DA Season 6 has come to an end. Tonight we watched the opening sequence live for the last time. Isis’s tail, the approach to the Abbey, the tingling of the bells will soon fade into memory, unless we watch the repeats. Viewers hope that sequels are in the works. What will happen to Tom? What of the Crawley’s next generation of children? What of the new romances that developed just this past year? And what will happen to Downton Abbey after World War II? I am getting too far ahead!
As Episode 9 opens, the viewers are treated to a bucolic scene of the Crawley family walking along the grounds of the Abbey as children play and Robert’s pup gambols. Edith, looking mature, mentions moving to London and taking Marigold with her. She’s single and will live alone, like the spinster she is. Since the magazine is going well (Mr. Spratt as an agony aunt is a surprise hit with viewers and Edith offers him a full page spread), her life has purpose. The viewers are cheering her on. Yes, Edith might have been an awful sister to Mary six long years ago, but Edith has grown up and learned from her heartaches. She still spars with Mary, but she’s abandoned her mean-spirited pranks. There’s simply too much on her plate these days and she’s moved on.
The Idle Husband
Meanwhile, Henry broods. He can no longer race, partly because of Mary’s concerns about possible accidents and partly because of Charlie’s death, which has taken all the fun out of driving, but he must find some way to make a good living. An idle life is just not his cup of tea. We can feel his restlessness and begin to wonder how long he can be happy living as Mary’s “kept” man.
Edith moves to London and meets her aunt Rosamund for dinner. At the restaurant Rosamund lead her straight to Bertie’s table and abandons her. It’s obvious he awaits her with some trepidation.
“Is this a set up?” Edith asks, looking both anxious and hopeful.
Mary tipped me off, he explains, which surprises Edith. Both are still hopelessly in love. Regardless of her feelings, nothing’s changed and Bertie broke Edith’s heart, which she won’t soon forget.
“I want you back,” he says simply. “I’ve changed.”
“What’s different?” she says without much hope. ” I still have Marigold.”
“I can’t live without you.”
Edith is still skeptical. “What are you asking?
” I want you to marry me.”
” If I agreed, would we tell your mother the truth. There are people who know the truth, are you ready for gossip?”
“The only thing I’m not ready for is a life without you.”
And just like that Edith and Bertie are an item again. She calls her father, who is ecstatic but still cautious. “Mrs. Pelham doesn’t know about Marigold.”
Cora dismisses his worry. “Edith is going to be happy, just think about that.”
The Crawleys Meet a Dragon Lady
Plans for the wedding proceed at motor car speed. The Crawleys arrive at Brancaster Castle, a sprawling building in Northumberland designed for pomp and circumstance. Along with the castle comes Mrs. Pehlam, an upright battleax who expects her son, Bertie, to LEAD BY EXAMPLE. Cousin Peter’s morality in Tangiers, of all places, was not reassuring, which means that Bertie’s conduct shall, nay, MUST be beyond reproach. It is imperative that his wife be as pure as the driven snow and as innocent …”
“Golly,” says the earl, beginning to understand that Edith’s mama-in-law-to-be might not take too kindly to a bastard step-granddaughter or the thought that Bertie’s fiancee has STRAYED outside her “pale.” Worse, the mama-in-law-to-be intends to live in a mama-in-law flat inside the castle, but, mind you, she reassures Edith, you won’t hear a peep out of me.
Edith starts to worry about Marigold and the SECRET and the fact that almost everyone at Downton knows it.
“Take a chance with a good man,” says the earl when she shares her concerns.
But Edith can’t leave well enough alone, having learned to squeeze juicy drama out of a turnip. Plus she loves and respects Bertie too much to continue the lie. And so, wishing to start her new life with a clean slate, she tells Mrs. Pelham that Marigold is her daughter, who she bore without the blessing of a husband.
The thought of a despoiled PERSON marrying her son nearly gives Mrs. Pelham an apoplectic fit. She marches over to Bertie and demands that he’ll put an end to his engagement. “She’s damaged goods. You need a wife with moral character!!!!!!!!”
