The End of the Edwardian Era and PBS's Downton Abbey
The Edwardian Era 1901-1910
I am sitting here watching re-runs of many of the episodes of Downton Abbey, the television series on PBS since January 2011. I am getting caught up on the episodes I missed and to be ready for season three of this fascinating series, for me, of life at a fictional aristocratic country manor and the lives of the aristocratic family and their servants. It is quite reminiscent of a previous PBS production of Upstairs, Downstairs which ran in the 1970s on PBS of the lives of the aristocrats who lived upstairs and the servants who lived downstairs. The same premise works here on Downton Abbey but with a more of a soap opera twist.
Downton Abbey is also interesting to watch as an historical and social rendition of the ending of Edwardian Era in England, which ran during the reign of Edward VII (1901-1910) and then was followed by King George V's reign and WWI. This is the time this series is set in and it is interesting to watch from an historical and social aspect because there was much change and upheaval in the social conditions and society in England at the time.
The Edwardian Era is said to have begun in 1901 upon the death of Queen Victoria when her son, Edward succeeded her to the throne of England. Edward VII was the leader of the fashionable elite and set a style influenced by the art and fashions of continental Europe because of his fondness for travel.
During Edward VII's reign there were great changes in the political and social life in England. For the first time, common laborers and women became more politicised and began to wield more power in English society. The Edwardian Era is sometimes extended beyond Edward's death in 1910 to include the years up to 1912 and the sinking of the Titanic and this is exactly when the series Downton Abbey begins.
During the Edwardian Era the class system in England was very rigid. The aristocracy and servant worlds just did not mix. But, servant loyalty to the families they served was most important; however, economic and social changes brought about more social mobility than in the Victorian Era just before it. There was a rising interest in socialism and great attention to the status of women and women's suffrage. The plight of the poor in English society also moved to the forefront of concern in English society at this time. There were increased economic opportunities for women and the poor as a result of the rapid industrialization going on in England at the time.
These particular changes were magnified and hastened in the aftermath of WWI which was the largest of the upheavals of this time. This was the last era in which women wore corsets and clothing became more relaxed and worn more for leisure and recreational time.
The development of the automobile and electricity greatly influenced artists of this time and art nouveau became the art style of this period. There was a greater awareness of human rights and in literature some of the following writers became the leaders of their writing period: J.M Barrie, Joseph Conrad, E.M. Forester, John Galsworthy, Rudyard Kipling, Beatrix Potter, George Bernard Shaw, and H.G. Wells. A great number of novels and short stories were written and analyzed by these authors. The most successful playwright of the era was W. Somerset Maugham.
The Edwardian Era was perceived in its aftermath as a romantic golden age of long summer afternoons and garden parties given by the aristocracy. The English saw themselves during this time as basking in the sun that never set on the British Empire. These perceptions were created in the 1920s after WWI by those remembering the Edwardian Era with nostalgia.
In actuality, the Edwardian Era was a period of mediocracy of pleasure between the great achievements of the Victorian Era and the catastrophe of WWI. King Edward VII was seen as an immature fop only interested in his many mistresses and long summer afternoons and garden parties given by the aristocracy and the court.
With the death of Edward VII, King George V came to the English throne. And even though Downton Abbey begins at the end of the Edwardian Era, many of its social upheavals are the story of Downton Abby. Many of its issues and upheavals are the result of the Edwardian Era in England.
The Real Downton Abbey - Highclere Castle
Season 1 Episode 1
Season 2 Episode 1
Downton Abbey is a British/American television series co-produced by WGBH Boston in the U.S. and by Carnival Films in the UK. It is set in the fictional estate of Downton Abbey in Yorkshire, England and has an ensemble cast. It was created by Julian Fellows and Gareth Neame. It premiered on PBS in the U.S. in January 2011.
The actual Highclere Castle in Hampshire, England is used for the exterior and interior shots of Downton Abbey and the servant's living quarters and scenes are shot at Eading Studios. The village of Bampton in Oxforshire, England is used for filming the outdoor scenes of the nearby village to Downton Abbey.
There are over six million viewers per episode and it has become the most popular of PBS and Masterpiece Theatre series' in the history of both the channel and the Masterpiece series. It is a soap opera extraordinaire of the manners and mores of the aristocracy and their servants during the reign of King George V and how they handle the great changes and upheavals of their time.
It is the fictional story of the country home and family of the Earl and Countess of Grantham and follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants. The story hinges on the eldest daughter, Lady Mary Josephine Crawley, marrying well and bringing a fortune to Downton Abbey, so the Crawley family will not lose their beloved country manor home. Lady Mary is "to the manor born" and is dressed and waited on by the servants at Downton Abbey and lives in the antiquaited age where only a male heir can inherit Downton Abbey. The Earl and Countess Grantham only have three daughters and lose a fourth pregnancy to miscarriage. There is no male Crawley heir to Downton Abbey and hence the main conflict of the story.
Unless Lady Mary marries well and marries quickly, "before the bloom is off the rose," the estate will be inherited by Mr. Matthew Crawley (only an attorney and middle-class at that) and a third cousin once removed from Earl Grantham. Therefore, the story is about finding a suitable husband for Lady Mary so Downton Abbey will not be lost to the immediate Crawley family.
Will Lady Mary marry well? Will she fall in love with Matthew Crawley the heir apparent to Downton Abbey? Will Matthew Crawley fall in love with Lady Mary? Will Lady Mary marry for love or for money and just to save Downton Abbey? Will one of the other two daughters make the appropriate marriage first, eclipsing Lady Mary? Will Matthew Crawley survive WWI to return to Downton Abbey?
