Downton Abbey Revisited – Season 6 Episodes 8 & 9 (I believe I’ve met my match.)
Rachel - Longtime Downton Fan
Downton Abbey has concluded once again! These two episodes feel almost like a full season in and of themselves and a lot of plots had to be wrapped up in just under three hours. But wrapped up they are, and we’re sent on one last journey of humor, heartbreak, and good tidings for the future.
To start, Mrs. Patmore’s new business venture is rumored to be a house of ill-repute after an affair is carried out under the roof of her bed and breakfast and upon the death of Bertie Pelham’s cousin, the Marquess of Hexham, Bertie becomes the new Marquess. If that’s not enough to show just how much two episodes will cover I’m not sure what is. And in Downton fashion, both scenarios end up in humor and heartbreak in Episode 8: Mrs. Patmore’s reputation is saved by an appearance of Robert, Cora, and Rosamund for afternoon tea (and a strategically-timed photograph) and, at long last, both Mary and Bertie are told the truth about Marigold. I will say, one of the (many) things about Downton I missed until the movie came out was Mrs. Patmore’s quips. While Violet gets some of the best lines upstairs, Mrs. Patmore received them downstairs. Whether she’s being criticized by Mr. Carson or giving Daisy some much-needed life advice, she’s both hilarious and tenderhearted, and often in the same episode.
Misadventures in hospitality aside, I’m always glad that Episode 8 never waits too long to give us the Mary vs. Edith confrontation we’ve been waiting six seasons for. I don’t care whether I’m watching it with friends and family, on my own, on GPB-TV, or on GPB Passport: I will not hesitate to yell “YES!” when Edith calls Mary a bitch. She had it coming for the entire series: as much as I like watching Mary’s life unfold, she’s often quite a bitter and snobbish person. I think Edith had a point: Matthew did make her nice and feel happy, and that she’ll become nicer once she marries Henry. By the time we get to the end of the series and the movie, you see a clear evolution in their relationship. They aren’t the best of friends, but in the end, they will be the only ones to remember Sybil (besides Tom, who is conveniently left out in this conversation despite the fact he’s often the glue holding this family together. If you’ve been following Downton Abbey Revisited for a while now, it’s no secret that I love Tom Branson. And while he’s not perfect, he’s a bridge between the Grantham family and the rest of the world).
But before both girls get their happy endings, they have to suffer a little heartbreak and in a way, they both bring them on themselves. Mary’s convinced she and Henry aren’t right for one another but, in the end, it takes Violet’s advice to propel her further in romances that do, in fact, suit her (remember her conversation with Matthew from Season 2 where she explained Mary was still in love with him?). And Bertie isn’t upset by the truth of Marigold’s parentage, it’s the fact Edith hid it from him and didn’t feel confident telling him directly. Thankfully, it’s due to Mary saving the day and arranging for her and Bertie to meet at the Ritz Hotel for dinner (which, thankfully, is still open and available for reservations! I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to try dinner or afternoon tea there, based on how lovely it looks on Downton Abbey). With the engagement back on, all that remains is for Robert and Cora to meet Bertie’s mother, whose judgment rivals Lord Sinderby’s from previous seasons and, ironically, in the same place he once judged and rescinded his opinion on Rose. Maybe that’s the magic of Brancaster? Nevertheless, I’m glad the show doesn’t drag out Mrs. Pelham’s disapproval for too long: out of everything in these episodes, this is the plotline that drags for me: just let Edith be happy!
The same can be said for Isobel and Lord Merton, who despite having to face gold-digging family members and pernicious anemia, both finally find happiness together when he willingly casts himself off from his son Larry and his equally horrible wife and is properly diagnosed by Dr. Clarkson as having anemia, but not the pernicious type. Downstairs too, Daisy, Andy, Mr. Molesley, and Miss Baxter all find their own brands of success: Daisy passes her coursework and finally falls into step with Andy after some coaxing from Mrs. Patmore and a terrible haircut. And Mr. Molesley becomes a full-time teacher at the school, a hard-earned success that helps Miss Baxter resolve not to contact her former lover who got her arrested.
But Downton isn’t without its share of both heartbreak and a look towards the future, either. The arguably saddest moment of the final episodes of Downton is Thomas Barrow’s fate: his depression now truly overwhelming him, he tries to commit suicide before being found by Andy and Miss Baxter. He takes Anna’s advice to heart, I think, to discover what brought him so low, before truly turning over a new leaf. He’s grateful, not spiteful when he finally lands a new position as a butler in another household but it’s clear that the warmth and heart of both the upstairs and downstairs families he’s used to is absent in his new position. I’m convinced by the end of this show, it’s impossible not to feel compassion for Thomas: that’s the power of both Julian Fellowes’ writing and Robert James-Collier’s acting for the character. He’s come so far from the footman we met in Season 1!
