The season finale opens with sunny skies over Downton but storm clouds brewing for both Edith and Mary.
Lady Edith is struggling with the decision to tell Bertie Pelham the truth about Marigold. The question is called sooner than she’d like when Pelham arrives at the Abbey after his cousin dies suddenly, leaving Pelham a reluctant and uneasy Marquess. He presses her to accept his proposal, saying that “I need you to help me live up to my own expectations.” When she doesn’t protest, he assumes she’s accepted him.
Lady Mary, meanwhile, is busy telling Tom Branson she shouldn’t marry Henry Talbot because of his lower social standing and worse financial prospects.
Anna theorises that “She can’t control him. That’s what frightens her.” Bates thinks Lady Mary is a bully. Lady M distracts herself with jealousy over her sister’s good fortune. Lady Edith has a man who adores her and will elevate her status over everyone at the Abbey.
Poor old Mr. Molesley gets off to a rough start on his first day in the classroom, but later turns the tide by sharing his own humble beginnings with his students. As Daisy puts it, he was inspirational. We think so, too.
Mrs. Patmore is distraught when she learns that her first client was an adulterous couple and that the village is branding her new bed and breakfast “a house of ill repute”. Of course, everyone above and below stairs thinks it’s riotously funny, except for Mrs. P and Mr. Carson.
The Crawleys come to the rescue, suggesting that they make a great show of taking afternoon tea at the place and having their picture taken with Mrs. P. She is moved by their support and so are we.
Upon receiving yet another job rejection, Mr. Barrow slashes his wrists in the bathtub, but mercifully something he said convinces Miss Baxter to turn back to check on him. He’s saved and, while he does some soul searching, Mr. Carson and Lord G also revise their opinions of him. It looks like Mr. Barrow’s place at the Abbey is secure for now.
Miss Cruikshank is undeterred in her plot to unload Lord Merton onto Isobel. Isobel, however, will not be outmaneuvered. She’ll consider Lord Merton again if Larry speaks to her himself. Something to hope for this Christmas?
Lady Edith’s new editor insists on a face-to-face meeting with their popular new columnist, Miss Casandra Jones. In a witty twist, Miss Jones turns out to be none other than Septimus Spratt! Very cool, Mr. Spratt.
The dramatic highpoint comes at the breakfast table when Bertie Pelham is about to take himself off to attend to his dead cousin. Lady Mary maliciously spills the beans that Marigold is Lady Edith’s daughter. Shocked and upset—not over the circumstance but that Lady Edith didn’t trust him enough to tell him—he breaks off their engagement and leaves the Abbey.
The sisters finally have the argument that’s been brewing since Season 1. And in a fiery scene in the estate office, Branson asks her “How many lives are you going to wreck just to smother your own misery?”
Branson doesn’t leave it there. He summons the Dowager Countess home. The DC banishes Lady Mary’s fears about marrying Talbot, saying “I believe in love….Brilliant careers, rich lives are seldom led without just an element of love.”
Lady Mary finally overcomes her real fear of becoming a “crash widow” again and accepts Talbot. The best line of the episode is his, when he professes that “I’m hot and cold. I can barely breathe and it’s all because of you.”
We’re promptly treated to a simple but elegant family wedding the following Saturday. Lady Edith has the grace to attend and Lady Mary offers her apology. Lord Grantham observes that “It seems all our ships are coming into port.” Not all of them, we think.
There’s still plenty of drama left for the Christmas Special!
Aired at 9pm on Sunday 8 November 2015 on ITV.
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