The fifth season wrap of Downton Abbey is deeply satisfying.
Love vanquishes as old and young couples have a chance at true happiness. One relationship ends, though it shouldn’t and one life hangs in the balance.
All told? It was a wonderful season, and in the hour and 33-minute finale, creator Julian Fellowes works his magic.
Lord Sinderby (James Faulkner) rents a castle for a weekend of shooting. If this place can make Downton look modest by comparison, just think of the lush, antique furnishings.
“Anna, all they have is one man who thinks they saw you and that is not enough,” Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) says when she visits her maid. “ Any character witness could prove it is not in your nature and you know we would all testify to that if it comes to it.”
But there is more to Anna than anyone knew. She confesses to her husband, Bates (Brendan Coyle), that her stepfather had sexually abused her so she defended herself, using a knife. She didn’t kill him and left her mother’s home. But there was a police record, which could be used against her. They vowed to press on, their love for each other rock solid.
Other members of the staff who have been edging closer to becoming a couple also share a huge secret. Carson (Jim Carter) and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) have been looking at properties to run as a B&B when they retire from Downton. She finally told him that she has no money to invest because all of her money has gone to caring for her disabled sister.
He buys the property and puts it in both of their names. Finally, Carson proposes to Mrs. Hughes. She accepts.
Downton fans should be reaching for the hankies just about now.
Rose and Atticus (Lily James, Matt Barber) are another happy couple, back from their honeymoon. Rose averts what could have been a nuclear blow to the Sinderby family, when a young woman shows up in the middle of the gathering, with a toddler in tow. It’s clear she is Lord Sinderby’s mistress.
The lord practically faints when he sees her. Given that he gives sanctimony a bad name, Lord Sinderby realizes his life would come crashing down were everyone to discover his illicit romance.
Rose reads the situation quickly and correctly, pretends that the mistress is her friend and lures Mary and Robert (Hugh Bonneville) into the ruse. She wins over her father-in-life for life. The mistress is dispatched. The earl is left shaking his head and very glad that his marriage to Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) is strong again.
Rose is simply determined to keep her new family going, and the Dowager Countess is reminded what she once did that could have destroyed hers. To compensate, she has did a very good deed.
The Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) had Prince Kuragin’s (Rade Serbedzija) wife found. The woman is so nasty that one could not blame the exiled prince for wanting her to stay lost.
In a comically awkward scene, the princess is beyond rude at a small dinner party the Dowager Countess holds for her.
“I would so like to go to Russia,” Mrs. Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton) says, trying to break the ice.
“Then you missed it,” the princess responds.
When the princess exits, the prince makes one final bid for the countess to run away with him. She rejects him. After, the Dowager Countess drops any airs and is just Violet with Isobel.
“I will never again receive an immoral proposition from a man,” the countess says.
They laugh over men as girlfriends do.
Isobel, in a move that is righteous – because she is the embodiment of crusading righteousness – breaks it off for good with Lord Merton (Douglas Reith). She refuses to get between the father and son, regardless that the son is an insufferable, narrow-minded adult.
They would have been happy together, and both know it. Crushed, Lord Merton admits that he had never loved his late wife and when with Isobel, he knows happiness for the first time.
Robert continues his campaign to show that he is indeed a good fellow. He approaches Edith (Laura Carmichael) and in the sweetest scene tells her that he knows Marigold is hers.
“Do you forgive me papa?” Edith asks in her plaintive way.
“I am sure I need your forgiveness as much as you need mine,” he says.
With Atticus offered a job in New York, and Tom heading to Boston, Mary is even archer.
“Poor Mary,” Edith says. “She hates to be left behind.”
“It’s only being left behind with you,” Mary snipes.
Molesley and Baxter (Kevin Doyle, Raquel Cassidy) go to some 70 pubs in Yorkshire, showing Bates’ photo to exonerate Bates from the murder rap. Their diligence pays off.
At least for Christmas, the Bates are reunited. Christmas is lovely at Downton, with songs, a bit of drunkenness, and people cherishing the end of a chapter.
They join hands in a bittersweet moment of prayer.
It’s a delightful Downton party and Violet and Isobel steal away into a room for a quick chat. Violet confides that the princess was so vicious to her because of what happened decades ago.
Violet and the prince were, indeed, running away together. In fact, Violet was already in the carriage, dashing off to meet the prince at night when her maid betrayed her to the princess.
The princess gave chase, caught her, flung her into the street and saved the Dowager Countess “from a life in the shadows.” This explains why Isobel was so determined to reunite the long estranged exiled couple.
“She saved me and I saved her,” Violet says.
“You never strayed again?” Isobel asks.
“I never risked everything again,” Isobel replies.
“That’s not what I asked,” her friend prods.
“Remember, we were the Edwardians,” the dowager countess says with her usual finality.
Courtesy of © Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2014 for MASTERPIECE