The servants of Downton Abbey have their own soap opera lives going on, falling in and out of love with one another and experiencing as much scandal and betrayal as the aristocrats do. The tormented love of Mr. Bates (the valet to Earl Grantham) and Anna Smith, (head housemaid and personal maid to Lady Mary), is a foil to the tormented search of Lady Mary for an appropriate husband and heir to Downton Abbey. The angst in the love matches of the servants is mirrored by the angst in the love matches in the aristocrats. And there is enough scandal and betrayal to go around for the servants and the aristocrats together.
There are several subplots going on in addition to the love quests. The youngest Crawley daughter, Sybil, is a feminist and yearns for work outside the home as a nurse and to marry the family chauffeur rather than an aristocrat. This is foiled by the housemaid who also is a feminist and yearns to learn to type so she can become a secretary in an office, rather than a servant to an aristocratic family. Women's suffrage is portrayed both in the aristocracy and in the servants in this subplot.
Conflicts between the aristocracy and the middle class are also portrayed in Downton Abbey. The aristocracy is represented by Countess Grantham and her mother-in-law, the dowager Countess and the middle-class is represented by Matthew Crawley and his mother. Matthew and his mother have quite an adjustment to life at Downton Abbey and being waited on by the servants for the first time in their lives. They both yearn for a purpose in life as opposed to what they see as the purposeless life of the aristocracy. And Countess Grantham and her mother-in-law have a difficult time understanding Matthew's mother insisting on a purpose in life of helping others during WWI.
It is quite fun to watch the clothes and costumes of this era. The aristocrats' clothes are beautiful, delicate and very detailed. The servants', plain and boring. I particulairly enjoy the dinner meal scenes as the aristocrats eat and the servants wait upon them. It is a hoot to see the servants worry about the silly details of serving their masters as opposed to the conversations whirling around Lady Mary as the Crawley's entertain and interview prospective husbands for her. Quite a different atmosphere of choosing husbands then, as opposed to as we do today.
I can't wait to view season three of Downton Abbey.
Copyright (c) 2012 Suzannah Wolf Walker all rights reserved
Season 3 Episode 3
Season 3 Episode 5
Downton Abbey - Season 3
Season 3 of Downton Abbey just ended last weekend and it did not disappoint. There were surprises and some not so surprises and quite a devastating ending, but Downton Abbey certainly did not disappoint.
The season began with the wedding of Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley. We can all sigh with relief because Downton Abbey's future is now secure with this marriage which really is a love match. Matthew also finds out he is bequeathed a large sum of money by his former fiance, Lavinia, who's father has recently died. At first, he feels quilty about accepting the money, but Mary finally convinces him it is okay to accept the money and so Downton Abbey is now secure way into the future with the infusion of Matthew's money.
Tom, the former chauffeur, and Sybil (who married in Season 2) return to Downton Abbey from Dublin, Ireland. Sybil is pregnant and about to give birth and they decide to have the baby at Downton Abbey. Here is surprise number one as Sybil (a favorite character) dies after childbirth from a disclampsia seisure. The widowed Tom is devastated and bewildered and Lord and Lady Grantham split because she felt Sybil should have gone to the hospital to have the baby, and Lord Grantham, ever the traditionalist, ruled that Sybil would have the baby at home. The dowager Countess finally comes to the rescue when, several weeks later, she has the doctor tell Lord and Lady Grantham that Sybil would have died no matter where she would have had the baby. They reunite.
Tom, with baby Sybbie, decides to remain at Downton Abbey and joins forces with Matthew in the running of Downton Abbey. They both try to modernize the running of the estate so the money will not be used up and continue to run Downton for years into pertuity.
Edith, the middle sister, decides she has been left out, with two sisters married, and throws herself at an older man who is a friend of the Grantham family. They decide to marry, but Edith is literally jilted at the altar. For the first time, Mary actually feels badly for Edith, and the two sisters become close for a time. However, that does not stop the dowager Countess and Lord Grantham from making snide remarks to her and poor Edith can't seem to do anything right in their eyes.
To recover some dignity, Edith writes a letter to the editor of a London newspaper and much to her surprise it is published. Lord Grantham, ever the traditionalist, is furious when the newspaper editor offers Edith a job on the paper writing a weekly column. Edith takes the job and even the dowager Countess gives her blessing saying, "she has to do something." Of course, romance ensues between Edith and the editor, but Edith discovers he is married. He explains to Edith his wife is mentally ill and in an asylum for the remainder of her life. Eventually Edith relents, and season three ends with Edith about to embark on an affair with the editor. We shall see how far she really goes in the next season.
Mrs. Crawley, ever the modernist and suffragette and a pain in the backend of the dowager Countess, hires the former servant, who left Downton Abbey in disgrace, when she gave birth to a baby out of wedlock and then was forced into a life of prostitution to provide for the child. The servant has given the baby up to the father's family, but her presence upsets the dowager Countess and Lord Grantham. Therefore, the dowager Countess finds another job for the girl to get her out the lives of those at Downton Abbey, and Mrs. Crawley's plan for the girl's redemption is diverted.
Meanwhile, downstairs, the servants are not leading boring lives either. Mrs. Hughes has a breast cancer scare and finds out who her friends really are in Mrs. Patmoor and Mr. Carson. To her delight, Mr. Carson is deeply concerned and quite caring towards her and he is relieved along with everyone else when it turns out to be just a benign cyst.
Mrs. Hughes returns the friendship when Mrs. Patmoor is courted by a beau who really only wants her for her culinary skills. She helps Mrs. Patmoor "see the light" and saves her from a loveless match.
