This is it, friends: the penultimate episode of Downton Abbey. It’s the finale before the Finale, so it’s a bit longer than other episodes, meaning this recap is a bit longer than other recaps. That also means more gifs, so …
Edith hasn’t exactly accepted Bertie yet, because he doesn’t know the truth about Marigold. She and Cora take a stroll with some umbrellas and look like they’re shooting an Anthropologie advert.
Sgt. Willis shows up again, but this time it’s not about the Bateses or Baxter; Mrs. Patmore’s inn, it seems, is in serious trouble. Apparently, one of her guests—her first, in fact—only stayed at the inn so that he could cheat on his wife. And he got caught. And now Mrs. Patmore’s inn is known in the village as a “house of ill-repute.” Basically, this arsehole took a perfectly nice, well-intentioned bed and breakfast and rendered it a Motel 6.
Mrs. Patmore is devastated. Mrs. Hughes is all lmao.
Aunt Rosamund’s here, bitching about the Dowager, who is still on her Escape Cora vacation. Robert doesn’t exactly agree with his mother’s behavior, but he’s forgiven her because of the puppy she gave him. *squee*
Downstairs, Molesley’s nervous about asking Carson for a change in schedule to accommodate his teaching in the village. “Don’t ask him, tell him,” Baxter says, and not gonna lie, it’s pretty hot. I ship these two so freakin’ bad.
Anna tells Mary about Mrs. Patmore’s alleged brothel, and they laugh at her failure. Mary’s thankful; she’s needed a good laugh at the expense of her underlings.
She’s not heard from Henry Talbot and thank God. She’s sick of him—sick of everyone pushing her to marry him. She don’t need no scrub.
It appears that Bertie’s employer, the Marquess of Hexham, has died of malaria. That means that Bertie is … the new Marquess of Hexham. WHICH MEANS EDITH WILL BE A MARCHIONESS, OUTRANKING HER ENTIRE FAMILY. In the British Peerage, Marquess/Marchionesses are ranked higher than Earls and Countesses. So not only will Edith be of higher rank than Mary but even her own parents. YOU GO, GIRL. GET SOME.
“Golly gumpdrops!” says Robert.
FML, says Mary, who has all but lost her ability to can.
Meanwhile, Tom has been all buddy-buddy with ol’ Henry Talbot, and Mary doesn’t want him to encourage it.
Edith’s afraid Bertie will rescind his marriage offer now that he’s fancy-dancy. Her family shares this sentiment, because although they rarely pay her any attention, they aren’t blind to her tiring string of misfortune.
“Edith couldn’t make her dolls do what she wanted,” Robert says to Cora as they get ready for bed, which seems like a lot of insight for parents to have who, more than likely, only saw their children for an hour a day when the nanny brought them down for tea.
Despite what everyone in this episode seems to believe, Mary really isn’t into Henry. She continues to try to get through Tom’s thick skull about this, but he’s exasperated with her.
She takes the opportunity to pull one over on him so he’ll confirm Marigold’s real identity. Whether or not she has a plan to use this information we don’t know, but Tom’s guts are in a knot knowing that if she does, it might damn well be his fault.
Lady Rosamund, who is still at Downton for some reason, is fighting with Robert. He reminds her that she never had children so she couldn’t possibly understand. (No children unless you look at the Season One Press Pack. What happened, Fellowes?!) Also, now that we are legit at the end of this show, I’m coming to terms with the fact that we will never know what happened to her husband, Marmaduke Painswick. I’m open to headcanons.
In the servants’ quarters, Thomas has been deemed overqualified for the job he applied for. It seems to be the last option for him, and now his hopelessness about employment—at Downton or elsewhere—seems overwhelming.
In the village, the paps are outside Mrs. Patmore’s hoping to snap a picture of her—her fame as a madame certainly not good fame—and Mrs. Hughes gives them the proverbial finger. All the bookings have cancelled. Mrs. Patmore’s losing her mind, and Mrs. Hughes suggests they have tea, because that will fix everything!
At the village school, Mr. Molesley is teaching, and the kids are like … taunting him. #Rude. He is a sweet cinnamon roll. He’s trying, bless him. Why must they mock him?!
Mary’s brewing some shit. She’s just got that look on her face. She’s prodding Edith and Bertie at luncheon, which is making me nervous. Bertie takes Edith on a walk and talks a lot about his mother.
Henry shows up unannounced during a most wonderful and violent puppet show by Tom and Bertie (that no one is enjoying more than Cora).
Mary throws a fit. She’s so sick and tired of people pushing her into this relationship that she quite clearly does not want to be in! I’m even siding with Mary now, and that’s never happened. This is getting ridiculous.
Henry tells her that if she’s trying to get rid of him, he’s gonna make it as “hard and horrible” as he can—which sounds like a terrible threat. Jesus, Fellowes, is this supposed to be romantic? What is romantic about this? Mary storms off. Undeterred, Henry’s staying for dinner anyway.
