It finally happened. After years of dancing around one another and an engagement punctuated with various trials and tribulations and a whole lot of meddling from Lady Mary, Carson and Hughes tied the knot as we approach the grand finale of Downton Abbey. But before we talk about the ceremony, let's look at five talking points from season 6, episode 3.
1. Edith saves the day in London
Edith is off to London, which appears to take her a mere couple of hours from York (perhaps she used HS2), to confront the editor of the magazine, who's just about had enough. Which makes firing him deliciously easy. But no sooner is the "petulant, overweight tyrant" out of the picture, Edith finds herself with a fresh dilemma: the magazine is due at the printers by four in the morning, and it's already 7 o'clock. Fortunately Bertie Pelham, that suitor she bumped into earlier in the day, is on hand to make coffee and sandwiches, and together with her secretary, the three of them somehow manage to get the magazine out on time - and in the spirit of a true aristocrat, Edith barely appears to have lifted a finger except to swap a few photographs around. Easy work, this editing business.
Edith's best line in this episode was delivered to Bertie during their chance encounter in the street: "You've probably forgotten, but I own a magazine!", she exclaims. Given that Edith herself seems barely able to remember at the best of times, this one seemed laced with irony.
2. Things are heating up at the hospital
This hospital drama has been rumbling on for three episodes now but it's starting to get a little heated. At the latest summit to decide on the hospital's future, Isobel snaps and executes a surprisingly brutal takedown of Dr. Clarkson in front of a stunned Violet and Cora, suggesting that he's power hungry and opposed to the merger because he'll "be just another doctor - with some authority, yes, but it won't be the same!" Given that Isobel is usually the voice of reason among the upstairs brigade, this comes as quite a shocker but I have to say, I enjoyed seeing a fiery-tempered side to the good lady.
3. Thomas still can't find a new job
Another week, another job interview for everybody's favourite moustache-twirling under-butler. This week Thomas pays a visit to a crumbling old house whose former glories have long since eroded and whose work force consists of a housekeeper who pops in three times a week and a casual gardner. Thomas, naturally, is more than a bit snobby about the whole affair and rules himself out of the job pretty swiftly. If I know anything about Downton, the relentless emphasis on Mr. Barrow losing his job actually foreshadows the fact that he'll be kept on, but it's nice nonetheless to see him stripped of his dignity once again.
And what about his constant attempts at striking up a friendship with footman Andrew? Well, Thomas is convinced that Andy has it in for him, but he's clearly wildly off course - I reckon Andy is repressing some kind of attraction to Thomas, who'll finally get a hook-up. If only Thomas had been born in the Grindr era, his life would have been infinitely easier.
4. Mr. Spratt is dragged into a scandal
Fun fact: the full name of the Dowager Countess' butler is Septimus Spratt, which sounds way too much like a Harry Potter character to exist in the Downton universe. JK Rowling will be kicking herself (when she finally takes a break from sketching elaborate family histories for characters mentioned once in passing).
Anyway, Spratt has been having secret meetings with somebody whom it later transpires is (A) his nephew and (B) an escaped convict by the back door of the Dowager House, which is evidently a super-covert place to liaise with a fugitive, giving Violet's ladies' maid Denker some beautiful and well-timed ammunition to get some revenge after her earlier humiliation at the hand of Spratt. It's a fun little set-up at the mini-mansion, although Denker lacks the truly villainous intentions of O'Brien the baby murderer. O'Brien, how we miss thee.
5. The Dowager is on seriously good form
Any seasoned Downton Abbey fan knows that 65% of the reason this show is already a classic is Maggie Smith's pursed-lipped Dowager Countess, who gets almost every one of Julian Fellowes' best lines, and does not disappoint this week. "I know several couples who are perfectly happy, haven't spoken in years!", she tells her son. "Is it proper for a young woman to be alone in a flat?", she quizzes Edith, apparently unaware that her niece is fast approaching forty. (In the Dowager's defence, time works in mysterious ways on this show.)
And of Spratt, Violet observes that the butler has "a great many relations who seem to get married and buried with numbing regularity, usually on inconvenient days", getting right to the very essence of life with one concise sentence.
6. Carson and Hughes are upstaged at their wedding
After another classic Lady Mary interference sees Mrs. Hughes trying on Cora's coats just as the lady of the house returns from her "ghastly" hospital meeting, almost derailing the big day entirely, things eventually get back on track and we spend the final stretch of the episode in church with the happy couple.
The ceremony is beautiful, but somewhat overshadowed by what happens next. In the best scene of the episode, Tom Branson makes his grand return at Mr. and Mrs. Carsons' wedding reception, something we all knew was coming but probably didn't expect so early in the season. Tom being back should stir things up nicely upstairs at Downton. He tells Mary that he had to go to Boston to figure out that Downton was his home, which kind of goes against the grain of his entire story arc in the first five seasons, but hey, it hit all the right emotional buttons, and that's what really counts... right?
Did you enjoy Carson and Hughes' nuptials? Pleased Branson's back in the fold? How will Denker use her knowledge of Spratt's secret rendezvous, and where is the final season of Downton headed? Share your thoughts in the comments!