Wow. That’s the best word I can come up with for this episode. Let me say it again: WOW. We have everything in this episode; celebration, heartbreak, humor, and oh, the romance! THIS is what a true finale should be.
**********Episode spoilers below**********
We start with the Abbey being decked out for the holidays. It is Christmas 1919 and the entire household is getting ready to celebrate. Of course, the joyful times are tinged with a bit of sadness because poor Mr. Bates is still in jail awaiting trial. But in true Downton fashion, everyone’s putting their best faces on. The entire family’s present, with the exception of Sybil and Branson, who’ve married and are now living in Ireland—but more on that later.
Rosamund shows up with a pretty new ladies’s maid, a Miss Marigold Shore. You can tell she’s going to be a troublemaker just by the way she smirks at everyone downstairs and questions the way they do things at the Abbey. Seems like she’s also found herself a new beau, and urges Lord G. to invite Lord Hepworth over for the shooting on New Year’s. The Dowager doesn’t seem to be too happy about this new development. She mentions that she knew Lord Hepworth’s father “back in the ‘60’s,” and her tone doesn’t bode well for this new chap.
Meanwhile, the staff has gathered in the great hall to receive their Christmas gifts from the family and then head downstairs to have their holiday feast, and Miss Shore makes snarky (and really insensitive) comments about Mr. Bates. Yup, she’s a troublemaker alright.
Upstairs, the family’s gathered and is fending for themselves and oh, look! The lovely Sir Richard is here being all bossy and rude. Seriously, poor Mary! I can’t believe she’s going to be saddled with this jerk for the rest of her life. Lord G. has a pretty big shooting party planned for New Year’s and Edith “casually” mentions that he should invite Lord Strallen, who, it turns out, was invited but declined. He comes by for a visit and oh, no! He was injured during the war and has lost the use of his right arm. Edith blushes her way through the visit. She decides to return his visit and assures him that she never meant to turn him down the last time and it was all Mary’s doing, but he turns her down gently, telling her that he’s too old for her and doesn’t want her to end up being a nursemaid to an old man. Poor Edith! She never catches a break!
The subject of Bates’s trial casts a dark cloud over the celebrations. Lord G. has been asked to testify and Mary offers to go up to York with him to support Anna. Matthew also offers to go, to Sir Richard’s dismay. The trial date approaches and the prosecutors have also summoned Mrs. Hughes and O’Brien to testify on their behalf. Everyone is seated watching with bated breath as O’Brien recalls what she overheard the day Bates came back from his last visit with Vera. She tells the court how his face was all scratched up and how he told Anna that the visit was worse than she could imagine. Now I don’t really like O’Brien because, well, she’s a schemer, but you can clearly see that she’s uncomfortable and feels bad for having to testify against Mr. Bates.
They put Mrs. Hughes on the stand next and she recounts what she overheard the day Vera visited Downton and the prosecutor twists things around until Mrs. Hughes admits that Bates threatened Vera with bodily harm. Things couldn’t possibly get worse. The prosecutors are clearly establishing that the murder was premeditated. It’s all up to Lord G., who’s called up by the defense. He gives a rousing speech about Bates’s character, but once he’s cross examined by the prosecutor, he’s also forced to recall a conversation he had with Bates the night before he left to visit Vera and admitted that things would be easier if she was the “late Mrs. Bates.” Wait. How does the prosecutor know about what was clearly a private conversation between Bates and Lord G.? Turns out Bates has confessed all of this himself!!! What?? Poor Anna is just a sobbing mess and Mary and Mrs. Crawley (who’s also tagged along) try their best to comfort her, but things really don’t look good. The jury comes back with a – gasp! – guilty verdict, and Bates is sentenced to death. Oh no!!!! They can’t execute him! He didn’t do anything! Gah!
The lawyer promises to do everything in his power to commute his sentence and at least get him life in prison so that they can then try for a retrial. Anna’s inconsolable. She visits with Bates one last time and in a truly heartbreaking moment, they clutch at each other, kiss and say their goodbyes. My heart!
