Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Downton 6x07 Review: (Endings and Beginnings) [Contributor: Hope]

“Episode 6.7” 
Original Airdate: February 14, 2016

There are only two new episodes left after this week’s, can you believe it? I still can’t wrap my mind around the fact this show is ending and that this isn’t just another long hiatus. I can’t believe the span of time this show has covered in six short seasons. I can’t believe how many characters have come and gone. You know, if I wasn’t writing these reviews (which I love doing), I would be tempted to hold off on the finale episodes for a while and stay in denial.

It took a lot of self-control to not title this review NEW PUPPY!!, because while there was, in fact, a puppy – and some other really great, happy things – there were also some somber aspects of the episode. I’m still not entirely sure the old cars had to take up that much screen time (I’m guessing someone in production thought they were cool – which they were – and thought “hey, let’s watch them go around about a dozen times”), but the visual and tonal contrast between the race track and the picnic scenes was effective and just another example of Downton still at its best.

I still understand the whole going-out-on-top thing. It’s something that earns a lot of respect from me, because when it comes down to it, I want a show to tell a complete, structured story, not one that is forced beyond its natural end. A show that milks itself for all its worth loses points in my book. I’m just not convinced that season seven would have been too much – in fact, I think Downton still had a lot left in it. There would have always been something new happening and changing. This season could have progressed more naturally. And we have to remember that Downton seasons aren’t the seasons we’re used to in the U.S. A show with 6 seasons with 23 episodes each is going to run its course a lot more quickly than a show with 6 seasons and 9 episodes (or fewer) each.


Mary and the family were invited to go to the track to watch Henry race his car. Mary had a hard time watching as drivers cut each other off going 90 kilometers an hour (a speed I found surprising. Think how much faster they could have gone if their aerodynamics hadn’t been so terrible). Now, I haven’t been buying it that Mary and Henry have fallen madly in love, because honestly, I don’t think Downton is showing us that. They’re telling us, sure, but I haven’t actually seen the proof of it, and until I do, I don’t have much stock in this storyline. The point is, however, that as Mary anxiously watched (or didn’t watch) in the stands, there was more to it than her feelings for him. She rides in cars all the time, but note that the family’s car has a top on it. These cars don’t. Matthew’s car didn’t. She watched these men racing around in circles in their open-topped cars, and her anxiety made her feel like a clock was ticking, that it would just be a matter of time before one of them crashed.

And crash they did. Henry’s car had just disappeared out of sight when a crash was followed by a lot of smoke drifting up through the trees. Everyone franticly ran (or stopped people from running) to the scene of the crash, where one of the cars was up in flames. Major credit is due to Michelle Dockery for her reaction in this scene. Mary watches the wreck in shock and terror. It’s as if a nightmare is repeating itself, and she can’t take that.

Henry emerges the wreck with guilt and bad news – the person who crashed was Mr. Rogers, who was his best friend and someone they’d all met. Henry goes off alone, feeling responsible for the fact that Mr. Rogers was even in that car to begin with or going that fast. He wanted to talk with Mary, but she insisted they not. She knew this wasn’t the best time to break up with him, and maybe if he had given her more time, she wouldn’t have done it at all. However, he called after a tense dinner and Tom thought she should at least answer him. He needed someone to talk to, and more importantly, he needed her to talk to. But she couldn’t take it, and while she’d been prepared to hold off on this conversation, her emotions got the best of her. She told him goodbye.

She never saw Matthew’s death coming, but she would see Henry’s coming every time he stepped into a car. She didn’t want that, she couldn’t deal with that, and she certainly couldn’t ask him to give up his love of racing. Tom watched as she broke up with Henry over the phone, and was there for her when she hung up in tears and panic. This was one of the most emotionally raw moments Mary has had, and (with apologies to Mr. Rogers) I’m glad we got to see this scene. If they were going to try to sell Mary and Henry as a couple, there needed to be more emotion, and we certainly got it. We needed to see more emotion from Mary, period, and we needed Matthew to play a part in this. There are emotional stakes, now, and it really helped out the storyline.