Bertie’s love for Edith is too great. “I would have kept you in the dark, but Edith had the decency to tell you.” He lets his mother know in no uncertain terms that he intends to marry Edith, whether she supports his decision or not. Way to get out from under your mama’s apron strings, Bertie! Well done.
Mrs. Pelhams clamps her mouth and at dinner refuses to acknowledge Edith or the engagement. Just before Bertie takes the bull by the horns to make the announcement himself (a social faux pas), the earl reminds Mrs. Pelham that she will lose her son forever if she remains quiet. So the battleax stands up to toast her son and Edith, a tad churlishly, mind you, but the move has the whiff of morality behind it.
Poor Edith. God spare us all such a mama-in-law. Here she is about to wed the man of her dreams, but who has a dragon lady for a mother. The following day, however, after some reflection, Mrs. Pelham admits to one and all that by being honest, Edith was prepared to deny herself a great position. That in itself was admirable. Then everything’s settled, says Bertie, which, because this is the last episode of Downton Abbey ever, is true. From that day forward Mrs. Pelham is a changed person, and like the Grinch, her heart grew two sizes that day. One even sees her gamboling with Marigold in some future scenes.
Two Men, A Car, and No Job
Back at the Abbey, Henry Talbot is still brooding about having nothing to do. He must find a job. He’s fit. He’s handsome. He has a wonderful wife, but now it’s time for him to decide how he will spend the rest of his life. Certainly not idly. He wants to be worthy of his wife and not put her in a position of having to explain him, yet that position must be nearby.
Knowing Henry loves cars as much as he does, Tom approaches him about starting a local business. The two men talk about transportation and their mutual passion. Both are interested in taking care of their own futures without the help of the Crawleys, but what will that future look like?
Whole Lot of Shaking Going On
Meanwhile it’s become evident to Charlie and Elsie that his clumsiness and tremors are getting worse. His father and grandfather had the same condition, or the palsy, as it was known back then. Their shaky hands finished their careers. “I’m done for,” he tells Elsie, who is fully supportive and empathetic.
Charlie asks the footmen take on his duties under pretense of falling sick, but he knows it won’t be long before the earl and Mary notice. When they do, they are as concerned as Elsie and promise Carson can keep his job for as long as he is able to perform his duties. “If there are changes to be made, we must not be afraid to face them,” Mary tells him more coolly than she feels. (When it comes to Carson and her son, George, she is a fully realized human being.)
As the wedding approaches, Carson’s obviously not being himself. After he has Andrew pour the claret, the earl and Lady Mary checks up on him. Carson feels he has no option but to tender his resignation when the wedding is over.
The earl won’t hear of it. “You’ll stay on the estate, help manage the grand events!”
” I doubt that the new butler would accept the job on such terms. I know I wouldn’t.”
And that seems to be that.
Moving On Down
Thomas’s time at the Abbey is coming to an end, for he has found a job nearby. He thanks Anna, Baxter, and Andy for rescuing him and giving him some breathing space during his recovery. When he announces that he must start a day sooner than anticipated, Bates tells Thomas he wants to part as friends, instead of as enemies. Thomas’s goodbye speech to the earl is weep worthy. “I begin my new position with a new spirit. I arrived her as a boy, I leave as a man.”
“We will always be grateful to you for saving Lady Edith from the fire,” says Cora.
As usual, Carson has a gruff word, “No reason why you shouldn’t get on.”
In short order, Thomas arrives at his new employment. The contrast between the Abbey and this new home is stark – one is full of bustle, the other is as silent as a tomb with two elderly, seemingly lifeless owners. The only servants are himself, Mrs. Jenkins, and Elsie. Seeing his new situation, and knowing how much he thrives on drama, the viewers weep for our favorite under butler.
