Downton Abbey the movie not just for fans

At the end of every Downton TV Season, there’s a two-hour Finale. Downton Abbey the movie feels like one of those grand finish. If there’s any TV series that can move to the big screen with just a TV script, Downton Abbey will be it. The iconic Jacobean styled mansion, superb cast, beautiful costumes and set design, not to mention creator/writer Julian Fellowes’ screenplay are its assets. Nothing close to the caliber of Gosford Park (2001) which brought Fellowes a Best Writing Oscar, but this will do. Nothing deep and poignant as some of the TV episodes, but for two hours of viewing time in the theatre, there are a lot to see and savour.

Downton.jpg

Just by listening to the rhythmic rumbling bringing out the single melody line of the theme music can send vibes of excitement. The majestic aerial shots in the setting sun (or is it rising sun?) establishing the grand manor Downton Abbey’s stature on the big screen is a thrilling experience for fans. In the theatre I was in, almost full house with fans obviously, laughing out loud at all the jokes and witty lines, embracing the film with a celebratory mood. After 6 Seasons, 3 Golden Globes and another 54 wins and 219 nominations (according to IMDb) plus three years of absence, a Downton movie is something worth celebrating.

But this isn’t just for fans. For those who come to Downton the first time, they might have missed six Seasons and 52 episodes of backstory, the movie could be an appetizer whetting their appetite for the full feast that’s offered in the PBS Masterpiece series. The estate that they must have heard in recent years called Downton Abbey, possibly wondering if it’s a cloister for monks or nuns, is now magnified on the big screen with stunning establishing shots. No medieval garbs or habits but 1920’s, Gatsby-styled fashion and hairdo. Inviting cinematography both exterior and interior familiarize them with the setting, albeit fans might find watching in a theatre is more dim with the cinematic mode, less vibrant than via their home TV which they can adjust the brightness.

Those not comfortable with the priggish social system of the past (and present to be sure, and not only limited to England) can look deeper into the series for some revelatory themes. While The Crawley’s are originally contented with their status quo and privilege, and some rejecting all forms of modernity, like Violet’s complaint about the ‘blinding’ electric lights or Mr. Carson’s fear of the telephone, the Great War (1914-1918) changes everything. Lady Sybil goes into nursing to contribute to the war effort, the whole Downton is turned into a convalescent hospital for the wounded (a historic fact of Highclere Castle), heir Matthew Crawley and footman William fight side-by-side in the trenches, and later Lady Edith venturing out on her own to start a journalism career. The most significant is probably Lady Sybil marrying Tom Branson, the driver of Downton who’s on the ‘wrong’ side of politics, Irish republican. In this movie, he reiterates his stand: “You can love people you disagree with.”

Director Michael Engler picks up from Season 6 Finale and set the time to a year later, 1927. The movie starts with a reminiscence of the very first episode in the first Season with a train pulling into the station and a telegram delivered to Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville). No Titanic bad news this time but earth-shattering nonetheless, King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) will be coming to Downton Abbey  and stay for one night while on route to the Yorkshire area.

The household is in warp speed mode preparing for the royal visit in just two weeks. Before the arrival, the royal management team plus chef come to set up their commanding post, brushing away the Downton stalwarts downstairs. A coup is planned subsequently to offset such an invasion. Thus the movie diverge from its realist styling to a bit of a comedic/fantasy mode. That storyline lasts for the first hour. Then the subplots begin, allowing more interesting development.

Why Downton hasn’t lost its appeal through the years is highly due to the characters and how the actors slip into their skin so perfectly. Every character has his/her own back story, idiosyncrasy, viewpoint, and despite the class system that seems to segregate upstairs from downstairs, they are relatively free individuals who can and usually speak their minds. Take Daisy (Sophie McShera), for example, a kitchen maid, expresses her view against royalties, while Tom (Allen Leech), despite his stance for a republic Ireland, chooses to support his father-in-law Lord Grantham nonetheless. Just reflects the complexity of each individual character, a key asset of the TV series which a two-hour movie is impossible to delve into.

Thanks to scribe Fellowes, there are more duels of dialogues between Dowager Countess Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) and Isobel Merton (Penelope Wilton), two darlings of opposing views. Here are some samples from the movie:

(Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen the movie, you might want to skip these lines so you can experience them first hand.)

______________________

When talking about the coming royal visit, Violet and Isobel have the following exchange.

Violet:  Will you have enough clichés to get you through the visit?
Isabel:  If not, I’ll come to you. (Not missing a beat.)

Or here, as the family talk about a relative who’ll be coming with the royalties:

Isobel:  You’re plotting something. I see a Machiavellian look in your eye.
Violet:  Machiavelli is frequently underrated. He had many qualities.
Isobel:  So did Caligula — not all of them charming.

_________________________

As with the finale of the last Downton Season, we see romantic pairings and the movie picks up where it left off.  Edith (Laura Carmichael) and Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton) are happily married, so are Isobel and Lord Merton (Douglas Reith); Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and John Bates (Brendan Coyle) finally living in bliss, Tom meets a comparable mate, and that dancing scene outdoor with the two of them in silhouette is nicely shot. Downstairs Andy (Michael Fox) makes his intention known to Daisy, and Barrow (Robert James-Collier) finds a friend. While Molesley (Kevin Doyle) isn’t seen with Miss Baxter (Raquel Cassidy), he has the time of his life serving the King and Queen.

New members to the cast include Imelda Staunton (spouse of real-life Mr. Carson, Jim Carter) as the Queen’s lady-in-waiting Lady Bagshaw and Tuppence Middleton playing her maid Lucy Smith, a pleasant addition and a character with some significance. The short vignettes of Princess Mary’s (Kate Phillips) unhappy marriage to Henry Lascelles (Andrew Havill) has historic basis and it’s side stories like these that make the movie more interesting. Surprisingly, Tom Branson is the thread that weaves these characters together, and saves the day too.

An important conversation between Violet and granddaughter Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) towards the end may have dropped a hint for the future. And what of Mary’s new hubby Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode)? He appears like a flash and cameo. I just wonder if Dan Stevens (Mary’s first love Matthew Crawley) ever regretted leaving Downton so soon.