Contrast that storyline with Edith’s. She didn’t have all that much going on in the episode, other than being a happy couple with Bertie at Rosamund’s and the race track. They ended up staying behind in the drawing room when everyone else had gone to bed. Didn’t they look perfect sitting on the couch in that scene? Then things got even better because Bertie proposed!

Edith’s answer was two-part. Firstly, she asked if Marigold, “her ward,” could come along with them. He didn’t see why not, yet another reason they’re meant to be. But he also thought it was a little strange, which was warranted. “I’m much fonder of her than anyone else” wasn’t the best excuse in the world, and kind of makes the others seem cold and snobbish out of context. Edith also said she needed time to think about it, which Bertie was cool with. What she really needs to think over, it seems, is whether or not to tell him that Marigold is her daughter. I’ve previously expressed my opinion of how I think his character would react, and the way he acted in this episode should only back up that hypothesis. So I’m not all that worried about it, unless Mary goes behind her back and tells him. Then facts might get warped, seeing as Mary doesn’t actually know any of them.

But what makes Edith’s storyline so much more believable to me than Mary’s? One, there is more chemistry and narrative between Edith and Bertie. Obviously, chemistry is subjective and that’s just what I’m seeing. However, the story is something we’ve all been witness to. Edith and Bertie hit it off in the season 5 finale, and he appeared earlier in the season than Henry did, and he’s had more scenes with Edith than Henry has had with Mary, and those scenes have been deeper and more personal. Remember the conversation on the (first) couch, after they finished publishing the magazine? They had a heart-to-heart. They’ve had some really nice, quiet moments, and he has fit in with the family nicely, adding his much-needed input on the open house. He wanted to meet Marigold. He encourages and supports Edith, and just wants to spend time with her.

I’m not saying that Henry wouldn’t want to say or do similar things with Mary, but the point is, we haven’t seen as much of him. It’s a scientific fact that the more you see of a person, the more likely you are to think well of them and connect with them. That applies both to the characters and to the audience. More screen time means more connection with the characters. Mary & Henry and Edith & Bertie are different kinds of characters with very different personalities, and maybe I feel more invested in one relationship than the other because of that. After this episode and its emotion, there’s finally something concrete to the Mary/Henry dynamics. Am I completely sold? No. But it’s a start.


Meanwhile, Mrs. Patmore had a devious plan: Mrs. Hughes would feign a hand injury and sit aside while Carson tried and epically failed to cook dinner. He discovered all those things that anyone who doesn’t cook often realizes about two seconds too late: cooking is all multitasking. Mrs. Hughes sat at that table chuckling to herself, and it was one of the best parts of the episode. Carson fell asleep at the kitchen table and upon waking up, found out that he also had to wash the dishes he’d just done all that cooking with. I think if Carson knew about the modern microwave, he wouldn’t have put as much of a fight against it as he did with the electric toaster.

Also a notable scene between these two: when the family was in London, they went into the library and sat on one of the red couches. While Mrs. Hughes had the mentality that it was simply a couch, and a really nice one at that, Carson approached the sitting process like he was about to commit a capital offense. It wasn’t long though until he got comfortable and they both leaned back to relax. Wouldn’t that be a twist, or a really cool spinoff: The family moves out of the abbey! The Carsons, suddenly and miraculously rich, move in! I would watch that. Hey, I’d even write it if I had to.

Then Barrow walked in and they sprung out of the couch (a nice callback to when Alfred and Jimmy sat in the drawing room). They looked completely guilty… but they also snubbed Barrow. He could have sat down, too.


Molesley and Daisy had their exams, which we never actually saw. What we did see, however, was a picnic between Mrs. Patmore, Daisy, Barrow, Andy, Molesley, and the schoolmaster. Almost everyone else had followed the family to London, so they spend the lunch hour sitting outside in the sunshine. Thomas arrived with the forgotten lemonade, which was a nice touch. When Daisy asked Andy to read something aloud, Barrow quickly stepped in and read it for him, but the truth wasn’t long in coming. Everyone was kind and non-judgmental, and the schoolmaster offered to teach him… but told Barrow he couldn’t teach Andy anymore so the different methods of teaching wouldn’t result in confusion.

