see reason and/or realize that their father actually possesses a life separate and apart from the two of them, Isobel decides to try a different tack. She tells Lord Merton that she’ll marry him if he can successfully sway the opinions of his two hellspawn around in Isobel’s favor – that is, if he can get them to at least come to some sort of détente situation about the prospect of their union and if not be outright supportive, at least accept it. This is obviously a thankless and quite frankly, Sisyphean task, but Lord Merton gallantly agrees to give it a go.
So, this is the reason that Isobel gets a letter from Larry Grey, otherwise known as Lord Merton’s Eldest and Worst Behaved Demon Child. And before you get your hopes up that some sort of magical Disney fairy has come along and made this jerk into a completely different and palatable person, well, don’t. Larry’s letter is brief and rude, and advises Isobel to tell his father to stop trying to make him reconsider his thoughts on their relationship, because he thinks it sucks, the end. Larry Grey should be disowned, obviously, but Isobel just declares the matter settled, insisting that she can’t marry Lord Merton because she’s not spending her final years embroiled in some ridiculous melodrama. Ugh.
Mary Makes a New Friend. If, by friend, you mean an exceptionally attractive man that she seems to feel she can treat like dirt with impunity, but who for some reason puts up with her attitude despite all sense. Welcome to Downton Abbey, Matthew Goode – whom you may know from The Good Wife, Death Comes to Pemberley or the Oscar-nominated film The Imitation Game. He’s playing Henry Talbot, a friend of Atticus’ who’s shown up to the family shooting party and just – gasp – totally messed up their team numbers for the shoot. Since he’s a great host, Atticus decides to excuse himself from the shooting and allow his friend to take his place. (Have I mentioned how Atticus is basically perfect? Well done, Rose!)
Mary gets paired up with Henry on their first day out shooting – because of course she does – and for some reason she decides to let him know all about how she thinks it’s pretty rude that Atticus be forced to give up participating in the shooting to make room for him. Henry, of course, is ignorant about all of this, because the Sinderbys apparently have more manners than Mary does, when it comes to letting guests know embarrassing things about themselves, but Mary is Mary and doesn’t care. Oh and there’s an awkwardly staged moment where Henry learns that Mary’s a widow, so it’s good to know the show’s not being at all obvious about Mr. Talbot’s future role on the show.
And, Then Thomas Embarasses Everyone. So, the Crawleys, the Sinderbys and their assorted guests are all enjoying tea together after a good morning’s shooting when a random woman and a small child wander into the drawing room unannounced. Rachel looks confused, Daniel looks horrified and, lo and behold, Stowell the butler looks as though he wants the earth to open up and swallow him. Rose, who is perfect and wonderful, leaps into the fray to save the day from this festival of awkwardness – she hisses at Daniel, who is in the middle of what appears to be a nervous breakdown, to tell her the strange woman’s name. She then rushes up to her and pretends that they are old friends, explaining to Rachel that she’d asked her BFF Diana to stop and look in at the castle since she was nearby.
Diana looks terrified and introduces her son – who is, shockingly, named Daniel – and Rose plays it all off perfectly. She even convinces Mary and Robert to help her sell the lie, and between Mary’s expressions and Robert’s confusion, it’s all just comedy gold. What of course is going on here is that Diana is Lord Sinderby’s mistress and that the child Daniel is his son. She’s received a telegram, telling her to come to Brancaster at a certain time and to bring the child, with the promise of seeing Daniel alone. The telegram was unsigned, but Diana believed it and unfortunately showed up in the middle of a group party. This is all Thomas’s fault, since it’s glaringly, blazingly obvious that this is the information he got Drunk!Stowell to spill to him earlier, and it’s his attempt to publicly humiliate Lord Sinderby and destroy his marriage. Which, you know, is not exactly my idea of a proportional response when someone says something mean to you, but Thomas is crazy and terrible.
Anyway, Rose gets Diana through tea and sees her safely off in a carriage, without a public scene and with Rachel none the wiser about her husband’s infidelity. Rose is incredible. Lord Sinderby even corners Rose, Mary and Robert to say thank you. He even manages a little speech about how clever and resourceful she is, and that his family is lucky to have her as part of it. (And he’s also bought her a gramophone, so it’s clear he really knows the way to Rose’s heart.
The Part Where I Think About Punching Bates in the Face. Robert receives word from the family lawyer that Anna’s trial date has been set. Given how slow the London police worked on this case the fact that it seems to be moving through the legal system at lightning speed is sort of ridiculous.
Meanwhile, Bates is skulking about Downton, sneaking out and leaving secret letters with Molesley to deliver to Carson. While you might be forgiven for just assuming this is the start of another storyline where we wonder if Bates killed someone, oh, no, don’t worry. That storyline is now basically assuming its feared Ultimate Form now, which is the one where Bates does something that’s stupidly, pointlessly selfless, and so dumb it beggars belief. Yes, as you’ve probably guessed ages ago was going to happen, Bates has written out a confession to the murder of Green because Bates is the dumbest person imaginable.
Carson, Mrs. Hughes, Mrs. Patmore and Molesley have a team meeting to discuss the situation and everyone’s confused – especially since the one fact the police do seem to have unearthed is that a short person killed Green. Which, Bates is not. Everyone seems to generally accept that Bates is basically just confessing to try and get Anna out of jail, but no one knows what to do about it.
