It’s been a rough week here at my house, with bouts of flu for all five members of the family leading to pneumonia, ear infections and assorted other maladies. All of which adds up to the fact that I’ve been preoccupied and am only able to turn in a short(ish) late recap of the penultimate episode. But if any episode deserves a short and sweet recap, it is this one.
Season 6, Episode 8 was so generally awesome there is not much to say, except that it was almost (almost) like Season 1 all over again. Solid writing, substantive dialogue, more or less believable action, characters that you care about, scenes that make you cry — at least if you’re like me. Yes, indeed. I wept like a fool this week, pretty much from the middle of the episode until it ended. I even clapped a few times. And laughed. So basically, between the laughing, clapping and crying I looked like a lunatic.
So Much Awesomeness
I loved this episode for so many reasons, not the least of which was an appearance by Sgt. Willis, who has been sorely missed around Downton. Surely by now it is high time for someone to testify in the busy courts of Yorkshire, and viewers are not disappointed. Sargent W. conducts his criminal investigation outside this time, at a table placed in the courtyard for unknown purposes. As far as I can tell the table has been placed there for Sargent W.’s serial criminal inquiries, as the Sarge is no longer allowed to come inside the house. This is a good idea, as who knows who he will encounter in there and drag off to court to testify? At the very least he will interrupt Baxter in her sewing (so much sewing!) and that would probably turn out disastrously, with her agreeing to admit to a crime she didn’t commit for somebody else’s sake.
This time Sargent W. is after Missus Patmore. And not after her, as I had previously wished for (which is okay, since she will end up as Missus Farmer Patmore-Mason, we can only hope), but after her in the sense that she must testify against an adulterer. She must testify that she served a delicious plate of rashers and eggs to a man sitting at a little round table in the parlor of her establishment. This man sat opposite a woman, who Missus Patmore took to be his wife. Ah, and there was her mistake. The lady wasn’t his wife, it turns out, and Missus Patmore, without knowing this, also served the lady a plateful of breakfast. Double trouble. Missus Patmore willingly offers neither bed nor breakfast to adulterers, but how is the entire world to know this? Instead, everyone on the planet now thinks that Missus Patmore owns a brothel and that her “niece” rents rooms in 15-minute increments. The whole situation is hilarious, according to the entire household of Downton, who laugh their heads off in a succession of scenes dedicated to the ludicrous predicament of Missus Patmore’s destroyed reputation.
From upstairs to downstairs, they are all in stitches at her plight. The sights and sounds of Anna and Lady Mary giggling at Missus Patmore’s dilemma while Anna removes a string of pearls from Lady Mary’s alabaster throat in order to replace it with a necklace of diamonds just before a glittering evening involving sixteen courses and a lifetime of happiness is an annoying moment indeed. Laugh it up, Lady Mary. Laugh it up while you can because pretty soon you’re going to be crying.
Lady Mary Gets Punched in the Face, Emotionally
And she did. Cry that is. She cried because FINALLY SHE FACED WHAT A ROTTEN PERSON SHE IS! For those of you who told me that I should have more sympathy for Lady Mary (you know who you are), I stand vindicated. She has behaved like a terrible, terrible person for several seasons now, and finally she was called out on her vicious, inhumane treatment of other people. In short, Lady Mary finally went too far, and she paid a terrible price. But not that terrible, apparently, as the show ends with her driving off with Lord Racecar. Not that I begrudge her happiness, though I do worry for Lord Racecar’s quality of life, going forward (on the track and at home). It’s just that I would have liked a little more time for Mary to have to sit with the knowledge of how awful she has been, and how much she needs to change, before being reminded of how lovable she is by people like Lord Racecar, for no apparent reason.
Still, on balance, it was satisfying all-round. It was very, very touching to see Mary visit Matthew’s grave, and grip arms with Isobel in a hug of sorts. And it was especially nice that Granny was the one who told Lady Mary to make a decision based on love (instead of hatred and snobbery, her usual motivations). Granny was summoned to this task by Tom, who snapped his fingers to make her appear at Downton all the way from the South of France. Tom makes Downton’s world go around, apparently, and it turns out that it is a good thing he came back to Downton from America, or not a single decent thing would have happened during the second half of the season. In the course of their touching conversation, Granny also told Mary to make peace with her sister. It would have been great if Mary had said you’re right, Granny and initiated the conversation with Edith in which she took the blame for being a nasty, soulless human being. But instead Edith initiated it, which was a bummer, even if the end result was reconciliation, which is what I wanted to see as a viewer. I have been dying to see a shred of sisterhood from these two. And that speech Edith gave about sticking together because at some point they will be the only ones who remember Sybil, and so on? I thought I would pass out, emotionally. It was too much greatness all at once.