Beautifully shot, classy costumes, and as always, top performance from a great cast, while not delving into deeper stories, the movie overall can satisfy fans’ longing and make a good introduction to pique the interest of first timers, hopefully prodding them to binge on the full-fledged episodes.

 

~ ~ ~ Ripples

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I’ve a write-up for every episode beginning with Season 3 of Downton Abbey here on Ripple. The following post has the links to all of them plus some other related topics:

Quotable Quotes from Downton Abbey

 

Downton Abbey Season 6 Finale: Goodbye to All That

With the Finale of Downton’s last Season wrapping up the six-year serial, we’ve come to the end of an era. Ok, maybe not an era, but definitely the end of a saga. What exactly are we saying goodbye to? That’s a worthy subject to discuss.

The Finale on Sunday night (March 6, 2016: A date to remember) is the epitome of what Downton is all about.

Downton-Abbey-season-6

 

We’re saying goodbye to:

Multiple characters with multiple storylines told in equal appeal. Depending on your favourites, some of course are more appealing than others. Scribe Julian’s forte is in telling many tales at the same time. How did he do that? With the stopwatch on my iPhone, I notice that many of these fast-paced scenes are no more than one minute in length. More important scenes run longer. Take e.g. the one with Bertie and Edith at the Ritz’s surprised dinner, secretly arranged by a repentant Mary, lasted three minutes. Yes, only three minutes.

The old-fashioned goodness, kindness, honesty, courage, and even altruistic chivalry, are presented in a favourable light and not as acerbic laughing stock or shrouded with sarcasm. The value of overcoming evil with good is the prevalent virtue throughout. Why, even the once in-house villain, Thomas Barrow, can be turned around by the kindness of everyone; not only that, he can even replace Mr. Carson as the butler of Downton.

The retirement of Carson means we’re saying goodbye to an era of unquestionable loyalty. Think of the butler Mr. Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) in the film adaptation of Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day (1993), where nothing interrupts his sacred duties as a butler, not even his own father’s death, needless to say, unrequited love from Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson). While scribe Julian captures the hearts of viewers by gratifying us with the union of Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, the surprised retirement of Mr. Carson in the last episode in a way is an end of that total devotion of a servant to his master. I’m sure Barrow won’t be as die-hard a Crawley loyalist as Carson is.

Even trite dialogues, when delivered by an expert actor, can be effective and even inspiring. Why, something like: “Make peace with your sister, then make peace with yourself” doesn’t sound like a contrived word of wisdom from a Kung Fu Master to Grasshopper, but from Maggie Smith’s mouth, becomes a genuine, heartfelt advice from a loving grandmother to a wayward granddaughter. That line is from the second last episode, setting the stage for Edith’s reconciliation with Bertie in the Finale. And the world is made peaceful as a result, with the rival sisters at peace with each other.

Grand mansions and castles as the setting for a TV series. I’m not saying there won’t be any more Highclere’s out there waiting to be used as filming location, but such an opportunity of using a classy, old mansion in situ sure doesn’t come by often. The Grand Finale shows us even that there are grander estates than Highclere. In a reversal of fortune, Edith gets to live in an even more magnificent property than Mary. Yes, Edith sure has found her Mr. Darcy and Pemberley. And I’m happy for her.

Old status quo being taken for granted. Downton is not about the maintenance of aristocracy, but the torrential changes that bombard traditions and social structure. The very first episode of Season 1 is a significant symbol. The thought-to-be unsinkable Titanic came to a tragic end; later, with WWI comes the break down of social status and yes, even the aristocrats suffered casualties. All men are equal in the face of death and destruction. In real life, that Highclere Castle was used as a convalescent home was an exemplar of how the war had brought about changes.

Are we also saying goodbye’s to traditional TV productions,  or the conventional platforms of broadcasting? The blurring of the line between movies and TV productions could mean  new kind of shows in the future. While the methods may be different, let’s hope the quality and values can be maintained no matter what change may come.

What’s your take on the last Season Finale of Downton Abbey?

***

Previously on Downton Abbey Season 6:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Episode 5

 

Downton Abbey S6 Episode 6

An episode of romantic linking and midlife career changes. First the pairing of some main characters: Mary and Henry Talbot, Edith and Bertie Pelham, Isobel and Lord Merton, (again), Mrs. Patmore and Mr. Mason (now, what’s with Daisy spoiling the fun?) And Baxter and Coyle? Not a reunion I hope.

Midlife career changes are thrusted upon other characters. The most important one is Cora, a job that she has never dreamed of, or dared to think about. Crossing Violet? Definitely not her own choosing. On second thought, after a career of bringing up three daughters, now she’s ready for another challenge. Being the President of the merger of the village hospital with York’s, she’s ushered into a brave new world. Now, that sounds like a much easier task than her previous job.

As for Molesley, his midlife career change is something he hasn’t dared to entertain before, beyond his wildest dream. Need to pass an exam first, but still very exciting. It’s interesting to see that his open tuition to help Daisy is so well received and respected by everyone, while Barrow’s secret tutorial offered to Andy is met with suspicion. But kudos to him for keeping Andy’s problem confidential. O Mr. Barrow, can you ever redeem yourself?

So Barrow is now the in-house piggy backer. The position of under butler is soon to be obsolete. Looks like Mr. Carson has a clearer view of occupational trends than Barrow: “In twenty years time I doubt there’s one footman working at Downton.” Or a lady’s maid, for that matter. Nothing personal, just the end of the aristocratic era. So when Season 6 ends, we’re saying goodbye to all that.

Mr. Carson, you won’t be long either, I’m afraid. The butler too will soon become “a post that is fragrant with memories of a lost world…” Eloquent with words strung up like that can sure open doors for you if it’s your time to leave. Prepare for the day when you’ll have no one to polish your cutlery or fold that bedsheet into sharp corners. Poor Mrs. Hughes, I knew her decision to have the wedding reception at the local school would be her last autonomous say. Would the real Mrs. Hughes please stand up? I sure miss you.