Molesley, however, volunteers to search the Bateses cottage in the hopes of finding a clue about where Bates might have gotten off to or what his plan is. He goes through a bunch of drawers and finds a stack of photographs but since he doesn’t find Anna’s Poorly Concealed Contraception Device how thorough of a search can even be happening here? Anyway, Molesley has some sort of plan to help Bates using the photographs he found, and Baxter volunteers to help.
In the meantime, Anna is released from jail – or out on bail at least – now there’s a confession from someone else. Is anyone else sort of fearing for the future of the justice system in England? What a hot mess this is.
Time for a Dance Party. The addition of Rose’s new gramophone to the house means that the house party spends an evening dancing around the library to jaunty music. Several interesting things happen. Mary dances and snarks with Henry Talbot, who shows that he’s not an idiot since she’s figured out something was going on with the Diana Situation earlier, since it was obvious neither Mary or anyone in her family had laid eyes on that woman before. And it’s interesting – there’s so much about the introduction of this Henry characters that ticks the “how to bring a new love interest aboard” list that it should be annoying, but…I don’t hate it. Maybe Matthew Goode is a good actor, maybe he and Michelle Dockery just have great chemistry, but I’m on board to see where this goes. (So, yes, show, please bring Goode back for Season 6?)
Meanwhile, Tom and Edith have a heart to heart where he clues her in that he’s always been on her side, and duh, he has guessed that Marigold is her daughter. This is the worst kept secret on earth. Stowell is also being nice to Tom now as a thank you to Rose for saving his, well, everything. Edith has also got kind of chummy with the estate agent for Brancaster Castle, who seems nice enough so maybe all is not completely lost for her in the romance department in future?
Molesley Saves the Day. Baxter accompanies Molesley all around York on some sort of mysterious mission. They spend the better part of a month on this mission and spend all their days off on this project. They’ve taken a photo of Bates along with them and they go in an out of a variety of pubs and hotels, attempting to determine precisely where he was when Green was killed. They’re finally successful and have produced an alibi for Bates – he apparently stopped in a pub that was ran by a guy who served in the same regiment as he did in the South African War and remembers that the two of them talked about it. So, shocker, Bates yet again seems to be innocent of Green’s death. The family is worried this means Anna will just get arrested again, but Murray the lawyer seems to think that’s unlikely. As for me, I’ve reached the point where I absolutely don’t care any more either way and am basically willing to sacrifice anything if it means I never have to sit through anything to do with this storyline ever again.
We’ve spent the better part of two years on the storyline and we still don’t even know who killed Green, only that it doesn’t look like either Anna or Bates did I guess, but the show’s not exactly super firm on the subject of who actually murdered him or why and it’s messy, messy writing and lazy plot development and if the point was to be so bad at telling me this part of the story that I don’t care what the end is, then huzzah great success. I’d be happier if we just dropped the whole thing never to be addressed again.
Welcome to the Crawley Christmas Spectacular. I’m getting all emotional about this setting, now, and it’s March so I expect all of England was a sobbing mess at Christmas time this past year. Robert gets news that he’s only got an ulcer, he’s not going to drop dead of a heart attack at any moment. The whole family gathers around the tree to sing carols and pass out drinks and everyone’s happy. Atticus is sort of overwhelmed by this whole Christmas experience (it’s adorable, as usual). Tom continues his Grand Goodbye Tour around Downton, with just enough bittersweet sadness that it’s hard to think whether we’re meant to be expecting him to change his mind about moving at any moment. Tom, Edith and Mary share a surprisingly sweet moment in the nursery where they remember Sybil and wish her Happy Christmas, wherever she is now. Even Robert gets drunk and tells Tom how much he means to him and how fond he’s become of him. Just punch me in the face with emotions, goodness.
OMG, ALL MY DREAMS ARE COMING TRUE. Carson interrupts Mrs. Hughes while she’s wrapping Christmas presents and offhandedly tells her that he want ahead and bought that cottage they looked at together anyway. Mrs. Hughes smiles and makes small talk about it and it’s almost all back to normal again after her earlier confession. HOWEVER, at the big ol Crawley Christmas party, Carson says he has something he needs to talk to her about and they sneak off to have a chat.
And what he wants to talk to her about is PROPOSING, because all of our dreams are coming true. (Here is a live look into my house, basically.) He tells her he registered the dumb plot point rental property in both their names, because he wants to be stuck with her forever and it’s perfect and I may have screamed out loud, don’t tell anyone because it was pretty darn embarrassing. But I feel like I’ve been waiting for this moment since the stupid show started, way longer than for Mary and Matthew or anyone else and of course Mrs. Hughes says yes and it’s everything. Dear Julian Fellowes if you actually have their wedding happen offscreen during the hiatus I will RIOT.
Guys, this episode though. What a finale. It felt… while I’m happy about the thought of a sixth season – particularly if I never have to hear about Green or Bates or murder again – this felt like it could have been a series finale. Everyone got some great moments, everyone got some happiness and a lot of things we were waiting for finally came to pass. This was definitely the best episode of the season, by a mile, and it reminded me of everything I love about Downton in the first place.
Thoughts? About this episode, about where we’re going next season, about whether this Green mystery should be dropped entirely now? Hit the comments.