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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Downton Abbey: S05E08

Another day, another season finale. Like Doctor Who, this was a fairly ho-hum offering and I was reminded that emotionally disengaging myself from both shows was a very smart decision. As always I enjoyed the frocks, the intrigues, the occasion witticism, and a couple of legitimately tender scenes, and simply glossed over the rest.  

It's off to London so that Rose can marry the man she met five minutes ago in the most perfunctory way possible (seriously – for most of this episode I was under the impression that they were attending an engagement party, not a wedding). This allows for Thomas to partake in an "out-con the card shark" ploy that was reheated from the days Gregson was still around, and for Daisy to shut yet another door on herself when Mrs Patmore's tears made her decide to forego a London adventure to continue life as a drudge in a basement kitchen.

Most of this episode felt like it was marking off time, with plenty of unresolved issues that will no doubt be resolved in the Christmas Special (if then). Anna's arrest, Violet and Isabel's marriage prospects, Edith's secret, Tom's departure – none of it went anywhere.

Susan MacClare is this episode's designated antagonist, and she's certainly a piece of work. Thankfully less one-note than Lord Merton's piggish sons, she's still a nasty creature who uses "love" as her excuse to try and sabotage Rose's happiness. Love had nothing to do with her actions here, and neither did whatever qualms she may have had over her daughter marrying a Jewish man. The actress's performance reveals her motivation as a miserable woman who is desperate to share that misery with others, which allows the audience to feel some degree of detached pity. Thankfully the characters who had to deal with her drama responded by deciding to fiercely ignore her rather than concocting some elaborate scheme to punish her, knowing that some people just aren't worth the effort.

Still, she did at least provide the episode's best scene: the verbal parry and thrust across the dinner table with the Aldridge family, as barbed comments were made by some and smoothed over by others at a breathless pace.

The unveiling of the war memorial was a nice end-note to finish off the season, and Lord Grantham gets to be both compassion and observant for a change, first in establishing a memorial for Mrs Patmore's nephew, then in realizing that Marigold looks like Gregson (even though the casting agent undoubtedly picked this particular child to match Laura Carmichael's colouring).

Mabel Lane Fox gets her man and Gillingham gets a dignified exit. As I was hoping for something completely different from Mary's story-arc this year, all I can feel is relief that the love triangle has finally come to a close. She was somewhat back to form in this episode – a GIF set was doing the rounds that cast her "even you Edith" comment into the realm of verbal abuse, but it wasn't as bad in context. Still, I'm disappointed that there wasn't more emphasis on sisterhood this season. I felt sure that all Mary's disparaging comments were somehow concealing a forthcoming demonstration of solidarity to Edith, but apparently not.

Still, at least she got another lovely scene with Tom and some long overdue interaction with Carson. I haven't seen their rapport for a while.

Fellowes wrote himself into a bit of a corner regarding O'Brien, requiring him to quickly relocate her from the MacClares to another family. It's a pity Siobhan Finneran wasn't available for a one-off reappearance – it would have been nice to see a confrontation between herself and Cora.

Prince Kuragin is a much more hot-blooded suitor to Violet than Lord Merton was to Isobel, and I loved that Violet had to sit herself down in the face of his declarations.

So Anna gets raped by Mr Green and is then arrested for his murder. Gross. Nevertheless, I'm sure Mr Bates has something stupid in store when it comes to rescuing her.

With both Doctor Who and Downton Abbey coming to an end (and it becoming increasingly unlikely that I'll continue much longer with Arrow or Sleepy Hollow), I find myself with a lot of free time on my hands. The Fall is starting very soon, so there's that to look forward to, but I think I'm going to turn my attention to films and books. When I look back over the past two years, it feels like most of my free time has been spent on episode reviews – it's time for something different. 

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