Of course, ever valient and loving Anna, finds a woman who knew Bates' former wife, and can clear Bates of murder. With an attorney, they get the woman to testify in an affidavit to Bates' innocence and Bates is released from prison and exonerated of the murder of his former wife. Bates and Anna triumphantly return to Downton Abbey and Bates returns to his position as the valet to Lord Grantham much to Thomas' dismay.
Thomas and O'Brien finally get their comeuppance in season three. They are now enemies and no longer friends when O'Brien brings in her nephew, Albert, to become a footman at Downton Abbey. After Albert, another new footman is hired, James, and when Thomas makes a pass at James, who rejects him, witnessed by Albert, O'Brien starts her manipulations. She talks both James and Albert into contacting the police about the incident so Thomas will be arrested, and it takes Mr. Carson and Lord Grantham to talk both James, Albert and the police out of arresting Thomas. When O'Brien, furious that her plan has been stalled, says she will go to the police herself, Mr. Carson immediately whispers in her ear of something he knows about her, and she immediately changes her mind about contacting the police. What does Carson have on O'Brien? We don't know at this point, but there is always next season!
Daisy finally gets a promotion and becomes assistant to Mrs. Patmoor when another scullery maid is hired. And the new girl (sorry, I forget her name) and Daisy vie for the attentions of Albert and James over the season. We are left to guess who will end up with whom.
Finally, Mary gives birth to a son (in the hospital - they have all learned a lesson from Sybil's terrible death) and Matthew and Downton Abbey finally have an heir. The estate is secure for another generation, and Mary has done her job quite excellently. Matthew is so elated he jumps into his convertible and is driving back to Downton Abby on a beautiful, sunny spring day to give the rest of the family the good news. He takes his eyes off the road for one split second to gaze over the grand estate, and does not see a coal truck coming head on. Matthew apparently swerves to miss the truck but goes off the road and slams into a tree. The last shot of Downton Abbey, Season 3, is of Matthew lying dead on the ground with blood running down his face. I was devastated and horrified by the ending, especially since I had a cousin die in the same manner over thirty years ago. It brought back such unpleasant memories for me, I couldn't sleep all night. But, that is another story.
I certainly cannot wait for Season 4 to see how Mary will continue on, as well as the rest of the family and their servants at Downton Abbey. And, by the way, the upstairs costumes are still beautiful!
Copyright (c) 2013 Suzannah Wolf Walker all rights reserved
Mary and Lord Gillingham
Downton Abbey - Season 4
I felt this season of Downton Abbey was not up to the standard of the previous seasons. While I still enjoyed watching the show, this season left me a little disappointed as to the plot and some of the character's motivations.
I believe it could have looked more into some of the sad situations and problems of the character's in more detail. There seemed to me to be a lot of glossing over in the plot just when it would have been interesting to take a deeper look at the situation at hand.
This season's theme was about life choices several of the characters must make. And, although I like the theme, too many of these choices were simply resolved easily and not realistically. I am hoping these life choices come back to reverberate in the lives of those who had to make them, otherwise, season four is sappy.
Of course, season four begins with a deplorably depressed Mary, listless and ignoring their baby, George, over Matthew's death. For nearly the two hours of the first episode, we wonder if Mary will ever get out of the black clothing and more than six months of mourning for Matthew. She is joined by Matthew's mother, Isobel, who is also depressed and mourning her son's passing. By the end of episode one, we know Mary has gotten over Matthew a bit, when she appears in deep purple clothing. This episode was sad and too maudlin, in my opinion.
The next episode was shocking and horrific as we witness Anna's rape by a visiting valet. This was the best episode of season four, but it quickly became a cliche when Anna's response to the rape was to distance herself from her husband, Mr. Bates, with absolutely no explanation. She is afraid Bates will kill the man who raped her if she tells him. We see Bates, ever the martyr, again in the position of long suffering. I think the show could have gone more into depth about Anna's suffering and how women coped with situations such as these during this time period. The caring attitudes of Mrs. Hughes, Carson, and Mary were wonderful to see and how empathetic they were to her situation.
Bates, as time goes on, finds out about his wife's rape, and we believe, figures out who raped Anna, and he mysteriously disappears one day, telling Anna he went to York on business for Lord Grantham. Mrs. Hughes, ever in charge downstairs, finds out that Anna's rapist was killed in a London traffic accident when he was hit by a bus. She later finds a train ticket stub to London in Bates' coat pocket dated the same day as the rapist was killed. Mrs. Hughes fears Bates is responsible for the rapist's death by pushing him in front of the bus and confides in Mary. Mary, ever the vigilant good person, feels she cannot keep this bit of information to herself and tells Mrs. Hughes she feels she must tell the authorities as what Bates did was wrong, no matter whether he killed someone truly evil or not. Mrs Hughes, of course, regrets telling Mary this information, and we are left wondering what will happen to Bates regarding this matter.
This incident and several others help to draw Mary out of her depression over Matthew's death, but the drawing out is not gradual, it is overnight and quite cliche. Her father, Lord Grantham, discovers a letter, written by Matthew before his death and witnessed and signed by two others, leaving all his assets to Mary. She now becomes an equal owner and partner at Downton Abbey with Tom and her father. Mary, like Tom, is quite progressive and she and her father knock heads in the running of Downton Abbey. As a result of all this, Mary now has two suitors, one a lord, and one of the upper classes, who helps her install some pigs on the estate. Both men are romantically nipping at her heels. Whom will she choose?
Edith's character comes more alive as she decides to enter into an affair with the editor of the newspaper that she assists. She is no longer the nearly non-existent sister to Mary. Edith enters into a passionate affair with her editor, married to a woman forever in a mental institution. For the first time we see Edith smiling, happy and glowing. She is in love. She is also personally fulfilled with her job as assistant to the newspaper's editor. The editor resolves to obtain a legal divorce in Germany because he cannot obtain a legal one in England. He truly wants to marry Edith and she him. Once in Germany, though, he disappears without a word just at the same time Edith discovers she is pregnant.
