Last night’s “Downton Abbey’s finale should please fans. We are assured a happy ending for the most unlucky of women, the Dowager proves she still can mount an adventure and all of our favorite characters are paired up.
We last saw Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) downcast over being dumped and angry at her elder sister despite having resisted all the good advice from her parents in August 1925. If Edith had told Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton) about Marigold or if Edith had resisted from pushing Mary’s (Michelle Dockery) buttons, Edith would not have been forced to tell Bertie. Edith, remember, wrote a very incriminating letter about Mary to the Turkish embassy. What could have been nastier than that? Mary has been tortured by that one night stand, but she told Matthew about it before accepting his proposal and Mary wisely made sure that she didn’t conceive when she decided to dally with Gillingham. Edith could have done so as well.
At the beginning of this episode, Edith has decided to live in London and enroll Marigold in school and it’s September 1925.
Mr. Barrow (Rob James-Collier) has recovered from his suicide attempt, but he knows he must find a position. He was saved by Miss Baxter (Raquel Cassidy), Andy and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan). “Ah, I’m glad I’ve got the three of you at last. I’ve never had a proper chance to say thank you for rescuing me, there’s always been other people around. They’ve given me a breathing space but I can’t live on pity forever. ” He does find a position, but in a smaller household that isn’t far from Downton Abbey.
At the Dowager’s Isobel (Penelope Wilton) comes to Violet (Maggie Smith) for advice. The infamous Larry Grey (Charlie Anson) asked Isobel for tea, but when she phoned, she was told they were away in London and then Isobel received a short note from the cold new lady of the house, Amelia Grey (Phoebe Sparrow) saying, “Dear Mrs Crawley, events have overtaken us and we are not now free to keep our engagement.”
Those peculiar events turn out to be a diagnosis for Lord Merton having pernicious anemia. Violet asks, “What does Dickie (Douglas Reith) say?”
Isobel replies, “Nothing. I know he went with them to London but I haven’t heard a squeak since.”
Violet replies, “Well, that settles it, you must beard him in his den.”
Isobel innocently asks, “Won’t that encourage him?”
Violet wisely replies, “Your feelings do you credit, my dear, but never let tenderness be a bar to a bit of snooping.”
Later, Isobel wonders, “I can’t think of why I turned him down. I must have been mad.” But also asks, “After Prince Kuragin, did you ever fall in love again?”
Violet replies, “You must know by now I never answer any question more incriminating than whether or not I need a rug.” Now that sounds like good advice.
Violet leads a raid and forces her way into Lord Merton’s place, Cavenham, and tells Lord Merton that Isobel didn’t stay away, “She was denied entry.” Violet continues, “Right, here’s what we’ll do. We’ll go up now and speak to your valet. He can take everything you need to my house this evening.”
Isobel declaris, “In future, I’ll look after your father.”
Lord Merton tells his son, “Larry, as my son I love you, but I’ve tried and failed to like you. Will you please leave me to get on with what remains of my life?”
There’s downstairs intrigue a the Dowager’s. Lady Edith comes to speak privately with Spratt (Jeremy Swift) and Denker (Sue Johnston) eavesdrops, learning that Spratt’s advice column is such a success that it will be expanded. Denker means to get Spratt fired with this news, but it backfires.
When Mary and her father (Hugh Bonneville) visit Violet, Mary has an idea about how to get Bertie out of the corner he has painted himself into. Robert reveals that Cora couldn’t come (“Oh, don’t be mysterious. It’s the last resort of people with no secrets.”) because she was chairing a hospital meeting.
Mary advises, “Swallow it, Granny. It’s stuck in your craw long enough.”
Yet Violet notices something Mary does not, saying, “Oh, don’t worry about me. I gobbled it up long ago. It’s your father who seems to have difficulty swallowing these days. ” Robert does seem to be jealous of the hospital.
Also on the Mary front, her husband Henry Talbot ( Matthew Goode) has decided to give up racing cars. But he must find something to do rather than just living off of his rich wife and her son. Together with Tom Branson (Allen Leech), he opens up a used car shop, but will expand to production and selling new cars.
Anna (Joanna Froggatt) is heavily pregnant, and it is noted that this never happened in the past with lady’s maids. They almost never married or at least if they did, they retired.
Andy (Michael C. Fox) asks Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) about Daisy (Sarah Bunting), if she’s interested in men. Mrs. Patmore tells Andy she’s had her heart broken a few times. When Andy asks if he has a chance with Daisy, she can only tell him, “everyone has a chance.” Mrs. Patmore helps the romance along by telling Daisy her real problem: She doesn’t like men who are interested in her, but wants them when they aren’t interested in her.
Mrs. Patmore says, “Do you know your problem? You despise anyone who thinks well of you. If a man should like you, you think he must be rubbish.” Daisy denies this, commenting, “That’s not true,” but Mrs. Patmore continues, “Isn’t it? You were soft on Alfred, mad for him when he only had eyes for Ivy. But when he made a play for you, you’d have nothing to do with him.”
Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle) is asked by Dr. Dawes (Patrick Brennan) to replace a Mr. Trewin who wants to retire. Trewin will leave at the end of the term and vacate one of the three cottages on Downton Abbey that are reserved for the school. Mr. Molesley decides to accept the position and the cottage. This news secretly troubles Mr. Carson. He has finally revealed to his wife that he will be forced to retire as he now shows signs of the palsy as his family has called it. He has begun to shake so much he cannot properly serve dinner or pour wine.