The Crawleys are, like, totally obsessed with this Henry + Mary ship, which squicks her.
“The man’s only crime is to love you,” says Cora, who ships it—but also doesn’t ship it?
“She’s clearly quite mad about him, whatever she says,” says Aunt Rosamund.
REALLY? I’VE SEEN MARY GET MORE PASSIONATE ABOUT A CUP OF TEA THAN HENRY TALBOT!
Henry apologizes for showing up, but it’s only a half apology. He asks Mary if she’s not marrying him because he’s not fantastically rich, and Mary’s rightfully offended that he essentially called her “a grubby little gold digger.”
I mean, she might be, but she doesn’t want to be called out. She rushes upstairs to shed a single tear.
Anna tells Bates (in their dark apartment that still doesn’t have electricity in 1925—?) that Mary doesn’t want to marry Henry because “she can’t control him.” Anna concedes that perhaps she was wrong about the two of them—maybe they would actually be perfect for each other. WHICH MAKES NO SENSE? Anna, do you ship it or nah?
Also, doesn’t anyone have something to talk about besides Henry and Mary? Anna’s like 14 months pregnant. Shouldn’t she and Bates be discussing baby names or something?
Bates has one line, which is basically, “Show me a man who doesn’t smile when his wife admits she’s wrong.” Gag.
At breakfast the next morning, Mary comes down to find Henry gone. Which is what she wanted, right? So why does she look so damn angry about it? Robert leaves, because he probably feels like some horrible shit is about to go down. Bertie shares that Edith has accepted his proposal.
Mary sneers, “I admire you Bertie, not everyone would accept Edith’s past …”
Tom: Mary no.
Mary: Mary YES.
AND THEN SHE FORCES EDITH TO TELL BERTIE ABOUT MARIGOLD.
And Tom is all of us.
Mrs. Hughes goes up to the library to say Bertie’s left in a huff, and Rosamund asks about Mrs. Patmore (since everyone knows about this story now), and she suggests that they go and have tea there to restore some decency to it. Because apparently rich white people are Bandaids for society’s ills!
Carson is outraged that Mrs. Patmore is even considering having the family to her brothel for brunch, and he’s even more disgusted that Mrs. Hughes was the one to suggest it. “I’ve always known that women were ruthless, but I didn’t think I’d find the proof in my own wife!”
Dem be fightin’ words!
Bertie and Edith have a talk. He’s not even mad about the truth, he’s mad that she didn’t tell him the truth, which is a very modern view. Not particularly one that reflects the social dynamics of a Marquess in 1925 Europe …
It’s over, then. Bertie leaves to catch his train. They say good luck to one another, and the love here is so real. Damn it, Mary! Edith was ALMOST HAPPY.
Mary lays into Tom, but Tom lays even worse into Mary: After six seasons, he calls her out on her shrewdness. “You’re a coward, Mary. Like all bullies, you’re a coward.”
Baxter is walking with Mr. Molesley in the village, but before she leaves, she and Anna see a rather somber and wan-looking Thomas entering the servant’s quarter baths. He’s really not looking good at all—like worse than that time he nearly poisoned himself with that “homosexuality correcting” snake oil.
Upstairs, Edith and Mary have the face-off that has been a long time coming—probably their entire lives, really. Edith implores bitter Mary to not attempt to “justify her venom” and gets right in her face to tell her that she is, case in point, a bitch.
Not content to have ruined her own life, she’s got to ruin Edith’s, too. Still, as she leaves, even she weighs in on the Henry situation: “He’s perfect for you; you’re just too stupid and stuck up to see it.” With that, she departs for London. Probably forever.
GOD FELLOWES, EVEN THIS SCENE HAD TO BE ABOUT MARY IN THE END!?
Robert goes out of his way to try to help Mrs. Patmore, despite Carson’s efforts to the contrary. (It should be noted that employers were never this generous. Carson is the most historically accurate character on this show in his stringent beliefs on the subject of honor, but thank God for Mrs. Patmore that everyone else is totally fine getting involved in this drama.)
Baxter’s Thomas-senses begin to tingle as she’s walking with Molesley, and she races back to the Abbey, only to find that Thomas is behind a locked bathroom door, not responding to her pleas for him to open it.
Andy kicks open the door, and they discover that he’s slit his wrists. She tells him to fetch Mrs. Hughes, and the three of them drag him back to his room, having called for Dr. Clarkson. It appears he’s not gone too far, though he’ll need stitching up.
Okay, pause for a minute: The buildup to this moment for Thomas has been season-long, even arguably series long, yet we get a mere glimpse at this moment? We get an entire episode of Mary’s woe-is-me ramblings about how much she does-or-does-not love Henry Talbot, yet one of the main characters throughout six seasons attempts suicide, and we get hardly any time at all to process it?
