Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Downton Abbey 6x08 Review (You Get What You Give?) [Contributor: Hope]

“Episode 6.8”
Original Airdate: February 21, 2016

The fact that Downton Abbey has both season finales and Christmas specials means that we get two long, climactic episodes in a row. The show's penultimate episode didn’t disappoint when it came to drama, but it let me down in some other aspects.

It all centers on my belief in getting what you give. Some call it karma. If you give good, you should get good. If you treat others terribly... perhaps the world shouldn’t dump a boatload of good into your lap? I believe in second chances and forgiveness, but I also believe in consequences and responsibility to go along with actions.

Mary did not get what she gave. I have tried to give her the benefit of the doubt in the past, but this was awful. The episode started with her ruining a ton of relationships — her and Henry’s, Edith and Bertie’s, her and Edith’s, her and Tom’s — and ended with her riding off in a carriage, happily married. If that was supposed to be a satisfying ending, then either my definition is way off or this storytelling went down a wrong path.


The episode began with breaking news: Bertie’s cousin, whose estate he had been agent of, had died. Briefly, everyone wondered if the new heir would keep Bertie, or if he’d be out of a job. Then the news hit: Bertie was the heir. He was going to be a marquess, outranking them all (a marquess is one notch below a duke and one above an earl, which is Lord Grantham’s title) and if Edith still decided to marry him, she would, too. The reactions of 90% of the family were priceless. Robert looked more proud than he has ever been of anything or anyone. Meanwhile, I was practically bouncing up and down I was so happy. “Poor old Edith” would finally get her happy ending, and TAKE THAT MARY. She would be one of the most powerful ladies in the country AND own her own magazine.

That lasted for about two minutes. With a little help from Tom, Henry stopped by while Bertie was there (to hear Edith’s answer, which was still very much up in the air). Mary then began a downward, out-of-control spiral into horribleness. She was terrible to Henry, and when she found out he had left and gone home — basically what she had told him to do, by the way — she decided to wreck Edith’s future as well. She had gotten Tom to admit Marigold is Edith’s daughter without actually saying the words, and Mary sat down to breakfast with that knowledge to use as a weapon.

Prior to that point, Edith had a few opportunities to tell Bertie the truth (especially that bench scene, which would have been perfect), but she let all of them pass. She hadn’t actually said yes to his proposal, but he took something she had said the night before to mean yes, and he decided to announce the news at breakfast. Edith knew this wasn’t the time, because Mary was a complete loose cannon, and Robert and Carson had left the room, leaving it wide open for her to launch an attack without them there to see her do it.

But who was there? Tom. The very moment Mary mentioned “Edith’s past,” Tom’s face fell and he took on a look of complete disappointment with a hint of betrayal. His “Mary, don’t,” was so soft, he almost couldn’t say it. That was the last straw for him; he had believed in a side of her that was good, but that look said it all, and he said everything else in their conversation later on at the agent’s office. “How many lives are you going to wreck just to smother your own misery? You’re a bully, Mary. And like all bullies, you’re a coward.” He said that, and it was awesome... but he also covered for her when her father asked what had happened. Robert even saw through it, asking “Was it really a mistake?” to which Tom answered, “What difference does it make?” Tom’s really good at admitting things without actually saying the words, isn’t he?

Bertie was shocked by the news and left the dining room, and for home soon afterwards. He and Edith stood on the lawn and talked first, though. This is where I can say that I guessed right. Strict mother or not, he didn’t really care that Edith had a child. No, what was a deal-breaker for him was that Edith didn’t trust him. He said she should have told him right from the beginning.

Of course, I can’t say that Edith was completely in the wrong about that. Society was changing, but she had been raised to believe that Marigold would have been a deal-breaker. She knew that the moment she told Bertie the truth would be a watershed point the size of the Continental Divide. He would either not care, and they would get married… or he would leave her (forget the fact that they’re both very much in love) and she’d be alone once again.

So no, I can’t blame her. She acted out of fear, and fear is an extremely harsh motivator. You can’t blame Bertie either, because he had given every indication that he loved her for who she is and doesn’t really care about old social norms. He would have taken Marigold in as a ward, so why wouldn’t he take her in as Edith’s daughter?

But Edith let it go on too long, and Mary snatched control of that watershed right in front of her. Their showdown in Edith’s room was AMAZING. Mary came to apologize and Edith wasn’t having any of it. An apology wasn’t going to cut it, because Edith knew it wouldn’t mean Mary would change. Maybe she was sorry, but she wasn’t sorry enough in that moment to want to make it up to Edith. She just assumed she’d be forgiven. Edith called her exactly what you know she’s been wanting to call her since forever, and walked out.