Moving on Up
Moseley’s star continues to rise and his relationship with Baxter flourishes (though they have yet to run to a darkened hallway to share a kiss – he’s too much of a gentleman, she’s too much a lady.) The schoolmaster , Mr. Dawes, would like to employ him full time. In short order he has found a cottage and announces his decision to move within the week to Charlie and Elsie. He’s not ready to cut the cord entirely, though, and offers to keep helping at Downton on the occasional time. A sullen Carson announces, “Your livery stays here.” Her hubby’s churlishness prompts Elsie to jump in and say, “That’s kind Mr. Moseley, Mr. Carson will be extremely grateful.” One suspects that the shakes are not the main reason for Carson’s foul moods these days. Change is afoot, and Charlie Carson hates change.
Dickie and Izzie
The entire Dickie Gray saga has taken on a comic quality, with a tussle developing between Larry and Amelia Gray and Isobel Crawley over Dickie’s dying carcas. The unfortunate man has been diagnosed with pernicious anemia, a deadly disease. Before this diagnosis, the Grays couldn’t get rid of Dickie fast enough, encouraging Isobel to become nursemaid to an ailing man. Now that his demise promises to be speedy, this unsavory couple does everything within their power to keep Dickie isolated from Isobel. The brouhaha began with a letter, breaking an invitation to tea that Larry Gray had originally sent to Isobel. Matthew’s momma shares this missive with an astonished Violet. ‘Dear Mrs Crawley, Events have overtaken us and we are not now free to keep our engagement. Yours, Amelia Gray.’
“How peculiar,” says Violet, who is not against a bit of snooping to find out what’s going on.
Violet knows Isobel is in love with him, which Isobel acknowledges.
“I can’t think I turned him down. I must be mad.”
Isobel takes charge and accompanies Dickie to meet with Dr. Clarkson for a second opinion. As they leave the office, they encounter the badger Amelia standing in front of her car. She orders her chauffeur to help his lordship into the car, and rounds on Isobel, all claws out. “Leave us alone, Mrs. Crawley. Now that he will die soon, the family want to take care of Dickie.”
Knowing what she’s up against, she decides to visit Dickie to learn his opinion, but Amelia keeps Isobel waiting outside, then practically slams the door in Isobel’s face.
“Did Mrs. Gray actually throw you out?” asks Violet after Isobel relates her experience.
“He is their captive. It is all about the claims to the estate.”
” If reason fails, try force,” recommends Violet, who accompanies Isobel to confront the Grays.
As Amelia demands that they leave, Dickie spies them from the second floor. He learns that his darling Isobel has been denied entrance. His opinion of his son and daughter-in-law is withering. While he loves his son, he fails to like him.
“Take this home. May you have joy of it.”
Isobel tells him that she’ll marry him, to which her Dickie replies, “How perfectly marvelous.”
“And who can argue with that,” says Violet, pleased as punch that she finally got these two lovebirds together.
But the story of Dickie and Izzie does not stop here. At Edith’s wedding they learn from Dr. Clarkson that he has been misdiagnosed. Dickie has plain old ordinary iron deficient anemia, not the pernicious variety (as if viewers know the difference). Ah, how perfectly wonderful. Now the two old lovebirds can get on with their lives and eat iron-rich diets.
An Unlikely Pair
Some married couples spat all the time. Some unmarried couples seem like married couples because of their constangt bickering. Take Sprat and Denker, who delight in upping each other and making each others’ lives miserable. Denker is the worst culprit, but somehow the viewer sense that her challenges enliven Sprat’s days.
He is always writing and burning the candle at both ends at night, which Denker resents. By spying on him she learns his secret . He’s a butler by day and a writer by night, spilling the beans on everyone he knows.
Denker approaches Lady Violet with her knowledge, knowing that THIS TIME she will get him fired.
“Which publication employs him?” asks Violet.
“Lady Edith’s magazine, ma’am.” In a flash, Denker hands her mistress the offending article.
“All opened to the right page, I see,” says Violet.
“I suppose truth will out.” Denker is feeling triumphant and itching to see the back side of Sprat.