Downton Open House

The main attraction of the episode is the Downton Open House for the local hospital, a charity event. Wait a minute, charging people to come look at your living quarters? Who would want to pay? Yes, as Isobel Crawley says, “even Elizabeth Bennet wanted to see what Pemberley was like inside.” But that’s different though. For one thing, she didn’t have to pay; further, she got a bonus seeing Darcy in a wet shirt. Now, Barrow, since you’ve already warmed up with odd jobs like offering piggyback rides to the kids, get ready to jump into the pond.

No worries, people line up to pay to get in. Good idea! Tom’s business mind quickly turns and comes out with a wonderful idea. Wouldn’t that be a fine source of revenue to help maintain the huge mansion? Sounds like a version of reality. Isn’t Scribe Julian describing Highclere Castle where Downton is filmed?

But still, the question remains in some of their visitors’ mind I’m sure. Why, the pint-size philosopher who pops into Lord Grantham’s bedroom has posed a legit question: why not buy somewhere comfy instead of living in such a big house? Well son, it’s a long story. Never mind that. But one thing we can agree upon, it’s our mothers. They get terribly wrought up about things.

In this episode, we get to see another side of Lord Grantham. He looks like a totally bored little boy trying to entertain himself with all sorts of funnies while sick in bed. Mary in the bath? O my, wait till Mommy hears that.

To London again, Mary brings Anna to see Dr. Ryder, and thank God it’s just normal pregnancy discomfort. But what a great opportunity to do some side shows like… surprise! Henry Talbot must feel like he’s lured by a racing trophy. What a catch, Mary Crawley. Here’s the funny thing, looks like Mary is encouraging Henry Talbot, but when he does get close, she rejects him somehow.

Certainly, she has her bad memory. Matthew died in a car crash. But is that all that’s holding her back with Henry Talbot? Or is it the idea of marrying down? Or too fast too soon? Don’t forget, Mary, Henry’s a race car driver. Time is of the essence. Speed is the thrill. Occupational hazards, no, skill sets.

And romantic characters have the rain to thank, for usually what happens when sudden rain befalls, somehow that would lead to a private escape resulting in the first kiss. It happens in Woody Allen movies and it can happen right here in Downton Abbey.

In contrast, Edith and Bertie are enjoying some smooth sailing, despite Mary’s skepticism. Mary, you need to know, any man willing to take Edith plus a child must be genuinely in love with her. So, Marigold could well be the tester of true intention.

Your take on this episode?

***

With this recap, Arti is taking a hiatus from the pond. There are 600+ posts on Ripple, you’re welcome to spend your time lingering still and throw in your two pebbles. Hope they can hold your interest until Arti’s return.

***

Previously on Downton Abbey Season 6:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Episode 5

Downton Abbey S6 Episode 5

First off, congrats to the whole Downton cast for winning the 2016 Screen Actors Guild’s Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series last Saturday night (Jan. 30).  What a wonderful farewell gift. They’ve won this category four times in the past five years. A nice wrap indeed.

Now, to Sunday’s Downton episode. Scribe Julian of this mild and pleasant final Season has dropped a shock bomb so sudden that the surprise element is no less than Matthew’s car accident at the end of Season 3.  This time it’s even more graphic. You haven’t seen so much blood gushing out of a person, not even in the WWI battle scenes in Season 2.

That’s what happens if your ulcer bursts. Among the horror and chaos, kudos to Robert that he can utter the endearing last words to Cora, “if this is it, just know that I’ve loved you very, very much,” which Cora firmly repudiated, “This isn’t it, darling.”

So we take her words for it and not worry too much. Just a ploy our scribe Julian uses to make sure we haven’t fallen asleep in this mild and uneventful episode. I mean, what we’ve been looking at, so far, is Mr. Mason moving into Yew Tree Farm, Mrs. Patmore preparing food baskets, Mary watching her first car racing, Edith going on a date, and yes, Neville Chamberlain, yes, that Neville Chamberlain, brought into the battle of the local hospital and then the shocking scene happens.

Neville Chamberlain

Let me just recap these mundane events of the evening, albeit I must say, I love the change of scenery for them all. First to Yew Tree Farm. So the Landlord Duo Mary and Tom come to inspect and declare Mr. Mason too old for pig farming. Good Andy comes to the rescue. He’s not only willing to help out but wants to change his career path to become a pig farmer. Daisy is looking at what her future will be like with this ambitious young man and the aging Mr. Mason. Looks like Yew Tree Farm will be handed over to the young soon. But of course, Andy has to start learning to read and write in order to raise pigs. So Mr. Barrow steps in. Is it a good thing I wonder.

Mary Crawley and Henry Talbot, those two are quite incompatible, aren’t they? One craves cars and racing; one loves pigs and property management. One ignores social gaps, why of course, the race track is on pretty level ground; the other esteems her higher position and ‘won’t marry down.’

In contrast, Edith and Bertie, ‘evenly matched’ and ‘balanced’, relating as equals. Those are all Tom’s words reminiscing on his own courtship with Lady Sybil. “Real love means giving someone the power to hurt you.” Tom tells Mary.

And now Edith. Two exemplars for Mary to emulate, or, is she too high up on the horse to see clearly. I’m sure Henry Talbot has his ways. Why, the motor car is the perfect vehicle invented for modern romance, seating two side by side. Look, he’s much more relaxed now than in previous episodes.

So glad to see Edith finally enjoying herself and being genuinely happy. A cozy and elegant London apartment she has, mostly Michael Greyson’s taste. No matter, it’s a place she can call her own now that Downton is Queen Mary’s dominion. A new editor found to manage the magazine, everything under control… except her secret about Marigold. Would Mary her dear sister sabotage that hard-to-come-by peace in her life?

Miss Baxter’s brave move of coming out to be the witness for the prosecution reaps great results as the accused changes his plea upon hearing her name on the witness list. No trial is needed, what a relief. Don’t we hate to go through another Downton trial to see justice done, or undone? Wait a minute, maybe yes, there should be a trial, this time for Miss Denker for defamation and uttering threats.