Here is where the show glosses over Edith's predicament. To Edith's gratefulness, an aunt of hers that she stayed with when in London, arranges an extended trip to Switzerland on the ruse to study French. (Geneva) When they return to Downton, eight months later, we learn that Edith has given birth and left the child with the Schroeder's, a Swiss family, who will raise it as their own.
The dowager Countess Grantham, Edith's grandmother, guesses the real reason for the extended trip and talks to Edith about it. Along with the aunt, Lord Grantham's sister, she is the only other family member who knows the truth about Edith's trip. At this point, Edith is regretting her decision, and wants the baby with her in England. Her cousin and grandmother tell her this is not possible. But, Edith is racked with indecision and guilt so we will have to see what happens in season five and to the fate of the child and Edith's lover.
The dowager Countess Granthan, Robert's mother, bonds with Isobel Crawley, Matthew's mother, as Isobel, nurses the Countess back to health from a nasty bout of bronchitis. Although, these two women usually knock heads, the Countess, for the first time a grateful patient, sees another side to Isobel and comes to respect her for her nursing and caring ways. She becomes more accepting of Isobel as a friend and family member.
Meanwhile, downstairs, Daisy, Ivy and Albert are in quite a fix. Daisy loves Albert, the footman, but he loves Ivy, the second assistant cook. In the meantime, Albert decides to apply for the job as one of the assistant chefs at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in London. Daisy helps him with some cooking tips and shows him some of her cooking talents. Much to Daisy's dismay, Albert gets the job in London and leaves Downton Abbey.
He returns to Downton several months later to visit all of them and too propose marriage to Ivy. Ivy declines his proposal and Daisy moons over the fact it is not her he wants to marry. Albert returns to London, sad and dejected, but with a wonderfully cooked meal by Daisy. He is sad not to have Ivy with him, but happy to have reconnected with Daisy.
Mr. Mosely is back at Downton Abbey, and this time employed as a footman to replace Albert, but feeling quite dejected because it is beneath him to be a footman after having been a valet all his life. He finds a friend and confidant in the lady's maid who took the place of Mrs. O'Brien, who left to be the maid of Robert's cousin's wife.
And, of course, Thomas, ever the evil footman, is up to his old tricks by upsetting all he can at Downton Abbey. He tries to find a cohort in the new lady's maid, but she is wary of him. He tries to create problems for Tom, who has found a new female friend, by spreading vicious lies about him to Lord Grantham. He is ever upset because he was replaced as valet to Lord Grantham by Bates, returning from prison after being fully exonerated.
Cora, Lady Grantham, continues on as the loving wife to Lord Grantham as she comforts her husband and family. She and Lord Grantham have allowed Rose, the daughter of Roberts' favorite cousin, to live with them and help her come out as a debutante in London society. But, Cora is a flutterhead and Rose is able to deceive her on her trips to London, which are really to see an African-American jazz musician.
I'm sure you can see where this is going - Rose falls in love with the musician and they decide to marry. Without telling Cora, Mary handles the whole situation and ends the engagement of Rose to the musician. It would have been more interesting to really look at a white, titled English/Scottish woman marrying a black jazz musician and how that would reverberate in this time's society. Again, it is glossed over.
Cora knows nothing about Rose's situation because she is busy rising to the occasion of putting on a great bazaar for the villagers on the Downton estate while Lord Grantham is away in the U.S. to lend his help to Cora's brother who is embroiled in the Teapot Dome situation taking place in America. Lord Grantham returns on the weekend of the bazaar to find that Cora has been a 'great success' in heading the bazaar, and he is so proud of her. However, Cora's best moment of this season was when she fired the abusive nanny to Sybbie. That is the Cora we all want to see.
We are left, in the last episode, watching the vacuous experience of Rose having her debutante coming out party in London. She has quickly recovered from her love affair and broken engagement and never refers to it again. Another glossing over of a sub-plot.
Cora's mother, played by the great Shirley MacClain, and Cora's brother, played by Paul Giammati, come over for a visit and to attend Rose's coming out. But, sadly these two characters come across as just props, instead of giving us the witty repartee we experienced from Cora's mother on her last visit. This is a waste of two wonderful actors that could add so much to this story.
Rose is caught up in a silly sub-plot of a stolen letter written by the Prince of Wales. This necessitates Lord Grantham and all his poker buddies setting up a false poker game so the women (Rose, Cora, and Mary) can break into the home the poker player, who stole the letter in the first place, to steal back the letter. The women do not find the letter, but Bates comes to the rescue when he surreptitiously recovers the letter from the breast pocket as he helps the hapless poker player on with his coat. Silly, silly, silly.
I will certainly check in when season five, already in production, comes to PBS. I hope to goes back to the quality of writing and inventive plots it has had before season four. One not so good season I can bear with a stiff upper lip.
Copyright (c) 2014 Suzannah Wolf Walker
Season 5 Official Trailer
More Downton Abbey
Who is your favorite upstairs character?
Who is your favorite downstairs character?
Downton Abby - Season 5
Are you reeling from the recent announcement that next season will be the last for Maggie Smith, the Dowager Countess? I know I am. She is the reason I started watching Downton Abbey in the first place and why I continue to watch it. I have, though come to love the other upstairs characters, Cora, Robert, Mary, Edith, Tom and of course the grandchildren, Sybbie, George and now Marigold. And I have come to love the downstairs characters, Anna and Bates, her husband, Daisy and Mrs. Patmore, and of course Mr. Carson and Mrs Hughes.
