Downton Abbey: The Truth About Mary

Well, Downton Abbey, I can’t say I won’t be glad to see the back of you after that.

Mary: “Now listen, you pathetic…”
Edith: “You’re A BITCH.”

Goddamn but yes. Someone finally said it. Fellowes’ treasured heroine is a bitch. She is a terrible human being. She has been since the beginning. For one small moment she got better, after marrying Matthew. The problem is, the show got stale, and Dan Stevens left. And Fellowes translated that as “I must go back to making Mary the worst person on television.”

Downton Abbey | Series Six We return to the sumptuous setting of Downton Abbey for the sixth and final season of this internationally acclaimed hit drama series. As our time with the Crawleys begins to draw to a close, we see what will finally become of them all. The family and the servants, who work for them, remain inseparably interlinked as they face new challenges and begin forging different paths in a rapidly changing world. Photographer: Nick Briggs ALLEN LEECH as Tom Branson and MICHELLE DOCKERY as Lady Mary Crawley

I’m glad for her she married herself off to Henry Talbot at the end of the season, but I can’t say I care that much. Much like Carson, who has gotten well nigh insufferable since marrying himself off to Hughes, the two of them are characters who Fellowes clearly sees as the center of their respective upstairs and downstairs worlds–and they are both terrible people who ruin the lives of others around them. Mary ruins Edith’s second chance at marriage (and one we should note, would have put Edith higher on the title scale than Mary.) Carson drives Thomas to attempt suicide.

Violet: “You are the only woman I know who likes to think herself cold and selfish and grand. Most of us spend our lives trying to hide it.”

I had joked that Bertie would probably come into title-age, since I figured one of the two “Mr” suitors would, and Mary already had that. But the moment it was revealed that said title would put Edith higher than Mary in the social world, I knew it wasn’t to be. Robert’s “She’d outrank us all” was the kiss of death. And it was frustrating as hell. Goddamn it, I *liked* Bernie. I liked his probably too-forward for the time period thinking of himself and Edith as equals. I liked that he supported her career. I actually hoped that somehow when Mary revealed Marigold’s parentage he would calmly say “I know. I’m not an idiot you know. And I don’t care.”

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But this is 1926, not 2016. And Bernie wasn’t that smart. And he wasn’t that good. He might have claimed he didn’t really care, but he left just the same. And Edith once again found herself dumped on her ass, left alone with her child and a life bound at Downton. (I suppose at least she has Spratt as Downton’s version of Mallory Ortberg for her “Dear Prudence Cassandra” column? Is it *wrong* that I hope Spratt is somehow instrumental in bringing Bernie back?) But for once, at least, Mary’s victory is Pyrrhic. No one else is the family is ok with what she’s done. After all, this is the end of Downton Abbey. All have won and all must have husbands. And Mary just ruined that. Edith finally wins. And not with a better title, a better husband or a better life. She recognizes that it’s time to grow up. “Our shared memories will mean more than our mutual dislike,” she tells Mary, and walks away, beaming at her daughter. Edith may have lost her (probable) last chance at a husband, but she’s found an inner peace that Mary will never have.

Carson: “I thought he was a man without a heart. I was wrong.”

If only the same could be said for Carson. I used to think Carson had a heart. I too was wrong. Driving a man to suicide because you’ve decided he’s inconvenient is ghastly. Of course, Thomas survives, and of course Mary goes to see him and basically tells him he can stay as Downton’s last servant until he dies. But the entire thing struck me as emotionally horrific. Especially when contrasted with Molesley, who is finally on the up and up. Carson sneers at him too. In another lifetime, Molesley might have crumpled at the contempt. But not now. There’s a difference in Molesley now, and it comes from an internal core that knows that despite his servant’s livery and his life which has never gone the way he wanted, that he is worth something. He’s worth something because he’s discovered a thing he wants to do, and moreover it’s a thing he’s really good at. And when you have that discovery, especially when it’s halfway through your life, and you have the experience to understand how truly valuable that is, no one can tear you down.  I only wish the same for Thomas. You do you, Molesley. Go teach those children well, and let them lead the way to a more liberal future.

