This week’s season finale (well, technically, there’s still the Christmas special) wrapped up quite a bit...but there are still some cliffhangers.
Oh, and there are spoilers ahead. As well as a reminder right here that Downton Abbey Series 2/Season 2 will air in the United States beginning January 8, 2012.
********MAJOR EPISODE SPOILERS BELOW********
Was it a great finale episode? Eh. I don’t really think so. It felt like it went out with more of a fizzle than a bang and a lot of what happened was expected. But hey, at least we have resolution and maybe one happily ever after.
The episode starts with the Abbey all in a bustle getting ready for Matthew and Lavinia’s wedding. Decorations are being put up and gifts sorted out. Matthew’s walking around with a cane and he’s pretty frustrated about it, but is gently reminded by both Lavinia and Mary that this is a far better situation than the one he was in a few weeks ago. You know, being potentially paralyzed for the rest of his life and all.
Meanwhile, the Bryants have sent Mrs. Hughes a letter asking to see little Charlie, so she arranges for Ethel to be at the house and bring the baby with her. It seems that the curmudgeon Mr. Bryant has realized that this child is the only remnant of his son and now wants to be a part of his upbringing. I’m sure it’s not going to be as easy as all that. He was way too severe (and mean) for this to end nicely for poor Ethel.
Thomas has now resorted to practically begging Mr. Carson to let him stay on at the Abbey and is not really making much of a headway. Mr. Carson tells him that he’s “trespassing on [their] generosity” and needs to find himself another living arrangement and stat! Thomas offers to help around the house again and is reminded (by pretty much everyone) that his past attitude about being a servant is not exactly encouraging anyone to let him back in. Even O’Brien is giving him a bit of a wide berth. I have to admit; watching Thomas grovel is pretty fun.
Back upstairs, Sybil drops a bomb and lets Mary and Edith know that tonight is the night she’s going to announce her engagement to Branson. Apparently, he’s been offered a position as a journalist up in Dublin and she’s ready to leave with him. Mary and Edith are pretty upset and try to discourage her, but she won’t budge. After dinner, Branson comes in to the drawing room and makes his case, with Sybil standing by his side. Of course, as you can imagine, Lord G. goes completely ballistic. The Dowager is not very happy either and Cora is just shocked.
Violet: “Will someone please tell me what’s going on, or have we all stepped through the looking glass?”
Branson: “Your grandmother has as much right to know as anybody else.”
Violet: “Why don’t I find that reassuring?”
Lord G. is absolutely furious with Branson and accuses him of seducing his daughter while “bowing and scraping” to him. Branson bristles (hee) and stomps out, vowing not to give up, and Sybil backs him up. She puts her foot down and announces that she’s planning on moving to Dublin and live with Branson’s mother while they wait for the marriage banns to be read and get married. She stands up to Lord G. and tells him that she doesn’t want any money and is going with Branson and that’s that! Go, Sybil! Branson goes back downstairs in a huff and tells the staff about his plans, to the chagrin of Mr. Carson who tells him to pack his stuff and get out.
The next day, Violet comes over to help Lord G. deal with Sybil and finds Edith sorting through all the wedding gifts. Poor Edith! She’s so sad and alone. Violet assures her that her time will come and that she has to be patient. Meanwhile, Lord G. is not making any headway with Sybil at all. She’s determined to see this through and he’s pretty much at the end of his rope when Violet walks in and tries to reason with Sybil.
Violet: “Sybil dear, this sort of thing is all very well in novels, but in reality, it can prove very uncomfortable. And while I am sure Branson has many virtues … well, he is a very good driver.”
Sybil: “I will NOT give him up!”
Lord G: “Don’t be rude to your grandmother!”
Violet: “No, she’s not being rude. Just wrong.”
Sybil refuses to budge and agrees to stay for a week and leave after Matthew’s wedding. Lord G. basically tells her that if she goes through with this, she’s going to end up with no money and/or support from him and the rest of the family. He’s going to cut her off completely.
That night, Cora’s not feeling too well and neither is Carson. Mrs. Hughes sends Carson up to rest and sends for Mr. Moseley to step in and help out with dinner. Mr. Moseley is really nervous and in an effort to make sure everything goes smoothly, tastes all the wine. During dinner, Cora excuses herself and leaves the table to go lie down. Lavinia follows right behind her and back in the pantry, Moseley practically collapses and is sent up to bed, too. It seems that the Spanish flu has landed at Downton.
They send for Dr. Clarkson, and it appears that Cora’s case is the worst. O’Brien offers to stay by her bedside and take care of her. The only “patient” who’s really not sick at all is Moseley. Turns out that all that wine tasting has gone to his head and he’s just drunk! Any way, Thomas steps in and starts to help, to the surprise of everyone. He actually doesn’t even want to be paid! Okay, who is this nice, helpful, congenial person and where has he buried Thomas’s body?
Meanwhile, Anna tells Bates that she wants to get married as soon as possible because she wants to be there for him if or when any trouble hits. She’s been inspired by Sybil and doesn’t want to wait any more. She tells Bates to get a special license and he finally agrees. They are so sweet together!
Anna: “Mr. Bates, if we have to face this, then we will face it as husband and wife. I will not be moved to the sidelines to watch how you fare from a distance with no right even to be kept informed! I WILL be your next of kin. You will not deny me that.”
Dinner’s clearly over and everyone’s gone back upstairs when Mary walks in on Matthew in the main hall playing a record on the new gramophone. He asks her to dance and tells her about his little chat with Violet a few weeks ago. He tells her that Violet said he should marry Mary but that he couldn’t do that to Lavinia who’d been willing to take care of him when he was an invalid. They get closer and closer as they dance and finally…oh my god! They kiss! Just then, Lavinia comes down the stairs and Matthew and Mary jump apart. It’s not clear whether or not Lavinia actually saw the kiss, but oh boy, do M & M look guilty!
