Despite her tragic death last week, we’re still treated to that iconic shot of Isis’ backside in the opening credits. Too soon, “Downton.” Too soon.
We open with Rose trying on her trousseau and reminding everyone to pretend that her parents are happily married instead of on the verge of divorce. Everyone except her mother, the hideous Susan, goes along with this. All through this season, we’ve been reminded of how dreadful Robert is, but his brand of affable disinterest is nothing compared to Susan’s martyred, passive aggressive bitterness. Phoebe Nicholls turns in an excellent performance, and hopefully “Downton” will give her career the boost she clearly deserves, because no one with a soul could watch Susan’s clumsy machinations and not want to give her a good slap.
She tries to frame Atticus — whose real name turns out to be Ephraim, which is actually much nicer than Atticus — for adultery but, since Atticus only equals Rose in the pure-of-heart stakes, her plot is foiled. Let’s hope this cartoon baddie in pearls comes back to wreak havoc on the residents of Downton soon.
Also, in the most anti-climactic moment ever, Robert quietly comments to Cora that Marigold looks an awful lot like Edith’s former flame. Which would make sense, except that Marigold looks nothing like him and everything like a tiny, happier Edith, but points for subtlety and not judging.
Let us all take a moment to give thanks that Daisy has not been tempted out of the kitchen and into the seething intellectual hubbub of London just yet. This has been a season of glorious character development for her, and Sophie McShea has matured as an actress in what has in previous seasons been a very thankless role.
In My Lady’s Chamber
The War of the Dower House Servants is still in full swing, with Spratt hiding suitcases to get Denker in trouble. Denker outwits him, of course, and Violet is this close to bringing out the popcorn. But wait! Denker, it turns out, likes to live life on the wild side, luring unsuspecting footmen to casinos in exchange for all the free booze she can handle. If only Spratt had been around to see it…
Meanwhile, any hope for a reunion of those two Machavellian souls Thomas and O’Brien was dashed — although O’Brien left Downton to be Susan’s lady’s maid in India, she’s since moved on to bigger and better things, making her the most accomplished social climber in the show since that nice middle-class lawyer Matthew discovered he’d inherited a potential earldom and a hot bitchy cousin. By the time the series finally ends, Cora will probably be waiting on her.
Nobody Cares About Cora
After a season where Cora’s potential has been explored, we’re back to treating her like the hired help. Except that the hired help has character development and interesting plotlines and an actual function in the narrative other than looking attractively sympathetic. Once again, Robert’s actions have no consequences whatsoever.
It’s the Future, Mr. Carson
We discover that there is no longer a permanent housekeeper in Grantham House, the Crawleys’ London residence. “The big parade’s passed by,” Mrs. Hughes notes — and even Mr. Carson seems to be moving with the times.
Isobel has put the breakers on her engagement with Lord Silver Fox, Mrs. Hughes and Stoic Sex God Carson are continuing their tradition of being adorably couple-y without actually being a couple… but this episode really belongs to Violet and her brooding Russian prince.
Or at least, that’s what we’re supposed to think. It doesn’t help that the prince has zero charisma and some seriously off-putting facial hair, but this never feels like a romance that’s going to go anywhere. Maggie Smith does an excellent job of playing a woman faced with a past she’d rather forget, but not once does she seem genuinely tempted to have a future with him.
Who Killed Mr. Greene?
Thanks to his previous victims coming forward, everyone knows Mr. Greene is a sketchy rapist. Anna, as we’ve suspected would happen all season long, is arrested for his murder and the “Downton” set designer gets more use out of that prison set that Mr. Bates spent so much time in a few seasons back. In fact, this just feels like a repeat of that plotline, which makes it hard to believe there won’t be a happy ending. However, if Anna hangs when Bates got off scot-free (despite considerably more evidence against him in his case), there should be riots in the streets. #freetheRiponOne