Tom, disappointed and angry, called in the one-woman army: the Dowager Countess. She arrived home from the Mediterranean to talk some sense into Mary, but I think Violet could have been harsher. This is the Dowager we’re talking about here! It was a nice moment though, I’ll give it that. Her directions? “First make peace with your sister. Then make peace with yourself.”

So Mary “fixed” things, but skipped right to fixing her own life. She went to Matthew’s grave and asked for his forgiveness to marry again, while Isobel stood in the background, unseen except by us. But... okay, let’s face it: if anyone knew about guilt over marrying someone else, it was Matthew. I think we’re supposed to believe that all of Mary's lashing out had to do with her loss of Matthew and her fear of losing someone else. What she really needed forgiveness for, however, was ruining Edith’s engagement. Remember how devastated Tom looked in that scene? I am willing to bet that Matthew would have been just as disappointed in her. He believed in a better Mary, too. Mary just wanted a sign that he would have been happy for her, and I can’t help but think of that Ouija board and its message of “may they be happy” from the season two finale.

Isobel walked up and gave Mary her blessing. That was nice. Isobel’s storyline has been largely separate from Mary’s, which I think was the right way for it to be. But at this point, it was important for the series to have Isobel be so happy for her. I’m not exactly a fan of this marriage, but it just wouldn’t have been right without this scene between them.

So Mary calls up Henry, and he appears. He commented on that, even. She was horrible to him, but she called and he came running. Honestly, I’m not seeing the elements of a healthy relationship here. Maybe they are perfect for each other, maybe Mary has “met her match.” They’re both bossy and don’t listen to others, and if he wants to be bossy and unhearing along with her, then be my guest. If he likes that she’s “cool and collected,” then fine. Just don’t keep using “we’re in clearly in love!” as your reason for wanting to get married, because no matter how many times you say it, you’re not actually showing viewers that love. Bertie and Edith didn’t pound us over the head with a sign that said “WE’RE IN LOVE,” but just a look between them showed how much love they shared. Maybe it’s the actors, maybe it’s the writing. Maybe it’s both. I spent the whole Edith/Bertie goodbye scene thinking they might make up right there and then, because they looked like they were having such a hard time of it. They were saying it was over... and yet their expressions just screamed love.

Henry also had a marriage license conveniently on him from the last time he came, because he was just that sure she’d say yes. They get married that Saturday, and Edith shows up for the ceremony, because after all, Mary’s her sister. Edith hasn’t been the best sister either, but most of what she has done, she has done in response to Mary’s actions (like leaking to Pamuk story, way back when). However, this time Mary hurt her more than she has ever hurt her before, and what did she do? She put their differences aside. Edith showed more character growth in this storyline than Mary did, and I’m pretty sure this storyline was supposed to be about Mary’s growth. Even before, after she had finished calling Mary out, she tried to tell her “you’re wrong. Henry’s perfect for you.” Sure, she added that it was a good thing he’d escaped her, but there was something kind in there.

If this was supposed to be about character growth in Mary — to stop pushing away Henry and marrying again, despite social inequality — then it should have gone deeper than that. Matthew was middle class. He didn’t have much money except her father’s and Lavinia’s father’s. Matthew’s personality wasn’t like hers. In spite of herself, they finally married. We didn’t need a repeat of that storyline. What we needed was for Mary to contact Bertie, apologize for how she acted, and ask him to please give Edith another chance. Wouldn’t it have been beautiful if, as Edith stood there watching the children chase each other around Sybil’s grave, if Bertie came up? No words would have even had to been said; the episode could have ended like that.


Poor Mrs. Patmore. I’m not sure why this was so funny to everyone, but even upstairs they were laughing hysterically. Carson, however, took this too seriously, and was indignant that the family should be tied to the so-called scandal. When Robert, Cora, and Rosamund decided to eat breakfast at Mrs. Patmore’s B&B to foster good publicity, Robert saw something in Carson he didn’t like. “Oh, I think we need to show a little more backbone than that.” Sometimes Carson is way too protective of the family. He would have rather seen Mrs. Patmore’s business fail because of the rumor mill than let the family be seen there.

In a scene reminiscent of when Mrs. Patmore needed eye surgery, she was called upstairs and the Granthams just about made her year. It meant so much to her that they were standing by her side and had such loyalty to her. Their photograph together outside the B&B was also a sweet moment.


Mr. Molesley started his career as an English literature and history teacher, with a bumpy start. The thing about teaching is that no matter how well you ready your material, nothing prepares you for the first time you’re standing there with all those little faces watching you, bored. Mr. Molesley isn’t the kind of person who can automatically captivate a room of distracted children. He had to learn how.

