Downton Abbey 5.6 Review: The One Where Stuff Actually Happens

I just about had a heart attack last night. Denisa coaxed me into sitting down to watch Downton again, and I prepared myself for the worst. What could they do to me this time? My gut told me Schoolmarm would come back, arm in arm with Art Dude, and the two of them would wreak havoc on a Downton party while Rose made googly eyes at a new butler, Mary did a table dance, and Edith sat in the back, sighing and looking mopey.

Par for the course for this season, right?

I was stunned–stunned–to discover an actual decent episode for once. Apparently the writers have decided there’s been enough padding for the season. (You have to feel the pain of those poor writers. Being forced to find content for eight whole episodes a year. AND a Christmas special. I have no idea how they cope with that. /sarcasm) The episode had some honest-to-goodness highlights for once. Though it wasn’t 100% peachy keen.

  •  Right off the bat, let’s talk about Edith. Edith! Mopey Myrtle the Turtle Edith. The one who just sits around each episode sighing and pining for the fjords. In this episode, Edith does the Edith-equivalent of Rambo getting all the weapons strapped on and heading into the jungle to go blow up bad guys. She actually does something! My jaw is still on the floor. Of course, this being Downton, there were a few hiccups along the way. First off, I was really expecting her to commit suicide. Is that bad of me? This is Downton, and we’ve gone a whole season without a death of a major character. Edith hadn’t been doing anything really noteworthy other than look sad, so . . . But she didn’t! She went and got her baby from the she-harpy that is the farmer’s wife. (Of course, this being Downton, they couldn’t just let us feel happy for Edith finally discovering a backbone. Nope–they had to show us how much the she-harpy really loved her child, which I suppose makes sense, but it felt sort of like what would happen if, at the climax of 101 Dalmatians, we have this heart-wrenching scene where Cruela DeVille says goodbye to the puppies and talks about how all she ever wanted was just to be enveloped in an eternal puppy skin hug.) But hey–let us remember this date, for it is the date that Edith actually did something.
  • Mary gets a haircut. That’s right, peoples. If you guessed Season 5, episode 6 as “The Episode where someone at Downton finally gets a bob”, then you win the pool. I enjoyed seeing Mary back to her Edith-hating ways. Don’t know where it came from, but in this episode Mary somehow regressed about 3 seasons. Fascinating! But I much prefer this Mary to the bed hopping woman of the night, so bravo for that.
  • Lord Grantham figures out he’s a big hypocrite when Cora calls him on it. Nice, Downton. Well played.
  • The dog is sick. Why is the dog sick? Probably due to contract negotiations outside the show. I always thought that dog was starting to get uppity.
  • Mary goes for a horse race. The other time in this episode that I thought someone was going to die a grisly, horrid death. Somehow, someone kept the writers’ fingers away from the “DIE” button, and she lives for another race. Of course, they’re telegraphing her and pig man getting together, but whatever. As long as Gillypants is gone, I’m okay with things. (Note to creative types: this is how you get your audience over the death of a beloved character. Give us an alternative that’s absolutely horrendous, and then give us an out. Any out. Mary could be dating a potted plant, and I’d be better off with it than Gillypants.)
  • Baxter does something nice for Thomas, even though Thomas is a weasel. Yay for nice people doing nice things. Yay even more for Thomas calling Baxter daft.
  • Anna and Bates actually start talking again. What a concept! Though as much as I make fun of the show for it, I do believe many many struggles and conflicts in life could be solved if people just started an actual conversation. But people don’t talk about it, so the problems persist. Nice to see Bates is actually innocent. This ties up that plot line long enough for us to breathe a sigh of relief, which must mean next episode Bates gets hit by a train.
  • Violet hires a new maid–entertaining as always. Also loved seeing her response to Isobel actually doing things. The scene with the Prince was nice too.

It’s episodes like this that keep me from entirely giving up on the show. The sad thing is that it shouldn’t be this hard for this show to do well. Episodes like this ought to be the rule, not the exception. We’ve been doing this for 5 seasons. Don’t we have enough practice with “What Makes a Downton Episode Tick”?

Learn your lesson, writers. Please!

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