Downton Abbey season 5 episode 6 - review: Thomas and Lady Edith show sad signs of the times

WWII is on the horizon, but for now Downton is very much stuck in 1924

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The Independent Culture

Michael Gregson is dead. The news was so inevitable that Lady Mary didn’t lay off her younger sister for a second. “He was a fine man, though what he saw in Edith…”

Any hope of legitimising Marigold’s birth has now been completely dashed and, unlikeable though her character is, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Lady Edith. The whole situation seems faintly ridiculous through modern eyes, but don’t forget that Downton’s women are slaves to “reputation”.

In the end, Lady Edith threw caution to the wind and decamped to London with her daughter, although it remains to be seen whether their ice-cream and champagne celebration will be worth the trouble.


Below stairs, Thomas had undertaken a course of electrotherapy – “to change me, to make me more like other people, other men”. After treating him, Doctor Clarkson advised the under-butler to “accept the burden” of his sexuality and choose “harsh reality” over “false hope”. This was a particularly harrowing storyline and an indictment of the times but the drama approached it with subtlety.

Of course, there was also some light relief in this episode, mainly in the form of Lady Mary’s haircut du moment, designed to show Tony Gillingham and Charles Blake “what they’re missing”. How the woman manages to have a constant gaggle of men in her wake is one of life’s great mysteries, but it appears she may have met her match in Blake.

And with Mrs Crawley set to marry Lord Merton it looks as though the Dowager Countess could be seeking out the company of her Russian a little more often too. Although she may be hoping Rose doesn’t follow suit with her new Jewish beau: “There’s always something isn’t there.” 

As for Mr Bates, it turns out he didn’t kill Mr Green after all. Thank goodness that longwinded narrative came to an end – although it didn’t, because the intact return train ticket that proves his innocence has been misplaced. Convenient.

Change is indeed on the way at Downtown. Maybe not yet and maybe not in this series but, with Adolf Hitler currently in jail and Gregson killed by “Nazi thugs”, the Second World War is steadily approaching.

Afterwards, the likes of Lady Edith and Thomas will find themselves in a freer world. But for now they’re very much stuck in 1924.