Who: “Downton Abbey,” airs on public TV, specifically on PBS, Winter Sundays at 9:00 PM.
What: “Downton Abbey,” the story of the life and times of a fictional lord, his family, his servants, and his estate in Yorkshire, England, in the early twentieth century (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/downtonabbey/synopsis.html).
When: The season five finale aired on PBS, Sunday, March 1, 2015, at 9:00 PM.
Where: The show is set Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom. The most recent season was set in the mid to late 1920s, the Jazz Age.
Why: I am an Anglophile through and through, and people were gushing about this show. I also enjoy Dame Maggie Smith in just about everything, and her turn as the Dowager Countess, Violet Crawley, aficionado of acidic one-liners, is worth the watch alone.
How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS
For a recap of season 4, read here.
Another season of Downton Abbey has come and gone and, with it, another look into the lushness of the English aristocracy in the early twentieth century. Our glimpses into the Crawleys this year, though less tragic overall, were still met with scandal and uneasy speculation into the status of the upper class as the modern world approached. Many characters dallied with love, both of a taboo and socially acceptable nature, while others were forced to accept the rise of the middle class, even as the aristocracy’s otherwise insulated niche crumbled with the passing of time. Though the fourth season offered a maudlin sense of rebuilding in the wake of deaths of two major characters, the fifth unevenly addressed each character’s metaphysical struggle to hang onto something familiar, to some sense of safety, as the world around them changed. To wit, rest in peace, poor Isis.
All of the characters, from the servants’ quarters to the drawing rooms, experienced some level of change and upheaval this season, to various degrees of storytelling success. While this fifth season lacked some emotional power, a plethora of touching moments as well as moments during which the viewer was left questioning or cringing remained. As a result, I asked a panel of fellow Couch Potatoes how they felt about the fifth season of Downton Abbey “Around the Water Cooler,” or, perhaps, more appropriately, around the tea table; in this discussion, we examine each of the main characters and speculate upon what their journeys might look like in the sixth season, which was announced to be the series’ last.
This podcast was recorded on June 7, 2015. Listen and let us know what you think; comment below as to whether you agree or disagree.
Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations
1) What was Edith (Laura Carmichael) thinking? And will her parents find out? Will her grandmother and aunt find out that she has summoned her baby to Downton?
Answer: Everyone found out eventually about Edith’s child but Mary, which was deliberate on the part of Robert and Cora. Edith has simply fallen in love with her daughter, now named Marigold, and can’t bear the thought of being parted from her. As we discuss in the podcast, it seems that Marigold, who is now a ward of the Abbey, has become meaning and purpose for Edith’s life.
2) Who will Mary (Michelle Dockery) choose in the end? I vote the firecracker critic of the upper classes, but the childhood friend, Tony, is nice too.
Answer: Mary chose neither of these suitors. She engaged in a scandalous weekender with Tony but ultimately decided, after bedding with him, that he was not for her. The other man has since left the country or at least the countryside, but a third potential dalliance has emerged at the end of the season that Mary seems to fancy. Will she now be drawn to him?
3) Will Bates’ (Brendan Coyle and Joanna Froggatt) rash actions come back to haunt him? He’s a nice man with an astounding capacity for anger and darkness.
Answer: Both Mr. and Mrs. Bates are now under suspicion of the murder of Mr. Green, Tony’s valet, who raped Mrs. Bates in the fourth season, after taking turns being under suspicion by the authorities all season. Did either of them really commit the murder, though?
4) Carson and Mrs. Hughes (Jim Carter and Phyllis Logan) are so cute. Let’s see something come of that!
Answer: CARSON PROPOSED, AND HUGHES SAID YES! Let’s hope this union stays happy.
5) Who is Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) really?
Answer: She knew Barrow as a child and was caught stealing from a previous employer when she fell on hard times, though she admitted her offense and served some time for it. She admitted all of this to Cora. In addition, Barrow seemed to accept Baxter’s overtures of help for his own troubles by the end of the season. Molesley is also quite taken with her.
6) Will Rose’s (Lily James) illicit affair resurface?
Answer: Her affair with the African American gentleman in the fourth season was not mentioned once this season, though she did end up marrying a Jewish gentleman named Atticus. She’s allegedly moving to America, as the actress portraying her, Lily James, has entered the world of film acting.
7) Where does the family go from here?
Answer: They still seem to be fumbling toward the future, powerless to stop the onslaught of time. What will finally become of the Crawleys by the end of the next and last season?
New Questions – Raised by the Podcast Panel
1) Will Mary find out about Marigold? Will Mary and Edith ever reconcile their differences?
2) Will Mary finally settle on a suitor, whether the driver in the Christmas special or someone else? Or, will she finally take solace in her own independence, since she’s been helping to run Downton with her father and brother-in-law, Tom Branson (Allen Leech)?
3) Did Branson really take Sybbie and move to America?
4) Who really killed Mr. Green? Will the Bates finally be acquitted? Will they be able to have a happy ending?
5) Will Daisy (Sophie McShera) continue her education with Molesley (Kevin Doyle)? Or, will she want to move away as others have to better herself? Or, will she finally consent to run the farm with her father-in-law?
6) Is Barrow (Rob James-Collier) turning over a new leaf?
7) Are Rose and Atticus gone for good?
8) When will the show begin next season? Will we see the effects of the stock market crash of 1929 in the USA, and will it have an effect on Downton, as Cora’s money may very well be tied up in the American markets?
9) Will the Dowager Countess Violet (Maggie Smith) survive the series? Will she or Cousin Isobel (Penelope Wilton) live out their days as best friends, or will they consent to winter courtships in the end?
10) Where will our family finally land in the end?
By consensus of the panel, Downton Abbey still doesn’t have the same level of storytelling quality as it did in its first few seasons, but the stories of some our characters remain compelling, even as others fall flat. The characters are endlessly interesting, eternally English (minus Cora), and the art direction, cinematography, and costumes are breathtaking. How will the series end and pay off loyal viewers? What can we hope to see next year? Our podcast panel mostly wanted any end to make logical sense for our characters and, hopefully, to be ultimately happy. Some even wanted to see an epilogue or time jump to have a glimpse into the later lives of our characters. Whatever happens, we will all be tuning into to watch the swan song of Downton Abbey.
Downton Abbey was renewed for a sixth and final season/series slated to premiere in the United States on PBS on January 4, 2016.