Downton Abbey Series 5 Episode 8 Review


Obviously. Was there ever any doubt that series five of Downton Abbey would end with Anna being incarcerated for Mr. Green’s murder? There are plenty of suspects still at large, each more implausible than the last, but Anna had to be arrested for it before we could get to them. Why? Because of drama.

The perceived need for forced drama is what has simultaneously propelled Downton Abbey forwards and dragged it down, always teasing out the resolution that the audience want a little too long and focusing on characters and relationships we all used to like even when others because much more interesting. It’s a show devoid of fan service, and that’s both admirable and absolutely maddening.

The anchor of Mary and Matthew’s love story is gone, and so we’re left with only Anna and Bates’ misery to guide us through. No matter about Tom and Mary’s obvious connection, Barrow’s popularity with audiences or any one of the other peripheral characters ready and waiting for some trauma – no, we must repeat the Anna/Bates storylines until the show’s end, and only then will Julian Fellowes log on and see what his audience actually want.

Despite my complaining, this finale was actually a lot better than last year’s, if only for the fact that it left us on a sort of cliffhanger. The family are breaking apart, growing up and moving away. This has thrown Mary for a loop, since she is the person stuck at Downton for good. Without Matthew, she can be her own woman, and she’s doing very well at that job. But it probably doesn’t feel like a triumph when the family she has built around herself all up and leave.

That includes Rose, who after much toing and froing eventually ends up marrying Atticus in a London registry office, and Tom, who is seemingly going through with his plans to move to the US. Nobody wants this to happen, since Tom is the sole voice of reason and kindness at the Abbey, but it’s taken him going to push Mary to realise how much he means to her. He promises to stay until Christmas, so we don’t have long to wait for an answer either way.

A parallel issue is going on downstairs, as Daisy half-heartedly decides that she might want to move to London and expand her horizons. I have liked Daisy’s storyline this year very much, as there’s something endlessly endearing about seeing someone as well-meaning and sheltered as Daisy have her eyes opened by education and culture – given to her by Mosley, no less – but stopped from going through with it by a sense of loyalty and, well, habit.

But these little plots are something that Downton rarely drops the ball on, and its the bigger stuff where it has been floundering quite magnificently. That applies to Anna’s storyline more than anything else, since there’s still no end in sight after almost two years of water treading. Do we even care anymore?

For a storyline that made the news and inspired a flurry of thought pieces back at the time, there’s a definite sense that the expiry date has long since passed. The background storylines like Barrow dealing with his sexuality, Tom being integrated into the family or Violet and Isobel’s friendship all benefit from Downton‘s slow pace, but the same can’t always be applied to the big storylines.

We have the Christmas special to look forward to but, until then, I’m more than happy to just let Anna sit in jail and the rest of the character’s ponder their impending separation.

What did you think of the episode, and the series? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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