Stephanie: Mary Haters: this is your episode! Finally, after an entire series of Mary bullying her family, her Ladyship is cut down by no fewer than four people. And it was delicious. Look, I love that Mary is headstrong and complicated. One credit to the show is how Mary isn’t pure villain (even though she was painted that way for much of this episode). Often we the audience are seeing what Mary can’t–she’s still grieving the loss of Matthew, and the trauma of being “a crash widow” is renewed upon involving herself with race car driver Henry Talbott. Her constant feuding with Edith goes all the way back to season 1, a nastiness fueled by jealousy and attempts at power which was long overdue to be confronted. Oh, how I wished Edith would have not sat at the breakfast table paralyzed when Mary blurted to Bertie about Marigold’s parentage. That was the one moment where I wanted Edith to take control. But as much as the world around Downton is changing, the family themselves are often resolutely unchanging. Edith was never going to be bold enough to confront Mary, but thank goodness she at least screamed at her later. That pent up rage needed to come out. The fact that after Edith’s future proposal was ruined with the newly titled Marquess of Hexham (aka Bertie Pelham), Edith and Mary continued to sit politely at the table, shows how much the rage had been squelched. As we’ll discuss further, Edith still ended up the champ, showing her class by supporting Mary even though Mary deserves nothing. Hating on Mary has been a fun ride over the series, and I’m glad us fans were treated to numerous moments where she was taken down from her lofty perch.
Catherine: I didn’t see Edith as “raging out” so much as I saw her speaking the truth to Mary. Mary has behaved in various cruel and self-centered ways from Day 1 and when Edith called her “a bitch and a coward,” it wasn’t without due cause. She smashed Edith’s love affair without batting an eye because it suited her (a repeat of what she did with Edith’s suitor back in Season 1). We’ve all been waiting for this moment for Edith to call Mary out. And Edith finally did it and she did it spectacularly well. I doubt I could have been as articulate when chewing out a sibling like Mary. I like that after the fall out, Edith was able to escape from her family and go to her job and life in London. To give Mary some credit, she was able to deal with Edith’s calling her out and consider what Edith said. Not in front of Edith of course, but in her own way. Granny rushing back to sort out Mary and her mess sealed the deal. If there’s one woman that’s able to meet Mary head-on, it’s Granny. There was one line that particularly grabbed me and it was when Granny said to Mary, “You’re the only woman who likes to think of herself as cold and selfish and grand. The rest of us try to hide it.” There is that honest streak in Mary. She never hides who she is. Rather, she flaunts it. She fully behaves as the heir of Downton, a role normally allowed for men and not for women. It’s easy to hate on Mary but she’s given the show much of its momentum and entertainment. Her wedding at the end, however? Uh no. Nuh uh. That should be Edith marrying. Not Mary. Poor Edith!
Stephanie: I also loved how Edith was able to escape to London, to a career and life she can have apart from Downton if she chooses. It was evident Edith’s heartbreak at the loss of her engagement had everything to do with not trusting him with her secret, over any shame at losing a highly titled marriage match. Both Mary and Edith appear hardened about marriage now that they’re older and have been through failed engagements, and in Mary’s case, widowed. I was surprised at the Dowager’s advice to go for love after so many years of training them up about societal expectations, but what a great moment. Granny has always felt like the only real match against Mary. Maybe we can add Henry to the list now–his dedication to Mary is quite amazing. One of my favorite moments was Lord Grantham’s “Golly gumdrops!” declaration when he realized Edith would outrank them all of she accepted the Marquess’ proposal. Which leads me to this speculation, as put forth by my husband, Duke of Scotts: what if when Edith and the Marquess marry, they are in need of a valet? Someone like … Tom Barrow? He would essentially outrank Carson in the downstairs staffing. Even if Edith and the Marquess move out of Downton, how great would that be to see Thomas find a high station to continue what he clearly sees as his role in life? Speaking of Thomas, the suicide watch led to its inevitable conclusion. Thank goodness he’s okay after the wrist cutting attempt. Miss Baxter seemed the likely person to care enough to check on him.
Catherine: Fellowes has succumbed to the “Bury Your Gays” TV Trope– the time honored TV tradition of not allowing gay characters to have happy endings. Though I should add, he hasn’t gone ALL the way because Barrow’s is still alive and there’s the Christmas Special left. Anything could happen! But still, so much misery has been unleashed on Barrow, he nearly killed himself, and as he’s the only gay character, it’s disheartening. As much as I’d love to see Barrow as a valet in a different house, I’m guessing they’ll cook up some job for him with the children. He’s been seen playing with the children in different episodes and Master George (ugh, that Master bit) visited him and George doesn’t make cameos for just anyone.
