By now, I trust you’ve all watched the riveting season finale of Downton. Surely, you have. If not, perhaps you should arrange for more leisure time. And servants.
If you didn’t watch it -- well, let’s just say it was a mother load of high monarchist drama. Waltzes with the Prince of Wales. A high-class London burglary, aided by a perfect forgery and clever jokes about socks. A hint of emotion from Mary. And the nearly tender embrace of two leading household figures, including a much anticipated close up of Mr. Carson’s bare feet. Spoiler alert: No corns. It was lovely.
How, you ask, can season 5 possibly keep up this level of dramatic tension? Will Branson continue to roam the village, complaining fruitlessly about his feelings of class displacement? Will Daisy condemn herself yet again to perpetual spinsterhood, and hand another suitor to Ivy on a silver savory pie platter? And what, in God’s good name, is that plain sewing lady’s terrible secret?
I can’t answer all of these questions. But based on what I know of 20th century European history – which I learned about when I got my doctorate in 19th century American history -- I can make some solid predictions.
1. Depression. And not just Mary’s.
The year is 1932. The Great Depression is the perfect historical magnifying glass through which to examine class tensions. Besides, season 4 took place in the 1920's. Even the Brits can't jump straight from flappers to Hitler.
Following the crash, Downton will be forced to take its lumps. While unemployed coal miners wander the Yorkshire countryside begging for food, Mrs. Patmore will scarcely be able to put five courses on the table, four times a day. Occasionally, she may even be forced to prepare the soufflé with frozen Birdseye vegetables. The family Grantham, too busy sighing heavily about their financial woes to notice that the food is overcooked, will learn of the frozen food betrayal from Barrow. Of course they will. He slogged through all of season four without digging up any good dirt on anybody. By 1932, Barrow is just a mean old queen who’s gone two straight decades with no other “footmen” to properly distract him. Now Downton's upstairs clan is tightening their belts. They may have to let some servants go. Mrs. Patmore, it's the poor house for you!
2. Pigs or Nazis: Where Will Edith Go?
Based on Edith’s mention of the brown shirted Germans who "say horrible things,” I have to believe that Michael Gregson – after knocking her up and moving to Deutscheland to become a German citizen so he could obtain a divorce from his insane wife – has turned Nazi. Ever since Edith snatched her baby away from the bereft Swiss couple -- who’d been raising her in the naïve faith that they had finally been blessed with a child -- Edith has been sneaking down to the pig pen to visit the little girl everyone knows as “The Drewes’ daughter.” Although it's unclear what Mrs. Drewe thinks is going on -- or why she puts up with Edith’s intrusions -- it's probably because the only thing worse than looking at Edith’s face, is listening to her complain.
Although Edith frequently returns for dinner late, and coated in pig slop, she tells her mother that she has simply taken a keen interest in animal husbandry. This is believable after her keen interest in nursing and her keen interest in journalism. Lady Grantham accepts this explanation because, let’s face it, she’s never had much of a maternal instinct. At some point, though, Gregson will resurface. Believe it. I predict that 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 take the low road and flee to Germany to reunite with the only man who's ever loved her. Though it will be hard for her and she may wimper a lot, she will leave the child in the loving care of the Drewes – the only parents the girl has ever known, other than the 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 four suspended in a state of apparent indifference to pretty much everything, one of these male suitors will surely unleash her raw sexual passion. Which one? Well, my friends and I certainly hope it’s Tony Gillingham. We'd like to see him shirtless. But Mary’s indecision will almost certainly endure for at least half the season. Because times are tough. And Mr. Blake, as it turns out, has extensive land holdings in what the British call Ulster. And while Mary may be willing to overlook murder, and countless other moral infractions, she simply can't turn her back on the colonial landed gentry.
Of course, Downton's financial fate may improve. There are the Americans, after all, and it's Prohibition. Perhaps Harold Levinson -- having taken a big hit in the Teapot Dome scandal – will reinvest his fortune in moonshine. Organized crime may get involved. With any luck, that dumb cluck Ivy may even get whacked during a mafia revenge killing. But in the end, Harold stands to recover the family fortune and more, sending a large chunk of it to Lord Grantham in an elaborate cross-cultural money laundering scheme. At which point, Mary will once again be free to marry for love. Or better yet, lust. Hot, shirtless lust.
4. Sadly, no. You haven’t seen the last of Rose.
Although Mr. Bates was able to fix Rose’s most recent political scandal with his forgery and pickpocketing skills, Rose will be back. After being formally presented at Buckingham Palace, Rose spent the remainder of the 1920’s traveling on her own. The danger of contracting yellow fever and being killed in a native uprising soon draws her to India. Whilst living there -- and primarily to anger her mother -- Rose will become sexually involved with a 60-year old member of the Indian National Congress, whose identity will be a secret. When Rose hears rumors that her elderly boyfriend might be gay, she will break off relations with him, and return to England.
Scandals will follow her. London newspapers will speculate that Shrimpy is an Indian sympathizer. Fanning the flames of rumor and scandal will be Branson’s ongoing flirtation with the socialist village schoolteacher. Knowing that he is the only person who can help Lord Grantham regain his reputation as a right-minded paternalistic imperialist, Branson goes to the papers and gives up the names of several of his family members in the IRA. Disavowing Ireland forever and then throwing the school teacher under the bus – well, he got Bates to do it -- Branson saves the day. Once she’s out of the public spotlight, Rose takes up with another African American jazz singer, on tour in London.
5. Her ladyship plans a wedding. Antics (some of them possibly gay) ensue.
I predict that season five will end in high drama. Just days before Mary is set to wed Gillingham, several uninvited guests will appear at Downton. The first is Winston Churchill, who will be traveling through Britain looking for a job. Nobody listens to his constant nattering about fascism, but it does upset the lady’s maids, who truly had never realized there was something worse than being a British servant.
Soon after, the orphan girl is found out. This when Molesley inadvertently overhears a conversation between Mr. Drewe and the pigs. Because he’s a bumbling idiot, Molesley recounts the entire conversation to the sewing lady, while Barrow stands right next to them, partially concealed behind a pile of soiled livery. Barrow immediately tells the Dowager Countess. The girl is promptly snatched away from the only mother she’s ever known -- other than the Swiss one -- and called up to the house, where her pointy noise and whiny voice instantly betray her parentage.
On the eve of the wedding, there is an unexpected knock on the door. When Mr. Carson opens it, he finds none other than Gandhi, and Al Jolson, standing side by side. It turns out that Rose’s new boyfriend was actually Jolson in blackface. And that her old boyfriend back in India was actually Gandhi. Although he says he loves her, Gandhi then shares a long and intense stare with Barrow, who is standing right next to Mr. Carson, partially concealed behind Al Jolson. Rose, witnessing this, is heartbroken. Then the next second, she’s totally fine.
The day of her wedding, Mary sits at her vanity in a vaguely 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.” Anna, ever the starry-eyed optimist -- despite the rather incongruous fact that her husband is a pickpocket, a forgery expert, and a murderer -- assures her that they are. “What else could possibly go wrong in the world, that hasn’t already happened, m’lady?”
They laugh, their worst fears appeased. And I do mean appeased.
Cut to shot of dog's ass.
They laugh, their worst fears appeased. And I do mean appeased.
Cut to shot of dog's ass.