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Hey, maybe Thomas can go work at Patmore’s House of Ill Repute? How does Patmore, the most upright, stodgy person wind up with a bed and breakfast that’s mistaken for a house of ill repute? At least it wound a thread of hilarity through the episode as everyone, and I mean, everyone, even Daisy, couldn’t keep a straight face over this one. At least this gave Lord and Lady Grantham something to do other than watch Mary in horror, and not roll their eyes at the speediest little wedding in Downton history. They could go to tea.

Robert: “Of all my children, Edith has given me the most surprises.”
Violet: “Surprises of the most mixed variety.”

This was the final episode of Downton’s regular season. Those in the UK had to wait several weeks between that and the Christmas special, which airs as the finale coda on PBS next week. With Violet heading to her ship (and probably her doom), Isobel demanding that Larry invite her himself to return to Lord Merton and marry him, and Edith probably left with one more surprise in the bag, it’s certain we’ll hear a few more wedding bells before all is said and done. Hey, maybe Anna will even finally go on and have that damn baby already.

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And they lived bitchily ever after.

 

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7 thoughts

  1. Note: Downton Finale is not next week. Next week is the oscars. Downton may go up against the Superbowl, but wisely declines to engage against the Oscars. Next week is Manners Minutiae at Downton with the Christmas weeper the following week.

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  2. Bertie is really none to bright. He thinks his distant cousin stayed in Morocco because of his artistic temperment. He went because it was far away and he enjoyed the fisherboys at sunset.
    It was, I think, Lord Fellowes homage to Brideshead Revisited where Lord Sebastien Flyte died in Morocco due to alcoholism and sadness at being banished for being gay.

    All episode, every one told Edith, to talk to Bertie about Marigold. It was really not that unusual of a situation to have a “ward” especially in the post war years, where there was much hand wringing and pearl clutching over the million “surplus women”. But of course she dithered and he, in his fatousness, decided that she meant to lie and trick him.

    But golly gumballs Mary, who brings up bastards at breakfast to the happy couple? Open secrets are secrets none the less, and are not talked about over the kippers.

    And Mary lecturing Mr Branson about the importance of money in landed families? Branson is first generation Irish peasant from a family with a small amount of land. When there is only a small amount of property, who you marry matters intensely. It so most be the right person, who can bring some resources and knowledge to the small holding.
    Tom is more deeply rooted in the land and farm than are any of the Crawleys. It is from the dirt that they are sustained, and it is their land that sustains them. Nobody is more tenacious of their land than the peasant smallholder, and all considerations must go down before the needs of the farm.

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  3. A friend on Women Writers Across the Ages commented:

    ““I read and appreciated Anibundel’s review of the latest DA. I especially agreed with her observations that Edith has found an inner peace that Mary lacks, and that it roots, at least in part, in her knowledge she has found something she does well. Edith does radiate a generosity and kindness that rounds out her character, and we know that no matter what happens with Bertie, she will be OK.

    Mary is an unhappy person, lashing out. It’s hard to forgive what she did, not just because it was cruel but because it was self indulgent, low. I am trying to decide if Fellowes fully wanted to ritually humiliate her. There’s certainly an attempt at it. Choosing the lap dog, half a man former chauffeur to excoriate her (is this what his socialism has come to, scolding the daughter of a rich earl because she won’t marry down?) is an attempt to humiliate her, as is having Edith call her a bitch, but it never quite works. They are never quite going to bring down Mary. Is that Fellowes intention, not to bring her down?

    I agree too that this episode was action packed after several dull episodes. How will it all wrap up in the finale? So much to resolve, so little time!”

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    1. That’s partly why I didn’t cover the Granny return and Mary’s breakdown. Even though I think it was actually one of the most well acted scenes from Dockery and Smith all season, I was still so mad about everything else that i didn’t care if Mary was upset or crying or hurt.

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  4. It may be the last episodes are super-packed because he is thinking of a movie. Such a master at spinning and delaying and engaging us in soap opera style, would surely know how to do this. Many of these actors and actresses will not go beyond British TV and will agree to be hired (especially if he pays). So then we can go on some more in our cinemas.

    Nowadays there are a number of TV programs which have spilled into cinema movies and vice versa began to happen in the 1970s. E.M.

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