An indecent proposal, an illegitimate child, a secret downstairs that could endanger someone’s job, blackmailing, a fire, people sneaking into bedrooms in the middle of the night, a wedding anniversary, a dinner party and political arguments. It is a good start for the fifth season of Downton Abbey.
We will meet again with the Crawleys, their servants, friends and acquaintances in 1924, a few months after the events of the Christmas episode of the previous season. The episode shows the evolution of the storylines started last season and includes some new plots that promise to shake up the next episodes.
Lady Edith keeps the arrangement with Mr. Drewe, which now raises her illegitimate daughter as if it was a daughter of some distant friend. Edith’s frequent visits raise Drewe’s wife’s suspicions who thinks Lady Edith is interested in her husband. This makes Drewe looks for Edith to warn her that their arrangement is quite fragile and that they need a better plan if they want to keep up appearances. Drewe tells Edith that knows the true identity of little Marigold, but being loyal to the Crawleys, keeps his word to help keeping Edith’s secret well guarded. But happiness seems still very far from poor Edith, and it is her sadness that makes her careless and cause a fire at Downton, which fortunately doesn’t injured anyone and seems to affect only her own bedroom.
Lady Mary has definitely left behind the period of mourning for her dead husband and is willing to marry again, mainly because she knows her responsibilities as the guardian of her son’s inheritance. She shows some interest in Lord Gillingham, but despite the charming Viscount pressures for her to marry him, Mary doesn’t seem to be very sure if he is the one. To convince her to marry him, Gillingham come up with a very bold proposal: he wants her to spend a week with him, as lovers, so they will know everything they need to know about each other, and with that, he is sure that Mary will finally accept his marriage proposal. In addition to her love life, we also see the development other sides of Mary’s personality: a loving and devoted mother for little George, a sassy and even mean sister, and a secure and independent woman perfectly adjusted to her responsibilities in the administration of the state alongside with her father and brother-in-law. If her relationship with Edith returned to the terms it was in the first season, the same can not be said of her relationship with her father. There is a noticeable evolution and he finally seems to accept her as part of the team that runs the state.
Although the relationship of Lord Grantham with his eldest daughter, Mary and his son in law, Tom Branson, have definitely evolved and the three of them now appear to work in harmony in the state management, Robert Crawley is still a man struggling to adjust to changing times. The arrival of a Labour government and the preference from the villagers by his butler, Charles Carson, instead of him to lead the committee to erect a monument to local men killed in the war, affects him more than he would admit. This reflects straight in the way he relates to his wife. Accommodated in the comfort of 34 years of a marriage that, despite having gone through some turbulent times, always was undoubtedly happy, Lord Grantham doesn’t seem to realize we can’t have things for granted, especially a relationship. So he can’t see that, despite his gentle and bright words on his wedding anniversary dinner, where he said to be a lucky man to have on his side the best companion in the world, his beloved wife, Cora Crawley, seems to need a lot more of him than he is actually giving her.
Tom Branson is another family member that struggles to fit in, except that in his case, the former chauffeur is someone in search of his own identity. With his political convictions softened, but not forgotten, he engages in a discussion with his father-in-law when he comes out in defense of Sarah Bunting. The young and opinionated local school teacher is invited to a dinner party to celebrate the wedding anniversary of Robert and Cora Crawley by Lady Rose, who, with the agreement of Cora and Mary, thinks a good idea that Tom can have a friend among the guests. But the arrangement is disastrous, as the young teacher ends butting heads with her host when they discuss the validity or not of building a monument to honor the fallen soldiers.
Downstairs, the evil-not-so-evil under-butler, Thomas Barrow, continues to blackmail the poor Ladies Maid, Baxter, who hides a secret in her past that may hinder her position at Downton Abbey. Despite the heroic intervention of Mr. Molesley, Thomas threatens Baxter in all forms and demands her to tell him what she knows that can link Mr. Bates and Anna to the late Mr. Green, the infamous Lord Gillingham’s valet. But Baxter, advised by a sweet and kind Mr. Molesley creates courage and tells Cora her secret (or at least part of it). In the past, she was convicted and imprisoned for stealing jewelry from her former employer. But a mystery endures, as she states that the jewels were never found but didn’t tell Cora what was its destiny.
The machinations of Thomas go awry when Lady Grantham berates him for letting someone with a spotty past come inside of her home, since Baxter got the job by being indicated by Barrow. A menacing Lady Grantham makes it clear to Thomas that is his position in Downton which is now in danger. But Thomas also shows his softer side, as his friendship with Jimmy Kent seems to flourish. He even helps the young footman to sneak into Lady Anstruther bedroom, not before witnessing the dashing Tony Gillingham sneak into Lady Mary’s room in the middle of the night. Jimmy Kent’s former employer, after sent him numerous mails and faking a broken car near by, comes to spent a night at Downton exclusively to see Jimmy (in the very biblical way).
But despite Barrow’s help, fate seems to be against Jimmy, who is surprised by Lord Grantham himself in Lady Anstruther’s bed during the fire. If the fire may have jeopardized Jimmy’s job, the same can’t be said of Thomas, who returns to the good graces of Lady Grantham after he saves Lady Edith’s life.
Mr. Molesley decides to look younger to impress Baxter, but his plan doesn’t seem to have much success. Anna and Bates live a quieter time and things between the couple seems to be well adjusted, as they talk, even though indirectly, the possibility of having children. Daisy seems to worry about her future and decide to study on her own. But get disappointed with herself when her efforts go nowhere, causing the always maternal Mrs. Patmore to come to help her, even in a rather unorthodox way, since the lady boss of the kitchen, supported by Mr. Carson think that studying might not be a good idea to Daisy since it can only bring her disappointment. That opinion is not shared by the always open minded Mrs. Hughes.