TV Review: Downton Abbey Series 6 Episode 4

Familiar faces were back at the Abbey in this week’s Downton, some more welcome than others.

The episode was a slow-burner after last week’s long-awaited wedding, opening with Sargent Willis returning (he is there so often he may as well just move in), only this time not to speak to Anna but to Baxter.  Her last series’ admission about being a jewel thief once again caught up with her, and after some cajoling by Willis and her long standing partner (although thankfully not in crime), Moseley, she decided to testify against the man who put her up against it, realising how she didn’t want him to be able to ruin other women’s lives the way he had ruined hers.

With Carson on his honeymoon, Thomas was relishing in his new found power as butler, smirking satisfactorily as the servants stood up when he entered the room. Nevertheless, his character showed a more vulnerable side which the audience has only seen glimpses of throughout the series when he talked with Baxter, revealing that he does care what people say about him, as well as resenting his lack of luck.

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What he might be lacking in fortune however, Tom Branson isn’t, and is settling back into his old life on the estate just fine and discussed his future with Mary. “You’re like my brother”, she sighed, securely friendzoning him and knocking down any Tom and Mary shippers. Nevertheless, he voiced his ambitions to become a self-made man, something which he assured Mary is becoming more and more common now. An example of somebody having done just that arrived in the form of Gwen the housemaid who left to become a secretary, or Mrs. Harding as she is now known.

“Helloah”, she piped up as she stood on the front steps, bringing her Westeros Wildling accent all the way to 1920s Yorkshire as she arrived with her husband who is the treasurer for Lady Rosamund’s college.  Dining at the table with the family must have been a rather different experience from the last time she was in the house, and her past was re-discovered after Thomas nastily blew her cover. However, Gwen was only too glad to take a trip down memory lane with the Crawleys (mainly about Lady Sybil), before being reunited with the downstairs’ staff. It was later on while talking with Anna that Lady Mary said that Sybil had been better than she was, and that she wished she was more like her. This was a surprising yet endearing turn around in her personality for the character that usually has an ice-queen demeanour.

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Mary can, however, be relied upon to be selfless when the situation demands it, and this was shown in her night flight to London with Anna when she began to experience pains during her pregnancy. Thankfully she was treated by Doctor Ryder, and I think I speak for all the viewers when I was so relieved to find out that she had not suffered a miscarriage but that all was well with Baby Bates. Medicine wise, back at Downton the war of the hospital waged on, with Violet bringing in her old friend and ally Lady Shackleton as reinforcement, as futile as it proved to be; “Are you here to help or to irritate?”, Violet snapped over the sandwiches of their afternoon tea. Their gripe came to a climax during dinner with Isobel, Cora and Rosamund, Tom wisely choosing to avoid it. Providing some respite from the women’s diatribe was the presence of Henry Talbot, Lady Mary’s car loving beau from the previous series, who just so happens to be Lady Shackleton’s nephew.

Naturally, Violet wanted to ensure that his prospects were good, although surprisingly Robert didn’t seem to mind as much, obviously realising that his daughter’s happiness was more important than a bloodline. Nevertheless, Mary and Henry enjoyed a dinner date in London. Could this be the start of something special? A partnership of a different kind was finally put into motion with the conformation that Mr. Mason could take over the tenancy of the Drewes’ farm. The climatic showdown that could have happened between Cora and Daisy was thankfully avoided, meaning that it didn’t end in tears.

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The episode did, however end in tears, although they were tears of joy when Bates found out about his wife’s successful pregnancy. Their delight was interrupted however by the homecoming of Carson and Mrs. Hughes, back from their honeymoon. To prevent confusion, it was unanimously decided that Mrs. Hughes should remain called as such; this decision was expected. However, the episode’s ending of Carson removing his nameplate from his door was a shock nobody would have guessed. Please don’t leave, Carson! Worse still, we’ll have to wait to find out the whole story, as it remains to be seen which direction Julian Fellowes will take our characters in, in next week’s instalment.

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