While this week's plots run in a predictable fashion, there's still fun to be had in the Abbey.
Downton AbbeyAirtime: Sundays, 8pm
Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Jessica Brown Findlay, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton
Subtitle: Season 6, Episode 6
Air date: 2016-02-07
We can all take a collective deep breath: Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville), the 7th Earl of Grantham, is alive and well after the catastrophic, blood-spitting end to last week's episode. He is, however, bed-ridden for the foreseeable future. Which means a lot more scenes in the Crawley bedroom than ever before, but as the episode progresses, Robert doesn’t seem all that upset about being stuck out of the fray.
The biggest event of this week's installment of Downton Abbey is Tom (Allen Leech) and Mary’s (Michelle Dockery) idea to open up the estate to visitors in an attempt to raise money for the hospital. This, like any even moderately progressive idea in the land of Downton, leaves the older generation with a rotten taste in their mouths. Carson's (Jim Carter) appalled and carries a cane around to fend off any possible scallywags, Robert doesn’t get why anyone would want a tour of a house as "ordinary" as Downton, and Bates (Brendan Coyle) thinks it'll only fill the townspeople with more jealousy than respect. Aside from the former, these are the kind of ridiculous ideas that we have come to expect from the men of Downton. Par for the course.
Their misgivings appear to be misguided, as nothing is stolen and little actually takes place during the tour. That is, aside from the tour guides themselves -- Mary, Edith (Laura Carmichael), and Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) -- embarrassing themselves with the truly paltry amount of knowledge they possess of their own home. They are left befuddled by questions regarding the artist responsible for a painting, or the architect of the library, and generally come off as the rich buffoons the townspeople probably already think they are. Par for the course.
As we enter the final months of this exalted series, we're beginning to see some of the romantic relationships come into clearer focus. Mary and Henry (Matthew Goode) continue their courtship, which seems all but destined for an eventual, and perhaps series-culminating marriage. This week's more of the same, with the two meeting in London, talking about cars and skirting the more lurid nature of their desires with innuendos and small talk. We do, finally, have the first kiss for the couple, after an impromptu rainstorm of epically absurd proportions drives them into a romantic embrace. Mary thinks it's going far too fast; Henry's head-over-heals in love. Par for the course.
Mr. Mason (Paul Copley) and Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) -- my personal favorite couple-in-waiting -- are once again flirting in the most old people way possible: by sending food along with an unromantic note. Daisy (Sophie McShera) continues to get in the way, though, and appears dead-set on not allowing Patmore any of the happiness that she herself so desires. This conflict is sure to come to a head at some point, most likely with Daisy realizing her fault, but the back and forth is getting a little tiresome. A Patmore explosion of motherly scorn is way overdue. Here is to hoping she puts Daisy in her place ASAP.
The most solidified of the new romances, between Carson and Hughes (Phyllis Logan), is once again facing the pitfalls of the newly married, as Carson continues to be a stuck-up, spoiled jerk. Fellowes seems to be using their little domestic squabbles as a bit of comic-relief, but this plot line is quickly turning Carson from a generally likable character into a bit of a ungrateful schmuck: a character trait he continues to flex during his admonishment of Thomas (Rob James-Collier), and his accusation that Thomas is unfairly manipulating Andy (Michael Fox) for his own perverse gains. Thomas is quickly, and surprisingly, becoming one of the most sympathetic characters, and this is only solidified after this unfair indictment, which leaves him sobbing by the episode’s end.
Granny Violet (Maggie Smith), on the other hand, is not sympathetic and she's surely not sobbing. Instead, she's fuming over the realization that she’s not only lost the battle for the hospital -- and in turn the future of the town -- but is to be replaced by Cora as the head of the hospital board. This leads to a scene during the tour that the townspeople won’t soon forget. The outburst eventually makes its way to Robert's bedroom, where he can do little to quell his mother's anger, now fully focused on Cora.
There wasn't much in the way of narrative in this episode, but it flowed together nicely; more than anything, it wrapped up the issue of the hospital once and for all (hopefully). Violet will no doubt retaliate somehow, but it seems highly unlikely she comes out the victor, meaning Cora, like her daughters before her, will now take on more responsibility outside of the walls of the Abbey. There are only four hours remaining in the tale of the Crawleys and their many associates. There will be love, lust, scandal, and hopefully a marriage or a baby or two. Par for the course. I miss them already.