What’s been most perplexing for me in this season is that Lord Grantham is now the good guy whereas in the last few seasons, he’s been the conniving, tantrum throwing adulterer. He’s been a schmuck for most of the show but now he’s applauding his unconventional daughter (Edith), staying out of arguments with his mother (which is smart), and worrying over “suicidal footmen in the attic” (an excellent novel name). He is back to being the Lord Grantham of Season 1, a nice, caring gentleman who tries to do the best in all his relationships. It’s a relief to see him being sensible and funny but it’s definitely a role reversal. Perhaps no longer running an estate has made him jovial once more?
Stephanie: And Carson is now so utterly curmudgeonly, even his wife’s meant-to-be-sweet comment that he was her curmudgeon fell flat. After Barrow’s suicide attempt, Carson is shocked that Barrow has a heart. Barrow’s evil scheming days have lacked punch for seasons now. He’s been not-so-secretly crying, teaching Andy to read, and basically asking to be liked. Carson was also cold about the mix-up at Mrs. Patmore’s new B&B; when rumors flew about the business being a house of ill-repute after being used as the site for an affair, Carson urged Lord Grantham to distance Downton from the scandal and not bother to help smooth out the reputation. As if Mrs. Patmore also does not have a heart, or a life, or dreams beyond service to a family name. Let’s also not forget Carson made time to crap on Molesley’s teaching. No longer a dream, Molesley is actually teaching children in a real school when Carson assures him that many young boys dream being famous cricket players, as if Molesley’s aspirations were far-reaching and childish. Carson may be the most pathetic of all in the end. At least the servant, and Daisy, have hope and education on their side.
Catherine: That’s a good point: Fellowes has to have a curmudgeon and the cranky crown has passed from Grantham to Carson. Carson’s poo-pooing has become all too predictable. It’s lucky that Jim Carter is such a great actor that he can pull it off and be entertaining but I wish Fellowes would spread the curmudgeon-ness around and not just dump it all on one character. Oh, Mrs. Patmore and her house of ill repute! That’s one of my favorite incidents of this season because it’s happening to Mrs. Patmore of all people. It’s always a good day at Downton when Patmore gets the spotlight. Her reaction of “what the hell?!” was spot on. The gentry coming to save the day was a bit contrived, however. I could have done without that and more of Patmore battling it out with the press with Hughes at her side, plying her with tea. And did you notice how easily Hughes overthrew Carson when Molesely asked for time off to teach? She used a short phrase about it being the sensible thing to do and that was That. Hughes isn’t the head housekeeper for nothing.
Stephanie: As the series wraps up, Isobel visits Miss Cruikshank to check out for herself whether the young lady has underhanded intentions in matching her with Lord Merton. As suspected, the Miss tries to pawn off her fiance’s hesitance to speak directly to Isobel as “You know how men are.” Isobel, second only to the Dowager Countess in cool one-liners, says “I’m not sure I do, as it happens. Please tell me.” I hope Isobel remains solo. She doesn’t need this whacked-out family.
We can’t forget the odd twist of the advice columnist applying at Edith’s magazine: Spratt! How and why … the addition of this seemed absurd, but Spratt has always been absurd. At least we know he is out from underfoot of the Dowager and now hiding beneath a pen name writing for a ladies magazine. I’m thankful Anna and Bates take a break from tragedy to giggle over the house of ill-repute and speculate over other Downton goings-on. Bates had that great line: “Show me a man that doesn’t smile when his wife admits she’s wrong.” He said it playfully like the Bates we’ve grown to love. I’m guessing our fast forward in time for the holiday special will be enough to show baby Bates! For me, Mary’s wedding tacked-on to this long, emotional episode didn’t feel needed. Then again, maybe this show was never about Mary finding love (as it often continues to focus on), but on the rest of the stories. I’m sure more weddings, babies, and maybe a peaceful passing are the horizon for the finale.
Catherine Eaton is a writer living in a western suburb of Chicago. She blogs over at sparrowpost.com and enjoys foraging around the neighborhood in her spare time.
Stephanie Scott is a Young Adult writer living in the western Chicago suburbs. Library superfan, award-winning TV-binger, and she just might be your cat’s new best friend. She tweets at @StephScottYA.