Downton Abbey S5E7 – The Great Baby Toss

Downton Abbey S5E7 Daisy

As series five nears its end, it’s safe to say that the best of Downton this season has all been upstairs, with the exception of Edith’s muddled baby saga.  Downstairs, Fellowes hasn’t seemed nearly as sure-footed.  Both the Bateses and Baxter were weighed down by dismal and badly plotted stories left over from series four.  The brightest spots downstairs belonged to Daisy’s small but sweet arc as she’s become increasingly political and ambitious, and Patmore’s little story of investment.  Here and there Mrs. Hughes and Carson’s relationship has progressed in small but significant ways.  But sadly, the ball was completely dropped with Thomas Barrow.  He’s one of the stronger characters on the show, but when gifted with a  dramatic storyline that made me think Fellowes really wanted Rob James-Collier to win a BAFTA, he gave it the barest minimum of screen time.  In the end, it seemed to be more Baxter’s story than Thomas’s.  No, this series has belonged to the upstairs, and specifically to Violet, Mary, and Cora.

Mary’s bantering with her boys has been fun to watch.  Blake bends over backward to finally convince Gillingham Mary isn’t interested.  His little scheme means telling Mary to kiss him just as Mabel Lane Fox and Gillingham are exiting a cinema.  It’s silly and fun, though Mary telling Gillingham, “I don’t want to marry you” should really have been enough even if she did play it a little coy afterwards.  Stranger is that Mary is still under the impression that Blake isn’t interested.  Now he’s going off to Poland on business for upwards of a year. Just in time for the inevitable Downton Abbey time skip.  If he doesn’t come back in the Christmas Special, he’ll likely be back in series six, just in time for Mary to realize how much she missed her smirking schemer.Downton Abbey S5E7 Mary

The season’s second MVP, Maggie Smith,  has had the opportunity to do so much more than deliver the occasional zinger, and she gets yet another opportunity in this episode.  At dinner with Atticus Aldridge’s parents, the Sinderbys, Isobel announces her engagement to Lord Merton.  Violet is noticeably crushed.  Later at at tea, Mary suspects that Violet will be sad to lose her protegé to a title, or as the audience has perhaps been led to think, that she feels a sense of competition.  But Violet is only sad to be losing her friend to a marriage.  It’s a common feeling among younger people as their friends go off and marry, but there’s something poignant and tragic in an elderly widow who thought she’d spend her sunset years with her best friend, only to discover she’ll be spending them mainly alone.  Dame Maggie kills the scene and it’s heartbreaking. At least Violet may be distracted from her grief by Spratt’s dissatisfaction with Denker, the new lady’s maid.  Spratt is awfully mouthy for a supposedly seasoned domestic.  He announces his resignation right in front of Isobel while she’s over for tea at Violet’s.  But the Dowager waves it off.  If Spratt were serious, he would never be so inappropriate, as he would want to receive a good reference, and Violet will never fire him because she hates hiring new servants.

But Violet may not need to grieve at all.  The Crawleys have Lord Merton’s sons over for dinner to introduce them to their future step-mater. Lord Merton’s older son is Larry Grey.  We’ve seen him before back in series two when he slipped a mysterious drug in Branson’s drink that made him act like a raving drunk at dinner. Larry has not matured.  He’s no fan of mixed marriages, and he’s not in favor of his father marrying Isobel.  He doesn’t have anything much better to say about Branson or Atticus; an Irish chauffeur and a Jewish man.  Larry is paper-thin but still deliciously slimy and fun to watch, especially when Branson jumps to his feet and calls Larry a bastard.  If Isobel decides this is all too much, Violet may get her wish after all.   Atticus, meanwhile, is embraced by the Crawleys, though his own father is wary.  Yet its Rose’s mother, Lady Flintshire, who was wonderfully sour in the series three Christmas Special, who everyone assumes will most fight the marriage which is full steam ahead, as Atticus abruptly and sweetly proposes to Rose in a dark corridor.

Atticus’s only problem may be sussing out the sometimes dim-bulb Crawleys.  Everyone, with the vocal exception of Mary, is worried about Edith who has run off to London.  Atticus points out that she’s just inherited a publishing company and shouldn’t they ask around there?  He finds it odd that no one has thought of it. As do I, Atticus, as do I.

1 2