Downton Abbey Revisited - Season 6 Episodes 6 & 7 (You’re not a creature of today.)
Rachel - Longtime Downton Fan
If there’s one thing for sure, Mr. Bates likely wouldn’t be a fan of Downton Abbey: he’s not curious about how other people live. But thankfully we are, and Downton doesn’t disappoint in these two episodes: we’re whisked off to London, a race track, Mrs. Patmore’s new business venture, and even Downton itself through the eyes of the public.
To raise money for the hospital, Mary and Tom have decided to open up Downton one day to the public but are woefully inexperienced at having it run properly. Luckily, Bertie Pelham comes to Downton to see Edith and save the day when it comes to planning, giving the family plenty to think about: not only in the scheduling of the day but what he sees in Edith, and in turn, her in him.
Cora too is given quite a bit to consider in these episodes: the York hospital wants to make her President of the Downton village hospital, outsing Violet in the role, and give her more responsibility and opportunity to work with Dr. Clarkson. Besides her hesitation where her mother-in-law is concerned, it’s at this point in Season 6, and leading up to the end of the series, that Cora has truly changed from the wife and mother we met at the beginning of Season 1. Her experiences in running Downton as a convalescent home have sparked new interest in her, a chance for a new career after bringing up her daughters. I can’t help but roll my eyes at Robert when he asks if she can take it on: she doesn’t need to work, she simply wants to, and it takes until the end of the series for him to understand that.
Meanwhile, we’re finally at a point where Anna and Bates are receiving only good news, so drama and bad tidings are on the horizon. When she begins to feel pregnancy pains, Mary doesn’t hesitate to bring her up to London to see Dr. Ryder and for Mary to see Henry Talbot at a dinner of singletons at The Criterion restaurant. Six seasons on and Evelyn Napier still doesn’t understand nor accept that Mary will never show interest in him romantically: she plays him like a fiddle each time I rewatch this season and while I pitied him the first time, on subsequent rewatches I chuckle. If just for Henry’s expression when he’s realized he’ll be able to escort Mary home unaccompanied. Setting her suspicions regarding Marigold aside for a moment, Mary manages to be talked into sharing a kiss with him and supporting him during his next car race at Brooklands (more on that below).
Drama begins to simmer before the big racing day, as it always seems to happen both upstairs and down. Violet, of course, is notified of the hospital’s decision regarding the president’s role and doesn’t hesitate to have it out with Cora in front of their visitors during the open house before taking off for France. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hughes doesn’t hesitate to scheme with Mrs. Patmore to show Mr. Carson just how challenging cooking for him truly is: it’s perhaps one of the funniest parts of these episodes and gives him (and all of us) a new sense of awe and respect for Mrs. Patmore’s skills and Mrs. Hughes’ patience.
Conflict continues to brew below stairs, focused mostly on Andy’s secret, his inability to read, being revealed during Daisy and Mr. Molesley’s testing day. But it’s Thomas who’s truly struggling, after admitting he’s been teaching Andy how to read he’s promptly asked not to, so the newest Downton footman can have proper lessons at the school. It further illustrates how alone Thomas feels and how unneeded he perceives himself to be, especially as he sits alone in the servants’ hall while the rest of the staff celebrates Mr. Molesley’s success: he’s going to begin teaching at the school. It’s a new side of Thomas that we don’t see until the very end of the show: his sense of home and belonging, his sincere wish to be helpful to someone, his love for the children at Downton, and how he doesn’t wish to leave but is told he must. There’s plenty of clues that lead to the shocking events of the final episodes, and after rewatching the show it’s clear to see how it all adds up to his feelings of despair and hopelessness.
But he’s not the only one in despair: that’s where Mary’s head and heart alike wallow in after the explosive (literally!) turn of events at Brooklands. What starts out as an exciting day ends in tragedy as Charlie Rogers crashes his car and dies, leaving Henry and Mary both with a lot to think about. But while Henry realizes what’s important in his life, Mary realizes she can’t survive another loved one perishing on the account of an automobile and, on the very same day, breaks it off with him. Tom (and the rest of us!) thinks she’s made a big mistake, but she won’t listen. And she’s primed to make more of them: Bertie has asked Edith to marry him, a prospect Edith must consider carefully due to Marigold. But the idea of Edith finding happiness with someone she loves while Mary breaks her own heart? It’s no secret that, after six seasons, Mary will find a way to be vindictive, leading to one of the best spats in Downton history.
