Your lot’s finished. You’re going down and we’re coming up…
That’s not a statement to be taken lightly, even if it was spoken by a woman attempting blackmail. But even if those words were not meant to be taken as gospel, nevertheless, they were the equivalent of handwriting on the wall; words that once absorbed, cannot be ignored or deemed unseen.
In fact, the first domino would fall shortly thereafter, as the goods and possessions of a neighboring estate were being auctioned off after the house and lands had been sold.
From near life-size portraits that might be too big for a London townhouse, to sporting scenes that adorned the walls of lesser rooms, everything must go – up to and including wedding gifts from long ago. At the auction, the departing owner, Sir John Darnley would say to Robert:
I’m afraid we held on for far too long, and now there’s nothing left. Learn from us!
Here, it is 1925, and change is coming. Not that it was unexpected. So begins Downton Abbey‘s final season. Episode One of the Sixth Season of Downtown aired last night. I watched it on WEDU the PBS outlet here in Sarasota.
I am considering covering this final season on a weekly basis, so if I do, I hope you will stop by regularly and often. To make it quite clear, beginning this week, and for the future, at least with regard to Downton, there will be spoilers.
To my delight, (not sure why as I neither ride, shoot, nor have I an English country side at hand to do either) the episode began with another fox-hunt. The horses and hounds. The gallop through the estate’s country side.
How marvelous. Of course, just like the first fox-hunt, from an earlier season – we again were not treated to sight of a fox. The highlight was Lady Mary wearing riding britches, a fact that while not quite shocking, did not go unnoticed by Lord Grantham. Mary would say that this was a much safer way to ride than sitting side-saddle. But her horse stumbled in a muddy creek bed and Mary was tossed from her ride. Fortunately, neither the horse nor rider suffered any harm. The same cannot be said for Lady Mary’s riding attire.
But I think it might be said that this was the only misstep of the episode. The script for the opener by Julian Fellowes brought almost every character into play. Some story lines were resolved and others brought to our attention for the first time. And, as expected, other situations remained pending. The beauty was in the seamless flow as we were informed and entertained simultaneously. As we would breathe a sigh of relief based one bit of news, we would also see new storm clouds gathering.
Finally, finally, and finally – the long running and unresolved murder charges against Anna Bates, and the lingering suspicion about John Bates were resolved. No longer will Anna be ‘out on bail’, and no longer will John Bates be looking over his shoulder to see if the law was looking at him.
It took Sgt. Willis two trips out to the Crawley estate before he was finally able to announce that an unknown woman, another victim of Mr. Green, had confessed, and the confession had been corroborated by a new witness. The ghost of Mr. Green’s murder and the clouds of suspicion that his death had thrown over both John and Anna Bates, had finally exited stage left.
But then we learned that Anna had experienced another miscarriage.
Lady Mary’s blackmailer, Rita Bevan (above and below), who once upon a time had been the chamber maid at the Liverpool hotel where Lady Mary and Tony Gillingham had frolicked for a week, arrived in town and appeared again and again. She was not the proverbial bad penny, she was the bad shilling – and she demanded 1000 pounds from Lady Mary as hush money.
As Lady Mary would say – she could pay the money and that, most certainly, would not be the end of it, or she could refuse and then have her life ruined by the ensuing scandal. But the aforementioned Ms Bevan overplayed her hand when she demanded to see Robert Crawley. Not only did she not get the 1000 pounds, instead she was forced to leave with a meager 50 quid and that only after she was made to sign a note confessing her blackmail demands.
If she would even make one public utterance, Robert would trot out her signed confession (as well as his cashed check). So it is goodbye and good riddance to Rita Bevan.
On the home front, Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes had still not set a date. Mr. Carson had twice asked and had been twice answered by Mrs. Hughes, in a not unkind way, when she said – what’s the rush? The problem was that Mrs. Hughes, a woman in the latter stages of middle age, felt a bit unsure of herself, at least as far as the terms marital intimacy were concerned, and she really had no idea if Mr. Carson wanted a companion or friendship marriage, or he expected a ‘full marriage’ which meant that there would be sex.
