‘Downton Abbey’ Series 6 Episode 3 Review: Wedding Bells and a Big Return Signify Change
Recap and review of Downton Abbey – Series 6 Episode 3:
Downton Abbey has an air of culmination, which is no real surprise, since it’s the final series. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still stories that need wrapping up. Naturally, some are better than others, but this episode succeeds in large part because of a big return and a wonderful wedding, as both these developments signify change in the Downton household. Change, that is, by returning to the status quo of divided classes, familiar faces, warm relationships and new romance.
Yes, Carson (Jim Carter) and Hughes (Phyllis Logan) have finally been married, in a ceremony that somehow manages to be both lavish and intimate, simultaneously. The story, such as it is, is refreshingly devoid of cruel, last-minute twists, like the kind that befell poor Edith all those many years ago (I STILL feel awful for her, getting ditched at the altar like that. And I didn’t even think Sir Anthony Strallan was a catch!). Instead, we get a wedding ceremony that ranks among the most touching moments on TV this year, in my opinion. Hell, Carson’s speech alone is five-hankie material (“That a woman of such grace and charm should entrust her life’s happiness to my unworthy charge passeth all understanding”). And yet, getting to this glorious end point doesn’t happen without at least some difficulty.
For one, there’s a bit of manufactured drama when Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) accuses Hughes of rifling through her wardrobe in preparation for the wedding. Little does she know, it was Mary (Michelle Dockery) who gave her the okay. It feels like a trite, melodramatic development, mostly because it doesn’t feel like it has anything to do with Hughes, but rather with the ongoing theme of division between the wealthy and the working class. That said, I’d still say that’s a worthwhile theme to explore, particularly in this final season. Here, Cora jumps to conclusions about Hughes, because apparently decades of faithful service don’t earn you the benefit of the doubt at Downton. Despite the stature the servants have attained through the years, and the loyalty those years represent, that loyalty is not returned in kind, and it’s a mark of shame for Cora to have been so hasty in her judgment. In a way, it forces her to become introspective about her knee-jerk judgments, particularly once Mary (in a glorious moment) chews out her mother for “insulting a woman who has served us faithfully for many years who simply wanted something nice to be married in.” Sure, the subplot was more about the exploration of class relations than about Cora or Hughes themselves, but I appreciated the show’s attempts to be about something more this week.
On that subject, we got another lovely development, as Branson (Allen Leech) returned to Downton, announcing his decision to stay for good! Of course, none of this is particularly surprising, since 1) Branson hasn’t really been gone that long, and 2) I don’t think anybody really believed he left the show for good anyway. Then again, I’m not sure we were ever intended to believe Branson wouldn’t be back, since there are too many possibilities still remaining for his story. There’s the potential clash with Mary over who will run the estate lands, as I could easily see Robert (Hugh Bonneville) trusting Branson over Mary, considering he’s arguably got stronger links to the working class than Mary. There’s also the obvious possibility of having a romance develop between Mary and Branson, although I would still argue that it’d be pretty awkward, given that he’s her sister’s widower, and their relationship would make little George and Sybie both cousins and siblings. Although, really, how weird would that even be on a show that brought back crazy, burned Patrick back in Season 2, or killed off Kemal Pamuk back in Season 1 after a night in bed with Mary? Regardless of what they have planned for Branson, I’m glad to have Allen Leech back, and I found myself genuinely touched by Branson’s declaration that he needed to leave Downton to realize that the Crawleys were truly his family. It helped add to what was a pretty touching episode overall.
We also got some major developments in other storylines. For one, Anna (Joanne Froggatt) is pregnant, beginning the journey to the 12 week mark, where she can get the procedure that will determine, once and for all, whether or not Anna can actually carry a child to term. And yet, even with the Bates family’s happiness hanging in the balance, I found myself more interested in the new relationship for Edith (Laura Carmichael). In short, she’s left struggling to reach a deadline for her magazine after firing her editor, leaving Edith with the unenviable task of having to edit the copy herself — all this, while juggling a date with a handsome young agent named Bertie Pelham. Luckily, Bertie comes to the rescue, helping her get the job done and discover she’s actually capable of editing a magazine herself, believe it or not. It’s similar to the time Charles Blake saved Mary’s bacon over the whole pig fiasco, although this development was far more romantic, ending in a kiss. Much like Anna and Bates, I’ve worried that Edith would be a character Julian Fellowes would continue to put through the ringer this season. The slightest spark of hope for her, as we receive here, is enough to really give me (cautious) optimism for what’s ahead for she and Bertie.
Unfortunately, for as much as I enjoyed this episode, I still feel this season is weighted down with far too many subplots. Thomas (Rob James-Collier) continues his search for employment, to no avail; meanwhile, Spratt and Denker seem to be bonding in what may or may not be a romance. Honestly, it’s hard to tell, at this stage of the game, and it’s even harder to care. On the one hand, I like their back-and-forth. On the other, the show has never really given us reason to be invested in them as individuals, outside the context of their service/opposition to others in the Crawley family. On that subject, I don’t get why this hospital storyline is being given so much screen time, considering what little appears to be happening. Violet (Maggie Smith) accuses cousin Isobel (Penelope Wilton) of being an alcoholic, but it’s a story that doesn’t particularly go anywhere. Hopefully, these aren’t time-biding storylines, but rather, stories that are actually building to something, in the grand tradition of the kind of finality indicative of a final season.
But what did you think of Downton Abbey, Series 6 Episode 3? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Downton Abbey, read our review of last week’s emotional episode!