As it turns out, Mary has arranged for Bertie to meet Edith and they make up, but there’s still Bertie’s mother to win over.
Edith says, “If I agreed, which is a big if, would we tell your mother the truth about Marigold?”
Bertie tells her, “Let me put it this way, if we tell her, we’ll have to break with her. I’d prefer not to do that.”
Edith further notes, “Even without your mother, there are people out there who know the truth. There could be gossip. Are you ready for it?”
Bertie admits, “Well, I hope to avoid it, but I’m ready if you we can’t. The only thing I’m not ready for is a life without you.”
Edith accepts and rings her parents with the news. Carson was concerned because the call came so late. She wants her parents to go up to meet Bertie’s mother, Mirada Pelham (Patricia Hodge). Because of this trip, Robert and Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) will not be at Downton Abbey when Mr. Barrow leaves.
Barrow (Rob James-Collier) is preparing to leave Downton and saying his good-byes. He tells Miss Baxter, “You know when Anna said I should try to understand what brought me so low? Well, I’ve been thinking and I thought I might try to be someone else when I get to my new position.”
Miss Baxter replies, “We do change as life goes on.”
Mr. Barrow explains, “Or we could if our past would let us. You know what, Miss Baxter? I’ll listen to Anna; you should listen to Mr Molesley. Forget about Coyle and your time in prison. You think the strong decision would be to see him but you’re wrong. The strong decision is to take away his power over you. Leave him behind, Miss Baxter. Get on with your life. Let that be my parting gift to you.”
Taking his leave of Cora and Robert, Mr. Barrow says, “I’ve learnt a great deal while I’ve been here, my lord.”
Robert replies, “I’m afraid I’ve rather lectured you at times, not to harshly, I hope.”
Barrow responds, “On the contrary. I will begin my new position with a new spirit, and I have you to thank for that…I arrived here as a boy, I leave as a man. Please will you give my best wishes to Lady Edith?”
Robert says, “We’ll always be so grateful to you for saving her from the fire.” Apparently Lady Edith has quite forgotten about this, but Barrow says, “And it turns out I saved her for better things.”
At Brancaster, Bertie mother tells Cora and Robert, “We want to rebuild Brancaster as a moral centre for the area, and only Bertie can do that. Not just as a good landlord or farmer, but as a moral man leading by example.”
Edith finally gets some backbone and decides she must tell her future mother-in-law about Marigold. This doesn’t end well. When Bertie speaks with his mother she tells him, “You need a wife with the strength of character and the highest moral probity…But Edith is damaged goods.”
At dinner, Bertie’s mother speaks to the lofty crowd, saying, “I think it a mother’s place to thank you all for your kindness to my son in coming here to support him here tonight. This change in his life is a great responsibility, of course, but it’s reassuring for us both to know… that we are surrounded by friends. I drink to you all.”
An angrily determined Bertie stands and says, “And now it’s my turn to make an announcement of my own.”
Robert tells Bertie’s mother, “I suggest you speak now, or you’ve lost him forever.”
And so she does, saying, “Let me make this very happy announcement. You see my son is engaged to marry the wonderful Lady Edith Crawley, who is here tonight with her parents.”
She later confesses, “Should I turn down a daughter-in-law who, in addition to having birth and brains, is entirely and unimpeachably honest? She was prepared to deny herself a great position, to say nothing of happiness, rather than claim it by deceit. We must applaud her.”
That settled, there is the wedding. Rose and Atticus come from the U.S. for the occasion, leaving behind their new baby. Rose convinces Robert to see Cora in action and he becomes proud of his wife and her work. Rose notices Molesley is on duty for the holidays. Barrow also returns for the wedding, taking leave for a day from his new job. Mary is happy and pregnant, but that news is kept secret to prevent the news from distracting from another event: Edith’s wedding.
Edith’s wedding goes off without a hitch, except perhaps the distraction of Anna delivering her baby in Lady Mary’s room. You saw that coming? Is that a cliché and do we care? Barrow’s presence gives Lord Grantham a solution to Carson’s problem: Carson will stay on the grounds with a pension and supervise big events but Barrow will return and take over most of Carson’s duties. So Barrow, having given up his scheming ways and embracing kindness has finally achieved is goal: Butler of a great house.
All ends well. Lord Merton is found to just be anemic and does not have pernicious anemia. He has given up Cavenham to Larry and Amelia. Daisy seems to be interested in Andy. Mr. Moseley and Miss Baxter seem headed for a loving relationship in a cottage nearby. Mrs. Patmore is sweet on Mr. Mason. Tom Branson looks like a good candidate for Lady Edith’s woman editor. Both Brancaster and Downton Abbey have modern industries to help their bolster their financial outlooks.
In the end, we have Robert and Cora happy with a sense of achievement. Their daughters are married and happy.
Watching each episode multiple times, one appreciates the editing and the writing even more. Farewell, “Downton Abbey.” I’ve fond memories of you and learned a few lessons on the way, just like Barrow, Mary and even Edith. You can view the finale online at PBS.org.