Downton Abbey Revisited – Season 5 Episodes 4 & 5 (You're very welcome, as long as you behave.)
Rachel - Longtime Downton Fan
My reaction to these episodes is the same as Lady Mary’s during the dress show: Yummy!
But it’s not just the excellent fashion (which it always is on Downton Abbey, but a 1920s fashion show only heightens the sartorial appeal), it’s the intrigue. It’s the new loves, broken hearts, and a world that keeps on going into a new, uncertain future that various members of the household, both upstairs and down, either decide to embrace or resist.
As far as broken hearts go, there are several to note in these episodes. Finally, Mary makes her choice and breaks it off with Lord Gillingham, but not before Charles Blake has his say about how to rectify the resulting drama by bringing Tony’s previous lover, Mabel Lane Fox, into the mix. As expected, Mabel and Mary get on like oil and water, but it sets the stage for next week’s horse racing episode. Unlike Lavinia in Season 2, Mabel is sharp-tongued and doesn’t suffer fools, and it’s always a joy to see her go up against Mary. But her relationship isn’t the only one poised to end: Shrimpie, Rose’s father, arrives at Downton to both help Violet track down the lost Russian princess but to tell Rose and the rest of the family that he and his wife Susan will divorce. I have to say, I’m always in awe of Robert during Lord Flincher’s divorce, insisting he won’t take sides between Lord and Lady Flincher despite being related by blood to the latter and is compassionate yet honest with him about the reality of his choice. Robert shares similar compassion with Edith, honest yet heartfelt, when it comes to light what likely happened to Michael Gregson: he perished in the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch in Munich. Edith could use all the compassion and love she can get right now: alongside Michael’s demise, Mrs. Drake now forbids her to see Marigold, worried that Edith is meddling too much and holds a torch for her husband, leaving Edith to take action herself in order to see her daughter again.
Robert isn’t entirely tolerant and understanding during these episodes, though. In fact, some of my favorite Robert moments in the whole series happened this week with him firmly dismissing Sarah Bunting from Downton Abbey (and the village, and Tom’s life). And while Miss Bunting made her point, she definitely had her dressing down coming. Fortunately, so does Simon Bricker (finally!) after he slips into Cora and Robert’s bedroom uninvited and asks her to engage in a romantic affair with him. I understand Bricker was never supposed to be likable (and Richard E. Grant does a fabulous job with it! You can catch Richard E. Grant out of character on the new two-part special Inside the Ritz Hotel London airing August 2 and 9 at 10 p.m.), but I was waiting since he descended upon Downton to be firmly told to back off. I think Robert’s fists do the trick and while Cora is horrified, I cheer every time I watch this scene.
But the most troubling heartbreak in this episode goes to Thomas. This show does an incredible job making me both despise and root for Thomas Barrow in almost equal amounts, but it’s these episodes, as he tries to use pharmaceuticals to change his sexual and romantic orientations, that make me want to wrap him in a giant hug and tell him there’s nothing he needs to change about who he is. Miss Baxter’s face says exactly how the audience feels, no matter how many times we’ve seen him undergo this risky treatment on purpose. You can’t help but want life to be better for him, no matter everything he’s done to other characters on the show, and that moment just doesn’t come until the series finale and the movie.
The episodes this week weren’t all doom and gloom, though. On the bright side, Atticus Aldridge has finally made his entrance and I found that during this rewatch, I really loved seeing his and Rose’s meet-cute play out, the reveal of his family’s origins, and how it doesn’t change her opinion of him in the least. Atticus may love cake, but I love seeing these two support each other. Isobel finds progress in her romantic life too, with a proposal from Lord Merton that she’s hesitant to accept (and that Violet cannot stand). Even if I know their road to matrimony is a shaky one, I still love seeing that love and romance have no expiration date.
And finally, sometimes new love involves showing love, kindness, and a bright future for our cast. This week, that happens downstairs with both Daisy and Mrs. Patmore. With Miss Bunting’s encouragement, Daisy finds a newfound love for learning, and Mrs. Patmore, thanks to a recently deceased relative, is left an inheritance and must make some big choices ahead.
Find out what’s in store for Mary and her men, Anna and Mr. Bates, Thomas, and the rest of Downton Abbey as Season 5 continues Friday, July 30 beginning at 7 p.m. Can’t stop at only two episodes? You can watch the entire Downton Abbey series right now on GPB Passport.
Kirk - Downton Newbie
Poor Robert was really driven to the brink in these two episodes, wasn’t he? At the end of season 4, I remember thinking how amazingly, suspiciously sweet Robert and Cora were towards each other, and how that could only mean there was trouble on the horizon. I was right! Cora is definitely the most laid-back of the show’s lead characters, but I simply cannot understand how she kept allowing Simon Bricker into her house to disrespect her and her husband the way she did. I’m absolutely not implying that she let him on, but I’m not sure how keen I’d be to invite a man back into my home who had flirted with me openly at the dinner table. In front of my husband at that.
Then there’s Ms. Bunting. I think I’ve made my feelings clear there. I appreciated her broadening Daisy’s horizons, and I didn’t disagree with anything she said. But, it seems like her character’s only purpose was to aggravate Robert for the sake of seeing Robert aggravated, and that was annoying. I will not miss seeing her at Downton. This season has made me feel quite stuffy and aristocratic at times, not a fan of that at all. I suppose rude is rude no matter how many square feet you’re living in.
Elsewhere, Edith has annoyed the Drewes to the point that they’re considering packing it up and moving. I’m still at a loss as to how Mrs. Drewe has not figured it all out yet, but shame on Mr. Drewe for doing this to her. Keeping a secret is one thing, but he could have put a stop to all this before it got to this point. It looks as though Violet and Rosamund are trying to get Edith to send the child to baby jail in France, which should work out as well as any of these other insane schemes have.
In lighter news, Mary finally decided to bite the bullet and dump Tony, who, hilariously, decides to reject her rejection. It was more than a bit creepy and made it clear that Mary had made the right choice. After running into Charles Blake and Tony’s ex-fiancé Lane Fox (is that not the greatest name ever?) at a fashion show (which was also amazing), Charles cons them both into meeting for dinner to convince Lane Fox to take Tony back. She tells him to go choke, which, of course, she does! Also, perfect. We’ll see!
Rose is still tending to the Russians, who are still very sad about no longer being obscenely wealthy and who, it turns out, are also raging anti-Semites! Who knew? Everyone but Rose, maybe. I hope she spares her adorable new boyfriend in the future. Shrimpy came from India for a visit and has tracked down the missing Princess. Violet almost ran off with Prince Silver Fox in her youth but was reminded of her duties at the last minute. What will she do when the Princess returns?
In other elderly will-they-won’t-they action, Lord Merton has confessed his love for Isobel and has proposed. I will be absolutely gagged if Isobel marries into the aristocracy, but I love this for her! I hope she says yes.
This week’s highlight was the most dramatic slap in television history. Dynasty who? I don’t know her. Tune in tonight at 7 p.m. to find out if Robert is still ignoring Cora and how his hand is doing or find out right now with episodes streaming on-demand with GPB Passport.