What I like about this episode is the variation of sceneries and setting. The park where Edith and Bertie take a stroll, the race track, the Yew Tree Farm, and the new home of the Carsons. Yes, even the messing up of the elegant dining table and everyone’s formal attire with splattered blood. Some alternatives for the eyes.

Your take on this episode?

***

Previously on Downton Abbey Season 6:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

 

Downton Abbey S6 Episode 4

Downton S6 E4.jpg

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:

Season 6 Episode 3 

Season 6 Episode 2

Season 6 Episode 1

***

Downton Abbey S6 Episode 3

The language of leave-taking is always gentle, pleasant, accommodating. Looks like this whole season is an extended farewell. While it is what we all want to see, characters we’ve befriended over five years are now coming together for one last time to happy resolutions, it is also sad to see this is their last efforts to entertain us.

And entertained we are, however placidly here in S6 E3. A long awaited middle-aged wedding finally takes place and I’m glad the reception is held in a school house as the bride desires and not in the grandeur of the great hall at Downton. No, I don’t think Cora is being a snob. Mary is unreasonable to accuse her mother as such only to further her own plan to have Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes hold their reception right there in the grand mansion. If Cora is being snobbish, then Mary is downright patronizing.

What’s the greatest farewell gift for us all? Here’s the foreshadowing: “Last night I dreamt I went to Downton again…” Julian Fellowes’s version of Rebecca, equally moving in Tom Branson’s letter.

A pleasant surprise indeed. Tom realizes where home really is, even though he has to go all the way to Boston to find out. The best scenario is always to have someone leave for a short while so that he can come back for good willingly. What more can a viewer ask? Sadly, even the great scribe Julian can’t bring back Sybil and Matthew; he can at least do us this favour with Tom and little Sybbie. Look at how George welcomes his little cousin back, embracing her and softly uttering this endearing word, “Sybbie.” Awww… Even Marigold gives a rare, spontaneous smile.

Next, Rose? I doubt it, since she’s almost everywhere lately, busy living her multiple personas as Cinderella, Natasha in War and Peace, and soon Elizabeth Bennet confronting zombies.

Another gratifying storyline is Edith’s. She’s the Anna upstairs. Something good is finally coming her way that warrants our congrats: Living on her own in London when she’s in town, firing the obnoxious editor Skinner, taking his place and beating the deadline to get a new issue out with some incredible teamwork from Bertie Pelham. Of course, Mary can smell that team miles away, but so what. Edith, go for it, both magazine and team, and the new you.

Edith in S6.jpg

In the slightly darker side, Miss Denker has a major role to play as the necessary nuisance to stir up some ripples in the calm waters of Downton’s final Season. Denke is a more animated stand-in for Mrs. O’Brien, still remember her? But she’s not the leave-in-the middle-of-the-night kind; looks like she’s going to hang on as long as Violet wants her. Violet seems to be fine with her own in-house Punch and Judy sideshow with Spratt and Denker.

After all, Violet Crawley is just too preoccupied with her own Punch and Judy show with Isobel. Now the line-ups are Isobel, Cora, Lord Merton, with Dr. Clarkson shifting ground. How can Violet step down gracefully without losing face, I wonder. Hope this is not as violent a show as Punch and Judy.

And Cora, never thought she can be so angry, scolding a bride on the night before her wedding? Definitely out of character. But the resolution is quick, again, now that’s more like Cora; since we don’t have much time left, so… apology accepted. Mrs. Hughes deserves not just a fancy piece of clothing but her total respect.

Finally, Anna has some good news. But hush, we won’t say more. Having been dealt bad cards all her married life, can this be a real, winning hand? It’s the farewell Season. I trust the handling will continue to be gentle and pleasant.

***

Previously on Downton Abbey Season 6:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Downton Abbey S6 Episode 2

A relatively uneventful episode after the convivial Season opening.

But the few storylines are so apt in exposing the characters we thought we’ve known. First off, Mary is a math whiz, her own sister comments that:

“As usual, you add two and two and make fifty-three.”

No need to decode, just Mary in her most inquisitive and intuitive state. Rose may well be pregnant. The more the merrier.

This episode seems to belong to Mary, for she’s everywhere and uh… yes, Agent of all things great and small, from pigs to pregnancy.

And Lord Grantham, heed your mother’s chiding, “if you can’t say anything helpful Robert, please be silent.”

Why, decorate the Servants’ Hall for Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes’ wedding reception? I was shocked to hear him say that, same as his daughters. And I thought Robert has turned egalitarian, at least a little bit, as modernity creeps into Downton.

But a butler’s a butler, loyal, honourable, and ever respectful, so Mr. Carson is all gung ho to take up the offer of Downton’s Great Hall. And with Mary’s stepping in to make sure their wedding reception a Downton event, I jump on Mrs. Hughes’s side with no hesitation. A wedding belongs to the bride, no matter how old she is; it’s her day and she ought to be able to choose her own place and plan it in her own way:

“I just don’t want to be a servant on my wedding day.” Of course not.

After all, Mrs. Hughes continues, “we’ll be doing it your way for the next 30 years,” to which Mr. Carson gives no words in reply. What would be the outcome? I wonder. But I can wait, no spoilers please.

Edith’s role as a woman boss isn’t an easy job to tackle, and dealing with an editor like Mr. Skinner sounds like a nightmare. A hint for you, Edith, just imagine: What would Mary do?

So, Mary would enter the Downton pigs in the Fat Stock Show, and will drop by the Drewes’ farm to see the fat piggies. Little George’s first lines “Can we come?” seal the fate of the Drewe family.

Here lies the best storyline of the episode. Mary brings George and Marigold to the Drewes farm to see the pigs while Edith goes to London, and of course, who will be there but Mrs. Drewes? The dramatic effect is much needed for too placid an episode.

And on the day of the Fat Stock Show, Mrs. Drewes’ impulsive act of child snatching is understandable. The only, and too short, tense moment of the hour is finished in five minutes. Too swift a resolution in vacating a family who had farmed there since before Waterloo. An easy case that the wise King Solomon would envy; his was a much harder case of baby sharing.

