The path leading up to Downton Abbey is well worn, and the tread is continuing to cause pratfalls, but Series Five comes a blazin’ in.
Series Four left us with an unwanted pregnancy, a missing fiancé, a troublesome fight for Lady Mary Crawley’s hand, Barrow acting shifty, and a murder most foul. I’d love to tell you that Series Five is a vast improvement, but the answer would probably see you chucking tea biscuits at my head. So let us stay blissfully ignorant for now and recap what the premiere had in store for our favorite Upstairs/Downstairs brood.
We Should Just Get Her Out of the Way Right Now…
Lady Edith has been spending extra time at the Drewes’ farm, visiting little Marigold. Mrs. Drewe thinks the Lady has a crush on her husband, and Mr. Drewe reveals he knows Lady Edith is really Marigold’s mother. He suggests finding a way to “live the truth without revealing it” – basically, he wants Edith to have a believable reason to be in the child’s life. Mr. Drewe suggests that E takes an interest in Marigold’s education, becoming a patron of sorts. But how will Mrs. Drewe take this? Time will tell.
In other sad middle child news, after finding one of Michael Gregson’s old books, Edith throws a hissy fit and accidently flings the book into the fire in her bedroom before turning over and sobbing into her pillow. But of course, she’s more Shaq than Jordan, and misses the free throw completely, starting a fire that nearly burns Downton to the ground! More on that later…
The Adventures of Izzy and Vi
If Julian Fellowes would just agree to my many demands for a spinoff staring Isobel Crawley and the Dowager, I’d never say another dissenting remark about DA, but alas, my two favorite elderly friends long suffer between ridiculous murder plots and Mary throwing up her skirt at every respectable Englishman she encounters. It seems Lord Merton is still on the hunt for Isobel’s special cookies hand in marriage. This does not sit too well with Violet, however: is it because Mrs. Crawley, by way of marriage to Lord Merton, would become a more important figure in the community? Does Violet feel Isobel may love Dr. Clarkson? Or, and I’d put my money on this one, maybe Vi would just miss her confidante, should she move on to the big house. At any rate, after Lord Merton begs Violet’s help to get Isobel to fall madly in love with him, the Dowager holds a luncheon for Lord Merton, Isobel…and Dr. Clarkson and Lady Shackleton! That sly minx whipped up a group session to confuse couplings. In great DA fashion, however, jealousy of seeing Lady Shackleton and Lord Merton bonding over their piles of money draws Izzy closer to the Lord. As for Dr. Clarkson, she remains as indifferent as ever. Poor Vi…one day someone will listen to you.
Though themes seem to continuously play on loop, the days on the calendar tick away and as we arrive in 1924, ten years after we began, the Labour Party is in power and all is abuzz for the younger staff at Downton. Daisy sees hope in the new regime – even taking a course in mathematics to improve her lot in life — but of course, Carson just wants the old ways to return. Ever the stalwart, that one. Daisy only wants to make sure she can balance a budget should she ever take over Mason’s farm, and though Mrs. Padmore and Carson see no need for the adult education, Mrs. Hughes applauds the young cook’s growth. Honestly, I’m just happy Daisy is doing something other than falling for – or not falling for – the wrong man.
Jimmy gets a telegram from his former employer Lady Anstruther, who has a great yearning for Jimmy’s…er, breakfast sausage? The continued correspondence becomes more and more risqué to the point that Thomas warns Jimmy against encouraging it.
Mr. Moseley, entranced by Ms. Baxter, decides to color his hair – hoping to look younger and appeal to the mysterious lady — leading to hilarious observations from the other characters. Lord Grantham asks if the Footman has Italian or Spanish blood…ha!
An assembly from the village comes to Downton to discuss erecting a monument to honor the fallen soldiers of World War I, and Lord Grantham thoroughly believes the group will ask him to head up the committee. In fact, the group does desire a piece of property; however, they wish Carson to head the committee.
The Bateses seem to be getting back to normal, though the whole murder business is still being whispered about. If you think that storyline is er…dead…think again, unfortunately. Thomas sees Anna and Mr. Bates whispering to each other and compels Baxter to finally reveal what she knows about them.
The Curious Tale of Ms. Baxter and the Necklace
Baxter refuses, of course, leading Thomas to threaten to finally expose the Lady’s Maid’s story to Lady Grantham. Moseley insists she get to Cora first, confessing everything. So, here we have it: Baxter declares to her employer that she once worked for a rich woman from whom she stole some jewelry. She attempted to make the theft look like a burglary but was unsuccessful. When pressed, Baxter does not reveal to Cora her reasoning for the mistake, only imploring that she knew what she did was wrong, and she has served her time.
Lady Grantham does not dismiss Baxter outright, but she maintains that she will consider whether or not to fire her once she knows the whole story. When Thomas attempts to use this information later, Cora stops him in his tracks wondering why he’d keep such a thing from her, warning him that he might soon be looking for a new job himself.
Mary, You Ignorant Slut!
Cora and Robert are celebrating their thirty-fourth wedding anniversary and an impromptu party is hastily thrown together when Mary admits to inviting Tony Gillingham to stay during his trek nearby. Lord Grantham, happy to push Mary into another advantageous marriage, is all about the party. Even Lady Anstruther is conveniently added to the party when her car breaks down. Of course, she passes notes to Jimmy and gets him into an upstairs bedroom to inspect that…erm…well, I’ll just leave that there.
As if that would be the only scandalous thing to happen! Mary confesses to Anna that she’d rather know a man biblically, so to speak, before marriage in order to be sure they’d be compatible. Anna cautions her Lady against it, but to Mary’s surprise, Tony invites her to come away with him in order to make her sure. “I want you to be my lover.” Seksi.
Rose has been volunteering a bit at the school, handing out awards to the children and practicing the art of rich, white people guilt serving the community. When she sees that Tom and Sarah Bunting are growing closer, she invites Ms. Bunting to Robert and Cora’s anniversary dinner. And of course, the little tart spends the whole time being abrasive and spewing hatred on all things upper-class. She even attempts to dress down Robert over dinner and demands to thank the kitchen staff for the dinner they prepared.
I know the writers want us to see how different Tom is than when he swept Sybil off her feet, but he was NEVER as insufferable as Sarah. Please, please go away soon!
Back to Edith and her pyro antics: Luckily, Thomas is playing lookout for Jimmy and Lady Anstruther when he spots smoke billowing out of Lady Edith’s bedroom. He rushes in and saves her – unfortunately – and alerts the rest of the house to the blaze. He is unable to get to Jimmy, however, and Robert discovers the Footman and the Lady getting it ON. Everyone is rescued…but Jimmy is fired on the spot, with good references as to not cause a scandal. Lady Anstruther slithers away quickly, Mary scolds Edith’s foolishness, and Thomas, being in the right place at the right time, is forgiven by Cora and fortifies his place in Downton’s personage.
Wrapping It Up
So there you have it. With all of the changes it seemed the Series 4 Christmas Special brought forth, I thought for sure we’d see growth, and though I enjoy the Dowager, Isobel, and Baxter as much as ever, there’s just not enough character growth or dynamic storytelling to proclaim improvement. I can tell you, however, there are some good moments in store…and some really, really, really terrible ones as the series continues.
A Few Spoilers On What Lies Ahead:
Look for three proposals (two that seem to stick), a confession that changes everything for Lady Edith, Mary choosing not to choose, an arrest, a fugitive, and a medical emergency that bring two of the most unlikely characters back together. Also, a great exodus of several characters by series end might just change everything for series six!