In a pretty creepy and controlling way, every time Mary and Matthew are alone together, Sir Richard hovers nearby. Really, Sir Richard. Suspicious much? Actually, things are pretty tense between Sir Richard and Mary in general. He’s being even snappier than usual and she’s starting to snap back. He finds fault with the way Downton is run and is being pretty vocal about it, which annoys Mary to no end. To make matters worse, it seems that Mary and Matthew’s friendship is back on track and that’s really bugging Sir Richard. Not a happy, loving couple here folks.
Things get pretty heated between them during the shooting party on New Year’s, when Mary decides to walk with Matthew on the first run. They have a pretty nice chat and end up laughing at Matthew’s lack of talent for shooting pheasants. Sir Richard overhears them and is pretty upset, wanting to know if he will “ever be rid of” Matthew. He’s jealous, of course, but he clearly doesn’t know Mary and his behavior just makes her angrier. They start shouting until Matthew interrupts them.
Speaking of the shooting party, the mysterious Lord Hepworth shows up and Rosamund is clearly interested. They flirt and banter, but something’s up, first between him and Miss Shore and second, between him and...the Dowager?? Violet really doesn’t seem to be too happy to see this guy. She invites him over for tea to reminisce about old times and...did he just flinch at the invitation? Hm. The plot thickens.
In the meantime, Lord G. has started to notice the strained relationship between Mary and Sir Richard. There’s a bit of an altercation between Mary and Sir Richard after dinner when he grabs her arm and tries to keep her from walking away. Both Matthew and Lord G. notice, of course, and Matthew even approaches Mary in the hallway to assure her that she’ll always have a home at Downton and doesn’t need to marry anyone if she doesn’t wish to.
Lord G. approaches Cora with his concerns and wonders why in the world Mary’s putting up with this horrible man. Cora hesitates for about ten seconds before deciding to tell him the truth about Mary’s little dalliance with Mr. Pamuk. Oh, my god! After all these years, Lord G. finally finds out about it! Interestingly, he’s not as upset as you would think.
He talks to Mary about the whole situation the next day and tells her that she shouldn’t marry simply to avoid scandal. Mary’s worried that Sir Richard would expose her if she breaks her engagement, but Lord G. tells her it doesn’t matter. He tells her to go to America and stay with her grandmother over there until the story dies down.
Lord G: “I’ve been through a war and a murder trial since then, to say nothing of your sister’s choice of husband. I don’t want my daughter to be married to a man who threatens her with ruin. I want a good man for you, a brave man. Find a cowboy in the middle west and bring him back to shake us up a bit!”
It’s really a great moment between them.
Lord Hepworth’s visit with Violet reveals that he’s completely and utterly broke. Basically, he’s a fortune hunter and while he’s fond of Rosamund, he’s really after her money. Violet tells him that he needs to be honest with her daughter and tell her everything. Rosamund seems to be okay with the situation. She’s tired of being lonely and doesn’t mind Lord Hepworth’s financial situation. But something else is up here. There is definitely something going on between him and Miss Shore. Anna keeps stumbling upon them in the hallways and Miss Shore always brushes it off as his attempt to get her to convince Rosamund of his suit. It just doesn’t feel right.
Back to Mary and Matthew: He’d gone to London right after Christmas to visit with Lavinia’s father who’d sadly been on his deathbed, and he comes back to the Abbey with his ashes, honoring Mr. Swire’s wishes to be buried next to his daughter. Mary comes along to pay her respects and once she leaves, Mrs. Crawley tells Matthew that he’s being a fool and that Mary’s still in love with him, just as much as he’s still in love with her. Matthew evades and dances around the subject telling his mother that it just won’t work between him and Mary. Mrs. Crawley tells him that if he’s using Lavinia as an excuse, then he’s even more of a fool because she would never want Matthew to be unhappy.
