SPOILER WARNING: Plot points will be revealed in this episode-by-episode discussion of ITV period drama Downton Abbey.
Written by Julian Fellowes. Directed by Minkie Spiro. Originally broadcast: 27 September 2015, ITV.
Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes disagree over their wedding plans, the takeover of the local hospital grows closer, Thomas Barrow fears for his job, and young Marigold goes missing…
When is it set? 1925. The summer is approaching, though the weather needs coats and gloves.
Where is it set? Downton Abbey and its grounds. Violet’s house. The local school. The village. The London offices of Edith’s magazine. Rosamund’s house. The hospital. Harley Street. The town of Malton. Rothwell Manor.
Debuts, deaths and guest stars:
* Mr Finch (Martin Walsh) comes to see Downton’s agent and is bemused to have to deal with Mary, who has decided to take the job on. He needs to discuss the entries in the fat stock show at Malton.
* Mr Molesley visits the local schoolmaster, Mr Dawes (Patrick Brennan), to ask a favour. He gets hold of some old exam papers so Daisy can practice.
* Mr Skinner (Paul Putner) is the editor of the magazine Edith owns. But the two are not getting along, so Edith travels to London to confront him. He patronises her, telling her she doesn’t know how to produce a magazine, which angers her.
* As his job is at risk, Thomas applies to be assistant butler at Rothwell Manor, a nearby stately home. His interview is with butler Mr Moore (Trevor Cooper), who tells him the job is part butler, part chauffeur and part valet. “Did the right girl not come along?” he asks when Thomas says he’s not married.
* Knowing that having the Drewes nearby can only lead to trouble, Robert suggests to Mr Drewe that he and his wife move away. Mr D initially says no, but then his wife snatches Marigold and runs off. They’re soon found but the couple clearly can’t stay near Downton.
* Mary takes Anna to see a GP called Dr Ryder (Richard Teverson).
* Robert offers to decorate the servants’ hall for Carson and Hughes’s wedding. Carson is touched, but Mrs Hughes is not sure if she wants her wedding to be where she works. “Tell him thank you but no,” she tells Mr Carson. However, before he can, Mary – who’s embarrassed by her dad’s small gesture – offers to stage the whole wedding at Downton and Mr C feels he can’t turn it down…
* Poor Anna, after everything she’s been through, now fears that she can’t have children. She’s been pregnant two or three times, she tells Mary, but each has led to miscarriage. Mary offers to take her to London to see the specialist who attended to her when she couldn’t conceive. Anna initially says the fee is too much for Mary to spend on her. “You’ve earned it fair and square,” replies Mary. “Keeping my secrets. Hiding that fearful Dutch thingamajig. Carrying poor Mr Pamuk down the gallery at the dead of night.” The two women laugh. Anna: “We have had our moments, haven’t we, m’lady?” Later, Anna is seen by a doctor who tells her she suffers from cervical incompetence – her womb is too weak to carry a child – but this can be allayed by a small operation.
* Several subplots get screentime as various characters attend the fatstock show in Malton: footman Andy makes it clear he’s not interested in being too close to Thomas, Mary swans around as the agent (and is dressed in a very fetching country suit), the hospital feud is discussed, Carson and Hughes row about their wedding plans, and little Marigold goes missing sending Edith into a panic.
* Tom left for American several months ago, yet only now is Mary starting work as the agent. What have they been doing in the interim?
* The boring subplot about the local hospital drags on.
* It’s still a jolt when Anna calls her husband ‘Mr Bates’, even when they’re alone.
* Mr Drewe says his family have farmed their land since before the Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815).
Mary’s men: After a lot of activity for several seasons, Mary’s love life is in stasis now.
Review: An enjoyable episode. And, as ever, it looks amazing. Downton Abbey is incredibly polished television, with a real sheen to the imagery – both in terms of the physical sets, costumes and locations, and the photography. Lens are chosen with real craft to make the spaces feel huge and detailed and textured.