“Do you still think dismissing Barrow was a useful savings, Papa?” Mary sneers, much to Robert’s shock, and that’s really the most that’s said on the subject. While it would have been, of course, historically accurate for the entire situation to be kept hush-hush (much as it is today, as sad as that is) for a two-hour episode to give a paltry couple of minutes to this plot may just be a microcosm of how little we talk about suicide at all. More time is given to people talking about Thomas than to him. In fact, it’s really only Mary when she brings George to visit Thomas in his room. The similarities between these two characters abound in that moment, and it’s actually quite sad.
Downstairs, Mrs. Patmore and Daisy are getting ready for their luncheon at the House of Ill Repute and Pancakes with the family. Carson still thinks the entire thing is a holy nightmare.
“You’re such an old curmudgeon!” Mrs. Hughes says, and he winces, afraid she’s gone off him.
“You’re my curmudgeon, and that makes all the difference,” she says before giving him a kiss—in the servants’ hall, no less! Housekeeper in the streets, housecreeper in the sheets, amirite?
The Dowager has responded to Tom’s call to come talk to Mary … but not Edith; she’s still in London, and The Dowager’s fine with that, because she really only cares about Mary, like everyone else in this
Mary tries to figure out why she outed Edith when Violet asks, but she just goes:
After all these seasons of Violet pushing the peerage—the way things are and ought to stay—why NOW is she focused on the power of love?
“I can’t be a crash widow again!” Mary cries (and she really, really cries, actual tears) “Can’t you find me some Duke?” she cries more, but Violet comes through, and Maggie Smith gives us a lovely moment here—one of her last, sadly, as this is the end of the series.
Mary’s decided about Henry, then. She’ll invite him by for tea. Problem solved!
As for reconciling with Edith? Ehhhhh.
At Edith’s newspaper, they’re getting ready to meet Cassandra Jones, whose column’s success has been unprecedented! She’s like the Ask Polly of Britain. The lady editors smoke and look cool.
IN THE BIGGEST PLOT TWIST OF ALL TIME, THE WOMEN OF EDITH’S MAGAZINE ARE TREATED TO THE UNVEILING OF CASSANDRA JONES’ TRUE IDENTITY:
Mary goes to Matthew’s grave and asks for his permission to remarry. It’s very touching, and for a moment I feel for Mary. Really, I do. Not all of her misery has been of her own making, after all. Isobel has seen everything and gives Mary her her blessing, saying she visits Matthew’s grave frequently.
When she returns to the Abbey, Henry’s there, and he’s come prepared.
With a marriage certificate.
(Sheesh. I’m impressed when a guy brings a condom, let alone this! Henry Talbot is UN.REAL.)
All of a sudden Mary’s convinced Henry’s The One.
(This is so uncomfortable and I don’t know why exactly. Well, then Carson walks in on them making out, and that might be partially why.)
FAST FORWARD NOW MARY’S GETTING MARRIED OKAY ANYONE ELSE GOT WHIPLASH? Man, Fellowes really had a lot to cram into the last ten minutes, didn’t he? Someone bring me my smelling salts.
Edith’s come back, because at the end of the day, Mary’s still her sister, and she knows that now that Mary’s happy, she’ll be less of a bitch, which is sad, but … where is the lie?
They’re bound by the fact that they’re family. “Our shared memories will mean more than our mutual dislike,” Edith shrugs, which is an exceptionally wise and hope-filled a thing to say, given the circumstances.
Whether it’s the memory of their parents, dear Sybil, Matthew and Michael Gregson, or even Carson the butler, eventually it will only be Edith and Mary left to remember them. They may be women and therefore not Downton’s heirs, but they’re something far more important: its legacy.
The very last scene shows Edith watching the the uber-Crawleys, Sybbie, George, and Marigold, playing in the churchyard. The score beneath it is heart-wrenching as they laugh and play in slow motion—and then, the camera pans over the name on the tomb they’re chasing each other around.
Sybil Cora Branson.
I’m not crying; you’re—
We’re all crying.
Plot points that might matter but there’s only one more episode so I’m not betting on it:
- Daisy’s passed all her exams with high marks and Momma Patmore is so damn proud she cannot even. Will Daisy leave Downton to become a teacher?
- Isobel meets up with Miss Crookshank and tries to get her to admit her true intentions (and that Lord Merton’s son still hates Isobel’s guts, hence why he’s not invited her to the wedding himself). Does this all mean that Isobel maybe wants to become Lady Merton after all?
- In the village, Daisy overhears Molesley inspiring the kids, and that’s lovely. A lot of the kids in his class have parents in service, and they all relate to him—even quite beginning to like him a lot, fancy that! Well done, Molesley. Nice that someone’s getting a happy ending on this bloody show.
- Robert and Carson have decided not to let Thomas go, and they both see where they failed him. Maybe? Somehow I doubt it.
Abby Norman is an author and journalist in New England. Her work has been featured on Medium, The Huffington Post, and Alternet and recommended byTime Magazine and NPR. Her first book, FLARE, a chronicle of chronic illness, is forthcoming from Nation Books/Perseus. She is represented by Tisse Takagi. Follow her on Twitter @notabbynormal.
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