The drama and scandal of Downton Abbey returns with the UK premiere of season 5 on Sunday night. Find out exactly what happened to the Crawley family and their servants in our official review.
Warning: Spoilers ahead. I’d recommend not reading this review if you haven’t seen Downton Abbey season 5, episode 1.
Edith or Mummy?
When the episode begins, the first character that we see is Lady Edith on a bike ride to the village. It’s there where she stops to see a family. As it turns out, this is the family who adopted the little girl, Marigold, whom she gave birth to in Switzerland. Mr. Drewe and his wife have almost forgotten that Marigold isn’t one of their own and love her as if she is. Mr. Drewe is the only one who knows of Edith’s real reasons for visiting, but Edith is unaware of this. Mrs. Drewe, however, thinks that Edith’s frequent pop ins are a result of her “affections” for her husband.
It’s later on, when Lady Edith and Mr. Drewe meet in private, that he tells her that he’s been able to put two-and-two together and figured out that Marigold is Edith’s daughter. He promises to keep her secret and assures her that he does not judge her. While Mr. Drewe promises to help Edith come up with a logical reason for her visits, it does make you wonder just how long they can keep this secret and what will happen if knowledge of Edith’s illegitimate child falls into the wrong hands?
A Shaking of the Ground
Change will play a huge theme in Downton Abbey’s fifth season as British culture and society moves further and further away from the elitist lifestyle that the Crawley family is accustomed to. This, of course, makes some members of the house uneasy. Lord Grantham, whose granddaughter Sybbie has come up with a delightfully unique nickname for him: “Donk,” is shaken by the fact that the newly elected government is in fact the Labour party and the new prime minister is Ramsay MacDonald.
Many people downstairs, like Anna, Mrs. Hughes, and Jimmy, approve of the labour government because they liked the idea of a prime minister who has been “a working stiff” – someone who knows what it’s like for the majority of people.
A committee meets with Lord Grantham with plans to build a war memorial to honour those men who were injured or killed during the Great War. Robert mistakenly believes that they want him to be the Chairman, but it’s Carson that the committee really wants, since he was closer to many of the men who lost their lives. Carson, at first, is hesitant to accept the position, because as he tells Mrs. Hughes, he doesn’t like being in a position that, in a way, puts him above Lord Grantham.
Carson eventually accepts the offer, but on the condition that the committee make Lord Grantham the patron – a fact which he did not reveal to Lord Grantham when telling him about the committee’s “decision.”
Baxter’s Lies Revealed
Much like the previous season, Thomas continues his harrassment of Baxter, reminding her that he got her the job at Lady Grantham’s lady’s maid and that he has information about her that could get her fired. In return, he wants her to deliver him information that she collects from her time around the house. Mr. Molesley has been able to help Baxter with her confidence around Thomas, often times asking her for help or to do some other activity when Thomas is grilling her for information.
Thomas, who has grown incredibly impatient with Baxter, who has adamantly refused to give up any information, tells her that he will go to Cora (Lady Grantham) tonight if he doesn’t get the information he wants. Mr. Molesley, unaware of the nature of Baxter’s secret, convinces her to tell Cora the truth about her past.
In Cora’s bedroom, Baxter tells her everything, including how Thomas was withholding this secret as well. It turns out that Baxter was a friend of Thomas’ sister when they were kids. At one point, Baxter was working for another family from whom she stole some jewels. She tried to make it look like a burglary, but the family found out that it was her, and Baxter spent three years in jail. Before any more information can be provided, Robert walks in and Baxter leaves the room.
Later that night, Thomas tells Cora that he has some information about Baxter, which Cora reveals she already knows. She asks Thomas why he would recommend a convicted felon for the position of her lady’s maid and warns Thomas that his job is in as much jeopardy as Baxter’s.
The Complications of Love
Violet, the Dowager Countess, has been urging cousin Isobel to take on a relationship with Lord Merton. Isobel, however, is refusing his advances. Violet soon realizes what it would mean if the two were to get married: a higher status for Isobel, putting her on par with Violet in the community. It’s then that Violet plans to sabotage the entire relationship by introducing Lord Merton with a widowed Lady that she knows. In return, she intends to set Isobel up with Dr. Clarkson.
To celebrate Lord and Lady Grantham’s anniversary, the house throws a dinner party, to which Rose invites Tom’s old school teacher friend, Sarah Bunting. Robert, however, does not approve of Sarah, thinking that she had an inappropriate relationship with Tom inside Downton Abbey while the family was away at one point. Sarah and Robert exchange words over dinner regarding their political beliefs, and the night ends on an even more sour note when Sarah insists on thanking Mrs. Patmore and the rest of the staff downstairs in person. Later, Tom sets Robert straight, telling him that absolutely nothing happened between him and Sarah, which Robert believes.
Jimmy seems to be in over his head when it’s discovered that he’s been exchanging letters with one of his former employers, Lady Anstruther. A sexual relationship is hinted at, though never really confirmed. Lady Anstruther stops by one evening, lying about the fact that her car is having trouble. The family insists that she stay the night, which leads to her and Jimmy in bed together. It’s Robert who discovers the two when a fire breaks out and it’s Robert who later instructs Carson to fire Jimmy, but still give him a good reference.
Fire, Fire, Fire!
Lord Gillingham comes to Downton Abbey to visit Lady Mary and it’s during an outing that Mary tells him that she does love him. Later on, the night of the fire, Gillingham suggests that Mary come stay with him for a week so that they can talk and really get to know each other. He also suggests that they “spend the nights together.” Mary agrees, but on the condition that no one ever find out.
Meanwhile, Edith is in bed reading a book which Mrs. Hughes had mysteriously found that contains a note from Michael Gregson, her lover and father of her daughter, who went missing during a trip to Germany. Inside the book is also a photo of Marigold as a baby. Upset about her situation, Edith throws the book against the wall but holds onto the photo. The book however, catches fire and the flames quickly spread.
Thomas discovers smoke coming from Edith’s bedroom and finds her unconscious in bed. He rescues her and the whole house is quickly evacuated as Robert and Tom try to fight the fire until the local fire department arrives to take over.
Mary and Lord Gillingham’s conversation is interrupted with Thomas’s shouts warning everyone of the fire. Mary’s first thought is for her son George, who has been taken from the nursery, along with Sybbie, by Tom.
Cora, overjoyed that her daughter is all right, forgives Thomas for his deceit, and tells him that all is forgiven.