Review: Downton Abbey ‘The Christmas Special’

Merry Christmas, America! Yes, I know, the calendar has just been flipped to March. So rather than dragging the decorations from the top of the wardrobe, get yourself a cup of tea, and get comfy for the final Downton Abbey of the season. Yes, the Christmas Special. Don’t fret though, the festivities here don’t really show up unto the last third of the ninety-minute closer. That is not to say we are not kept occupied until then.

The finale begins with various conversations trying to keep morale high for Anna, now temporarily in prison for the apparent murder of Mr. Green. Seeming genuinely perturbed by something for a change, Mary visits her. Later, her husband Mr. Bates pops in, and Anna tells about how her step-father could not keep his hands to himself when she was young, causing her to stab him. He survived, but still, where did that revelation come from? Having left letters confessing to Green’s death to set Anna free, Mr. Bates flees for the time being (to Ireland possibly, according to the information he left Lord Grantham).

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Mr. Molesley, longing for something useful to do as much as we want a meaty storyline for him, goes out of his way to help the situation. Miss Baxter comes along for support, and they take a photo of Bates around the pubs in York on their days off and find a landlord that remembers Mr. Bates. And with the witness of the Mr. Green murder having doubts, it looks like Anna and her husband could be off the hook. They are reunited at the very end – in a rather over-Christmassy and gushy moment. Great stuff. I can’t wait to see which murder-mystery they will be made prime suspects to next season.

The core of this episode is Christmas at Brancaster Castle – the home of the Sinderbys – for a spot of outdoor shooting and indoor bickering. The butler, Mr. Stowell, is a bit like a bulldog chewing a wasp, digging like a snob here not being helpful like he should there – especially to Tom it seems. In fact he makes the naturally troublesome Mr. Barrow look like Prince Charming. The rivalry between the two goes a little too far when Barrow uncovers Lord Sinderby has fathered a love child with another woman. Big fat oops. Rose steps in and covers his tracks – thus earning her father-in-law’s acceptance and respect (so that is what it takes!).

As it is Christmas (did I mention that?) Lord Grantham is having a drink and getting rather merry. It has been a while though, as he waited to hear what those pains in his chest and stomach were – turns out to be an ulcer, thankfully. Cora was genuinely, and publically, concerned – though she rarely shows much heavy emotion it has to be said. Robert, who has grown in compassion of late (the big softie), decides to speak to Edith about Marigold. He conveys that everything is okay with him.

“Do you forgive me papa?” his daughter pleads.

“I am sure I need your forgiveness as much.” he humbly admits. That embrace has been too long coming.

So what else? Who dies this time? Well, nobody. The whole affair is measured with heart-warming human spirit, family bonds, and the regular sprinkle of humor. Sprat and Denker are on the brink of falling into a Buster Keaton movie with their slapstick verbal to-and-fro, hopefully concluded with a pot of chicken broth. Princess Curagin finally arrives, and she has a chip on her shoulder, too. For a Christmas special, there’s an awful lot of hostility. Violet admits she savoured the proposition of the Prince and that relationship must now come to an end. Isobel, too, calls it off with Lord Merton following correspondence with his son, Larry.

Mr. Carson and Mrs, Hughes view some houses, considering a bed and breakfast venture as their retirement. Mrs. Hughes, who we think is just not keen at first, confesses she has no money. That everything she had and worked for went on caring for her mentally ill sister before she died. Putting up the whole of the investment himself, Mr. Carson honestly claims he wants to be stuck with Mrs. Hughes and proposes to her. Wow. And she is anything but offended, as Mr. Carson suggests, and she accepts. Now we just need the Mr. Mosely and Mrs. Baxter romance to blossom. Come on, we have been secretly craving that too for some time now.


The final episode of Season Five of Downton Abbey is mercifully kind to its audience, without shaking things up too much now that we have a long, long break away from the show. My possible man-crush, Matthew Goode turns up as Henry, and it is not long before he is querying subtly about Mary’s husband before impressing her with his shooting – not figuratively. Surely that is a suitor storyline for the next season.

Mary, Edith, and Tom share a moment to remember Lady Sybil (one of the season’s most weepy scenes). And in the closing festivities, Mary sings Silent Night with Edith on piano. It’s a surprisingly touching moment. Though I am a teary sucker for that song anyway. Robert also finds his heart still on his sleeve as he bids the much-loved Tom a kind farewell. The biggest Christmas tree you are likely to see for some time kind of steals the show in the end. That would have been some juicy, well-anticipated drama, had they ran with it, seeing them get that green beast into the great house.

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