Mrs. Hughes felt that to continue to delay might cause irreparable harm, so she asked Mrs. Patmore to step in and try to question Mr. Carson about his intentions. Definitely this was not a topic that could be handled in a breezy manner. In fact, it felt so awkward to Mrs. Patmore that she couldn’t quite get the key questions out of her own mouth on the first attempt.
So a second mission was ordered up. Once more, Mrs. Patmore wobbled into the fray. But this time she was up to it – despite the fact that it was so embarrassing for both Patmore and Carson; so much so that Patmore said she would have to turn her chair away so that she would not have to look directly at Mr. Carson.
Mr. Carson said that he expected a full marriage and all that one would normally expect in that sort of situation. Patmore then reported back to Mrs. Hughes, and ultimately Hughes and Carson arrive on the same page. Yes, Mr. Carson, you may have me, warts and all, stated Mrs. Hughes.
And there you have the major story lines of the episode. Of course there are lots more, but, in all honesty, they’re all on lower rungs.
Master George and the young Miss Marigold are in the kitchen watching Mrs. Patmore make a cake. George says – and these are the first words we’ve heard from him ever – May I lick the bowl? Shortly thereafter we watch as Master George is given a piggy back ride by none other than Thomas Barrow.
There’s the matter of staff reductions at the Downton estate. Carson and Robert discuss the matter and we hear from Robert that neither he, nor Carson, can stop time. Meaning, that as much as they would wish other wise, change and staff cuts will be coming.
This will lead to a later conversation between Robert and the Dowager Countess Violet. Which sets in motion concern by Violet’s butler Spratt, and Miss Denker – who is only too happy to reveal such news to the staff up at the big house,
even though she had been expressly told not to by Violet. The Downton servants are stunned. And there would be more, albeit on a more localized front – specifically in the Dowager’s own household. Denker puts a scare into Spratt’s head that his job is at risk.
That is until Violet turns the tables on Denker by telling her that it is her job that would be dispensed with.
Lady Edith has taken over the ownership of the newspaper previously owned by the late Mr. Gregson. Edith is having trouble with her editor, who does not like to take orders from a woman. So Edith must go up to London and see to it. She might even decide to live in London, as the flat left to her by Gregson is now vacant. There’d be the work, plus the fact that she and Marigold might live a life of their own in London, as the multitudes of Londoners would not be the least bit interested in another woman and child.
Back in Downton Village we hear of a possible takeover of the local hospital by the Royal Yorkshire County Hospital. Of course, Isobel Crawley, who basically runs the local cottage hospital, had not been informed. The news came to her through Dowager Countess Violet Crawley. But Isobel is strongly in favor. Better equipment, advances in technology, and more money and staffing would all benefit the local villagers in the form of better medical care.
Just as naturally, Violet is against this progressive idea because it would most definitely mean loss of authority and control both of which are beneath the umbrella called power which she clings to.
One more event is worthy of mention. Daisy’s father-in-law is facing eviction from his farm. Mason and his forbears had been long-time tenant farmers on the Darnley estate which has been sold. Daisy accompanies Robert and Lady Cora to the auction. She’s not looking to buy anything – in fact she attends for the sole purpose of pleading with the new owners, the Hendersons, to allow Mr. Mason to stay on.
But Daisy lets her emotions get the best of her, and she ends up publicly excoriating the Hendersons, who in fact had been thinking of letting some of the tenant farmers stay on.
But after receiving the blistering from Daisy, they surely look unhappy (above) so they coldly inform her that while some tenants may be granted new leases, Mr. Mason will not be included.
In summary, I was quite pleased with this season opener. Of course, there were winners: John and Anna Bates, Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes, Lady Mary who is now not only free from Bevan the blackmailer, but has also received a vote of confidence from her father. Robert tells her that he now knows that his daughter is no longer a child, and as he sees it, she is more than capable of running the estate.
Unfortunately, for this episode, Daisy was a loser. As was Denker.
Robert and Lady Cora will no doubt have important decisions to make as will Lady Edith and Lady Mary. Isobel Crawley and the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley will continue their bickering. In fact one of the best lines in this 66 minute season beginner came from, as usual, from Violet Crawley.
In a discussion with Isobel about the hospital situation , Violet Crawley said to Isobel –
I’m looking forward to the continuing saga. Until next time.