Barrow is losing his job, his friends, and now he can’t even help someone. Everyone asked him to be nicer for all those years, and now that he’s being kind, he’s being thrown out into the cold. His scene in the courtyard with Mrs. Hughes was significant. She saw him leaving as a new beginning for him, a chance to change and make friends. He thought he’d already done that. “You see, Mrs. Hughes, this is the first place I’ve found where I’ve laid down some roots.” He might not have always been kind to them, or them to him, but they are his family.

Later on, the schoolmaster came by the servant’s hall with news for Molesley – he had aced the test and was invited to join the teaching staff. Seeing Molesley happy, finally happy, was another checkmark on my mental list of Final Season Wishes. He’s had a hard time, and he gets to start over with something he’s really passionate about. He and Daisy had a nice conversation about how service is coming to an end and he simply has a head start on joining the rest of the world. Meanwhile Barrow sat completely alone at the table while everyone else gathered in the kitchen to celebrate. “Happy” and “ominous” sums up this whole side of the episode.


Violet decided that until she calmed down enough from her dethroning, she needed to distance herself from the family and go to France. But before leaving, she did three things that are crucial testaments to her character. For one, she told Isobel first, and gave her a letter to give to the family. Two, she tracked down Lord Merton’s daughter-in-law-to-be and had a nice little chat with her in regards to Isobel. As it turns out, the woman was a perfect match for Lord Merton’s son. Violet put an (awesome) end to that, and these two things show how much she cares for Isobel. They started off as enemies, then turned into frenemies, and now they have a close bond that unites them. Violet might have wanted to leave without talking to her immediate family – especially Cora – but she chose to tell Isobel for more reasons than that. I love how the show has brought them together over the years.

The third thing Violet did was buy a puppy for her son. I had missed Lord Grantham’s dog so much. Spratt delivered the puppy to the servant’s hall, and Carson didn’t think she should be taken upstairs. How could Carson not be smiling about this? How could anyone not be happy about this? Robert immediately named the puppy Tiaa, in keeping with the dogs’ Ancient Egyptian names. Everyone was so happy, and I’m just now realizing how many happy scenes including almost all of the cast have occurred so far this season. With two episodes left, there had better be plenty more where that came from.

Odds and Ends:
  • “I’ll return when I’ve gained control of my tongue.” “You’re an example for us all.”
  • “But I’m not in a state, unless it’s a state of boredom.”
  • My reasoning for travelling is to make myself eager to come home.”
  • Violet: “Well, I’ve written to Tom, told him how to reach me. Of them, he’s the most sensible.” How things have changed.
  • “Clearly were going to have to keep an eye on Tom.” I would have agreed, but after that crash, I doubt he’d risk his life when he has Sybbie to think about. 
  • “It feels as if we’re trapped in some witch’s curse for all eternity.” 
  • The rocky camerawork during the crash scene was A+. They took the normally smooth camerawork used for upstairs and kicked it five notches past the handheld downstairs scenes to achieve complete chaos. 
  • “It’ll be you next.” Molesley’s response to his new job is to building up Andy’s self-esteem. A nice reminder that he’s one of the most good-hearted characters on the show. 
  • Molesley: “I never think I deserve anything. Perhaps I’ve been wrong all along.”
  • Mary wore black at dinner, after the crash. A subtle but telling detail of how much it had affected her.
  • Daisy: “I never had much that was my own, you know.” Mrs. Patmore: “You found the love of a father there, and you can count on him. Just as you can count on me.” A nice explanation for Daisy’s possessiveness of Mr. Mason. It was inferable, but I’m very glad it was said.
  • “The thing is, I’d like to be trapped.”
  • “You’re not offended?” Dude, she’s been waiting for someone like you for years. 
  • Mrs. Patmore opened her bed and breakfast… but why is someone is watching her from the shrubbery??
  • “Don’t you know anything?” (As most of us go off to Google “Teo.”) 
  • “What’s funny?” “Just life… just life.”


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