But "Granny", the Dowager Countess was always my favorite character because of the zinger lines she has delivered over the years Her honesty will certainly be missed. Maggie Smith claims her character should be about 120 years old by the passage of time now on the show, so it is time for her to go. What a loss!
This season of Downton Abbey was better than fourth season by far. There were so many romantic couplings it was hard to keep up with it all. Before getting into those, I must first look to poor, long-suffering Edith. She has managed to get her illegitimate daughter, Marigold, back from Switzerland and placed as an adoptive daughter with the Drews, a Downton Abbey tenant. She becomes Marigold's godmother as a ruse to be able to see Marigold on a regular basis. However, Mrs. Drew will not put up with the intrusive visits by Edith and finally forbids Edith to see the child anymore.
At the same time, Edith discovers that her true love, Michael Gregson, has died in Germany at the hands of Hitler's goons before he was able to obtain his divorce. Finally, Edith comes alive, takes Marigold's birth certificate in hand, and goes to the Drews and demands Marigold back as her daughter. The Drews must give up Marigold much to Mrs. Drews protestations, and Edith takes the child and goes to London to live with her daughter in a rented, dismal flat. Edith, however, has inherited Gregson's newspaper and publishing house upon his death and so has gainful employment in London.
The Dowager Countess comes to the rescue and divulges Edith's secret child with Cora who accepts Edith's situation because she wants her daughter to be happy, and so Edith and Marigold return to live at Downton Abbey. The Abbey has taken on Marigold as a ward with Edith her guardian. No one except Edith, Cora and the Dowager Countess know the truth about Marigold at this point and keep Edith's secret from the rest of the family.
Cora and Robert (Lord and Lady Grantham) have a test of their love when Cora attracts an admirer in an art historian interested in the sale of the Downton's della Francesca painting. Cora blossoms under the tutelage of this art historian and experiences a flirtation with him. Robert slyly watches from the side, seemingly more interested in the dog, Isis, rather than Cora, but the two gentlemen(?) finally come to blows over Cora. And what a scene it is!
The art historian finally cannot live with just a flirtation with Cora and barges into the Grantham's bedroom one evening, pleading for Cora's love. Cora, the everlasting good wife that she is, refuses his advances, but before he can leave the bedroom, in walks Robert. Robert fights for his wife and her honor, literally, by throwing the first punch and the two men wrestle on the floor. This was the funniest scene of this Downton Abbey season. To see two grown men rolling around on the floor fighting over Cora was hilarious. Of course, Robert wins, although he is furious with Cora and sleeps the next few nights in his dressing room. Cora finally convinces Robert the art historian meant nothing to her except for the selling of the painting, which Robert sells immediately. All ends well and Robert returns to the conjugal bed.
Lady Mary Crawley also comes alive in her relationship with Tony Gillingham. She is not sure yet if she wants to marry Tony, so he suggests that take a week away from Downton in Liverpool, of all places, and have a wild week living in sin. Lady Mary, ever the sly one, sends Anna to the apothecary to buy her a 'contraceptive device' to wear for her fun week with Tony. Watching Anna's discomfort in purchasing the device was interesting. Lady Mary goes off for her week of a free sexual romp and promptly decides Tony is the wrong one for her and basically uses him for sex. Tony is distraught and refuses to give up Lady Mary. Finally, Lady Mary arranges for Tony to hook up with Mabel Lane Fox, her competitor in love, and all ends well. Tony has Mabel and Lady Mary is free to pursue others. Lady Mary then turns to Charles for love, but he is leaving England for six months for work and Lady Mary is left with no suitors. Not to be ignored, Lady Mary completely joins the flapper generation by getting her hair cut in a bob, the only one to do so. She is newly chic in Season 5.
Rose, niece to Lord and Lady Grantham, has finally fallen in love with a young aristocratic man, and all looks well as they become engaged. However Atticus Aldridge is Jewish and the son of Lord and Lady Sinderby and Lord Sinderby is much against the coupling of Rose and Atticus because he wants a Jewish 'princess' for his son to marry.
Rose's own mother, Susan, the Marchioness of Flintshire, tries to derail her own daughter's wedding by setting up Atticus with a 'tart' at a stag party complete with photographs. Atticus convinces Rose that what happened was a set up and Lord and Lady Grantham come to his rescue also. Rose and Atticus stand their ground, with the help of Lord and Lady Grantham, and finally a wedding of the two takes place against the wishes of Lord Sinderby and the Marchioness. Rose ingratiates herself to Lord Sinderby when at a party the Sinderby's give, Rose saves the day by acknowledging a party crasher, the paramour and illegitimate son of Lord Sinderby, as a friend of hers and Lady Sinderby is none the wiser. Lord Sinderby is forever grateful and accepts Rose as a daughter-in-law. Because of Rose and Atticus, we learn that Lady Cora's father was Jewish.
Also during this week of festivities at Lord Sinderby's Lady Mary meets her equal in the love department. While on a bird shooting party, Lady Mary meets a handsome young man as blase and with a devil may care attitude as Lady Mary has. We are left hanging at the end of season five as this new man, who loves fast cars, is flippant to Lady Mary, but has certainly caught her interest. This is surprising since Matthew, Lady Mary's love of her life, died in a car accident. Will this man's love of fast cars bring happiness or more sadness into Lady Mary's life?