But Lady Violet loves Sprat’s column. She giggles and titters and laughs, and practically whoops and hollers. “Why would I dismiss him?” When Violet next sees Sprat, she tells him that she will come to him in the future for advice about her clothes and more.
Her reaction is enough to make Denker scream. (But will she ever give up trying to make trouble for him? Not likely.)
A Sisterly Love Chat
The wedding plans are proceeding rapidly. The young pair will be married at Christmas, maybe New Year’s Eve. When Edith encounters Mary for the first time since her engagement, she says, “I know you made it all happen. Why did you do it?”
” It was something Granny said.”
“You gave me my life back.”
” We’re blood, were stuck with it, so let’s try to do a little better in the future,” Mary says coolly.
This is about as warm and fuzzy as it gets between the two sisters, readers. We’ll just have to come to terms that it will never get better.
Oh, Grow Up, Already, Daisy
Daisy, if we think about it, hasn’t really changed for 6 years, except that she’s learned to cook and study, all admirable study skills that most of us acquire in our teens. This season she’s been a big pain, and so poor Daisy has been given only 90 minutes in which to change into a more mature person. Physically, she even acknowledges that she looks the same as she did 10 years ago. She keeps rebuffing Andy, feeling that she could do a lot better. “You despise anyone who thinks well of you,” says Mrs. Patmore, reminding her of her first mistaken crush, Thomas, who didn’t pan out too well. “You could do worse.”
Andy’s no fool. He asks Mrs. Patmore if he even stands a chance with Daisy. He’s tried to compliment her, but he’s at the point of giving up and leaving her alone.
When Daisy visits Mr. Mason at Yew Tree Farm, Andy is on the roof, helping the farmer with the harder tasks. “He’s a cracking lad,” says Mr. Mason. “Got him to count on.” As Daisy leaves, she looks up at Andy and his bulging biceps on the roof, with a considering look on her face. Slowly but surely, she starts to come around thinking more highly of the young footman, but he’s been burnt once too often. For now.
Daisy, aware that she’s stuck in Edwardian era land, wants to look smart for the wedding. Having seen Anna with Lady Mary’s spanking new hair dryer, she sneaks upstairs to look for it… cuts her hair…badly.
Later, in the kitchen, Mrs. Patmore grows suspicious.
“Why is your cap all pulled over your ears?” Daisy reveals her awful cut and says she is not going to the wedding.
Andy laughs. “What have you done?”
“You can laugh,” says Mr. Patmore, “but she’s made a fool of herself to please you.”
Andy looks contrite but feels all Sally Field happy inside – ‘she likes me, she really likes me!’
Anna takes pity on Daisy and cuts and styles her hair. “You look like Clara Bow,” she says. And, indeed, Daisy looks modern and fresh and mature.
Andy tells her, “Daisy, I think we have been out of step with each other. Let’s not be out of step any more.” He picks up a lock of her hair. (Cue violin music in the background, please.)
This story arc was a bit quick, but satisfying none the less. As we near the end of the last episode, almost all story threads are accounted for!
The Abbey Resplendent at Christmas
It is December 29, 1925. As the wedding approaches, Lady Rose and Mr. Atticus Aldrige arrive without their 3-month old baby daughter. And then Rose’s father, Shrimpie, arrives, sans his ex-wife, who is the actual genetic family connection. But no one likes her and no one misses her.
Moseley, true to his word, helps out the staff by working at the Abbey for the holidays. Anna is very pregnant, with her baby due in 10 days. She’s not ready for bed rest just yet and keeps plugging away at her duties. Carson mutters that in his day, ladies maids did not get pregnant, to which his bride replies that in his day maids were not allowed to get married. Get with the program, Carson! The times they are a’ changing.
During all these festivities, the writers turn to Thomas, whose job is so boring, that for entertainment he watches paint dry and spiders spin webs. He likes nothing, absolutely nothing about his position, but he has no choice. He needs to work. Thomas reminds his new employers that he will be taking a day off to attend Lady Edith’s wedding, one bright spot in his dreary existence and something to look forward to.
