DOWNTON ABBEY “Episode 5” Review

DOWNTON ABBEY Series 6 Episode 5 – There were some great moments in this episode of Downton Abbey, some seriously character defining arcs, but I cannot remember another show where the editing so obviously ruined the impact of a great scene: like when Daisy and William get married, and the scene is so tragic on so many levels, and suddenly it cuts to Matthew and Mary in the hospital and the maudlin music, instead of fading away, is sharply cut and the scene, whilst absolutely tragic, almost makes Matthew and Mary look like whinging brats compared to William’s marriage on his deathbed. Not to mention the fact that it completely takes out of the moment and destroys all of the beautiful work done by the writing and acting.

For the most pat however this episode finally delivered on storylines it has been building up to and without a stupid duet between Matthew and Mary, it’s a stellar episode with some performances which completely blew my expectations away: Dan Stevens, who has always made Matthew a far more likable character than he has any right to be, gave such a desolate performance as the wounded, impotent, immobilized war hero. He filled his character with such self loathing and scorn that there was one point where I thought Matthew would actually try to kill himself.

Then there’s William’s death, the real tearjerker for the episode. Daisy has always been a comic relief scene stealer with her forthright honesty, but Sophie McShera just made away with the entire episode in her back pocket. So much credit has to go to Julian Fellowes, who balanced Daisy’s reluctance perfectly, making it crystal clear that for Daisy, honesty outweighs financial security, for Daisy, the thing that’ll haunt her won’t be William’s death per se, but her guilt at having lied to a dear, beloved friend right up to his death. If the Emmys weren’t so in love with alumni and movie veterans, they’d give McShera the award for Best Supporting Actress right now. Everything about her performance was perfectly calibrated: she was absolutely tragic, devastating, poignant, funny, sweet, naive, wise. And of course Thomas Howes deserves much credit for making William’s final moments so sweet and sad and tender, as does Lesley Nicol, who has always killed as Mrs Patmore and continues to do so in this episode.

Maggie Smith was given some delightful moments, and of course she was as brilliant as she always is. When she was on the telephone I just noticed that the wonderful thing about her acting is that she seems to really enjoy it, she seems to really relish every frame she’s in, every syllable she has. She’s such a fantastic person to watch acting.

There were a myriad of other storylines, as usual, but they all seemed either inconsequential or dull. I’m done with the whole Vera Bates storyline, mainly because it’s obvious Maria Doyle Kennedy, a fine actress, is on call to play the panto villain and whilst I sometimes have no trouble with panto villains, in this setting a two dimensional character just does not jive. Sybil and Branson’s love storyline is going on forever, and it’s incredibly annoying because these are two characters I actively like and yet it seems like Fellowes either does not care about them, or…no, actually, it just seems like he does not care about them and instead wants us to clap when Vera has her ass handed to her by Rupert Murdoch’s Edwardian incarnation.

Still, not even Ethel’s baby storyline or the incessant maudlin music could lessen my enjoyment of this episode, which is without doubt thanks to two particularly strong storylines and a few glorious Maggie Smith scenes my favorite of this year.

What did you think of this episode? Sound off in the comments below.