The amount of story, incredible character moments, and witty one-liners that Downton Abbey can squeeze into a single hour of television is a weekly feat to behold. So what does 90 blissful minutes of Downton get you? How about a 50 percent more story, incredible character moments, and witty one-liners, with a bonus soup-centric subplot thrown in for good luck?
The finale of Downton Abbey’s fifth season—presented as a Christmas special in the U.K.—tied up several of the loose ends from throughout the year, including the investigation into Mr. Green’s murder, Isobel’s engagement, and the missing Princess Kuragin, but what left me reeling were the threads that the series could pick up next season if Julian Fellowes so chooses.
Let’s make like the debonair Henry Talbot entering his car and jump right in!
Being the supportive employer that she is, Mary visits Anna, who’s sitting in prison because a guy who looks like Morrissey claims he saw her push a serial rapist in front of a bus in London. (Who knew that was even illegal?) But because this is 1920s England, there’s some minor hand-wringing about what happens if “people” find out about the visit. Violet, in particular, is questioned about what she would do in Mary’s situation, if Ms. Denker were jailed, and she admits that she would visit, “Only to check if the locks were sound.”
Not to have their plans derailed by the wrongful imprisonment of one of their staff, the family heads off to Brancaster Castle, on Lord Sinderby’s invitation for a grouse hunt. Bates, understandably distraught over Anna’s arrest, decides to stay behind, so Barrow takes over valet duties from him. (That might seem like a minor, logistical detail, but oh, does it result in a glorious shit storm!) As worked up as Bates is, there’s very little he can do for his wife. He even offers to cut his own arm off, metaphorically, if it were to do any good, but Barrow doesn’t see the logic there. “Oh, I don’t think that would be sensible, Mr. Bates,” he says. “We can’t have you wobbly at both ends.” So I guess that whole “Baxter saved my life, now I’m nice” thing didn’t last too long, huh, Barrow?
Is there some line in Sophie McShera’s contract that requires Daisy to have some sort of self-doubting crisis every episode? Or is that the one story beat each episode starts with? “So we know Daisy’s going to question continuing her studies,” Julian Fellowes asks, kicking off a writers’ meeting. “What else should happen? Maybe Mary is mean to Edith, or something? I don’t know.” At least Mrs. Patmore is hip to the trend. “Oh, dear,” she says. “We’re not having another crisis, are we?”
But Daisy is not the only one having doubts. On the way to Brancaster, Tom questions whether he should have come at all, considering how uptight Lord Sinderby is. Cora also wonders whether Robert’s unexplained trip to York earlier in the week is really nothing like he insists, or has something to do with the pain he appears to be in or how grumpy he gets, telling her to “stop fussing.” Well, sorry, Lord Grumpypants. It just really seems like you’re going to die. That’s all.
NEXT: Off to Brancaster