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Downton Abbey Review: Season 5 Finale

(Episode 5.08)

TV Reviews Downton Abbey
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<i>Downton Abbey</i> Review: Season 5 Finale

Oh sure, there are a lot of things I could say about the fifth season finale of Downton Abbey. Like, I can’t believe we still don’t know who killed Mr. Greene. And I’m worried that Matthew Goode may cheat on Alicia Florrick with Mary. And seriously—isn’t Larry the worst?

But nothing else really matters because Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson are getting married! Wasn’t that scene just the best? Those two have been quietly pining for each other for five long seasons in the most repressed way possible. But then when Mrs. Hughes confesses that she cannot buy property with Mr. Carson because she doesn’t have any savings, Mr. Carson buys the house and puts both their names on it and proposes in his awkward way. “Of course I’ll marry you, I thought you’d never ask,” Mrs. Hughes tells him. Love them.

Shrimpie has tracked down Princess Kuragin and brought her to England. Turns out the Princess is even more unpleasant than Violet has let on. She’s a miserable person made even more miserable by her circumstances. Even though the Prince is reunited with his wife, he still makes a play for Violet who tells him, “I’m surprised you think there is still a decision to be made” before sending him on his way. “I will never again receive an immoral proposition from a man,” she laments to Isobel. But Isobel and everyone else wonders why Violet has gone to such lengths to help the Princess given that she is so wretched. Finally Violet confesses to Isobel that years ago in Russia, she was set to run away with the Prince and the Princess physically stopped her. The Princess, Violet explains, saved her from ruin, the loss of her children and a life in the shadows. “She saved me and I saved her,” Violet says.

Isobel is equally unlucky in love. She tells Lord Merton that she’ll only marry him if he can get his children to come around. She doesn’t want to spend her final years caught between her husband and his sons. But Larry won’t budge and sends Isobel a letter saying as much, so Isobel breaks off her engagement. As Violet points out, the only person who can possibly be happy with this outcome is Dr. Clarkson.

While all this is going on the rest of the family is off at a shooting party at Brancaster Castle, at the invitation of Rose’s father-in-law Lord Sinderby. Lord Sinderby is still awful and has refused to invite either of Rose’s parents because they are getting divorced. He cannot abide divorce. He can, however, abide having a child out of wedlock with his mistress. When the mistress arrives unexpectedly with her son in tow, Rose covers for him, saving him from embarrassment and Lady Sinderby from humiliation. “Rose, my dear, you are clever, kind and resourceful,” he tells her. So basically, “save me from my mistress, welcome to the family!”

Lord Sinderby’s butler Stowell is also awful, and he is up to date on all the Grantham family gossip. Stowell refuses to serve Tom because Tom was once just a driver. Mary implores upon Mrs. Baxter to get Thomas to “come up with something.” First Thomas just gets the butler to serve Lord Sinderby the wrong meal but when Lord Sinderby yells at him, Thomas ups his game —hence the unexpected arrival of his mistress.

The dreamy Matthew Goode, who is making Alicia’s heart flutter over on The Good Wife, pops up as Henry Talbot, an unexpected guest at the shooting party. Mary is, of course, rude to him and tells him that he’s bumped Atticus from the shooting that day. Like all men, the ruder Mary is the more charmed by her they seem. Henry’s friend Charles Rogers seems quite interested in Edith. Do I see a double wedding in the future?

Robert is worried that he may have angina but it turns out he just has an ulcer. Although the way this show rolls (see Sybil and Matthew’s untimely demise), I totally was waiting for Robert to have a massive heart attack while singing Christmas carols.

Robert tells Edith he knows Marigold is her daughter and Edith wonders if her father can ever forgive her. “Oh my darling, I’m sure I need your forgiveness quite as much as you need mine,” he tells her. Tom also guesses the truth. But Edith knows Mary will never figure it out because she’s completely uninterested in Edith.

And now I must talk about the whole Anna/Mr. Bates story lines. Anna confesses that her step-father sexually abused her, and that one night she cut him with a knife. He never pressed charges but somehow the police have found out about this and it shows a pattern of violent behavior. Mr. Bates writes a confession and heads to Ireland. Anna is let out of jail and Mrs. Baxter and Mr. Moseley spend all their days off in York trying to find the pub where Mr. Bates was on the day of Mr. Greene’s death. They finally find the pub and the owner will vouch that Mr. Bates was there on that day. Bates returns home and is reunited with Anna just in time for Christmas. I don’t have anything nice to say about this story line, so I’m not going to say anything at all.

Both Allen Leech (who plays Tom) and Lily James (who plays Rose), are departing the series. Tom is off to Boston, and Rose to New York. The door certainly seems wide open for their return and I definitely hope we’ll be seeing Tom again. It’s kind of hard to imagine the show without him.

Tom gathers Edith and Mary together to remember Sybil because they were the three who should have grown old with her. Lord Grantham makes a heartfelt speech about Tom (while I held my breath waiting for him to have a massive heart attack) and all was right at Downton Abbey for a brief moment.

Will the show finally come up with a good story line for Anna and Mr. Bates? Will Mary continue to attract every man in all of England? Will Daisy ever stop whining? Will Mrs. Denker learn to make chicken broth? Looking forward to Season Six and the wedding of Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson!

Amy Amatangelo is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and a regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.