Downton Abbey: A Dream Goes Up in Flames


Downton fans, this will not be the usual comprehensive and insightful recap to which you have become accustomed because I am leaving for warmer climates first thing in the morning and only have time to dash off a quickie (which is what Tony Gillingham said apparently once too often to Lady Mary at the Royal Hotel in Liverpool). Here, then, are some abbreviated thoughts about Season 6, episode 7:

  • There is only one episode left, plus the Christmas special, and at this point in the season I expected more to be resolved.  With a cast of thousands the only plot resolutions this season are that: 1) the Carsons are married and seem to have overcome their difficulties with Mrs. Hughes’ cooking; and 2) Mr. Mosely passed his academic test (more knowledgeable than many Oxford and cambridge graduates, which doesn’t mean much if Brideshead Revisited is any indication) and has been offered a job at the local school, and is apparently going to leave service.  Everything else is up in the air.  Edith has been proposed to but hasn’t accepted or come clean about Marigold; Mary and Henry Talbot have broken up for now; Isobel and Lord Merton may or may not get together; Barrow is still job searching; Anna is still pregnant; and so on.  That’s a lot to wrap up, assuming the goal is to get closure on most of the characters and not just let the thing peter out.
  • The main plot point of the episode was Henry’s race at Brooklands (a real place according to Mr. Google) and its impact on his relationship with Mary.  The race car driver is presented in this episode as some kind of modern gladiator or jouster — loving danger and living on the edge. According to Lord Grantham it’s  “something gallant and daring.”  Until it isn’t.  At which point it becomes “a bloody awful business, a bloody, bloody awful business.” In other words, the whole Crawley crowd is turned on and thrilled by speed but then it turns out to be a rum thing when Henry’s friend crashes and burns up worse than the guy in The English Patient.   At which point Mary is like, “I’m out of here.” Having lost one husband to a car crash she’s not interested in trying her luck with another.  So that’s off. For now at least, although we can’t be sure since the preview for the next episode shows that Henry’s back and accusing her of being a gold digger.  But seriously, how was this relationship supposed to work out anyway? Is he going to open a speedway at Downton?
  • Henry’s late-night call to Mary is the first recorded case of drunk dialing, and in the years since, the practice has not produced any better results than this one.  Whenever a drunk guy decides to “carpe diem” or “seize the day,” his friends should wrest the phone from him.
  • Speaking of art imitating life, I just learned that the real-life fiance of Michelle Dockery, who plays Mary, died two months ago.   And from the looks of the tabloid photos he looks a lot like Henry Talbot.  And further, Allen Leech, who plays Tom Branson, introduced them. So Allen Leech plays matchmaker just like Tom, and Michelle Dockery loses her great love just like Mary did.
  • Speaking of Henry Talbot. I also just found out that Matthew Goode, who portrays him on Downton, also played Charles Ryder in the movie version of Brideshead Revsited.  Here he is in the clip below.  He’s no Jeremy Irons, that’s for sure:

  • I liked all the scenes with the Dowager Countess.  Having lost her position as hospital president in a coup, she decides to take off for France so she doesn’t say anything she regrets.  She says she’ll come back “when nostalgia has smothered my fury.” So off she goes to live among the French, but not before one last favor to Isobel.  Being an astute student of human nature she knows something is amiss with Miss Cruikshank, the fiance of Lord Merton’s son.  The Dowager Countess should have been a police investigator because all she has to do is ask a question and people immediately confess.  In this case, Miss Cruikshank admits she’s looking for someone to take care of Lord Merton is his old age so SHE doesn’t have to do it.  There’s some good verbal sparring in this scene “You’re a cool little miss, aren’t you? I’d feel sorry for Larry if I didn’t dislike him so much.” Although I don’t see that what Miss Cruikshank is doing is the worse sin in the world — the end result is potential happiness for everyone even if the motivation is a selfish one.
  • Poor Thomas Barrow. He’s being pushed out of Downton but can’t find a replacement job.  Worse, no one likes him even though his behavior has been exemplary this season.  Why he even taught Andy how to sound out the words “Tsar Nicholas.”  (And of all the words to learn phonetically — “Tsar”!) But it’s too late baby, oh it’s too late. He definitely a sympathetic figure sitting alone in his room while everyone toasts Mosely’s achievements.
  • I was not a fan of Mr. Carson being portrayed as a domestic tyrant so was delighted to see that put to rest.  All Mrs. Hughes had to do is trick him into preparing the dinner himself and experiencing how hard it is to pull off and – problem solved!!
  • Also easily resolved is the jealousy that Daisy feels about Mrs. Patmore and Mr. Hughes getting closer.  All it took was wise Mrs. Patmore telling her that if her daddy figure and her mommy figure become friends, it won’t mean that they will love her any less.  You could almost see a light bulb going off above Daisy’s head.
  • As long as we’re pairing up every single character on the show, what about Tom with Edith’s new editor?  She looks a lot like Miss Bunting without the class-conscious abrasiveness.
  • What the heck is going on with that photographer outside Mrs. Patmore’s B&B? Isn’t it a bit late in this series to be starting lame new plot points?
  • Tom continues to push Mary onto Henry, using dialogue that could have come out of the cheesiest Hollywood movie: “You will be hurt again and so will I. Because being hurt is part of being alive. But that’s no reason to give up on the man who’s right for you.” Oh brother. But I can’t help but think that it’s Tom who has the man-crush on Henry.  He’s always babbling on about how much he likes racing and cars and speed, etc.  I think he wants Mary to marry Henry so he’ll be around more.
  • Nice scene of Carson and Mrs. Hughes sitting on the sofa in the library.  And then Thomas bursts in and interrupts them for no good reason other than he can’t stand seeing other people being happy.  No wonder no one likes you Thomas.
  • If there ever was an episode that demonstrated that Downton lacks a tragic outlook on life this was it.  The all go to the race track and see Charles Rogers immolate himself, but all it takes is the arrival of a new puppy to lift everyone’s spirits.  It’s like a cat video on the Internet. Burn victim?  What burn victim?  And when Mr. Carson catches Mrs. Hughes laughing and asks what’s so funny she responds, “Just life, Mr. Carson.  Just life.”  So, to recap: we just saw a guy burn to death, which causes Mary to dump the most recent love of her life. Barrow is living an empty lonely existence. Grandmama is so hurt that she’s exiled herself to France.  And the takeaway is that life is funny?
  • The new dog is named Tiaa, after an ancient Egyptian queen.  I still think the reason they killed off the dog last year was that she was named ISIS.  Good thing the puppy was female or Lord Grantham might have called him Saddam.
  1. Great summary! Have a wonderful vacation and bring back some warmth!

  2. Marie McCabe said:

    Having seen the entire season, I can tell you a bazillion plots get wrapped up in an hour and 15 minutes! And as far as Matthew Goode, I haven’t seen Brideshead Revisited yet, but I feel confident saying,”That’ll do, pig, that’ll do!

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