There are only two episodes left, so it’s time to chuck the usual glacial pacing and send everybody’s storyline pell-mell towards the ending.
Mary’s declarations of being over Henry are believed by precisely no one. And when Henry arrives unannounced to press his case, they quarrel and he accuses her of caring only about his lack of money. This throws Mary into a rage, which she proceeds to direct at everybody else in the house, spilling Edith’s secrets to Bertie and even provoking a cinnamon roll like Tom to call her a coward and a bully. It takes a surprise visit from Violet to get Mary to admit she really does love Henry but is terrified of becoming a two-time "crash widow." But with her grandmother’s uncharacteristic (and a tad convenient) declaration that she believes in love, Mary’s resistance crumbles. She visits Matthew’s grave and asks to be forgiven for falling in love again. No surprise appearance from a spectral Dan Stevens or his ghost hair, alas, but Mary does run into Isobel, who gives her former daughter-in-law her blessing to marry Henry.
Mary sends a telegram, and Henry races back up to Downton. And because we still have a lot of plot to get through and not a lot of time left, Henry just happens to have a marriage license ready and a bishop in the family who will perform the ceremony on short notice. Convenient, that. Two days later, they’re married, and Mary Crawley becomes Mary Talbot. Although they haven’t actually addressed how Mary will handle Henry’s racing. Because who cares about her genuine fear and traumatic experiences, when true love is on the table?
Bad news, Mrs. Patmore. It seems that the couple who were her first customers at the B&B were not actually married, and the gossip has already started calling her establishment a "house of ill repute." Mrs. Patmore looks like she’s about to pass out. I guess not all publicity really is good publicity. The news spreads throughout the house, providing much laughter at the idea of Mrs. P running a brothel (I’d certainly watch that spin-off series). But Robert and Cora decide that they owe her their loyalty, so they arrange to pay a visit for tea and have themselves photographed doing so, putting a respectable sheen back on the place.
Spinsters Have More Fun
Edith is still fretting about telling Bertie the truth about Marigold, but the stakes are suddenly escalated when Bertie’s cousin dies in Tangiers and he surprisingly inherits the title. I don’t believe the show previously established Bertie as his cousin’s heir, and in a society where everybody is obsessed with rank and who-is-to-inherit-what-title, it seems yet another awfully convenient development. Edith is suddenly attached to one of the highest-ranking bachelors in the country. Robert is thrilled and Mary is horrified – if she marries him, Edith would outrank her (quelle horreur!) – but Cora and Rosamund are even more adamant that Edith come clean about Marigold. When Bertie presses Edith for an answer to his marriage proposal, she is less that forthcoming and Bertie takes her response as an acceptance. Edith knows she should tell him, but you can see all her visceral fears running across her face as she holds back the full truth.
So of course, Mary intervenes, telling a stunned Bertie about Marigold’s true parentage. He leaves in haste, telling Edith that he could not spend his life with someone who would not be totally truthful with him. A despondent and heartbroken Edith lets him go. And now we get a scene we’ve been waiting six years for, as Edith tears into Mary with a lifetimes worth of resentment, calling her a "nasty, jealous, scheming bitch." Alas, we don’t get anything like a "Friday Night’s Alright For Fighting," as Mary only puts up a half-hearted defense – even she knows that she’s gone too far.
Edith takes off for London to bury herself in magazine work (and the totally random development that the mysterious advice columnist Miss Jones turns out to be none other that Mr. Spratt. Wha-?) But she returns to Downton in time for her sister’s wedding, and Mary apologizes profusely. Edith doesn’t exactly forgive her, but she accepts that they share a bond that is more important than whether or not they get along. The episode ends with Edith watching the children playing around Sybil’s grave, seemingly relieved that all the secrets are out in the open.
To Molesley, With Love
It’s Molesley’s first day of teaching, but when he shows up to his classroom the students run roughshod over him. He slinks back to the house, despondent that it all might be an unrealistic dream for him. But Baxter advises him to be himself, and they will warm up to him. He tells his class about his background in service, and discovers that most of his students are children of servants who never believed that someone like them could benefit from education. Molesley captures their respect and attention, and it looks like he’s going to be just fine in his new position.
Meanwhile, Daisy learns that she passed all six of her exams with high grades. She’s stunned, but seems not entirely sure what she’s going to do next. Neither are we, Daisy. Neither are we.
The Depressed Under-Butler Market
Barrow’s in bad shape. He gets another job rejection by mail, telling him he’s overqualified. "What future," he mutters. While serving lunch, he stifles his reactions when Bertie’s talks about his cousin’s life in Tangiers – obviously recognizing the coded language describing the life of a gay man and all the secrets he had to keep. Later, Baxter and Anna see him in the hallway looking like he’s just been crying. He brushes away their words of concern, but Baxter can tell there’s something wrong. So when she is walking Molesley to the schoolhouse and he mentions that Barrow told him he hoped he would make more out of his life than Barrow had been able to, it alarms Baxter enough that she runs back to the house. She has Andy break down the door to the bathroom, where they find Barrow with his wrists slashed, bleeding out in the bathtub.
The doctor arrives in time, and Barrow is going to recover. But the event shakes everyone up. Mary brings little George in to give Barrow an orange – and to recognize herself when Barrow admits that he’s said and done things that he regrets and he’s not even sure why he did them. Robert and Carson agree that they feel responsible for the pressure they put on him to find a new position, and they decide to let him stay "for the time being." Not sure how long that will be, but I hope it’s longer than a week.
Isobel drops in on Amelia Cruikshank to tell her point blank that if her fiancé Larry is okay with his father rekindling a relationship with her, she’s going to need to hear it directly from Larry himself, and not through her scheming.
With the series finale coming next week, what’s left to tie together? We probably haven’t heard the last of Bertie and Edith, and they obviously think the Isobel/Lord Merton relationship is worth bringing back. But will they kill anybody off? Will Denker and Spratt run off together and live the high life on Spratt’s advice column earnings? Will Tom find a job that makes him happy, or will he run away to Boston again? Will Molesley inspire his students to form a Dead Poets Society? Will Daisy volunteer as tribute in the next Hunger Games? Or will the York hospital takeover turn out to only be a figment of Tommy Westphall’s imagination? Tune in to find out.