Upstairs, Cora’s in bed and Lord G. has decided to sleep in his dressing room (it’s really more of a bedroom) when he steps out in the hall and runs into Jane. She tells him that her son’s been accepted to the private school and thanks him for his help. There’s a bit of angst-ridden innuendo flying around and Lord G. reaches out and…gasp!…pulls her in to the bedroom with him and they start making out. Oh my god! Really Lord G.? Your wife’s lying in bed sick a few doors down and you’re making out with the maid? And hey, how much of a hypocrite are you? You come down on Sybil for consorting with the help and you’re doing the same thing! Grrr. Thankfully, Bates stops by to see what time Lord G. wants to wake up in the morning and interrupts them. He doesn’t see Jane, but the interruption cools things down a bit and Lord G. sends Jane away telling her that “this” wouldn’t be fair to her. She’s very hurt and doesn’t want to leave him, but he prevails and Jane leaves in tears.
The next day, Lord G. goes over to the inn in the village and offers to pay off Branson to leave Sybil. Oh, is that the wrong thing to do! Branson’s livid and accuses Lord G. of thinking that he and his kind have the “monopoly on honor.” He turns down the money and refuses to leave without Sybil. Seems like no matter what Lord G. tries to do, Sybil and Branson are determined to be together.
Cora’s gotten worse and O’Brien has kept her vigil by her bedside all night. She refuses to leave and insists on staying and taking care of her. The wedding’s been postponed, even though Lavinia seems to be feeling better. In a moment alone with Matthew, she tells him that she wants to break off the engagement. Apparently, she DID see and hear the little display of affection down in the main hall the previous evening and knows how Matthew feels. He tries to deny it, but she insists that it’s better this way. She doesn’t want to be anyone’s second choice. It’s such a heartbreaking scene. Poor Lavinia is clearly in love with Matthew and is being so noble and understanding!
Meanwhile, the Bryants arrive and meet with Ethel under the watchful eye of Mrs. Hughes. Mrs. Bryant is clearly smitten with little Charlie, but the ever-practical Mr. Bryant is all about business. He offers to take Charlie and bring him up as his heir, but only if Ethel is completely out of the picture. Ethel is shocked and tries to reason that Charlie needs his mother. She offers to come live with them and be Charlie’s nurse, but Mr. Bryant refuses. He gives Ethel some time to think about it, but refuses to entertain any other solution except his own. A few days later, Ethel shows up at the house again and tells Mrs. Hughes that she’s decided to keep Charlie because she feels that he needs her love more than a life of privilege. Hm. I don’t know that I necessarily agree with her, especially given her circumstances.
Jane decides to quit rather than stay and not really “be” with Lord G. He tries to talk her out of it but in the end, understands that it’s for the best. They have a sweet moment together (yes, they kiss again) and she’s gone. This is great because Cora’s fully awake and recovering, so Lord G. really needs to focus on his marriage. May I just say, phew?
Bates and Anna get married at the registrar’s office in Rippon (yay!) and Mary surprises them with a romantic evening in one of the Abbey’s guest bedrooms. She has the room decked out with flowers and candles and tells Anna to rest assured that no one will be bothering them. It’s like a little mini honeymoon. It’s all very romantic and sweet. That’s such a nice thing for Mary to have done because if anyone deserves at least one night of happiness, it’s Bates and Anna.
Cora’s situation is getting quite dire. She’s bleeding and throwing up and things are looking really bad. O’Brien almost confesses to being the cause of Cora’s miscarriage when she opens her eyes and starts thanking O’Brien for taking such good care of her. The confession never happens and Cora starts feeling better. Unfortunately, though, Lavinia takes a turn for the worse and rapidly deteriorates. Everyone stands around her bedside helplessly as she finally succumbs and oh no! She’s dead! Matthew’s devastated of course, because with her last breath, Lavinia told him that “this was better,” meaning that now he was free to be with Mary. Gah! She dies on the day she was supposed to get married. So, so sad.
Sir Richard shows up ostensibly to “help,” but really to make sure that Lavinia’s illness hasn’t created an opportunity for Matthew and Mary to spend more time together. Mary’s not too happy about his assumptions (but really, who’re we kidding here? He’s right! They DID, in fact, step over the line now, didn’t they?) He gives Mary a chance to spend a few moments alone with Matthew at Lavinia’s funeral and Matthew tells her that Lavinia knew of their indiscretion and because of that, nothing can ever happen between them now. Oh great. So this is the end to Mary and Matthew’s love story. Boo.
Branson shows up at the funeral to pay his respects and Lord G. finally accepts the inevitable and acknowledges Sybil and Branson as a couple. He shakes hands with Branson and tells Sybil that she won’t be cut off. I guess his own experience with Jane made him realize how unfair he was being to his own daughter. At least Branson’s offering to love and take care of Sybil and not have some torrid affair! So yes, Sybil gets her happily ever after with Branson and that’s that.
As the staff walks back to the house from the funeral, Mrs. Patmore tells Bates that there are two men waiting for him in the servants’ hall. Oh no! It’s the police! They arrest Bates on charges of murder, handcuff and take him away, leaving a horrified Anna standing there. Eep!
And that’s how the series ends, folks. See what I mean about it going out with a bit of a fizzle and not a bang? There was no preview for the Christmas special, so I’m not sure what we’ll see there. I’m just hoping that they definitely secure a third season so we can at lease see what happens to Bates and of course, Mary and Matthew!
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Or, carry on to the Christmas Special (beware of spoilers!)...
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.