Now, don't think the geriatric set is just sitting idly by observing the young ones in love. The Dowager Countess is confronted with the love of her life, Prince Keragin, who appears at Downton Abbey from Russia. Long ago, when the Dowager Countess was young and married, she and Prince Keragin has a love affair. Of course, the Dowager Countess came to her senses and returned to her husband but now that Keragin has returned he has renewed her love for him. She is again asked by the Prince to run off and spend the rest of her mature years with him, and she does consider this, but as before, comes to her senses and refuses the Prince's advances. She even brings the Prince and his Princess back together again at her home and all ends 'as should be' between the Prince and the Dowager Countess.
Isobel Crawley doesn't let the Dowager Countess get ahead of her in the love department. She too has an admirer and love interest in Mr. Merton. The two have a beautiful courtship that ends with a marriage proposal for her, but when they announce their forthcoming marriage at dinner at Downton Abbey, Mr. Merton's son, the evil sob that he is, states quite clearly that Isobel could never rise to the level of a Lady Merton and nor take his mother's place. Isobel, who is mortified, then declines Merton's marriage proposal because she does not want to live her mature years with a step-son who will hate her and the contention that will follow in the marriage. Merton is devastated and I hope he sets his son straight and again asks for Isobel's hand in season six.
Downstairs at Downton Abbey is no less interesting than the upstairs. Anna and Bates first have a confrontation and serious discussion when Bates finds the 'contraceptive device' in Anna's dresser. He immediately thinks Anna really does not want to have children with him, and Anna, to assure him that she does, admits the secret to him that the device is Lady Mary's she is hiding. They manage to dodge that marital bullet only to be caught up in Mr. Green's murder.
Anna and Bates are ever lasting suffering because Scotland Yard is investigating the death of Mr. Green who raped Anna last season. First, they are concerned with Mr. Bates, but his where about on that day places him not in London but in York. Then, the investigation turns to Anna, as a witness has placed her (after a police line-up confirmation) in London on that day and deemed 'the one' who shoved Mr. Green into the street and a collision with an oncoming car that took his life. Anna is immediately arrested and thrown in jail. Bates is distraught and tells the police he was the one who shoved Mr. Green and immediately takes off for Ireland to escape arrest. Anna, finally gets out of jail on bail, Bates hears of this, and Bates returns on Christmas Eve and they collapse into each other's loving arms. What will happen to Anna next season?
Daisy, in her ever quest for more education and wanting 'to better myself,' has broken Mrs. Patmore's heart by announcing she will be leaving Downton Abbey for greener pastures in London. For weeks the two bantered back and forth about her leaving, but the season ended with Daisy deciding to wait a bit longer before seeking those greener pastures and for the moment she will remain at Downton Abbey. So, we will see more of Daisy next season.
Not so for Tom and Sybbie. For two seasons now, Tom has been in a quandary over whether to stay at Downton Abbey or seek greener pastures in American, specifically in Boston. Finally, he too, has made the decision to go to America much to the disappointment of Lord and Lady Grantham, but they do support him in his decision. So, next season, apparently Lord Grantham will only have George and Marigold to play with.
Thomas, the evil footman, finally shows a vulnerable side this season. He began the season taking some mysterious drug injections to try to 'change' his sexual predilections. As he becomes more and more sick, Mrs. Baxter, who has admitted her criminal past to Lady Grantham and is forgiven, helps Thomas by taking him to a doctor. The diagnosis is a severe infection from the syringes that were only injections of sulfur water anyway and Mrs. Baxter nurses him back to heath. Thomas is forever grateful for her and just when we were ready to hate this character, he redeemed himself this season. Mrs. Baxter accepts Thomas for who he his and convinces Thomas to accept himself for who he is also.
The long awaited relationship between Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson finally comes to fruition. Mr. Carson begins looking at cottages and other real estate to invest in with Mrs. Hughes for their retirement. When it comes down to one cottage and time to put up their money, Mrs. Hughes tearfully has to tell Mr. Carson that she has no money saved because she has had to take care of a mentally challenged sister. Then, Mr. Carson, the gallant man he is, proposes marriage to Mrs. Hughes and she accepts. A wedding between the two for next season?
And Edith's secret all this time? Well, Lord Grantham begins to suspect the true relationship between Edith and Marigold. He is so forgiving he confronts Edith with his 'discovery', tells her he loves her and forgives her, and for once, Edith shines and glows with his forgiveness. Tom also has figured out the truth and talks to Edith about it, also being forgiving, and Edith tells Tom how much she will miss him when he and Sybbie leave Downton Abbey and move to Boston. So, now the upstairs crew all knows the truth about Edith and Marigold, except for Lady Mary. She still is in the dark and can't figure out why Edith is so much more concerned about motherhood that she is. Wait till Lady Mary finds out she is the last to know. The sparks will fly!
And, last but not least, is the relationship of Lord and Lady Grantham to Isis, the dog. Poor Isis met his death this season (probably to be politically correct since his name is the same as the Mid-East terrorist group presently lopping off heads). But, he doesn't die alone. The gallant Lord Grantham was going to sleep with Isis in his dressing room, but Lady Grantham, the sweet and loving wife, tells Lord Grantham to bring Isis to their bed to sleep between them as it dies. What a cuddly threesome!
Update: March 2015. It's official! Season Six will be the last for Downtown Abbey, Julien Fellows recently announced. He wants to end his show while it is on top and so popular and successful. How we will miss Sunday nights and peering into the upstairs/downstairs lives of those living in the early 20th century. Downton Abbey will be sorely missed.
Copyright (c) 2015 Suzannah Walker all right reserved
Preview Season 6 (Spoiler Alert)
Love is in the Air
The Final Season
So sad that this is the last season for Downton Abbey. What will we do on Sunday nights? The final season ties up all the loose ends and the show ends happily ever after, or gives new meaning to "all's well that ends well;" however, there was much angst for many in the Downton household before reaching that happy ending.
