Downton Abbey Series 5 Episode 4 Review

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I’ve made no secret of my desire for Barrow to have his own storyline this year on Downton Abbey – one that doesn’t involve blackmail and isn’t resolved within one episode – and I’ve gotten my wish. It’s going to be unpleasant, but surely it’s also a story that needs telling.

Downton Abbey showed it’s willing to delve into uncomfortable, sometimes horrific territory last year, so I’m glad it’s not shying away now. Thomas has long been an untapped resource for drama, and I was both admiring and frustrated by how understated his relationship with Jimmy ended up being, so anything that puts him centre stage (even, contradictorily, in the background) is welcome in my book.

Things got a little more sinister in general this week, which makes a change from the mild indifference the show ordinarily puts out there. The Green murder plot is still going on, and now the finger is being pointed at Anna rather than Bates. My money’s still on Gillingham, who showed another side to himself in this episode that does nothing to allay my fears.

He now has a number of things he can hang over Mary’s head – her willingness to jump into bed with him, and possibly the fact that he has killed for the honour of her maid – and that doesn’t fill me with confidence about their future.

Mary was possibly too quick to back down when he insisted their “work through” the fact that she doesn’t like him very much, and seeing her dominated by anyone is a disconcerting sight indeed.

It could absolutely go anywhere, much like Tom’s emotional turmoil about where he really belongs. This, unlike Mary’s love life (which initially began and ended with Matthew), has been a thing for the character to deal with since his introduction, and it’s about time we reached a conclusion.

Since we like him on the show and he likes to be around his daughter and her extended family, we can assume he’ll end up staying, but the interest is in how he reaches that decision.

The ongoing theme of changing times plays its part in every storyline, but I can’t help but feel like the conclusions of these storylines are hampered by the fact that many of the ensemble cast are so beloved.

Daisy feels slightly more expendable than Tom, but it’s still hard to foresee that her education and ignited ambition is actually going to get her out of the Downton kitchens. The world may be changing, but how much is the show willing to alter itself?

What did you think of the episode? Is Mary going to stay with Gillingham? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.