“Downton Abbey Season 5: Sneak Peek!” by Erin Clune

Dec 22nd, 2014 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

By now, I trust you’ve all watched the riveting finale of Downton Abbey, Season 4.

If not, perhaps you should take more leisure time. And also, servants. Because trust me: It was a mother lode of high monarchist drama! Waltzes with the Prince of Wales. A high-class London burglary, replete with clever jokes about socks. A vague hint of emotional depth from Mary. And a much anticipated close up of Mr. Carson’s bare feet.

Spoiler alert: No corns. It was lovely.

Season 4 was so riveting, it’s hard to comprehend how Season 5 will keep up the dramatic tension. Will Branson continue to roam the village, complaining of class displacement, in his fancy clothes? Will Daisy condemn herself (yet again) to perpetual spinsterhood, and hang out with that old farmer guy who thinks she’s his daughter? And what, in God’s good name, is that homely sewing lady’s terrible secret?

I can’t answer all of these questions. But based on my knowledge of 20th century European history—which I gleaned while studying 19th century U.S. history—I can make some solid predictions.

1. Depression. And not just Mary’s.

The year is 1939. Of course it is. The Great Depression is an ideal historical magnifying glass through which to examine class tensions in Britain. Besides, the limeys never miss a chance to stick it to the Krauts.

Following the crash, we learn, Downton took its lumps. While unemployed coal miners wandered the Yorkshire countryside begging for food, Mrs. Patmore was scarcely be able to put five courses on the table, four times a day. Once, she even prepared the lunch soufflé with frozen vegetables.

The family Grantham, too busy sighing about the cognac shortage from France to notice that the food was more soggy and overcooked than usual, learned of the frozen food betrayal from Barrow, who saw Mrs. Patmore use the vegetables in question when he was standing in the kitchen, partially concealed by a tarnished silver serving tray. Barrow was glad to share the dirt. He whined through all of Season 4 without any footmen to properly distract him and now he’s just a mean old queen with a weird fake arm. Because of the leak, Downton began tightening their belts. They may have to let some more servants go… Will it be the poor house for Patmore?

2. Pigs or Nazis: Wither Edith?

Based on Edith’s mention of the brown-shirted Germans who “say horrible things,” it’s obvious that Michael Gregson has turned Nazi. That is, after all, how men who knock up their girlfriends and move to Deutschland to become German citizens so they can obtain a divorce from their insane wives always behave. Ever since Edith snatched her baby away from the bereft Swiss couple—who’d been raising her in the naïve faith that they’d finally been blessed with a child—Edith has been sneaking down to the pig pen to visit the little girl everyone now knows as “The Drewes’ daughter.” It’s unclear what Mrs. Drewe thinks is going on. Maybe she hoped her husband, a pig farmer, was getting busy with Edith. Or maybe she put up with Edith’s intrusions because the only thing worse than looking at Edith’s severe face, is listening to her squeaky, simpering voice.

Although Edith frequently returns for dinner coated in pig slop, nobody suspects a thing. She tells Lady Grantham that she has simply taken a keen interest in animal husbandry. After she dropped both her keen interest in nursing and her keen interest in journalism, this excuse is totally believable. Besides, how would Lady Grantham know? She has the maternal instinct of an old blind goat. Even by British standards.

At some point, however, Gregson will resurface. Chances are, he’ll write to Edith, and plead with her to join him and start a proper British-Aryan family. Forced to choose between a normal life as a eugenicist—and her secret life in the pig pen—Edith will naturally take the low road. She will flee to Germany to reunite with the only man who ever loved her, leaving her child in the loving care of the Drewes—the only parents the girl has ever known. Other than those poor bereft Swiss people.

3. The hot one or the rich one: Who will Mary choose?

With Edith gone to Sudetenland, Mary has no one to actively despise. Although she spent Season 4 suspended in a state of indifference to pretty much everything except her choice of earrings, one of the male suitors will surely unleash her raw sexual passion. Which one? Well, my cougar lady friends and I certainly hope it’s Tony Gillingham. He’s hot, even by American standards. But Mary may not follow her heart. First of all, it’s unclear she has one. Also, Mr. Blake has extensive land holdings in British Ulster. Mary may be willing to overlook murder, once or twice. But can she really turn her back on the landed gentry? Oh, please!

Thank goodness for the Americans and their suffragette zeal for Prohibition. Harold Levinson—having taken a big hit in the Teapot Dome scandal—has reinvested his fortune in moonshine. Organized crime may get involved. With any luck, that dumb cluck Ivy will get whacked in a mafia revenge killing, so the entire New World will be spared her banal observations. But in the end, Harold will recover the family fortune and send a large chunk of it to Lord Grantham in an elaborate transatlantic money laundering scheme involving Shirley MacLaine and gin rummy. Suffice to say, it’s complicated. At this point, Mary will once again be free to marry for love. Or whatever she thinks is going on, when she marries the rich guy.

4. Sadly, no, we haven’t seen the last of Rose.

Mr. Bates was able to fix Rose’s last political scandal with his pickpocket prowess but sadly for all of us, the insouciant Rose will be back. After being formally presented at Buckingham Palace, Rose spent the remainder of the 1920’s traveling. The danger of contracting yellow fever—and possibly transmitting the contagion to her mother—drew her straight to India. Whilst living there, Rose became sexually involved with a 60-year-old member of the Indian National Congress, whose identity was kept a secret from the family. When Rose hears rumors that her Indian love might have another lover, she returns to England. She is passionately heartbroken for like, one second.

Scandals to follow. London newspapers speculate that Shrimpy is an Indian sympathizer. Fanning the flames is Branson’s ongoing flirtation with the socialist schoolteacher in the frumpy hat. Knowing that he is the only person who can help Lord Grantham regain his reputation as a paternalistic imperialist—and a little bit sick of the teacher calling him out on his political hypocrisy—Branson throws the school teacher under the bus. Literally. Well, he got Bates to do it. Because really, why play around when there’s a seasoned murdered on staff?

Once she’s out of the public spotlight, Rose takes up with another African American jazz singer, just to bother her mother, still alive.

5. Her ladyship plans a wedding. Gay antics ensue.

All indications point to Season 5 ending in a romantic cliffhanger. Just days before Mary is set to wed, several uninvited guests will most likely appear at Downton.

The first, of course, is Winston Churchill, who’s traveling through the countryside looking for a job. Nobody listens to his constant nattering about the rise fascism, except the lady’s maids, from behind the door. They are truly shocked at the news, not because they so dislike Nazis, or racism, but because they hadn’t realized there was actually something worse than being a British servant.

On the eve of war, there is an unexpected knock on the door. When Mr. Carson opens it, he finds the unlikely pair of Gandhi and Al Jolson, standing side by side. As it turns out, Rose’s new boyfriend was actually Jolson, in blackface, not an actual African American at all. She totally couldn’t tell. Although Gandhi says he always loved her, the svelte parliamentarian then shares a long, intense stare with Barrow, who is partially concealed behind Al Jolson’s favorite top hat. Rose is heartbroken. Then in a second, she’s totally fine.

Next, the orphan girl is found out. This happens when Molesley overhears a conversation between Mr. Drewe and his pigs. Because he’s a bumbling idiot, Molesley recounts the entire conversation to the sewing lady, right in front of Barrow, who is partially concealed behind a pile of soiled livery. Barrow immediately tells the Dowager Countess who—like everyone else in the house—has absolutely no judge of character. The girl is snatched away from the only mother she’s ever known—other than the Swiss people—and called up to the house, where her pointy noise and whiny voice betray her parentage. She is promptly sent to boarding school in Vichy France.

The day of her wedding, Mary sits at her vanity in an Oriental silk dressing gown. “Well, Anna,” she says, handing her a robe so Anna can put it down on the chair right next to her, “Let’s hope the worst of times are behind us.” Ever the starry-eyed optimist—despite the incongruous fact that her husband is a murderer—Anna assures her they are. “What else could possibly go wrong in the world, that hasn’t already happened, m’lady?”

They laugh, their worst fears…. appeased. Cut to shot of dog’s ass.


Erin Clune is a writer and public radio contributor living in Madison, Wisconsin. Her humor essays have aired nationally on To the Best of Our Knowledge and All Things Considered.  She writes local food stories for Edible magazine and WPR’s Wisconsin Life.  She also writes essays for her blog, “Life After NY: Musings from the Third Coast,” which can be found on the internet.  She recently won the first place humor prize from the Wisconsin Writer’s Association.

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