The season began with Mary being blackmailed by a maid at the hotel she and Lord Gillingham stayed, many months prior, during their week of "living in sin." Mary, of course, is mortified but comes to the conclusion to be blackmailed is worse and so refuses to give the maid the money she requests. She steels herself for the onslaught of scandal. The maid, in the meantime, finally becomes frustrated that she cannot get the money from Mary and so she goes to Lord Grantham with her request.
In comes the knight on the shining white stead, as Lord Grantham takes care of the situation by demanding, in writing, a full confession from the maid and her dastardly deed or he will prosecute and sends her off with with only 50 pounds (she requested 1,000 pounds). The loving, forgiving father that he is, Lord Grantham tells Mary that he now realizes he has an adult daughter, as he kisses her on the forehead. All is forgiven. Mary dodges another bullet.
Mary's next foray into love comes in the form of Henry Talbot, high born, but with no fortune, a race car driver, and quite handsome at that. It is love at first sight and he is Mary's equal in every other way than that of title and money. Mary, of course, dealing with her demons of her former husband Matthew dying in a car accident, stews about marrying a man who could die anytime he walks out the door to race. She also doesn't "want to marry down."
Enter Tom Branson, who has returned to Downton Abbey and who likes Henry Talbot and his interest in cars, and practically bullies Mary into a relationship with Henry telling Mary she really loves Henry but won't admit it. Finally, Mary "comes to her senses" declares her love for Henry and we are treated to another Downton wedding.
The Carson/Hughes relationship continues at a glacial pace as Mrs. Hughes gets thoughts of what, exactly, Mr. Carson considers a full marital relationship. She asks Mrs. Patmore to intercede on her behalf and find out what he wants. It takes Mrs. Patmore several meetings with Mr. Carson to obtain the information that he "wants a marriage in every sense of the word," and she relays this information to Mrs. Hughes. Finally, a date is set for the happy day, and we are treated to another Downton wedding. Although, Mrs. Hughes insists on a church wedding and a school house reception, rather than a wedding in Downton Abbey's grand hall, everyone is happy to see them married. And, it was great to see Mrs. Hughes put Mary in her place when Mary advocated for Carson and a wedding in the grand hall.
A surprise ensues when in the middle of the wedding reception, who should reappear, but Tom and Sybbie. Tom says he finally realized his "home" is at Downton Abbey and they plan to live there and Sybbie is thrilled to be back with "Donk." (Grandpa, Lord Grantham)
Although Lord Grantham, ever the traditionalist and slow to accept change, is delighted he can still call his housekeeper Mrs. Hughes instead of Mrs. Carson. Heaven forbid he have to remember her new name is now Carson.
After their wedding, Mr. Carson suddenly turns into a tyrant, and is not impressed with Mrs. Hughes' cooking abilities. He whines and complains about her dinners at home and Mrs Hughes becomes quite frustrated with him. Finally, Mrs. Hughes turns to Mrs. Patmore and they devise a plan to help her out. Mrs. Hughes fakes a hand injury and Mr. Carson must prepare and cook the dinner at home and he finds out how exhausting and somewhat difficult it is to coordinate the food and then wash the dishes afterward. Finally, there is harmony in the Carson household.
Mrs. Patmore also has her trials and tribulations. She has finally opened a bed and breakfast and is excited to have her first customers. Her niece takes care of the B & B while Mrs. Patmore works. But, alas, there is a fly in the ointment when the police inform her that her first customers that stayed were not married and living together and so a "scandal" ensues. The police inform Mrs. Patmore that her B & B is now known as "a house of ill repute."
Mrs. Patmore is literally struck off her feet with that news but Lord and Lady Grantham come to her rescue. They dine at her B & B and bring the press along to record the visit and the good name of Mrs. Patmore's B & B is restored.
Anna is finally found innocent of having killed Mr. Green but more downstairs problems come back to the long suffering Mr. and Mrs. Bates when Anna reveals she can get pregnant but cannot carry a child to term. She reveals to Mr. Bates, and finally to Lady Mary, that she is again pregnant but that she has suffered three prior miscarriages over the years. Lady Mary takes charge of the situation, because she loves to be in control, and takes Anna to her gynecologist in London. A simple procedure of a stitch will save Anna from losing any more babies which gives new meaning to the adage "a stitch in time . . ."
Anna is able to carry this new child to full term and on New Year's Eve gives birth to a son. Also, it is a "modern birth" as she gives birth upstairs in Lady Mary's bedroom which according to Mr. Carson was previously unheard of.
Back upstairs, Cora, Lady Grantham, is having her challenges. Cora, the eternal peacekeeper, once more has to rise to the occasion. The Dowager Countess and Mrs. Crawley are fighting for control over the local Downton hospital. The Dowager Countess wants the hospital to remain local, and in her control, and Mrs. Crawley wants it to merge with the hospital in York so newer medicine and procdures will be used but will mean the Dowager Countess will lose her control over the Downton hospital.
Lord Grantham is so upset at the disharmony caused in his house over this situation that he finally gets a stomach ulcer. In one of the bloodiest scenes ever depicted on a show, his ulcer bursts during an acrimonious dinner, and he spews blood all over the dining table and the dining room. He is taken to Downton Hospital, where he has surgery, and, then, he has a convalescence period at home.
Enter, Cora, who is appointed as new chairman of the Downton Hospital and with the gracious nature she has brings peace to the situation. The Downton Hospital is merged with the York hospital so that the most modern procedures can be used, but not until many dinner arguments have ensued, and everyone is happy but the Dowager Countess. Enraged that she has been taken down a peg, she escapes to France on a "vacation".
