Downton Abbey Season 5 Review

  • Series Title: Downton Abbey
  • Season: 5
  • Episodes:  8, plus “A Trip to the Moors” special
  • Discs:  3
  • Network:  ITV
  • Cast:  Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Dan Stevens, Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan, Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle, Sophie Mcshera, Lesley Nicol, Robert James-Collier, Allen Leech, Samantha Bond, Lily James, Raquel Cassidy, Matt Barber
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD (R1, NTSC)

This review contains Spoilers for Season 5 of Downton Abbey.

When last we saw Lady Edith Crawley she was determined to return to Switzerland to bring home her illegitimate daughter. Much of this season focuses on Edith and her daughter, Marigold. Edith reaches out to Mr. and Mrs. Drewe, tenant farmers on the estate. Edith had met the farming couple when she helped them during the war, and she got along well with Mr. Drewe, although there was more friction between Mrs. Drewe and Lady Edith, due to Mrs. Drewe’s misplaced jealousy. Lady Edith sees Mr. Drewe privately at Downton Abbey and explains how a “friend” of hers had died and left behind a child, whom she wanted to care for – but her mother didn’t approve of this friend, so she wanted the girl to stay at the Drewe’s farm and she would sponsor the child. It’s as thinly-veiled a story as it seems, but Mr. Drewe accepts it, telling Lady Edith he wouldn’t judge her. He also says he’ll tell his wife that a friend of his had died and named him and his wife as guardians for his child.

Marigold now lives at Yew Tree farm (the Drewes farm) and Edith visits frequently. Unfortunately, Mrs. Drewe again becomes jealous and tells Lady Edith not to come. Meanwhile, the investigation into what happened to Michael Gregson continues. Gregson’s publishing company learns that he was attacked by brown shirts, and finally he is officially reported as dead. This sends Edith into a tailspin. She takes advantage of the entire family being at a steeplechase outing and goes to Yew Tree farm where she takes Marigold and runs off to London. Having inherited Michael Gregson’s publishing company, Edith is about to run it and raise Marigold on her own. Cora, Rosamund, and the Dowager Countess go to London to bring Edith back. Marigold is brought into the house formally, though officially the child is the family’s ward and not Edith’s child. But Edith can still raise and care for her daughter, though at the moment she can’t acknowledge her. Cora learns the truth about Marigold. At the very end of the season, both Tom and Lord Grantham figure it out.

Mary is still being courted by several suitors, though Tony Gillingham actually breaks off his engagement to Miss Mabel Lane-Fox to court Mary. Mary finally decides she needs to spend some real time with Gillingham, so she arranges for them to spend a week together in Liverpool including sleeping together. To make sure she doesn’t get pregnant, she sends Anna to a pharmacy to buy a diaphragm. Anna is extremely embarrassed but does it. Both Mary and Anna read a book about “Married Love”.

Mr. Green, the valet who attacked Anna, is now dead, from an apparent hit-and-run. The police harass and interview both Mr. and Mrs. Bates. While both have plenty of motive – neither have any opportunity, with Mr. Bates having spent that day in York and Anna having been in Downton for the church fete. However, the police persist and it’s actually Anna who is arrested. Then they receive a letter, a confession, but Mr. Bates goes on the run. By the end of the season, the family and servants at Downton are able to prove Mr. Bates innocent and he returns at Christmas.

Mrs. Patmore inherits some money and buys herself a retirement cottage. The village puts up a war memorial but doesn’t include Mrs. Patmore’s nephew Archie. However, Lord Grantham has a special memorial to Archie placed on the church. Lord Grantham’s dog dies from cancer. Mr. Carson suggests to Mrs. Hughes that they also buy a house, rent it out for now, and then retire there. Mrs. Hughes goes along at first, but then reveals she has no money because all of her spare wages go to support her younger sister who isn’t “right in the head”. Carson proposes at the end of the season.

William’s father suggests that Daisy should take over his farm, but she realizes she doesn’t know how to run a farm. When she looks at math books, she gets confused and feels stupid. Ms. Bunting, the local school teacher tutors her. Ms. Bunting is also interested in the widower, Tom, but although they get along well, they are not romantically suited for each other – and every time Ms. Bunting does attend a dinner or cocktail party at the house, she ends up getting in an argument with Lord Grantham. Daisy also starts to parrot back what she’s learned from Ms. Bunting. Daisy even briefly considers moving to London to get a good chef’s job but changes her mind when she realizes that would leave Mrs. Patmore alone.

Throughout the season, Tom talks of moving to the US with Sibbie, his daughter. His brother in Boston contacts him and invites him over. Finally, his brother offers him a partnership in a business venture. Tom decides he will stay at Downton for Christmas and leave in the new year.

Mary, meanwhile decides that Tony doesn’t suit her. She also meets Mabel and realizes Tony really should marry her because they are well-suited to each other as a couple. Her conversations with Tony accomplish nothing. Finally, Mary and another of her old suitors arrange for Tony to see Mary kissing this other man at the Cinema. This gets Mary off the hook.

Lady Rose meets a young man by chance in the rain. They take an immediate liking to each other, and before long they are engaged. Atticus is Jewish, but the Granthams’ don’t mind because Lady Grantham’s father was Jewish. There is friction against the marriage from Lady Rose’s mother and Atticus’s father but the marriage takes place at the registry office as planned.

The season finale has the Crawley’s go to a shooting party at a castle owned by Atticus’s father. And it is an impressive locale. Mary meets someone who doesn’t even know she was married to Matthew and upon between told she’s widowed, he assumes she lost her husband in the war. She tries to correct this notion but they are interrupted. After the shooting party, the group returns to Downton Abbey for Christmas, including Atticus who is introduced to new customs. Tom again states his plan to leave. At one point, Mary, Tom, and Edith are all hanging stockings for their children in the nursery and they say a prayer of remembrance together for Sybil. Mary is a widow with a son. Tom is a widower with a daughter. And Edith is single, has a child, and lost her lover to violence in Germany.

I liked Season 5 of Downton Abbey, though at times it feels very much like a soap opera (Why can’t Anna and John Bates be happy? Why does Edith have to have such a complicated life?). I like Edith, though. Some times she seems to cry or whine more than she should, but it makes her more realistic than some of the other characters. The storyline with Ms. Bunting and Daisy felt extremely forced. Daisy’s constant talking about how she feels “oppressed” and that just seeing art at the museums in London makes her realized what she’s missed. (Mind you, the museums are free and Daisy could have gone to them whenever she liked. Daisy also has been one of the kinder and sweeter characters, though she’s nasty to the kitchen maid, Ivy, when she thinks Ivy is after the footman she’s sweet on. This footman, of course, has no interest in either Daisy or Ivy.) It just felt off. Daisy wasn’t like Gwen who wanted to move up in the world. And Daisy wasn’t like Alfred who had only taken the footman job because it was what his mother wanted and who had always wanted to be a chef. Daisy wasn’t even like Thomas and O’Brien who resented serving the family and were therefore nasty to everyone else. It was like the show decided to shoehorn in a plot without really making it suit the character, so it came off as being badly written. In a similar fashion, Ms. Bunting’s arguments with the family and their guests, especially Lord Grantham were very ill placed – there is no way a woman in 1924 would be so rude to an Earl. It just wouldn’t happen. But the show is still quite watchable. If Tom does disappear next season, I’m going to miss him a lot – he’s another character who has grown and is more realistic. I still recommend this series.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 1.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 2.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 3.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 4.