If last week was all about tying up the loose ends still dangling from Season 5, that’s because this week was a an exercise in lining everyone up for their final destinations. All aboard the wedding and baby trains everyone. Congratulations, you made it all the way though six seasons of Downton Abbey without dying or disappearing into the night like O’Brien. You get a prize. And you get a prize. And you! And you! Weddings for some, miniature humans and babies for others. All have won, and all will get a “happy” ending as their participation trophy.
Violet: “A peer in favor of reform. It’s like a turkey in favor of Christmas.”
Several nods were given this week to the continuing Violet versus Isobel hospital fight. It’s really unfortunately that Fellowes couldn’t think of anything else for Smith to do this season, but at least she got all the best lines of the week. Who knew asking someone if they drank at Lunch could sound so cold? But in proof that everyone knows this is tiresome, not only does Isobel have Cora and Lord Merton at her side, but now Dr. Clarkson as well.
Meanwhile, in stories we don’t really care about, the removal of the Drewes gives Daisy’s Mr. Mason a new place to live. How convenient. I’m with Daisy on this one. Get the man moved in yesterday so we can stop hearing about this already. And get Molesley off teaching where he belongs, while we’re about it. In true crime 1920s style, Spratt is hiding someone and it won’t amount to anything, other than to pair him off with Denker. (Thank god it wasn’t Bates this time.) Thomas went on another bizarre interview. I feel like these are less part of the show than a YouTube series that accidentally got edited into the production when it should have been stand alone shorts. Knowing now from my wonderful historian commentor J.Harper that Thomas not being able to find gainful employment outside of Downton is classist nonsense only makes this interludes all the stranger. But if we’re going to talk about class this week, we should turn to the only story that mattered: The Wedding of Elsie Hughes.
Violet: “I know several couples who are perfectly happy. Haven’t spoken in years.”
Now, when we left the bride to be last week, she was admitting outright that she didn’t want to get married in the Abbey because who in their right mind gets married at their place of employment? The question of course, was how to break it to the Granthams that they could take their largess and stick it elsewhere. On this point, Cora was particularly useful. After four seasons of all but forgetting that Cora is supposed to be this semi fish-out-of-water, the rich American who went to the UK to marry a title and then thirty years later found herself bored and lonely in a terrible drafty old house in the middle of nowhere that the family can barely afford to run, it was like everyone suddenly remembered she’s supposed to have egalitarian values…in this one scene. Because it turns out egalitarianism is all well and good when it means allowing the staff to hold their wedding off site. It’s quite another when you find them in your closet, trying on your clothes.
But Fellowes can never make Cora the bad guy for long. Though her ladyship’s mask slips enough in that scene to show that thirty years of continual “Your Ladyships” will go to anyone’s head (one of the best “ugly class” moments on a show that’s supposedly based on the subject), upon realizing it’s actually all a product of soap opera style miscommunication, she hands off that fur she wasn’t going to wear again anyway, so that the poor bride has something to wear other than a plain dove-grey dress. After all, we do need the bride to stand out in the photographs. And without an usher, how else will Carson know which one he’s supposed to marry? (And it’s too bad there’s no “Maid of Honor” position to give Mrs. Patmore. We’ll have to just go with handing her the MVP of the wedding instead.) There was just one small detail she forgot to keep for interrupting the wedding…
Violet: Really? Well, in my experience, second thoughts are vastly overrated.
…and that was the return of Branson. Yes, like all weddings except the ones of Lady Mary, this was merely the backdrop to a larger moment. Is everyone together in one room? Perfect! Bring back Branson, who had second thoughts about this whole “america!” business. He heard it was the last season after all, and that supporting role in The Imitation Game didn’t make him too many connections, so Leech might as well come back and gather a few more per-episode paychecks. (And you thought he came back because he wanted to see Baby Sybbie run around under some trees. Please.)
So with one love story tied up in a bow, and on to the “happily ever after” that living with a stick in the mud like Carson would entail. I have a feeling Elsie–after all we can’t call her Mrs. Hughes anymore, and I’m not ready to call her Mrs. Carson just yet–is in for rather more fights than less with her new husband to be going forward. But enough of that! Along with Branson this week the show also started bringing back those rather usefully eligible men from last season’s Christmas special to marry our young ladies off too.
Edith: “It’s sandwiches and coffee and work until dawn.”
This week, it was Bertie Pelham, ie the one that didn’t drive off sexily in the car, ie the one for Edith. Though last I checked he was an estate agent, suddenly he’s coming to the rescue and turning out magazines with Edith because she decided that’s a more fun first date when you’ve fired your sexist jerk of an editor. It wasn’t quite Peggy Olson and Stan, 1920s style, but it did the trick nicely. Now, for the second date, they should actually go out to dinner, so Edith can plum the depths of his feelings about adopting secret bastard daughters, errr, wards.
As for the rest of the crew, Lady Mary took a nice backseat, waiting for Henry Talbot to drive back into her life. Until then she and Tom can go back to admiring their pigs. Anna can hope that this time the baby will stay where it’s supposed to and her cervix will stay competent for the full proper baking time. And Robert Grantham can put us all on high alert some more with that “indigestion.” (Spoiler Alert: it’s not indigestion…)