Downton Abbey 5.9 Review: The Christmasing

It’s been an up and down season for Downton this time around. What started as pretty weak (for Downton standards) really came into its own over the last few episodes. So the question then becomes, how will it finish? With a bang or a whimper? Often the Christmas specials are the best ones (for values of Christmas specials that don’t involve bloody car wrecks at the end of them), so I had high hopes going into this finale.

They were easily met. This was by far the strongest episode of the season, and one of the best of the series. I would love for a fan to make some sort of “director’s cut” of Downton that trims out all the idiocy, leaving us with just the best stuff. (It wouldn’t be that hard for this season. Take out anything having to do with Gillypants, Art Critic, and the Anna/Bates murder trial, and then most of the Mommy Edith subplot, and you’re good to go.)

For this episode, the list of things I didn’t like is much shorter than what I did. In a nutshell, the Anna/Bates storyline is still lame. Even more lame? The fact that it was resolved so lamely. After all this wasted time and effort spent on it, all it took to solve the problem was to have Bates admit he did it, disappear for a few weeks, and then pop back up? Just plain silliness. Waste of time completely.

But other than that, we were good to go from the beginning to the end of this supersized episode:

  • Thomas got to be evil, and the others were able to show they recognized him for the conniving weasel he is. Of course, when you unleash the Thomas (thinking you can control him) you quickly realize what sort of a demon you’ve let run free. “That escalated quickly . . . “
  • But it let Rose actually have a moment to shine. Way to step up to the plate, Rose. Better yet, she had support right away from Lord Grantham and Mary. It’s almost like they’re a functional family.
  • Mrs. Hughes and Carson–Now here’s a couple I can get behind. Lovely finish to that plot, and fantastic to see them both get to be so happy. Is that so hard, Downton? Why can you let them be happy, but you create outlandish excuses for things to keep coming up between Bates and Anna?
  • Edith even got a chance to be happy, with a nice scene between her and her father. It made some of the Marigold plot worth it. Just some–not all.
  • Violet and Isobel continue to have some very nice scenes together. Fun to watch their relationship evolve and change. Makes me want to go back and see some season 1 Downton.
  • Branson is one of the best characters now, hands down. Really don’t want to see him go to America, though word on the street is that next season will be the last of Downton. Might not be a bad idea, really–they can just make it a great season from start to finish instead of trying to hold some things back for later seasons. (Especially since more word on the street is that Violet’s done after next season. Maggie Smith said something to the effect of, “How is my character even alive any more? Isn’t she something like 120 years old at this point?”)
  • Scummy butler is another example of a character type I don’t really understand on Downton: uppity butlers. I think this is more a case of me not understanding the time period, though. From what I gather, butlers were the upper crust of the lower caste, and so many of them believed they were entitled to being treated specially by the others. (See Carson wondering why Daisy could sit with him at dinner.)
  • Mary actually met a new man, and she didn’t feel the need to jump into bed with him to take him for a test drive. Better yet, he wasn’t jammed down our throats as a “NEW SUITOR” role. How refreshing.

Really too much great stuff to cover it all. I loved the episode. Thought it was one of Downton’s best. I know many have given up on the show, but the last two episodes this season really exemplify why it’s still worth our time. Fantastic.

Though I’m ready for a Downton break now. We’ll return and revisit Downton when it’s back in January. Thanks for reading!

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