Talking about the wisdom of King Solomon, his opinion just might be helpful for the prospect of the village hospital and in resolving the family feud. Maybe Violet would listen to his counsel?

 

Thomas Barrow (1)

All those country fairs are best to discover new talents and skills. If job hunting plans don’t pan out for Mr. Barrow, he could alway open up a bowling alley. He could well be an adroit operator.

But why did I think of a Magritte painting when I looked at Thomas Barrow in that scene? Hopefully something realistic and not too absurd will cross his path.

As for the Bates, we don’t want to see any more miscarriages, either in the legal or biological realm. And here we have Mary to thank for being so helpful. Bringing Anna to see Dr. Ryder in London’s Harley Street may well be the most effective act of kindness she can offer her maid, more a friend by now.

And what do you know, one year later in 1926 a Lionel Logue opened his speech therapy practice there on that same Harley Street and proved to be a fateful move for the future King of the Empire. (My extra note, not in the Episode)

Of course, Anna glows after the doctor’s appointment. Don’t we all wish Mr. and Mrs. Bates can live happily hereafter?

***

CLICK on the links to read my other Downton Posts for Season 6:

Downton Abbey rings in the New Year one last time

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Downton Abbey rings in the New Year one last time

What will we do without Downton in 2017? Will our biological clock even recognize it’s a new year?

But at the moment, let’s just celebrate this monumental achievement for one last time. If Sunday’s Episode 1 of this last Season signifies anything, it’s: tis the Season to be jolly.

This intro Episode has well prepared us for some neatly resolved, long due conclusions, and rightly so. For how can we live with an unsettled ending for any of its characters? They all deserve a good life, don’t they, including Mr. Barrow, the in-house villain? Well yes, but maybe not for a thief and blackmailer like Ms. Bevan.

Thanks to Ms. Bevan though, Mary’s secret is finally made known to Robert. Charlie Sheen had thought of it first: if the secret is out, no one can blackmail you anymore. Simple. But of course, Mary has her point. Tony Gilliangham is just not good enough for her. And the best line of the Episode belongs to our inimitable heroine:

“I’d rather be alone than with the wrong man.”

With that line, Robert knows his daughter can run the kingdom, let alone Downton Abbey.

Talking about good lines, looks like our scribe Julian Fellowes wants to leave us with more indelible ones just as parting mementos.

With this episode, we finally see that Mrs. Patmore has talents other than the culinary. Why, acting as a go-between to sort out marriage expectations sounds as nasty a mission as Ethan Hunt of the Impossible Missions Force would choose to accept. Well, what are friends for. And we applaud her (ugh… awkward) effort.

Yes, Mr. Carson will take Mrs. Hughes, wrinkles, warts and all, with the lights turned off or on. A gratifying, redeeming scenario in an alternate universe far from Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Days.

DA S6 E1

And at long last, Mr. and Mrs. Bates are proven to be innocent of any and all crimes. Mr. Green apparently had more enemies than anyone would have thought. But while the Bates escape the miscarriage of the law, will Anna be safe from the literal, biological kind? Of course we all wish them well in giving Downton some more little ones, upstairs or down, since little Sybil will move to America with her Daddy and Marigold to London with her Mommy, and especially when they have an in-house piggy backer with Mr. Barrow.

Speaking of moving away from the aristocratic nest, I’m glad to see Edith find a place in London that she can be both a mother and a career woman. Although she soon finds being a woman boss is more challenging. But I’m sure she won’t be complaining much as she enjoys the benefits of mixing with the Bloomsbury group and meeting Virginia Woolf.

“I feel I have been given one little bit of happiness and that will have to do,” Edith’s line of self-sufficiency, one that can match her indomitable sister’s willingness to be alone than with the wrong man.

Looks like Downton embracing modernity is the theme this Season and I’m sure Daisy will one day make one devoted and effective Suffragette. Too bad the film has been made or else she’d be one fine comrade fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with Carey Mulligan.

Embracing or being enveloped by modernity, Isobel and Violet represent the two camps, the ready and the reluctant. Again, here sparks fly regarding the control of the village hospital. Violet will hold on to her principle, in whatever aspects of life: “Sometimes it’s good to rule by fear.” While Isobel does not flinch, it’s definitely effective for her servants, especially Miss Denker.

Last but not least, Robert brings Cora down to the kitchen, takes cold chicken out from the refrigerator all by himself, and eats a drumstick with his fingers? Do we need any more obvious signs of embracing modernity?

I trust Season 6 will be a delicious treat.

***

What are your favourite scenes?

Serendipity on Route 7

My drive continued south from Bennington, Vermont, via RT 7 to Williamstown, Massachusetts. There I stayed for the night. I knew Williams College was located there. But while exploring the town, I came to this building and saw the huge banner. Upon further investigation, I was excited to discover the campus of Shakespeare & Company:

The Miller BldgDSC_0337 (1)Later I found out that the actor Christopher Reeve met his future wife Dana in Williamstown where they later married. Reeve began as an apprentice at age 15 with the Wiliamstown Theater Festival right in those venues and eventually performed there for fourteen more seasons.

I had the chance to talk to a woman who was working on the grounds and learned that, lo and behold, she was born in Alberta, Canada, my home province! Imagine a chance encounter with an Alberta born American thousands of miles away.

The Berkshires region is beautiful and cultural. I made a mental note to come back to Williamstown for its annual Theater Festival.

My original plan was just to drive south on RT 7 from Williamstown to Lenox to see the Edith Wharton House at The Mount, when another serendipitous find came upon me: Tanglewood Music Center. So here I was at the famous summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra on my way to Edith Wharton House.

The Koussevitzky Music Shed was named after the Russian-born conductor, composer and double-bassist, long-time music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924 to 1949:

TanglewoodI lingered at Tanglewood for quite some time, for the grounds were beautiful and offered magnificent views. Another mental note: I must come back for the Tanglewood Festival in the summer. :

viewAcross the road from Tanglewood, fall foliage began to emerge. That was October 7. I can imagine how beautiful it is now:

across from TanglewoodAnd finally, to The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home from 1902 – 1911. I knew she was a prolific novelist and short-story writer, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize (The Age of Innocence, 1921); later I learned too that she had been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature three times.

