It was a Christmas to remember -- though some, like Sir Richard Carlisle, would probably prefer to forget it -- at stately Downton Abbey on the Season 2 finale of the eponymous British import. (Overseas, of course, this 90-minute installment aired as a standalone special, but PBS is billing it as the season finale. Either way, it's the last we'll see of the show stateside until January 2013, which seems like an eternity.)
Following the seismic events of the previous episode -- quick recap: Lavinia succumbed to the Spanish flu, Matthew can walk again, he and Mary kissed, Sybil and Tom made their relationship public and secured her parents' grudging acceptance (if not approval), Thomas found his way back into the Downton fold, Bates and Anna got married just before he was arrested for the murder of his hateful wife and Doctor Carson is a big idiot -- this one seemed a bit more subdued for much of its runtime, that is, until the last ten minutes, which offered a long-awaited development that puts the series in a promising place for Season 3. Clearly series creator Julian Fellowes viewed this episode as a beautifully wrapped Christmas present to the show's devoted fanbase. Here are the gifts we were happiest to receive from the Downton Abbey finale.
Matthew and Mary Are Engaged, For Realsies
Obviously, you have to lead with the episode's final scene, in which Matthew drops to one knee (at Mary's insistence) and his on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again and on-again love interest to marry him. And this time (unlike in Season One) she accepts. This scene was all the sweeter because it came on the heels of Sir Richard finally being kicked to the curb for his underhanded ways and generally unpleasant disposition. (Sure, we know that the real reason that the character was written off so abruptly is because actor Iain Glen has to cross the Narrow Sea and rejoin Daenerys Targaryen, but it was still satisfying to see Carlisle get his comeuppance.) As for the whole "dead Turkish diplomat" scandal that Richard was lording over Mary as blackmail, now that she's confessed the truth to both her father and Mathew, he -- to borrow a line from Labyrinth -- has no power over her. And, for his part, Matthew has managed to exorcise the ghost of Lavinia (literally as it turns out -- an earlier scene suggested that she signaled her approval from the great beyond via an Ouija board) and re-open his heart to the possibility of happiness with Mary. Naturally, this news will thrill The Earl and Lady Cora and gives us a big wedding to look forward to either midway through or at the end of Season 3. Unless Matthew and Mary decide to break up again, at which point we'll throw up our hands and exile them both to America. In separate states, of course.
Bates Doesn't Hang
Granted, we were pretty sure that Fellowes wouldn't kill off the Earl's favorite valet. But things didn't look good for Bates when the witnesses that were supposed to prove his innocence (Robert, Mrs. Hughes and O'Brien) wound up effectively sealing his death sentence. Fortunately, The Earl has deep pockets to pay for the best attorneys and Bates's ace lawyer manages to get the punishment changed to life imprisonment. That may not be a great holiday gift, but it's certainly better than a trip to the gallows. And now, they've got a shot at overturning his guilty verdict and getting him back into Anna's arms by the Christmas season... of 1925.
Downton Abbey: The Next Generation
While Sybil and Tom didn't make the trip from Ireland for a proper Downton Christmas, the youngest Crawley did write home with good news: she's pregnant. Well, Lady Cora thought that was good news, anyway; her husband is still having a hard time getting over the fact that his first grandchild will have chauffeur's blood flowing through him. We fully expect to see Sybil and her new bundle of joy next year and especially look forward to Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess and Shirley MacLaine's American Grandmama seeing who can out-coo the other. And, of course, this does put added pressure on her sisters to start producing heirs. At least Mary is getting closer to the mommy track now; poor Edith is still looking for love in all the wrong places. (Speaking of Edith, we were disappointed that she once again didn't get much of a storyline; early on, it seemed like the return of Sir Anthony Strallan might pay off in interesting ways, but that subplot vanished halfway through the episode. Chalk it up to middle child syndrome, we guess.)
Daisy Gets a Dad
For much of Season 2, Downton's kitchen maid has been carrying around a heavy heart, weighed down by the knowledge that she only pretended to love eager second footman-turned-fatally wounded soldier William, who became her husband for six hours before he passed on. Since his death, his father has been making repeated entreaties for Daisy to pay a visit to his farm. She keeps finding excuses not to go, but when ordered to make the trek by William's spirit (actually Mrs. Patmore manipulating the Ouija board) she sucks up her courage. It winds up being a healing trip, as William's dad -- who had already lost his wife and four children before his sole surviving son -- asks her to be his daughter, someone "he can take into my heart and make you special." He makes good on his promise too, immediately offering some fatherly advice about how best to inform Mrs. Patmore that she's ready to be promoted. It's great that Daisy now has a dad she can confide in, but if he starts setting a curfew for her and everything, he may be overstepping his bounds.
Thomas Gets Some Respect
Just when he thought he was out, a poor investment pulled Thomas right back in to the service game. After running Downton during Carson's illness, the former acting sergeant is once again a footman, but has his eye set on Bates's old gig as the Earl's valet. But Robert understandably doesn't trust the guy, which leads Thomas to plot one of his classic schemes: hide his boss's beloved dog Isis and then conveniently "find" her again. But his cunning plan almost backfires when Isis really does go missing. Fortunately, she's found by some local village children and Thomas earns major brownie points with Robert for his disheveled appearance after scouring the woods for the missing canine. If Thomas does land the gig as the Earl's valet, he and O'Brien (Lady Cora's maid and his frequent partner-in-crime) are both in positions to cause some major mischief in Season 3. We can't wait. No seriously, we can't. C'mon Julian Fellowes... maybe you can come up with a special Easter episode or something?
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