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November 09, 2014

Downton Abbey 5 - Season Finale - Episode 8

Episode 8: The residents of the Abbey both upstairs and down attend the unveiling of the town war memorial.

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The finale of the fifth season of Downton Abbey achieved a miraculous feat: it managed to turn a period drama about a society wedding into a veritable banquet of gloom. Yes, Lady Rose (Lily James) glittered prettily as she married Atticus Aldridge (Matt Barber) against the odds (disapproving parents, sabotage stunt involving a flagrant hussy and a photographer, lack of footmen – the usual). But the tenor of this episode was still more funereal than frivolous. Grey clouds loomed over the Gothic spires of the great house. Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) had barely a suitor in sight to disdain, the family was drifting apart, while blameless goody-goody Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) was dragged off in handcuffs in the climax to a plot-line of nail-chewing misery.
This could all just be setting us up for a Christmas special in which joy and justice are strewn among the deserving like gifts. However, since Julian Fellowes once decided to kill off Matthew Crawley while we choked on our turkey sandwiches, it's not impossible that Anna will be led to the gallows with the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) acting as executioner in a Santa hat. Is Downton Abbey comedy, tragedy, melodrama, a satire of itself? It's increasingly hard to tell. While the first series launched back in 2010 as a tight, classic tale of romance across class lines, it has morphed into something much less coherent. There was so much going on in the last series – exiled Russian princes, socialist school teachers, estranged love children, haircuts, love, heartbreak, pet death - that a plot summary would be the size of a telephone directory.
Nevertheless, Downton is rescued from being merely a soapy, nostalgic mishmash by excellent acting and a script that still sometimes sings. Lady Mary is often bored, but never boring to watch. One of the villains of last night's episode, Lord Sinderby (James Faulkner), might have objected to his son marrying outside the Jewish faith, but he became more than just a cardboard curmudgeon when he also disapproved of “card sharks, undercooked fish and duels.” It was likewise a pleasure to watch Maggie Smith pushed beyond her usual pucker-mouthed aphorisms as the Dowager Countess dealt with an indecent proposal from her devoted Russian prince. Her voice softened, her features drooped, but she never quite lost her iron-clad composure.
The Countess's son, meanwhile, ended the series less stern patriarch than sympathetic playroom pushover, emitting not a whimper of protest as he guessed the truth about Lady Edith's (Laura Carmichael) “adopted” daughter. The Earl of Grantham's character has always been used as a proxy for the entire aristocracy, embodying at turns noble benevolence or retrograde stuffiness, and this season has taken a distinctly rosy view of the declining upper classes. Not for the Granthams to wail resentfully in a cold home with a leaking roof: the Earl has simply had to flog a painting, build some cottages and hunker down for a game of snakes and ladders with the grandchildren. A few more generations on, and he'd be hugging it out after Bikram yoga.
In the more immediate future, the Christmas special might dispel a little gloom, while a sixth series should finally settle Lady Mary's romantic fate before she has raised the eyebrow of withering scorn at all the land-owning men in England. Despite Downton's many frustrations, I'm still glad that the dinner gong will sound once again next autumn, rather than the death knell on ITV's well-dressed, world-conquering spawn.




15 comments:

  1. Thank you for your surmising on Downton and for your generous sharing of the episodes with the rest of us. I can only agree that at times this season I have closed out thinking, "it's a soap opera" and then "it's a mini series melodrama" and then "a transition episode" but then it seemed it was one of those after the next, with all the changing times. Let's not overlook Daisy, the careful cautious lass presented after some education with her own sense of approval for desiring more for herself. I look forward to Christmas. Thank you.

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    1. when will the christmas episode be?

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    2. I just read it will air actually on Christmas Day the 25th

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  2. Thank you! Fun to watch. I dislike Mary more and more and truly feel that Edith is the more likeable character.

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    1. Mary has got a personality of her own. She's a modern heroine devoid of the classic maniqueisms romantic characters used to be made up of, that's why she's such extraordinary character. Her palette displays a variety of shades. We cannot read her easily like Edith. They are both brave in different ways, though. I only regret the fact they haven't yet found out they can build a solid bond from the very fact they can complete each other.

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  3. I noticed Archie's plaque denoted he was with the Lancashire Fusiliers. My Grandfather Thomas Cowen was with the Lancashire Fusiliers as well. He was killed in action in February 1918 leaving a wife and two small children, my Mum and her brother. My mum has no memories of her father. As we celebrate Remembrance Day tomorrow in Canada we will lay a wreath for my Granddad and my uncle who was KIA in WWll.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your memories with us. It's really interesting they did such detailed historical study to produce Downton Abbey. The memorial scene was very moving.

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  4. Thank you June for sharing Downton Abbey with us!

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  5. Again thank you June��

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  6. thank you thank you thank you...can't say it enough!!! ;)

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  7. I don't know why, but I can't seem to get any of the links to work :-(
    I've never had this problem before. I've tried three days in a row with no success.
    June- can you help a lady out?

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  8. I also am completely unable to watch this.... the links are not working... the downloads fail..... I never had this problem with any of the other episodes....

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  9. able to use the link at the top of the page, not the bottom

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  10. any resolution to problem? I'm looking for s5, e08 finale.....

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  11. Links still not working! Can they be fixed? 😫

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