Downton Abbey, series 5 episode 7, review: Drama finally romps towards energetic finale

After a slow start, the series is picking up

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

This series may have been slow to get going, but now with at least two marriages in the offing (and one of them Jewish, shock, horror!), Edith’s illegitimate child installed clandestinely in the nursery, and the awkwardly-named Isis out the way, things are looking good for an energetic finale - though of course leaving enough drama to fill a two-hour Christmas special.

In season five all the major hoo-has have been happening around the dinner table. There’s been left-wing firebrands, servants actually being allowed to speak, and in this episode, that Irish rogue Tom losing it and calling Lord Merton’s odious son Larry a “bastard" as the lords and ladies coughed into their soup.

Of course we saw it coming - there’s little you don’t see coming in Downton and we were reminded a zillion times that  Larry had form for being a mighty B - but still, it was typically entertaining when it happened.

Downstairs, the staff appeared to have swallowed a copy of the Labour Party Manifesto.  “It seems like we’re trapped,” said undercook Daisy. “Held fast in a system that give us no value and no freedom.” You tell us, Daisy. If you don’t we probably won’t remember that there is a Labour prime minister.


Naughty Ramsay MacDonald had evidently given the others ideas too. “When you have property, you have choices,” said Anna. Indeed you do, we thought, so please hurry up and buy something next week so you and maybe-murderer Mr Bates can talk about something other than Ticketgate and Lady Mary’s mysterious “device”.

Happily, elsewhere we were reminded that Downton can be a showcase for some fine acting. It’s been a treat to see the inimitable Dame Maggie Smith portraying a more human Dowager Countess of Grantham, showing real emotion rather than just hinting at it through a caustic one liner. The scene-stealers were still there - ‘He’s a man, men don’t have rights,’  was one humdinger - but her portrayal of lonely widow scared at the prospect of losing her friend and confidante via marriage to Lord Merton, was as touching a scene as we’ve seen.

Downton series 5 finale in pictures

Talking of weddings, this lot move quicker than your average z-list celebrity when it comes to nuptials. It seems all that it takes is a couple of looks across the room and if you’re lucky, a hot tea date, before rushing down the aisle. “It’s getting rather serious, isn’t it,” declared Lord Grantham on hearing that Rose had returned from a cafe session in Ripon with her beau Atticus. Serious it was; he got down on one knee not long later. That must have been a really good cuppa.

Bucking the trend was Lady Mary and her weird never-ending love square. Lord Gillingham finally got the message this week and Charles Blake headed off on the boat train on business. “You’ll be married by the time I get back,” was his parting shot.

We can’t wait to see who takes the ice queen to Ripon next.

Read more: Julian Fellowes will 'quit while he's ahead'
Grace Dent: The winds are changing in Downton Abbey
George Clooney to star in charity Downton episode