In the middle of all this, the Crawley women decide that Downton Abbey will be open to the public for one day and sell tickets to raise money for the Downton Hospital. This had become one of the changes the aristocracy went through after WWI as their landholdings declined with the social upheavals of the time. Many estates opened up to the public to raise money to pay the taxes on their properties. Naturally, Lord Grantham is appalled at this idea, but the women prevail and it is a success.
Back downstairs, Barrow, the often misunderstood and unpopular footman, under butler, and valet (depending on which particular episode watched), continued to scheme and cause a ruckus. When Mr. Carson informs him that downsizing of the serving staff means he should start looking for another job, he suddenly is bewildered and stunned that no one at Downton wants him around. He begins a painful search for employment, but before he does, Barrow tries to commit suicide by slitting his wrists. He is saved in the nick of time by Miss Baxter and the Downton "family" embraces him. He has an epiphany and realizes the harm of his past dastardly deeds and vows to become a better person.
On Christmas night, as the family and staff are celebrating, Mr. Carson has a terrible hand tremble and cannot pour the wine. He finally admits that the "palsy" he is experiencing is hereditary and therefore will not go away. Barrow, who has returned to celebrate Christmas with all of them, jumps to the rescue and helps out on Christmas night. Lord Grantham is so pleased, he tells Carson he will become butler emeritus and oversee the Downton household and offers Barrow the job of day to day butler. Barrow, only too happy to be back, accepts the position. Again, "all's well that ends well."
Daisy, who finally cuts her hair into a cute bob, and learns how to use a hair blower in the meantime, the newest fad, suddenly becomes a rebel. She stands up for Mr. Mason, her father-in-law, as he is about to loose his farm because of the land upheavals of the time. She speaks out to the new owners of the estate he farms, and speaks up to Lord and Lady Grantham at the peril of loosing her job. Finally, Mr. Mason is given the farm on the Downton estate that had previously belong the the Drews, who have left, and Daisy and Mr. Mason are happy.
Through all this, Daisy continues her education and passes her exams and becomes an accountant so she can help with the books at Mr. Mason's farm. She finally has moved up and has other options other that serving all her life.
Mr. Mosely, now "first" footman and only footman, also takes some exams which he passes with flying colors. He is appointed as teacher at the Downton village school, finally reaching his ultimate dream in life, and at the same time easing the servant downsizing at Downton Abbey.
And, last, but not least is long suffering and "poor" Edith's turn, after five seasons, to find some happiness. Mary's snipping at her has continued for another season, so Edith finds more to do in London to keep her busy at the magazine. While in London she meets Bertie Pelham, a sop of a fellow, who is the land agent for an estate; again, high born but with no fortune. They begin to see one another while Mary continues to snipe at Edith, but all are astounded when a cousin of Bertie's dies and he becomes the heir to a great estate. Surprisingly, he is now a Marquess, which is one status higher than an Earl, which means he outranks Lord Grantham and everyone else at Downton Abbey. Edith and Marquess Pelham become engaged, but Edith fails to tell him that Marigold is her daughter, not Downton Abbey's ward.
Suddenly Lady Mary is thrown into the realization that if Edith marries Bertie she will outrank Mary. Mary, suspicious for some time about the origins of Marigold, finally figures out the Marigold is Edith's daughter by Michael Gregson. Naturally, when Edith and Bertie announce their engagement, Mary coyly mentions Marigold and announces she is Edith's daughter. Bertie is astounded and immediately bolts from Edith's life. One more triumph for Mary as she ruins Edith's happiness and life but maintains her rank in the family.
Edith, of course, is packing to return to London, when Mary interrupts her. Finally, the scene we have been waiting for over the six years of Downton ensues. Edith finally calls Mary the B word and reminds her how horrid she has been to her over the years and all the sniping she as done to Edith.
Mary is astounded that Edith has fought back at her, calling a spade a spade, and now has some food for thought. When Mary finally becomes engaged to Henry Talbot, she softens just a bit and decides to help Edith. She arranges a dinner engagement for Edith and Bertie. There, Bertie declares his undying love to Edith and says he cannot live without her and Marigold. The engagement is back on.
Now, the only obstacle to their love, is Bertie's mother, who is of strict moral character. Although Bertie chooses not to tell his mother the truth about Marigold, Edith having learned her lesson with Bertie, does tell is mother the truth. She is appalled and asks her son to call off the wedding. He refuses to do so. Finally, at a dinner to announce their engagement, Lord Grantham convinces her if she does not accept Edith with Marigold, she will loose Bertie. She finally, graciously, announces the engagement and Edith will now become a Marchioness, outranking her own family.
We are treated to our last Downton wedding as Edith and Bertie tie the knot. The Downton happy ending is now complete. Edith and Mary are finally both married and happy and decide to bury the hatchet and the Countess Dowager finally has made peace with Cora and Mrs. Crawley.
Which is just in time for her to help Violet Crawley free Mr. Merton from his bullying son and daughter-in-law. Mrs. Crawley has changed her mind and has decided to marry Lord Merton (who has anemia and is not expected to live long) and who bolts from his estate as soon as Mrs Crawley and the Dowager Countess spirit him away. All ends happily here too, as Lord Merton finds out he has been misdiagnosed and the couple learns they will have a long and happy life together.
Upstairs and downstairs everyone has found their place in life and life will go on at Downton Abbey. Oh, and surprise, little George Crawley will have a sibling soon as Mary reveals to Henry they are having a baby. But, oh how we will miss viewing the upstairs and downstairs of Downton Abbey and the rest of their lives. I guess we will have to console ourselves with the DVD's of each season and our memories. Sigh!
© 2012 Suzette Walker