So I was a little surprised to find out from the tour guide at The Mount that she was also a house and landscape designer in her own right. Her book The Decoration of Houses is still used today by architects and designers.

Built as a writers retreat, The Mount reflects Wharton’s fondness of symmetry:

SymmetryWhat happened to the left side of the building? That makes it not symmetrical, you might ask. That’s the servants quarter which Wharton was willing to compromise her design principle.

Here’s another view why it’s called The Mount:

The MountI took a tour of both the inside as well as her gardens. Here’s one wall of her library:

One wallWell read in several languages since she was young, Wharton left these books behind  when she moved away to live in Paris the latter part of her life after the demise of her marriage. Her husband Edward had fallen into a state of dementia after lengthy bouts of depression and mental illness. The writer’s years at The Mount had not been as happy as its surroundings could offer her.

The Drawing Room:

The Drawing RoomDining Room, where Henry James was one of several usual guests:

Dining RoomBut where did she write? Not in the library, or at the desk in her room, but right in her bed. She had an assistant who would take her handwritten pages and type them up after her six hours of continuous writing every morning before she got out of bed. I’m sure Wharton would love to have a laptop:

Writing bed (1)And these other items I found interesting. Downton images conjured up in my mind. Typewriter, telephone, telegram:

DSC_0347
An original 1902 ice box, Daisy would love it but maybe not Mrs. Patmore. Give her some time to warm up:

Ice Box
A luggage lift. Definitely would be a fave among the footmen:

Luggage lift

And only after the tour did I find out, The Mount had given a Life Time Achievement Award to Julian Fellowes. The Downton creator had attributed Wharton as a major influence on his works, first Gosford Park (Oscar Best Original Screenplay, 2002) and then Downton Abbey. Speaking upon receiving the Award at the Harvard Club, Fellowes noted that he was particularly inspired by Wharton’s “… ability to judge without feeling the need to condemn.”

I bought the book The Custom of the Country in the gift shop and only just now did I learn that it is being adapted into a TV mini-series, with Scarlett Johansson playing the anti-heroine, Undine Spragg. This will mark Johansson’s first TV role.

As for Julian Fellowes’ new work? I eagerly await. After visiting The Mount, I can see what a natural shift it is for him to create an American version of Downton. The Gilded Age should be a smooth sequel.

From Lenox, I began the last leg of my New England Road Trip. I headed east on I90, a breezy 2.5 hrs. drive back to Wayland, the suburb outside Boston, thus completing the loop and a memorable journey. An item checked off my bucket list.

***

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Vermont: More than Scenery

Vermont has so much to offer on top of the scenery. But I’ll start with that.

The hills are alive overlooking a breathtaking view of the distant Green Mountains. That was what attracted the von Trapp Family to settle there. Right, that’s the Family von Trapp of The Sound of Music fame. Goerg and Maria moved to Vermont in 1941 and bought a 300 acre farm near Stowe, as that location reminded them of their native Austria. There on the mountain top they started a guest lodge and had since developed into what is now an upscale resorts on 2,500 acres.

The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT, owned and operated by the eldest son of Maria and Georg von Trapp:

Trapp Family LodgeJust 36 miles west of Stowe was Lake Champlain on the edge of Burlington, a vibrant college town. The Lake is a large body of fresh water, once called the sixth of the Great Lakes. It borders the States of Vermont, New York and stretches up north to Quebec, Canada.

At the pier of Lake Champlain:

Lake ChamplainI totally get how this boat is named:

DSC_0096I took the Vermont scenic drive Rt. 100 and headed south from Stowe. My destination was Bennington in the southwest corner of the State.

Not far from Stowe I arrived at Waterbury, a town with lots of restaurant choices for such a small place. I visited two major tourist sites there.

Just off RT 100 was the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory, and they sure were prepared for the hundreds of visitors on the day I was there. A well organized and informative factory tour let me see how two college buddies’ $50 investment on an online ice cream making course had come to fruition. What’s impressive is their commitment to use supplies from local farms and cows that are steroids-free. A fair trade business to ensure global responsibility. (no, I don’t get a buck for writing this.)

Product MissionIn contrast, not far from the madding crowd at Ben & Jerry’s was the serene Waterbury Reservoir. When I got there it was already past sunset. So glad I could still take these photos:

Waterbury Reservoir

W R

Reservoir

Continued on Vermont Rt. 100 south I came by this most interesting site in the fields outside the small town of Waitsfield, population: 1,719 (2010). Here I found The Big Picture Theater, screening The Martian:

DSC_0103Two posters at the door caught my attention:

Kickstarter FFDownton Talk

One was a “Kickstarter Film Festival”. An indie film festival in this area? I was most impressed.

Another poster was about a talk on “The Costumes of Downton Abbey”. Here’s what the poster says if you can’t see it clearly (above right):
“Jule Emerson, former Costume Designer and Theater Professor at Middlebury College will discuss the fashions worn by Lady Mary and her family in the popular PBS series Downton Abbey. Free and Open to the Public”

No place is too remote for films and the Crawleys.

Rt. 100 offered some fall scenery very different from NH. I was attracted by the clumps of trees in distant hills along the road. It was a cloudy day, so instead of seeing bright and cheery foliage, I was captivated by the moody atmosphere. Just as beautiful:

Moody

Before arriving at Bennington, I stopped by South Shaftsbury to visit Robert Frost Stone House Museum. Frost bought the stone house and its 80 acres land in 1920, moving from the White Mountains in NH to warmer Vermont mainly for “a better place to farm and especially grow apples.” Aren’t we glad that he threw in some poems as well in his time-off from apple-picking.

