Downton Abbey is a pair of old slippers. It's a cosy fire on a cold Winter's Sunday. It's kind of predictable. Grotesque and blood-smattered aren't words that usually come to mind, but things took a turn for the seriously unexpected in season 6, episode 5. Let's take a look at five talking points from a rather unusual episode, as Downton's final season enters the home stretch.
Revenge of the Pigs
In a very porcine-themed episode, Mary, in her capacity as the agent for Downton, has her mind on the pig situation at the farm. "Pig keeping needs physical strength, now I think of it!" she tells Robert in the manner of somebody obtaining brand new information. "You're right, of course. They're strong and can be dangerous," Robert replies, and suddenly I feel like I'm watching an educational video about the pros and cons of pig farming.
Meanwhile, Awful Andrew wants to train as a farmhand. I call him Awful Andrew because he's so completely unbearable that he actually achieves the incredible feat of making me feel bad for Thomas - who still hasn't tired of trying to strike up a friendship, and finally makes a breakthrough when he discovers AA can't read. Illiteracy storylines are the absolute bane of television so we'd better hope and pray that Andrew's education takes place entirely off-screen.
Team Talbot or Team Tom?
"I don't mean to sound snobbish, but I won't marry down," Lady Mary snobbishly warns Branson during one of their increasingly frequent rendezvous in the country. There's definitely something in the air between these two, even if the ghost of Sybil looms large over every interaction they share. Would it be so wrong for them to give into their obvious chemistry?
Well, kind of. Especially as Mary's flirtation with Talbot seems to be ramping up - my favourite moment in their story this week came when Mary very subtly (read: not at all subtly) re-applies her lipstick just before rushing to congratulate Talbot on his win. My guess is that Mary isn't actually aware of anything she feels for Tom, which could complicate things if or when that realisation does come. But for now, I'm definitely Team Branson. Sure, Talbot is a good looking chap, but what could Mary really be happy with a racing driver?
Denker disgraces herself
The fun and games continue at the Dowager House this week when Violet gets wind of her ladies' maid Denker, who it transpires is quite a terrible human being, giving an unsolicited piece of her mind to Dr. Clarkson, pushing the Dowager Countess to the brink of a nervous breakdown as she unleashes her fury in epic style: "If I withdrew my friendship from everyone who had spoken ill of me, my address book would be empty! You've read too many novels, Denker! You've seen too many moving pictures!" We all have, Violet, we all have.
Denker, in typically weasel-y fashion, manages to get her firing reversed by appealing to Septimus Spratt's good nature (and then resorting to blackmail). I don't mind Denker, but her tête-à-tête with Spratt is not even half as much fun as the Dowager's ongoing war with Cousin Isobel.
Has Edith finally hit gold with a suitor?
Edith's numerous failed attempts at successfully securing a husband are Downton's longest and best running joke. In one season 1 episode, Cora remarks that "I'm afraid Edith will be the one to take care of us in our old age," to which Robert responds, "Oh, what a ghastly prospect!". But after six seasons of trying to find a man who's interested in her rather than Mary, Edith finally seems to have done it, sharing her first kiss with Bertie Pelham, a gentleman (close to) her own age with quite a decent sense of humour. Edith definitely has a good thing going with Bertie, but a small part of me hopes it'll all be cruelly snatched away at the last minute. Perhaps he could die at the altar. If ever anybody was destined to be a lonely cat lady, surely it's Edith...
Robert makes a scene at dinner...
Before we talk about the scene, let's take a moment to relive it.
For about twenty seconds Downton Abbey just took a hard left swerve into horror B-movie territory, and I won't lie, I was loving it. The bursting of Lord Grantham's ulcer and subsequent blood spatter, literally all over Cora's face, was hilariously unnecessary and graphic, and made the arguments about pigs and hospitals suddenly look very quaint.
Amazingly, Robert manages to tell Cora with some clarity that "If this is it, just know I have loved you very, very much," in that way that people in the throes of death so often do on TV. But perhaps the real fallout from this is Mary's very belated discovery (or at least suspicion) of Marigold's true parentage, a bomb which looks set to go off next week. Perhaps we'll get the long-promised "wigs on the green" after all. Don't miss it.