At some point in the writing of this episode, someone turned to Fellowes and yelled really loudly at him “YOU HAVE EXACTLY TWO MORE HOURS AND A CHRISTMAS SPECIAL IN WHICH TO MARRY EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM OFF. HURRY UP.”
Carson: What’s so funny?
Mrs. Hughes: Just life, Mr. Carson. Just life.
I also think that Fellowes write best when he realizes he has Point A to point B to get to, and a very short amount of time to do it. This episode felt a lot like the episodes in that very first season–slices of life, where we drop in, and then drop out again. We drop in because after a string of days where nothing happened, this was a day where something happened, and it changed the course of everyone’s life. In that first season, the Titanic sank. In this episode, a car crashed.
Up until said car crash, this episode was also marked by the other chief joy of Downton Abbey‘s early seasons: period porn. This is the first time we’ve focused in on that other aspect of the 1920s–the growing popularity of the automobile, and the “sport” of racing it that had taken hold. Going down to the race track wasn’t just a glory of period clothing and hats–the period cars were worth a post all on their own. I hope that someone who knows period cars really well sits down and screengrabs the hell out of it.
Violet: Do you enjoy weddings?
Isobel: Yes. But I’m not going to that one. I’d feel like the wicked fairy at the christening of Sleeping Beauty.
But, as I said last week, there’s only one reason people watch cars endlessly turn left for “sport’ and that’s for the big spectacular fireball crashes. Much like the big spectacular blood explosion two episodes ago, this one again provided in spades. Of course they can’t have it be Henry Talbot who goes up in the fireball crash of 1920 steel and metal–there’s no time to find Mary yet another suitor. So the crash happens to his “very good friend Charlie” who we’ve never heard of before five minutes ago. Sorry Charlie, we really did hardly know ye. Mary of course, has exactly the freak out reaction you would expect, and dumps Henry all but on the spot. (Actually she waits and does it when she gets home over the phone, because that’s way more harsh. Mary is excellent at super-bitch.)
While Mary is delaying her marriage until next week, Edith is getting proposed to on the spot, since death is so useful at reminding characters that it’s time to get a move on. But for those who are worried that Edith will make it to the altar before Mary, she’s made sure to leave the cruelty twist wide open for the taking. The “ward” Marigold needs to come to, insists Edith, while not actually telling him she’s actually her daughter. (Which seriously, this *was* the moment to do it Edith. You fail.) We can be almost certain that Mary will do the honors of trying to get Bertie to break the engagement with that news, so she and Henry can both get back together and get married while Edith dithers.
Isobel: I suspect she’s quite a tough nut.
Violet: And I’m quite a tough nutcracker.
Meanwhile, in the downstairs quarter, Patmore produces the tear jerker moment of the episode by patiently explaining to super dense Daisy that Mason will always be her father and she will always be her mum. Let’s hope this emotional wall shattering will finally allow Daisy to let those two get together so that all have won and all shall have husbands. Daisy will clearly get Andrew, who repays Thomas teaching him to read with basically making it so that Carson understands that there is not improper homosexuality under their employer’s roof. And Molesley! Molesley may not quite get the Baxter girl today, but he does have the job. His test scores are genius level. (who knew?) he’ll be off now for a teaching career, where he can be the butt of bad jokes on another PBS series “Little School House in Yorksire,” which is the best idea for a Downton Abbey spin-off so far. Certainly better than the current one “Mr. Carson Learns He Also Can’t Cook.”
I make fun, but the picnic scene in this episode was one of the highlights of the season, one of those scenes where nothing much happens, except watching people with 1920s costumes and picnic supplies frolic, and yet everything happens that will make the world get a move on. All truly have won, and all will move on from Downton by the end of the series–except Thomas, who will get to stay (especially now that Molesley’s gone)–and frolic with Mary’s children the way Carson once did with Lady Mary as a child.
Violet: You’re a cruel little miss, aren’t you? I’d feel sorry for Larry, if I didn’t dislike him so much.
Miss Crookshank: I shall forget you said that, but you should go now. Much more, and we may feel awkward when we meet. Which we are bound to do.
Violet: I think not, Miss Crookshank. Not if I see you first.
Which brings us to the final tragedy that will be set up for next week. Maggie Smith had more zingers per minute this week than she has ever previously done. She set up Isobel to marry Lord Merton, once she figured out that the reason daughter in law to be was trying to get them to marry was so she could take the son away and forget about them completely. She gave Robert a puppy, in one of the most joyous scenes we’ve had with Robert in all six seasons of Downton. And then she announced she was boarding a boat to sail away and never return. Well, no, she said she was going to go live among French people for a month so she would be ever so glad to come home again. But as we know the history of Granthams and boats and untimely sinkings–remember the Titanic–we can be sure that this was indeed the farewell to the Dowager’s yesterday in favor of the world of tomorrow.