In this fertile soil Frost not only gathered apples but poetic harvests as well. In the Stone House, there’s a “Stopping by Woods” Room where the Poet wrote his most famous “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” A facsimile of the handwritten manuscript and many other pertinent materials – parody included – were displayed. Trust my words. I didn’t want to get caught taking pictures in a ‘Photography Forbidden’ premises.

I did take photos outside of Frost’s Stone House:

Frost's Stone Houseand his juicy legacy, the apple tree in front of the house:

DSC_0205From Shaftsbury I drove the few blocks to Bennington, There at the back of the First Congregational Church was the cemetery where Robert Frost was buried.

Yes, the sky was that blue that day:

DSC_0270Frost’s grave gathered no pens or pencils as I saw in Authors Ridge of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord ; instead, people have left pennies there. If they were meant to be tributes to the Poet, it’s simply mind boggling to see how people could think a penny would suffice. Allow me to offer a little alteration to a common saying, standing in front of Frost’s grave: If you don’t have anything poetic to leave there, don’t leave anything.

DSC_0251Coming up: my last stop, Lenox, MA.

***

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The Second, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015)

The comma is not a typo. If you pause there before you say the rest, you’re clear in announcing the sequel, and not ‘The Second Best…’ for it’s not.

I’d say, it’s a little better maybe, funnier and more lively than the first. I can hear some protests. But in my case, kudos to the Bollywood dancers entertaining us before the movie began – two pairs of youthful and energetic Indian dancers giving us a taste of Bollywood – we were all warmed up and ready to embrace the show.

banner-the-second-best-exotic-marigold-hotel-film
Who will speak up against Ageism in the movie industry? What better spokespersons than the stars themselves? Let their charisma and performance speak.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is all about checking into new beginnings. In the last chapter, life can be beautiful and fulfilling, and one is never too late to enjoy it, even if they are merely ephemeral, fleeting moments. With the latent energy of the Marigold residents, they intend to make those precious moments last for the rest of their lives.

Director John Madden, who helmed Shakespeare in Love (1998) and saw it go on to win seven Oscars, brings us the sequel to his unexpected box office success of the first Marigold Hotel. This is no Shakespeare In Love, of course, but from the digital ink of screenwriter Ol Parker, we have some fine dialogues despite a lack of substantial plot lines; from the mouths of the seasoned and weathered come some refreshing viewpoints.

Even if you’re not starstruck, you have to tip your hat to this cast of talents, veteran actors whose average age works out to be 70; yes, I looked them up and did the math. Two-time Oscar winner Maggie Smith, Judi Dench (also Oscar winner and exactly 19 days older than Maggie in real life, as she said in the movie), Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie, Diana Hardcastle, and this time around, the newly-aged and still handsome Richard Gere, with David Strathairn also playing a small role.

The young proprietor of the retirement hotel in Jaipur, India, Sonny Kapoor, is eagerly planning for an expansion of his business venture, a second Marigold Hotel. Performed with much animation by Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame, Sonny is basically the foil, not just in his youthfulness and agile Bollywood dance skills, but in his overacting. My query: why is his Indian accent thicker than his mother’s (Lillete Dubey)? Nevertheless, watching the threesome, the soon-to-be-married Sonny and Sunaina (Tina Desai) plus the odd addition of Kushal (Shazad Latif), is energizing and mood altering. In the last act, having the Marigold residents join in the Bollywood dance at the wedding party is a treat, an acquired taste for some viewers I admit.

Under the direction of DP Ben Smithard, we see some colourful street scenes and beautiful sights. Following the constant panning camera between pillars and doorways, we become silent observers of the lives of these Marigold residents.

Throughout the movie, I’ve jotted down a few fine lines which, if spoken by the inexperienced, could well become platitudes. But here delivered by these professionals of film and stage, the one-liners are spot-on and memorable. Everyone has a story and there are a few notable dialogues, like this between the eldest pair swept by clashing undercurrents:

Muriel (Maggie Smith): You’re just nineteen days older than I am.
Evelyn (Judi Dench): Nineteen days is the life span of a wasp.

Exactly, time is relative. Fact is, time is what these Marigold residents don’t have. That’s what makes each of their story so pressing. At 79, Evelyn is faced with the choice of accepting or declining a new career as well as a genuine but shy suitor, Douglas (Bill Nighy). Her feeling in a nutshell:

“Sometimes it seems the difference between what we want and what we fear is the width of an eyelash.”

Good that she realizes just in time, and it’s clever how she conveys her message to Douglas at Sonny’s wedding. So, her new insight after much pondering:

“I thought, how many new lives can we have? Then I thought, as many as we like.”

And for Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Carol (Diana Hardcastle), it’s never too late to change as we see love turn them from promiscuity to monogamy. Well, even a faint attempt is encouraging.

As for Madge (Celia Imrie), she finally decides which direction she should take, left, right, or straight ahead, probably for the first time in her life.

Who can laugh at the old but themselves? Here when Jean (Penelope Wilton) suddenly reappears at the Marigold, I can associate her role as the sharp-tongued Isobel Crawley in Downton Abbey:

“I couldn’t resist the opportunity to come out and visit the old ruins, and see how the hotel was doing too.”

As a self-appointed tour guide in Jaipur, Douglas knows it’s never too old to step out into uncharted territory. Some good laughs there with his little helper in the background feeding him info or he’ll be just as lost as his tourist clients. As well, he is experiencing love like an insecure young chap. This is my favourite line, not only for the words but the way Nighy says them can make your heart ache:

“The great and terrible thing about life is there’s just so much bloody potential.” The subtext is brilliantly conveyed by his obvious frustration and agitated demeanour.

Ah… “There is no present like the time” [sic, exactly]

Time is a gift and a torment when you’re only given a limited portion under the low-hanging clouds of mortality. Here’s the poignant scene at the end. It belongs to Muriel (Maggie Smith), could well be foreshadowing what we will see in Season 6 of Downton Abbey. Her voiceover is full of pathos:

“There is no such thing as an ending; just a place where you leave the story.”

Of course there are flaws in the movie. But just like wrinkles, you’ve come to overlook them while admiring the person. Call it an escape or a two-hour vacation, The Second, Best Exotic Hotel offers a fun and gratifying ride.