Nevertheless, my favorite (surviving) member of the cast not only is right about Mary’s heart but the future of Downton and homes like it. After the open house, Tom suggests opening the house on a regular basis, insisting “There may come a day when we can’t ignore such a large source of income at our fingertips.” That day definitely came for Highclere Castle, the filming location for many of the above-stairs scenes on Downton Abbey, which is open for tours.
And while you can’t visit The Criterion or Brooklands (as a working race track, at least. It houses a museum now!), and travel to England is still unpredictable at best, you’ll be able to get a taste of Downton Abbey in Georgia. Downton Abbey: The Exhibition opens in Atlanta on September 25, 2021! Please keep an eye on our email lists and social media for information as we receive it.
Finally, tune in with us on Friday, September 3 at 7 p.m. for the series finale of Downton Abbey. Marriages, babies, the changing of staff, and the fight we’ve all been waiting for: the Edith vs. Mary smackdown. Episodes 8 and 9 have it all and more.
Kirk - Downton Newbie
There wasn’t nearly as much blood last week, but a redshirt did die. Robert came through his surgery and seemed to be mostly well by the end of episode 7, which is good. I wouldn’t have put it past Downton Abbey to kill him off, but I also don’t remember any uproar or outrage about it while the show was airing so I didn’t let my guard down. (I will not let my guard down again until the series finale.) Luckily, the episodes opened with Robert sitting up in bed surrounded by his family, complaining about their charity open house.
The hospital drama finally drew to a close as they were preparing to invite strangers to gawk around their absurdly large house in order to raise (hospital) money. This entire sequence was hilarious. From their awkward answers to their visitors’ questions to their being made aware of things they didn’t know about Downton; I laughed the entire time. One of Cora’s tours was interrupted by an angry Violet who had just found out that not only had she lost the war, but she was also being asked to step down as president in favor of Cora. She was so mad she had to leave the country for a month. Probably for the best.
As for Cora’s daughters, there was romance in the air. Also smoke, fire and death. Bertie came to dinner and impressed the family, and Edith takes him up to meet Marigold. He proposes towards the end of episode 7 but she doesn’t give him an answer right away. She also doesn’t tell him the whole story about her daughter, only making sure that he wouldn’t have a problem with the child living with them. Speaking of Marigold, Mary is still trying to get more information about the girl out of Anna and Tom, but she hasn’t put all the pieces together. Still.
Mary is trying her best to push her memories of Matthew’s violent death aside as she and Henry Talbot get closer. They’re both obviously in love and Henry finally confesses during an intensely romantic walk home. The family traveled to London to see him race and also end up seeing his best friend die in a crash. I can absolutely understand this would be disturbing for her. Disturbing is not a strong enough word to describe it. I tried to keep this in mind while she was breaking up with Harry over the phone that very night, but… Mary… girl. That couldn’t have waited?
Downstairs, Mrs. Carson handled the situation with her husband’s constant criticism far better than I would have. She tricks him into preparing dinner for a single night and it exhausted him to the point that he fell asleep at the table. Mrs. Patmore, her coconspirator, has opened her B&B for business. Thinking about how worried she was about being put out on the street during her cancer scare, I was so proud of her. And relieved. She’s one of my favs, I can’t lie. It also looks like she’s about to get something cooking with Mr. Mason. I don’t know what Daisy’s problem is with this, but she had better get it together because I love this so much for those two. It would be so cute!
Barrow is still feeling Mr. Carson’s hands on his shoulder as he is pushed out of Downton. My heart is really breaking for him. His student/new friend Andy’s inability to read was exposed during a nice picnic. You would think he’d have an excuse at the ready from having spent a lifetime having to avoid reading out loud, but it worked out in the end. Not for Barrow, though. Also on the education front, Daisy and Molesley were both tested, and he was offered a teaching position at the village school. I really hope the last two episodes are ONLY dreams coming true. Nothing else.
This week’s highlight is this quote from Edith: “They were all rather marvelous and sort of... living that life.” Reminded me of myself in college. Also, Mary's racing outfit. Tune in Friday for the conclusion of Downton Abbey and then immediately watch the entire series again on GPB Passport.