Downton Abbey, Season 5  (2014)

 

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

 

The roaring twenties have come to the great country estate of Downton, but not much has changed.

 

Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) is still stringing along beaux's as she tries to determine which one is deserving of the title and position as her husband. Her younger sister Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) has installed her illegitimate daughter in the home of a local farmer, and "taken quite an interest" in the child, though no one not in on the secret (which at present is only her aunt and grandmother) can understand why.

 

Lady Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) is indulging the whims and flatteries of an esteemed art critic, much to the annoyance of her husband, Robert (Hugh Bonneville). Their cousin Isobel () has been graced by the attentions of a local lord, whose interest in her may be more than just friendship. Grandmother Violet (Maggie Smith) is there to liven life up with a witty barb or two ... and that is just upstairs. Downstairs, Anna (Joanne Froggett) is distressed at keeping secrets, her husband Bates (Brendan Coyle) is suspicious that she is hiding something from him, the police are nosing around after the death of a raping valet, Daisy (Sophie McShra) is studying up to "advance herself in the world," Thomas is looking a bit green about the gills, and Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) continues to resist modern advancements.

 

Downton Abbey has fallen into a predictable formula, so anyone who enjoys the previous seasons will no doubt find this one equally engaging, even though for me it has lost a bit of its creative polish. I ask this will all sincere honesty -- how long and how many seasons must Anna and Bates' only plot line revolve around distrust, secrets, and police investigations? It is tiresome. That being said, the other shenanigans going on are entertaining, including the second half of the season's emphasis on displaced Russian aristocracy and the romance between Lady Rose (Lily James) and a chap of Jewish-Russian ancestry. Mary has abandoned her old hairstyle and the old-fashioned morals that go with it, by picking up and then discarding a lover. Edith continues to be foolish. This time, it is Cora who is tempted to stray from her marriage and not Robert, and we have a bit of absurdity in rekindling flames 60 years dead. 

 

The costuming and scope of the production is, as usual, charming. Individual characters get little pieces of stories but some of the old favorites are sidelined in favor of new cast members (Thomas has maybe a dozen lines throughout). We see tidbits of historical facts and shifting policies as the 20's hit the house and bring the liberal movement, progressive politics, shorter hairstyles and more lax morals with it. In truth, I'm not sure where I stand on this season. I miss the days when the storylines felt fresh back when the show was just beginning. I feel a sense of déjà vu at times because of the lack of originality. No one thus far is "quite right" for Lady Mary. Yet, like the rest of the world, though I may not like the behavior of certain members of the household, I continue to watch ... just to see what will happen next.

 
Sexual Content:
Mary enjoys unwedded bedded bliss in a hotel with a young man (implied through conversation, a scene with them together in bed one morning, etc); she later decides not to marry him after all. Conversation revolves around becoming lovers, purchasing "certain things to prevent pregnancy," etc. A man is set up to look like a libertine the night before his wedding, when a woman is photographed coming out of his room; a man makes a pass at a married woman in her bedroom (she rejects him). Thomas injects himself with medication in order to cure himself of homosexuality. References to previous affairs and being "seduced."
 
Language:
The usual mild profanities and abuses of deity.
 
Violence:
Two men engage in a fist fight over the honor of a woman.

Other:
None.