In fact, the writers are speeding things up, trying to tie up all loose ends.
Dickie has given his house to Larry and Amelia Gray. He is happy having done so and good riddance to the pair of them.
Henry and Tom have reinvented themselves. Eager as pups, they show Mary a surprise in town, although it takes her a moment to see a sign across the street, “Talbot and Branson Motors” , a real life business and going concern that will sell Daimlers. Henry will be at the business full time to set up a dealership for new cars. But first they have to sell the first car, which is his car, to get some capital.
“Have I miscalculated; are you ashamed?” he asks his silent wife.
” Are you mad? I’m as proud as anyone living.” She whispers something in Henry’s ear, and he is overcome with joy.
The viewers aren’t fooled. Good old Mary is preggers. How sweet.
The couple decide not to tell the assembled guests, not wanting to take the spotlight off Edith.
All through this episode Robert has been grousing whenever Lady Cora is called away to perform her duty for the hospital. Rose, who has been at the Abbey for all of two seconds, convinces Robert to come with her to observe Cora at work. He finally sees Cora addressing the community’s concerns. Her talent for public speaking and knowledge about the hospital remind him of how ably she ran the house as a convalescent ward during the war. Finally he acquiesces and tells her how proud he is of her.
The wedding day has arrived.
Anna feels hot in the pews. Tom talks to Miss Edmonds, Edith’s editor, and the woman who attracted him at the motor car races. Daisy sits with Mr. Mason, still trying to decide whether to move in with him or not. Dickie and Shrimpie are in attendance to watch Bertie get married.
Edith walks down the Abbey’s impressive stair towards her papa. Her gown is very pretty. She is glowing and beautiful.
“Papa, did you ever think we’d get to this day?”
Papa just can’t get over his daughter’s brilliant match. In fact, the scenes between Robert and Edith this episode have been lovely and wonderful to watch.
“I adore him,” she says simply as they walk towards the awaiting car.
This time there is no wedding interruptus for Edith. She is finally getting her happy ending.
After the service, Anna feels an upset stomach. Daisy’s finally decided to move to the farm. A happy Mr. Mason sees Beryl Patmore and tells her he wants to see more of her at the farm. She blushes. And Daisy looks on smiling. (Finally.)
Two final dramas unfold.
At the reception, Carson is unable to pour the champagne. Thomas happens to be on hand, and pours the champagne instead. The earl seizes an opportunity and offers Barrow a position as butler. Would Thomas mind if Carson stayed on as an elder statesman? Heck no. Thomas learned all he knows about butlering from Carson! Robert offers Thomas the job, which he accepts. “I don’t want to force your hand, Mr. Barrow, ” says Carson. “And I don’t want to twist your arm, Mr. Carson,” answers Thomas. Situation resolved. Everyone is happy.
When Anna returns the hair dryer to Lady Mary’s room, her water breaks. “No need to panic!” says Mary, who tends to her. Henry calls for Bates. Dr. Clarkson, wedding guest, arrives quickly, and before you know it, the Bates’s have a little Batesy boy.
The situation prompts one more outburst from Carson, “But she can’t have it now! In Lady Mary’s bedroom. Surely not!”
After the reception, as Edith and Bertie leave the Abbey, he tells her, “What a wonderful life were going to have.”
“I’ll try not to disappoint you,” she says to her new mama-in-law.
“Just love him,” is Mrs. Pelham’s answer. Talk about a complete turn of mind!
Edith throws the bouquet, which is caught by Miss Laura Edmonds, who has caught Tom’s eye. (Might there be a sequel in the future?)
The earl and Carson shake hands, grateful for their association. The guests ring in 1926 to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, and the camera pans away from Downton Abbey, bathed in snow.
Goodbye Crawleys. Goodbye Abbey and six wonderful years of story lines. Goodbye downstairs staff. This episode, while saccharine, is so satisfying I give it 5 stars.