Downstairs, Thomas is trying to behave and we all know what a strain that is for him. He really wants Bates’ old job, but doesn’t want to be too overt about it, what with Bates’ head being on the proverbial chopping block so to speak. It’s funny to see him exercising restraint. He approaches Mr. Carson who tells him that basically, Lord G. doesn’t trust him after the whole stealing incident. He confides in O’Brien (of course) who tells him that he needs to do something to gain Lord G.’s trust back. She mentions in an offhand way that maybe Thomas can hid something of value and then “find” it to show his loyalty, etc. Of course, Thomas takes her literally and decides to hide…Lord G.’s dog? Anyway, he takes the poor dog and hides her in a shed. Lord G. starts to get really worried when Isis doesn’t show up all day and with Matthew’s help, they organize a search party at night to go looking for her. Thomas doesn’t get the chance to get Isis back, so his plans are foiled.
While everyone’s out looking for Isis, Mary tells Matthew that she’s not going to marry Sir Richard and finally tells him the reason why she’d agreed to the engagement in the first place. Matthew is stunned to hear of her affair with Mr. Pamuk. He asks Mary if she was in love with the Turk, and she admits that it was pure lust and a need for adventure that spurred her decision that night. It’s a really heartbreaking scene because this is when you’d think they’d have a chance and Mary’s basically resigned herself to the fact that she’ll never be with Matthew. As devastated as he is by her tale, Matthew’s still supportive and encourages Mary to keep her resolve and not marry Sir Richard.
Meanwhile, Anna decides to give her notice because she feels that if she stays on, the scandal will taint the Abbey, but if she goes away, she’ll just be another maid in a sea of maids and it will die down. Both Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson are really upset. In fact, everyone is pretty devastated by the news and they decide to cancel the servants’ ball. Once Anna finds out about Mary’s plans to go to America, she asks to go along, and Mary happily accepts. And now all Mary has to do is break off her engagement. Eep!
Earlier in the day, Thomas had tried to go back and get the dog out of the shed, but she’s not there. He trips and falls over a branch and as he’s limping back home, all muddied up, he runs into Lord G. who has Isis in tow. Turns out that one of the men had found the dog and returned her. Lord G. is impressed that Thomas had made the effort nonetheless and tells Carson that he’d like to give Thomas a chance and bring him on as his valet.
After dinner, Mary pulls Sir Richard aside and breaks her engagement. As expected, he’s furious and tells her that all bets are off and he’s going to expose her to the world. He also admits to having been instrumental in keeping the news of Bates’s conviction out of the papers. Mary tries to reason with him and make him see that they clearly are not a good match, but Sir Richard is not someone who loses gracefully, so he starts creating a scene and that’s when Matthew walks in. Sir Richard starts in on Matthew and tells him that Lavinia knew he was still in love with Mary.
Sir Richard: “She said it once. It was late. She was tired, you two were locked together in the corner of the room and she said, ‘if he could just admit the truth, then all four of us can have a chance.’”
Matthew: “You liar.”
Sir Richard: “I’m not a liar. No, I’m many things, but not that. She regretted it of course, but she said it.”
Matthew: “You bastard!”
And then Matthew punches Sir Richard and all hell breaks loose. They start fighting before Lord G. walks in and breaks them up. Sir Richard makes some disparaging remark about him and the family in general and just as he’s about to leave, Violet runs in to see what all the noise is about. I love how she brings in the comedy to break up the most tense situations:
Sir Richard: “I’m leaving in the morning, Lady Grantham. I’ll doubt we will meet again.”
Violet: “Do you promise?”
And with that ladies and gentlemen, Sir Richard is gone. May I just say, it’s about time? We don’t know if he’s really going to expose Mary or not, but that’s for the third series, I suppose.
In the meantime, Lord G. receives a telegram confirming that their lawyer has been successful in commuting Bates’ sentence. Yay! At least they’re not going to execute him! Anna goes to visit him again and tells him that Lord G. has vowed to do everything in his power to exonerate him. Bates makes Anna promise to not only stay at Downton but to go on and live her life and be happy.