Overall, the scenes with Tom and Lady Edith, where they told Iron Mary just exactly what is wrong with her, were very satisfying. Not just because Mary was given her comeuppance, but because both speeches — especially Edith’s — contained unvarnished substance and truth. Edith, especially, would not allow Mary to get away with trying to diminish the seriousness of what had happened when Mary told Bertie that Marigold was Edith’s child. And Edith, because she has truly developed as a person (outgrowing Mary by leaps and bounds), fully understood what was at stake with Bertie, and how she had made a terrible moral miscalculation by not telling him that Edith is her daughter.
If the show gives us resolution with Mary in terms of wedded bliss but none with Edith in this regard, I will personally hunt down Julian Fellowes and throw brandy in his face. It’s not that the characters have to marry to find happiness, far from it, but building up Bertie Pelham to such aristocratic heights AND having him love Edith to distraction? It’s just too much to deny her. And it is really fun to consider that she would take social precedence over Mary for the rest of their days, at every dinner party. Every time she enters a room, for that matter.
Other Good Stuff
Cora = acting like a good mother! She takes a walk with Edith and they talk through Edith’s troubles, just like mother and daughter. A very heartwarming scene.
Molesley = success at teaching! Though I thought this trajectory would take a few scenes longer and involve some shouting from Daisy during her surprise schoolhouse visit.
Thomas Barrow = suicide-induced expressions of friendship! It was unfortunate that it took a near-death experience for everyone to realize Skulking Barrow had become sulking Barrow and just wanted a kind word (from someone – anyone – other than Baxter, for heaven’s sake). But realize they did. And even Master George visited Thomas to let him know that he would have been sorely missed if he had died in the bathtub. Well at least I’ve got one friend other than Baxter, which is all I wanted in the end, really, Thomas thinks to himself. Just someone besides Baxter to look at the side of my face with compassion and empathy. Thomas grins at his visitors. I’m pleased to see Master George here at my bedside, visiting with Lady Mary. Maybe they will be my special friends. Maybe it will be Master George what will keep me from killing myself, next time. And the best part of it all is, he’s not Baxter.
Isobel = acting like a boss! On the Isobel-Larry Merton battlefront for the Heart of Merton, Isobel told Lord Babymerton’s fiancee that Babymerton needs to come crawling or there will be no ringing of the wedding bells. Way to go, Isobel, with your convictions of iron!
The Aristocrats = saving Missus Patmore’s reputation! The best moment of the episode – that was not related to shouting at Mary – came when the aristocrats compensated for all that laughing at Missus Patmore’s expense and had tea at her brothel. They took a photo together for the local paper to prove her worth to the village rabble, who had gathered in the bushes outside Missus Patmore’s cottage to hungrily watch as the rich folk emerged after tea, crumbs at the corners of their mouths. Missus Patmore posed for the photo with the family Crawley, House of Grantham, and to the viewers’ surprise it turns out that she is a hobbit. The greatest shock of Downton Abbey is the discovery that Missus Patmore is actually a halfling from Middle Earth. Which makes sense when you think about it, as she is obsessed with food.
Next Episode: The Finale
Rose returns from America, where she has left Atticus for her new friend Jack, who is a charming pile of fun. Rose discovered Jack hanging out in the Lower East Side, dancing jigs and just generally seizing the day with his fellow Irish immigrants. Turns out he didn’t die in the sinking of the Titanic after all but was just in hiding from Billy Zane. Lady Edith moves to London with Marigold, who takes the stage name Mariweather Feathers and becomes a child star in the West End. Lord Grantham and Lady Grantham renew their wedding vows and then Lord G takes up watercolors, painting a series of fox hunts that is well-regarded as “sensitive” and “accurate” by Carson. Lady G spends her days over at the hospital, where she is President, demanding in an insistent murmur that patients take an Oath of Loyalty to her regime before she will allow treatment. Granny G goes back to the South of France, but this time she takes Septimus Spratt with her for a change of pace, leaving Danker to answer the door. Tom wanders around Downton looking for someone to help or a stray puppy to take his advice. But the puppies are tired of him interfering. Farmer Mason realizes Missus Patmore isn’t running a brothel after he sees her picture in the paper and decides that she should be his wife, hobbit or no hobbit. Together, they raise Andy and Daisy and pigs. Hughes and Carson adopt Thomas Barrow and Baxter is crushed. Molesley wins Teacher of the Year at the village school and joins the union at which point he decides his hours are too long and he tries to go on strike and is fired. But this leaves him free to serve tea again and help Daisy study for a second Important Math Exam, so all is not lost.