Baxter suggested Molesley tell the children that he’s a servant. And it worked. They saw him as someone much like themselves. He was an example they could follow, if only they worked hard enough. He wanted to “give [them] the shortcut [he] never had.”

What I love is that everyone else is so happy for him. They gave him a huge round of applause, and Bates told him, “You’re a kind man. It’s about time you were rewarded for your kindness.” At least Molesley got back from the world what he had given it. As much as I want to see some of the other characters happy, I am so relieved that Molesley has at least finally found his calling. A lot of the characters have done questionable things in the past, but I can’t remember him doing anything with ill-intent. He deserved this so much.


As if the Edith/Mary storyline wasn’t enough for one episode. Baxter was going with Molesley to the school to watch him teach and lend moral support, when he mentioned that Barrow has said something kind to him — something kind of sentimental and final.

Baxter immediately ran back to the house. She and Andy found Thomas in the bathtub. I can’t even write about this scene. Long story short, they had found him just in time, and told the rest of the staff that he had the flu while he recuperated. They did, however, tell the family, who were shell shocked. Mary launched a comment at her father about his plan to let Thomas go. It was a low blow and not the time or place for it... but true? Thomas hasn’t been considerate to the feelings of others in the past, but that doesn’t mean he’s immune to what people say to him. He had changed, but everyone kept seeing him as the same old Thomas. He had begun giving the world good, but he wasn’t getting any good back. Whatever Thomas has said or done to others in the past, he never deserved this. No one deserves this.

Mary brought George to see Thomas. She realized that she and Thomas aren’t that different — he was terrible to people and pushed them away, and now he was “paying the price.” It was a bit of a wake-up call for her. He said he couldn’t stop himself from acting as he had. Maybe it was time for her to try to stop herself.


Odds and Ends:
  • What a heavy episode. Now, take some deep breaths and let the cuteness that is Tiaa calm you down a bit.
  • I love that the opening credits have never changed, even as time has moved on. 
  • The first scene, where Edith and Cora walked the grounds with their parasols was nice. It reminded me of an earlier era. 
  • “You’ll regret it if you don’t [tell him].” “With my luck, I’ll regret it either way.”
  • Is Sergeant Willis the only police officer who’s allowed to come to Downton, or...? 
  • “But she did give you Tiaa.” “True. I forgive her everything.”
  • Daisy passed her tests! But I’m not sure what’s supposed to happen next. Will she teach?
  • “Golly gumdrops!” 
  • “I think if you expect a lot, you get a lot.” 
  • The scene in between Mary and Tom in the woods had such pretty lighting. 
  • Bertie inheriting his cousin’s estate and title was reminiscent of Matthew inheriting Downton. A nice way to bring the series full circle. 
  • “Representing the people who look after [him]” is a nice way for Bertie to view being a member of the landed nobility. And he was so shaken up about his cousin dying. He’s simply a refreshing character who isn’t afraid to show emotion or be kind.
  • “If you’re trying to get rid of me, I’m going to make this as hard and as horrible as I can.” Oh yes, that sounds like true love, doesn’t it? 
  • Merton’s daughter-in-law-to-be wasn’t expecting someone as sharp as Isobel. 
  • “Did you tell him you were coming back?” “A good butler should not need to be told.” Apparently butlers need to be telepathic.
  • “Get me a duke, there’s got to be one to spare, so I could put Edith in her place.” There is so much wrong with this sentence.
  • “I believe in love. Brilliant careers, rich lives, are seldom lived without a bit of love.” Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham: master of harsh wit and poetic philosophy. 
  • Um, so Spratt is the person writing the advice column in Edith’s magazine and it’s so random and I’m confused. 
  • “You’re my curmudgeon and that makes all the difference.”
  • “I assumed you would be fairly sorry, unless you were actually insane.”
  • “You’re my sister. And one day only we will remember Sybil. Or… anyone of the others who were people of our youth until at last, our shared memories will mean more than our mutual dislike.” What a beautiful scene. 
  • Tom has been best man at both of Mary’s weddings. The first time, as Matthew’s friend, and the second time, for someone he now refers to as his sister. He forgave her pretty quickly, but he isn’t one to hold a grudge.
  • “It seems all our ships are coming into port.”
  • “A surprise is a surprise, Mama, and I’m sure we haven't seen the last one yet.” That had better be some blatant foreshadowing. Edith’s storyline needs to make a 180.
  • Series Finale Wish List: Edith and Bertie married, Molesley and Baxter engaged, Barrow promoted to Butler as Carson retires, Isobel ending up with Dr. Clarkson, Tom happy, and everyone happy and healthy. No more sad tears, show. You’ve put us through enough. Give us one episode of perfect happiness.


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