In a minor storyline, Daisy stumbles on a Ouija board on the shelf. Of course, she doesn’t know what it is, but O’Brien does and promptly takes over and sets it up with Thomas and a couple of other maids. Mrs. Hughes tries to put a stop to it, claiming that it’s all nonsense, but of course, Daisy is completely intrigued. Earlier in the day, William’s dad had stopped by and invited her to the farm for a visit. She’s still feeling pretty guilty about leading William on, so she demurs, but Mrs. Patmore keeps pressuring her to go. One night, over the Ouija, Mrs. Patmore takes over and “William” shows up, asking Daisy to go visit his dad. Of course, poor unsuspecting Daisy falls for it.
During her visit, she finds out that William had three other siblings who’d died early on and that Mr. Mason wanted to “adopt” her as his daughter. Not in a legal sense of course, but just so he could have someone to care for. It’s a very sweet and touching moment. Clearly, Daisy needs some parental guidance and while she has Mrs. Patmore as a surrogate mom, it’s nice to finally have a dad as well.
Oh, and that troublesome Miss Shore? She’d been egging Daisy on, claiming that she wasn’t valued enough, etc. and Daisy had started to get a bit snippy with Mrs. P., but Mr. Mason sets her straight and tells her to be honest and ask for more responsibility. Daisy has a frank conversation with Mrs. P. and is promoted to assistant cook. Yay, Daisy!
Oh, remember how I said we’ll get back to Sybil and Branson? Well, apparently, other than Mary and Edith, no one else attended the wedding. So while Lord G. has given them his permission, he’s clearly not happy with the match. It turns out that Sybil is pregnant and Cora tells Lord G. that she will not be kept away from her first grandchild. She gets him to concede to a visit from his youngest daughter and he reluctantly agrees. That’s really all we were told about their story, so I guess this is one other thing they are saving for Series 3.
Meanwhile, the servant’s ball is back on and everyone’s enjoying themselves (poor Matthew has to dance with O’Brien and Thomas dances with Violet!) when Anna spots Lord Hepworth and Miss Shore sneaking upstairs together. She grabs Mary and Rosamund and they bust in on them going at it. Aha! I KNEW there was more to his story than just being broke.
Downstairs, Anna joins Daisy at the Ouija board and er…miraculously?… the board spells out “May they be happy, with my love.” Hmm…
Back upstairs, the ball is winding down and Mary and Matthew have been dancing with each other, pining away when she breaks off and steps outside. He follows her out and there’s a bit of an awkward conversation where he questions her decision to leave for America. There’s no other way for me to share the rest with you but to quote the entire thing, so here you go:
Matthew: “Would you stay, if I asked you to?”
Mary: “Oh Matthew, you don’t mean that. You know yourself we carry more luggage than the porters at King’s Cross. And what about the late Mr. Pamuk? Won’t he resurrect himself every time we argued?”
Mary: “You mean you’ve forgiven me?”
Matthew: “No, I haven’t forgiven you.”
Mary: “Well then …”
Matthew: “I haven’t forgiven you because I don’t believe you need my forgiveness. You’ve lived your life and I’ve lived mine. Now it’s time we lived them together.”
Mary: “We’ve been on the edge of this so many times Matthew. Please don’t take me there again unless you’re sure.”
Matthew: “I am sure.”
Mary: “And your vows to the memory of Lavinia?”
Matthew: “I was wrong. I don’t think she wants us to be sad. She was someone who’d never caused a moment’s sorrow in her whole life.”
Mary: “I agree.”
Matthew: “Then will you?”
Mary: “You must say it properly. I won’t answer unless you kneel down and everything.”
Matthew (kneeling): “Lady Mary Crawley, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
YES!!!! How’s that for a GREAT ending? I can’t wait for Series 3!
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Naz Keynejad is an avid reader, wanna-be writer, editor and self-professed geek. She has a “thing” for period dramas and will watch anything as long as it’s filled with suppressed sexual tension, angst and of course, period costumes. Oh, and there has to be tea. Lots of tea.