 ~ ~ ~ Ripples

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Related Posts on Ripple Effects:

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)

The Lunchbox (2013): A Meal that Binds

Downton Abbey Season 5 Finale

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Another Year, Another Downton: Season 5 Finale

For the past five years, Downton Abbey kicks off the new year for us North American viewers. For nine Sunday evenings in January and February, I’ve been prodded to get back home in time, or simply stay home so not to miss a Downton episode. Now that I can record the series on my HDTV, I can freely watch The Oscars without dilemma.

Last night’s Finale “A Moorland Holiday” has finally picked up rhythm and grabbed my attention for a too short 1.5 hours.

The time is Autumn of 1924. Rose’s father-in-law, Lord Sinderby, has rented the beautiful Brancaster Castle in Northumberland and invited the Crawley family to a grouse shooting party, a marvellous setting to end the Season. But why would the grumpy and disagreeable in-law want to do that? Probably because every Finale ends with an outing, the best setting for turns in the road, and we’re treated to an exciting ride. It is also the annual Christmas episode for the UK viewers, so we can see how that blessed Festival can join hearts in the Finale.

Last night’s extended Episode has once again confirmed why this annual major TV event is worth all the wait and staying in on Sunday evenings. Why don’t I just buy the DVD’s so not be constrained? No, watching Downton one week at a time together with all the millions of PBS viewers makes this Finale all the more gratifying.

This Episode has redeemed itself from a relatively uneventful Season, which begs the question, why didn’t Mr. Fellowes unleash his ingenuity more often instead of having us wait eight weeks to arrive at this gratifying end? No matter, we are a patient lot. Let’s face it, the Finale is well worth the wait; it rewards us with justifiable twists and turns, ties up all loose ends and gives us a major surprise. It has once again recharged my enthusiasm for the show and even moved me to tears at the rare spot.

If every episode this Season was as rich and juicy as the Finale, Downton could have easily doubled its weekly viewers.

Downton S5 Finale

Kudos to director Minkie Spiro who has brought to life Julian Fellowes’ dense and captivating script. She has woven multiple story lines simultaneously, delivered the tensions, characters and conflicts at a flowing pace seamlessly without missing a beat. Both Fellowes and Spiro understand so well our collective psyche, that we in our hearts yearn for poetic justice: embarrassing the nasty, rewarding the good, reconciling the distant, and uniting the lovers… and I’m not just saying Rose and Atticus.

The father-daughter heart-to-heart in which Robert acknowledges Marigold, Edith’s child out of wedlock with Michael Gregson, is most endearing. How often do you hear a father utter these words: “I’m sure I need your forgiveness as much as you need mine.” And yes, he does have his secret of which even Cora is unaware.

Fellowes also ingeniously puts the skills and instincts of Downton’s trademark schemer, their very own Thomas Barrows to good use by letting him meet his equal in Stowell, and let them loose to wrestle and butt heads and finally to have Barrows come up on top, scoring for the visitors. The satisfying gesture is that he is winning the game for his employers and for Tom Branson, a worthy gentleman indeed, giving him his long due respect. Fellowes once again has proven that he is a master of tension at the formal dining table.

As for Anna and Bates, how many more trials and tribulations can a couple go through without having their marriage totally ruined? Fellowes knows when to stop; he is the ultimate puppeteer in the fates of the wrongly accused, but we thank him for leading them through thick and thin and bringing them out unharmed. And we enjoy the vicarious ride.

Rose too has redeemed herself. Looking back to her manipulative scheme in her earlier days, the fling on the town with jazz singer Jack Ross in Season 4 just to spite her mother, to Season 5 helping out the Russian refugees to finding and giving true love. We have seen Rose mature and proven herself considerate, trustworthy and resourceful, gaining favour from a very harsh father-in-law Lord Sinderby. BTW, recognize the man? He’s Uncle Geoffrey in Bridget Jones’s Diary.

And Atticus, don’t you just love that name? He is a good match with the totally transformed Rose. But with their move to America, we are sending them off with this Finale.

The ultimate union though belongs to Carson and Mrs. Hughes, Julian Fellowes once again knows what his viewers want and generously give them what their hearts desire. And Mrs. Hughes, being utterly surprised and most kind to demand Carson do it properly as Matthew and Atticus had done, kneel down and propose. Now that would have been a total shocker.

What falls short is the courtship between Isobel Crawley and Lord Merton, and that’s a shame, for they’d make a lovely pair. Violet Crawley can rest assure that her companion is still around to sharpen the iron in her, for it is not easy to find an equal like Isobel who is ever so ready to counteract her views. The reappearance of Prince Kuragin in her life turns out to be just a fleeting romantic interlude, gratifying still for an octogenarian.

Matthew Goode as Henry Talbot is an excellent prospect for Mary Crawley, why, they get to know each other by confrontations, however mildly put, not unlike Mary’s first encounters with Matthew. Hopefully this introduction would usher in Goode’s full-time presence in the upcoming Season, for here’s one that can make a worthy suitor for Mary. But what’s uncanny is, he’s into cars. And we all know what that passion can lead a man to, as Matthew’s tragic end is still vivid in our collective memory. I’m sure in Mary’s as well.

The heartbreaking event of course is Tom moving from Downton and England with young Sybbie to Massachusetts to help his brother with his auto-business. Again, the automobile seems to be the invention that brings mixed blessings. The most moving scene is the joining of hands of Tom, Mary, and finally Edith, to remember Sybil for a short moment, and Tom soaking in his last presence, storing memory of the room, or is it Fellowes’ way to let us do that, imprinting Allen Leech in our collective memory.

“We’re the three who should have grown old with her… and who knows when we’ll be together again.” I admit, this really hit me, the value of growing up and growing old together, the treasure of one’s peers. I’m not one who easily succumb to emotion, but this scene did it, not just for missing Tom in the future Season, but for all the family to miss seeing little Sybbie grow up.

Tom and Sibey

And now, another year’s wait… You know, Julian, we don’t mind waiting. Let’s have a few more.

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