Yet, not all hope is lost, for neither Thomas nor Mr. Carson. As the latter’s health starts to fail, it becomes clear to Mr. Carson, Mrs. Hughes, and the Granthams that he cannot go on being the butler at Downton Abbey full time. So, at Edith and Bertie’s wedding reception, Robert comes to an important decision: Thomas will take over being butler at Downton, a position that’s well-earned and respected by everyone involved. The changing of the old guard to the new, whether it’s Mr. Carson’s retirement, Thomas’ promotion, or the new baby Bates (birthed in Mary’s bed, no less!), has been the prominent theme of Downton Abbey. It began with the Titanic and, television-wise, ended in the mid-1920s, and thankfully it’s not done yet!
While our rewatch of Downton Abbey has ended on GPB-TV on Friday nights, Downton lovers in Georgia won’t be without the Crawleys, their staff, and their friends for long. Downton Abbey: The Exhibition arrives in Atlanta on September 25, 2021, and will run for a limited engagement featuring sets, props, and costumes from the show. And if you’re like me and waiting for more Downton, our patience will soon be rewarded! The second movie, Downton Abbey: A New Era, is currently listed to arrive in theaters on March 18, 2022.
Thank you for taking this trip down memory lane (or is it the long drive leading up to the house?) with me!
Kirk - Downton Newbie
Last week I said I wanted nothing but dreams coming true for the rest of the series, and I think, for the most part, I got what I asked for in the last two episodes of season 6. Everyone got married or engaged, people had babies, issues were resolved, new life paths were forged and secrets were revealed! It was a satisfying pair of episodes to close out a series that was pretty heavy on sorrow and disappointment.
My biggest personal disappointment, as far as Downton Abbey is concerned, is not having watched it when it was airing. I think a big part of what made the show special was the communal experience that surrounded it that has become rarer and rarer over the years. Everyone has access to whatever they want to be entertained by, from wherever and whenever they want to be entertained. Which is amazing! But there is something indescribable about knowing that everyone you know and most of the country is reacting to something at the same moment you are. The loss of the movie-going experience since the beginning of the pandemic has made this absence even more pronounced. Not that streaming wasn’t huge at the time, or that I would like to go back to the appointment television days, but certain programs transcended the changes in technology. It’s always nice to become a part of a new community, even if it’s just a group of people that are all watching the same television show at the same time. My point is, I wish there were more people I could text to ask why Mary was “like that.”
Enough rambling, let’s start with Mary. Why is she “like that”? Welp, both Anna and Tom broke that down perfectly. Edith called her a bitch to her face, which was fun, but I don’t believe for a second it was the first time. Mary is a bully! I’m still not 100% clear on why she hates Edith so much, but that’s fine.
After breaking up with Talbot hours after he watched his best friend burn to death in a car, Tom is pushing hard for her to move past her nonsense and go get her man. She is having none of it but becomes distraught after she actually succeeds in pushing him away. Distraught to the point that she nearly ruins Edith’s life. It takes Tom telling her off, tough love from Violet and Barrow nearly dying to bring her to her senses. She gets her happy ending, with a new husband and baby on the way, but I’m always disappointed but the truces she and her sister arrive at after one of them goes too far. Why can’t they get along? I’ll never get it.
Edith finally found what looks like lasting happiness, despite her sister’s interference. At the beginning of episode 8, she is wrestling with how to tell Bertie about her daughter and wondering whether or not he would accept them both. Complicating matters is the fact that Bertie had become Marquess of Hexham after the death of his cousin/friend/employer. Mary, being a miserable hater, decides to rip that band-aid off one morning during breakfast. Edith is promptly dumped and, after telling Mary a little bit about herself, decides to go back to London. Luckily for her, aunt Rosamund also likes to interfere, and she and Mary conspire to trick her into sitting across a table from Bertie basically begging her to take him back. I loved that for her.
There was love blooming and reblooming elsewhere as well. Isobel rescues Lord Merton from an elder abuse situation. That poor man got yanked around so much from all directions and stayed cool throughout. I’ve got to say, he and Isobel are perfect for one another and I’m glad she finally came to her senses. Rose reminded Robert how amazing his wife was after she heard him whining like a child about her work at the hospital. I was happy to see her and Atticus again.
Downstairs, Molesley, who honestly is tied with Edith as the character that deserves so much better, finally realized his dream of becoming a teacher and leaving service. Nothing romantic ever popped off between him and Baxter, but that’s okay. Daisy also passed her exams and, predictably, fell in love with Andrew after he started giving her the cold shoulder. Daisy is not the sharpest tool but her bob was cute.
Anna’s water broke all over Mary’s floor and she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Not much else happened with the Bates family, but she worked all through her pregnancy. Noteworthy. Poor Thomas collapses under the weight of his sadness and the change being forced upon him and attempts to kill himself. Baxter, who’s noticed his change in mood, gets to him just in time to save his life. He eventually moves on to his new position in the most boring home in England, but Carson’s mysterious palsy and unexpected retirement clear the path for his return to Downton.
The last highlight is, of course, Miss Cassandra Jones. 100% worth the wait. Also, that one shot of Lady Shackleton at Edith’s wedding. This has definitely been a moment in television history that I’m glad to have experienced, however late. I can’t wait to check out Downton Abbey: The Exhibition when it comes to town and see some of these fabulous costumes in person. Hopefully, it will make up a bit for the shared experience I missed out on all those years ago.