Scribe Julian sure knows viewers’ heart. In the farewell Season, what better way to end than throwing in some pleasant surprises of reunion. Last week we had Tom and Sybbie back for good. This week, albeit just for a visit, a long forgotten figure, former housemaid Gwen is reintroduced. Nobody recognizes her except her former roommate Anna, and of course, Mr. Barrow, green with jealousy. Indeed, Gwen has reinvented herself. Now Mrs. John Harding and an advocate for women’s education. Isobel Crawley has aptly put it, “a 20th Century story.”
Gwen is an important symbol whose path Daisy would love to follow, leaving service to pursue other opportunities. It all started with Lady Sybil of course, as she’d taken the initiative to open doors for her housemaid. The grateful beneficiary’s dining table reminiscence of Lady Sybil is very moving, a tribute so powerful that even Mary feels ‘chastened’.
Just as Mary allows herself to some much needed self-reflection, she gets a chance to redeem herself right away. As I said in previous recaps, this is a Season of instant conflict resolutions. So to London she brings Anna for Dr. Ryder to hopefully stop another miscarriage. Tom the family driver is always there to help, before as it is now. What would we do if you’d stayed in Boston, Tom? While in London, scribe Julian delivers another quick fix. Now we can all be cautiously optimistic about Anna’s pregnancy.
Gwen’s reappearance not only brings existential reflection to Mary but to our in-house villain Thomas. Now he is mulling over his own raison d’être. This ego trip of being the butler of Downton while Mr. Carson is on honeymoon doesn’t pan out to be much fun after all. What’s the reason for living if you’re constantly in a bowl of cherry pits? But of course, it’s all a way of looking. Robert’s advice to Barrow is: Be kind. You just might see things differently. Now, find another employment.
Miss Baxter has to face some internal conflicts too as she prepares to deal with the devil of her past, not metaphorically, but actually going to trial as a witness for the prosecution regarding Peter Coyle, the man who’d brought numerous young women to their ruins. Now I can see it’s going to be a tortuous ordeal. But with Mr. Molesley’s support, I’m sure she can handle it.
And honesty, going back to the source of all these reflective mulling: Gwen Harding (née: Dawson); can Daisy ever tread her path? Seems like Daisy needs to take an anger management course alongside her academic upgrading. Pounding her potatoes into pulp may be a good way to transfer her anger which originates from her own misconception that Cora promising Yew Tree Farm to her father-in-law Mr. Mason. So now we do see Mr. Mason can actually lease the place, finding a resting ground looking ahead, and Daisy’s dedication to him ever strengthening, the Yew Tree Farm may just be a natural next step for her if she ever decides to let the potatoes go.
So the Dowager Countess Violet has recruited an ally in her friend Lady Shackleton to help her fight to keep control of the village hospital. At the dinner table discussing the issue, we see how each deal with the task at hand:
Lady Shackleton: How can I present myself as an expert when I don’t know the facts?
Violet: It’s never stopped me!
But that’s only the side show. The main attraction is this mystery nephew Lady Shackleton brings along. And I thought it was Ernest, who maybe had just come in from the cold of Antartica. But no, it’s Henry Talbot, the aloof but alluring race car enthusiast, a Goode choice to cast. He’d stopped by Downton once at the end of Season 5 with his fine motor. Mary brightens up and exclaims “Golly!” One word says it all.
Mary, O you’re such a country girl. Allow Henry to take you out on the town. Don’t worry about your shabby attire. Aunt Rosamund’s dress will do. For once, don’t act as the centre of attraction but just lose yourself in this mesmerizing surrounding, The Royal Automobile Club. Yes, there are many places you’ve never been before.
And the happy newlyweds are to be called Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, saving the day for many. Really? Is it so hard to change the name calling her Mrs. Carson? Anyway, what’s in a name. After all, whatever name she takes up now is immaterial. I’m afraid she’s not going to be that Mrs. Hughes again as she herself had predicted when she was planning for her wedding reception.
So the welcome back party for the newlyweds is going to be held in the kitchen. People, just kindly make your way downstairs to join in the celebration.
One small step for one woman, one giant leap for the times. As we hear this my favourite quip of the night:
Violet: I haven’t been into the kitchens for, O, at least twenty years.
Isobel: Have you got your passport?
Keep your passport with you at all times, Violet. This is the 20th Century.
Previously on Downton Abbey: