Downton Abbey Season 6 (2015)
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
There really is no middle ground when it comes to Downton Abbey: either you think the plots are endlessly recycling the same themes every year, or you think it's the cat's meow.
Roaring twenties have hit the great estate, bringing inevitable change -- much to the distress of Lady Violet (Maggie Smith), who is refuting attempts to consolidate the local hospital with a larger branch for all she is worth. This puts her at odds with the ever-forward-thinking Isabel (Penelope Wilton), who is staging a secret coo behind her back with the assistance of Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) in an attempt to move them into new and advanced medicine. Robert (Hugh Bonneville) wants nothing to do with it, and to be content at home... but Downton, like all large estates, is forced to reduce its staff and join the "modern" way of doing things: by halves. He is also troubled by petty illness, while his daughter Edith (Laura Carmichael) cares for her secret daughter and tries to run a London newspaper whose publishing editor happens to look down on her for being a woman. Mary (Michelle Dockery) has all but taken over the running of the estate, but is waffling on her interest in certain male suitors.
Below stairs, Daisy (Sophie McShera) is sensing a bit of attraction between the industrious and would-be-rental-owner Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) and her adopted father, which does not sit well with the little miss. Anna (Joanne Froggatt) is embarking on a new world of scientific advancement and discovery in an attempt to have a child, to the delight of Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle). Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) are about to tie the knot, not realizing the full extent of married life and all it will require from them. Poor disgraced Thomas (Rob James-Collier) is searching in vain for a position elsewhere, among all the petty misunderstandings, sabotages, and arguments we've grown accustomed to over the years. Before the end, Branson (Allen Leech) will be home again, secrets will come to light, and the family will face potential loss with courage.
The final season of this worldwide phenomenon needs no introduction, but it is what one has come to expect of the series -- alternating between sweetness and moments of meanness, always worshipful of the obnoxious Mary. You know what to expect every year, and this is no exception -- Mary ruining things for Edith (on purpose), Isabel and Violet clawing at each other, Robert complaining about "change," and some grand miscommunications downstairs, along with a bit of bratty-ness from Daisy. Mr. Carson will be rude, Mrs. Hughes will try to smooth it over, Thomas will feel misunderstood and persecuted, and it will all end well... of a sort. As always, the costumes are lovely, the house is breathtaking, and there are some wonderful moments of comedy interspersed with occasional flat characters (Mary's new amore seems a bit dull and forced) and as usual, trauma is used as a plot point and then ignored (last season it was rape, this season it's' suicide). It can be a tad bit frustrating at times, but it's always entertaining.
References are made to an unmarried woman sleeping with a man at a hotel (someone tries to blackmail her with this information); a woman is distressed to discover that her hotel has been called a 'house of ill repute' due to an adulterous couple staying there. A woman confesses that she's nervous about her wedding night and asks if her husband expects 'everything' (he says he desires a wife in every way).
Occasional mild language.
A violent car crash ends in someone's death (off screen, the aftermath shown); a man suddenly spits up blood all over the table and his companions after his ulcer bursts. A man is found having slit his wrists in a bathtub.