Bravo, Mr. Fellowes—you got it all right!
The episode opens on an idyllic summer afternoon. Henry Talbot is struggling to find his place at Downton. Charlie’s death has put him off racing. Lady Edith announces her decision to live a spinster’s life in London with Marigold.
Lady Mary orchestrates a surprise meeting between a remorseful Bertie Pelham and Lady Edith. He proposes, again, and after a bit of fussing, she accepts. All is not smooth sailing, as his formidable mother waxes on about Bertie’s obligation to restore Brancaster to the area’s moral center. She’s referring, of course, to cousin Peter’s infamous trips to Tangiers. Bertie, Lord Grantham and Cora are more worried about Marigold’s parentage.
Wisely ignoring their advice, Lady Edith tells her soon-to-be mother-in-law the truth. “Should I turn down a daughter-in-law who, in addition to having birth and brains, is entirely and unimpeccably honest?”, Mrs. Pelham remarks. Finally, Lady Edith is getting her due.
Tom Branson and Henry Talbot have stuck up an easy friendship, bonding over their love of the Crawley family and cars. They band together to form Talbot & Branson Motors. We’re thrilled that Lady Mary and Talbot are expecting a baby. As a bonus, it looks like Tom will find a sweetheart in Lady Edith’s editor, Miss Edmunds.
Daisy gets a new hairdo and a new opinion of the industrious Andrew. She decides to live at Yew Tree Farm and we feel certain that things will work out fine for not only her and Andrew, but Mrs. Patmore and Mr. Mason, as well.
The Dowager Countess makes peace with Cora, telling her she runs the kingdom, the village, and the hospital very well. The DC, however, isn’t sitting on the sidelines.
Lord Merton is diagnosed with fatal pernicious anemia. Now that he’s got one foot in the grave, his money-grubbing son and daughter-in-law are no longer anxious to foist him off on Isobel. They’re keeping him under virtual house arrest and a heartbroken Isobel can’t get near him.
The DC springs into action, advising Isobel that “If reason fails, try force.” Together, the two women storm Cavenham Park and spirit Lord Merton away to Crawley House to live out his remaining days as Isobel’s husband. Happily, Dr. Clarkson knows more than the fancy Harley Street doctors. Lord Merton has curable iron deficient anemia. Isobel and Lord Merton will, as it turns out, live happily ever after.
Mr. Mosley accepts increased teaching responsibilities at the village school. He’ll keep his livery and help at the Abbey as needed. We feel sure that he’ll pop the question to Miss Baxter and he won’t live alone at the cottage that comes with his teaching position.
Lady Rose takes Lord G to see Cora in action at a hospital meeting. After witnessing Cora’s competence and commitment, he confesses “You are a woman of real substance and I am lucky enough to call you my wife.”
Mr. Barrow has recovered from his suicide attempt and accepts a position as butler in a much more subdued household. He’s wisely decided to try to be someone else—someone kinder—in his new position. He leaves Downton on friendly—even affectionate—terms. He’s lonely, however, in his new position.
Mr. Carson falls victim to the palsy that runs in his family, forcing him to lay down the mantle of butler. Lord Grantham and Lady Mary assure him that he and Mrs. Hughes will live out their days on the estate and that he will continue to be the elder statesman of the estate.
Lady Edith’s New Year’s Eve wedding delivers all the lush imagery we’ve come to love. Her decent down the main staircase in her wedding gown to the waiting arm of Lord Grantham is breathtaking.
We’re treated to a fitting resolution of the battle of the butlers at the reception later that evening at the Abbey. Mr. Barrow steps in to assist a distressed Mr. Carson and agrees to return to Downton as the butler. “I don’t want to force your hand, Mr. Barrow,” Carson says. “I don’t want to twist your arm, Mr. Carson,” he replies. Ahhhh…just as it should be.
Anna goes into labor in Lady Mary’s bedroom as she’s putting away her mistress’ hair dryer. Working until the last moment, of course. The Bates’ have a healthy baby boy and we rejoice over the happy ending for the beleaguered couple.
The series concludes with kisses all around as the people we’ve come to know and love so dearly toast the promise of the New Year, 1926.
What an unforgettable journey it has been.
Aired at 8.45pm on Friday 25 December 2015 on ITV.
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