“A year ago, I thought I’d be alone forever. That I would mourn Mathew til the end of my days. Now I know that isn’t true. That there will be a new life for me one day. And even if I can’t decide yet what life that should be, isn’t that something for us to celebrate?” — Lady Mary
As the season comes to a close, everyone is in London for Rose’s presentation to society. We have skipped ahead eight months from when we last saw the family, and we know this because Edith is already back from Switzerland, sans baby.
It’s the first time we’ve seen the family’s London townhouse, and we also meet a new character: Cora’s scandalized brother, Harold (Paul Giamatti). The staff and family members make it over to London in waves, creating some drama. Branson is left behind for a few days, where he gets himself into trouble by running into Sarah (whom he hasn’t seen much of lately, or so we can construe from her question “have you been avoiding me?” )They have dinner at a pub together, and then she needles him into taking her back to see the house. He’s completely uncomfortable with this, and she comes across as so pushy and obnoxious, it’s a relief when Thomas busts them. Branson, you can do better than her.
In London, Rose is hobnobbing with the upper crust, including the Prince of Whales. (Oh, she’s come a long way from slinking around with a lowly jazz singer. )There are lots of shenanigans and hijinks, but in the end the Prince of Whales crashes her coming out ball and gives her the first dance. The costumes here are exquisite. All the women are wearing muted gowns in cream, ivory, and beige. Rose is wearing, well, deep rose. Branson isthere, and Violet makes of point of saying, “these are your people now.” He asks her to dance. She says (in the line of the season) “At least I know you can steer.”
And then there’s Mary, still juggling all of her suitors. It’s really kind of sad to see Gillingham still sniffing around, asking if she has any updates about his status. But here’s where it gets interesting: he asks her if she’s at least said no to Blake, and she kind of sighs and says that it would never work out with Blake. Here’s why: Her priority is saving Downton for her son, George. And Blake is “on the other side of that.” He doesn’t have any money, so the two of them would never be able to pull together if the going got tough. Gillingham tells her she’s got it wrong: Blake is the heir to a estate. What??? Mary is shocked, we’re shocked, and Gillingham is probably shocked that he just shot himself in the foot.
Meanwhile, with all of this going on, we still have poor Edith agonizing over giving away her daughter to some couple in Switzerland. She talks to Rosamund about having second thoughts, and after all, she didn’t sign anything official. Rosamund tells her to forget about it – that she will have other loves, other children, and she doesn’t want to see her deprive herself of that.
Later, after Thomas tells Robert that Branson was slinking around Downton with some hottie from the village, Robert says something to Branson. This leads Branson to pull Edith aside and say you know what? We love this family, but we can’t let them tell us what to do all the time. We have to think for ourselves. Edith immediately goes to Cora and says she is returning to London tomorrow, that she has to make a trip to “the continent.” Rosamund is freaking out. “Can’t someone else go for you?” Edith tells her absolutely not.
In the morning, Mary asks Blake why he didn’t tell her about his money. He says he wanted to win her over on his own. And so the battle for Mary continues.
Back at Downton, Edith is talking to Mr. Drewe, the trusted tenant farmer. She asks him if he’ll take the baby for her “friend,” wink wink. In an amazing gesture of generosity, he says, you know what, just to keep this really between us, let me tell my wife it’s a baby for my friend. She trusts me, and this way your involvement will be a secret just between us. Edith is floored by his kindness, and starts to cry.
The Downton staff are on vacation at the beach. Mrs. Hughes cajoles Carson to step into the ocean (thought he is still wearing his suit.) He is skeptical about wading in, but she offers her hand for support. The episode closes with them walking hand in hand into the water.
There were a lot of subplots to this episode – and I mean a lot. I only mention here the stories that served the larger arcs that have been playing out all season. There was some resolution to the Bates and Anna storyline, though I found it unsatisfying and absurd: Mrs. Hughes collected clothes from the staff for charity donation. Anna handed over some of Bates’ old pants, and Mrs. Hughes finds a train ticket stub for London dated the same day Mr. Green had his “accident.” She tells Mary, who feels that morally they must do something about this. Mrs. Hughes says no, no, why should our good Mr. Bates hang for that nasty rapist. Still, Mary isn’t convinced. But in the end, thanks to some other crazy subplot where Bates helps save the Prince of Whales from scandal, Mary decides to let this one slide and tosses the ticket into the burning fireplace.
So we are left with Edith secretly bringing her love child to Downton. We don’t know if Mary is going to go for Gillingham or Blake, but it looks like Blake is the front-runner. Branson finally realizes he is part of the family, but he still has to be himself. And Anna and Bates have their life back. Overall, this season seemed to just run us around in circles. And I, for one, am exhausted from it.