Well, we made it, folks. The season is over and we say farewell to the House of Grantham until the Year of our Lord 2016, just ten short months away. I’ve had a week to recover from the prospect, and think I’m ready to review what happened in the season finale. That is, if I can remember it.
Much took place in the final episode, which packed in a whole bunch of dead grouse and one giant Christmas tree. It all culminated with Lady Mary singing a carol in front of the master and servile classes as they gathered together. All of them, to a person, managed to listen to her warbling without openly weeping at the travesty that, of all the people there — so many of them fine — the most horrible individual present should be the one given the honor of singing Silent Night. I’ve never been so convinced of British reserve as I was in that moment, as I’m sure it took everything those people had in them not to cry.
The show opens with a great deal of running to and fro; Downton Abbey is being closed up for indiscernible reasons. The beloved couches are draped with dust covers that look like funeral shrouds. Is the family ever coming back? No one knows for sure, least of all the viewers. The servants are dispersed among various rich people, roles are reconfigured, Skulking Thomas is now a valet, general confusion reigns. The whole family plus Edith mournfully leave Downton and load into motor cars. In the chaos, the children are left behind. Only Edith looks back, already missing Marigold, until Iron Mary snaps at her to get a grip and the family heads off to some indecipherable location that involves Ma and Pa Atticus, Lord and Lady of Sindeby. Hopefully someone will remember to feed the children.
It turns out that the family is heading to another giant house located in another corner of England with a different set of thousands of acres. In this location, the family and a few friends — plus one sad sack fellow clearly intended for Edith — will shoot birds from behind small stone walls. There is a ration of one small stone wall per shooter, which causes a dust-up when Atticus has to stay home and clean his gun in order to allow an interloper to use his stone wall. Iron Mary tries to shame the interloper for his phenomenal rudeness, but after scolding him even Mary melts a little due to his handsome visage and his way with killing grouse. I didn’t catch his name, but if Iron Mary has anything to do with it, we’ll be seeing this fellow again. And again. And again. I predict there will be a great deal of sparring and perhaps even a scene in which dehydrated pigs are saved, thus giving this man a glimpse into Mary’s spirited willingness to roll around in mud, should the occasion demand it.
After many, many birds are successfully slain, the butler thoroughly shamed, and Lord Pa Atticus almost shamed with the revelation that Atticus has a brother from another mother, the family heads back to Downton for the holidays. It’s a sober time, as one of the Bates is still behind bars with little hope of being freed until Christmas Eve, and the other Bates misses her. Also, it’s the last Christmas at Downton with Irish Tom, who claims — and not for the last time — he’s headed to America in just a short while. Old Donk is nursing an ulcer as his wife paces anxiously alongside him, checking his vitals and his ability to give speeches.
Some other stuff happens that I forget; I think it has to do with Daisy Undercook giving up her studies — or maybe not giving them up thanks to Mrs. Patmore’s encouragement? I don’t know. I can’t remember where the Education of Daisy plot line left off. In other news, Danker the Ancient Maid engaged in the Great Chicken Broth Battle of 1924 with Spratt, and nearly lost. Granny G. sided with Ancient Dank and declared her the winner, much to Spratt’s chagrin. I always find it interesting that this show spends all this time humanizing the servant class only to make them into cartoon characters at a moment’s notice, children that need the gentle guiding hand of an aristocrat like Granny Grantham to manage their foolishness.
Granny also helped out her own kind in this episode, reuniting Igor with Igorina. After many years apart, the couple can now be miserable together once more, only this time without the benefit of living in a palace with multiple rooms. Granny also gave a very nice speech to Isobel about helping Igorina since Igorina helped her so many years ago. A lovely sentiment, though Igorina seems as though she would have preferred to say thanks but no thanks — no need to return the favor — if given the chance.
Another nice moment occurs when Irish Tom, Iron Mary, and Poor Edith gather ’round in the nursery and hold hands in honor of Dear Sybil, who is missed and mourned by all of us. I did wonder, however, why Matthew wasn’t also mentioned, as we all miss him too. But even with this omission, it was still a sweet moment.
Then it’s back downstairs to drink punch and rupture Old Donk’s ulcer with general hilarity. Bates and Bates are reunited as one of the Bates is released back into the other Bates arms. Turns out that the random witness to Green’s death that overheard him say “Oh it’s you!” before being run over by a trolley car decided that, actually, Green might not have said such a thing after all, and that if he did, this so-called witness had no idea who he was talking to, and besides it was a couple of years ago now and really, who could possibly remember the face of a random woman on a busy London street? So nevermind. Bates can go home now. Happy Christmas!
As is their wont, the Downtonians take it all in stride. The Bates-es are out of prison again. Huzzah! Until next season anyway, when the witness has another twelve months to think about it and says you know…it might have been one of the Bates standing in that busy London street after all. In fact I’m sure of it! Lock ’em up!
Until We Meet Again
At the end of nine episodes, we find the Downtonians in a happy place, more or less. Rose’s IQ has increased by leaps and bounds, the Mister and Missus have strengthened their marital bonds, Isis kicked the bucket — she couldn’t take another minute living with these people (which worked out as these people couldn’t take another minute of a dog with such an ill-timed name), Edith has managed to steal her baby back and lavish her with love, Mary has managed to look at her baby at least twice. (Once to make sure he was breathing and the other time to make sure she hadn’t imagined his existence.) Tom-I’m-Not-Even-Sure-If-I-Should-Even-Be-Here-Branson shakily held the family together throughout the highs of farm management and the lows of being snubbed by a butler. Granny trumped everyone socially, intellectually and morally. Isobel remained stubbornly determined to thwart her own happiness, and Atticus was still alive, at least the last time we saw him.
Downstairs, Miz Bunting is mercifully gone, Daisy is still dreaming of a better day, Bates and Bates are together again, free from the twin specters of murder and birth control, Baxter is still near tears and ready to lend a helping hand, Skulking Barrow is still trying to find the particular strain of evil most suited to his skill set, Old Danker the Ancient Maid is still fighting with Spratt, Mrs. Patmore is still making meringues and fondly talking only of her favorite topics: her dead nephew, Daisy’s education, and what she will do when this or that happens. Best of all, Carson and Hughes have finally declared their intention to ride off into the sunset together. But not before the beds are turned down and the table is set for dinner, thank goodness. Downton could not survive without Carson and Hughes and neither could we.
Don’t miss next year, when Rose breaks the news to Atticus that she wants to be a Rockette, Old Donk grows fond of his ulcer and calls it li’l Isis when no one is around to hear him, Isobel poisons Larry Merton with insulin injections, Iron Mary enters a convent where she terrorizes the other novices, the Pigmans sue Edith for custody and emotional damages, the Bates-es make a baby and the baby most likely kills someone, Granny learns how to make borscht with the help of Ancient Danker, Irish Tom gets run out of America for being a Dirty Commie, England’s grouse population is depleted and Sybbie, George and Marigold make a pact to get as far away from these people as possible and make a fresh start in Australia with only their favorite nanny to cook and clean for them.