Season 5 Episode 1
The general Election of 1924 brings a Labour government into power, to the consternation of Robert and Carson, though many of the staff are pleased to have a prime minister from the working class. A village delegation, building a war memorial to local dead, requests Carson, not Robert, to head its committee and the class-bound butler feels awkward, ensuring the earl is made a patron. Tim Drewe tells Lady Edith he knows that Marigold, the daughter he and his wife have adopted, is her child whilst Lady Mary receives another proposal from Tony Gillingham. Violet organizes a lunch party to match Isobel with Lord Merton though Isobel resists and at Robert and Cora's anniversary dinner supports Sarah Bunting and Tom's view that the war was futile. Robert immediately takes a dislike to Sarah. Barrow continues to pressurize Baxter to disclose damning information on John Bates but, encouraged by the adoring Molesley, she tells Cora her secret, that she was imprisoned for theft from an employer, so the plan backfires on Barrow. However he becomes a hero for rescuing the unhappy Edith, who has accidentally started a fire in her bedroom. Subsequent evacuation leads to the discovery of young footman Jimmy, nude in bed with his former employer, saucy guest Lady Anstruther, prompting Robert to call for the boy's dismissal...[button color="black" size="small" link="http://www.itv.com/downtonabbey/" target="blank" ]Official Site[/button]
Oh baby, baby
The 90-minute opener wastes precious little time in reminding us exactly where we left off in season 4. Lady Edith, who gave birth to her daughter in Switzerland when last we saw her, crosses the estate on her bicycle. Her destination? To visit the farmhand, Mr. Drewe, who has taken Marigold in.
More worryingly for Edith is that Mr. Drewe himself seems to have put two-and-two together, and figured that she is Marigold’s biological mother. He reassures her that her secret will remain safe with him, and he resolves to think of a logical reason for her to continue her visits, but it begs the question of who else might uncover Marigold’s true identity over the course of the season.
Change has arrived
As the trailer for this season warned us, change has come to Downton. This is never more apparent than when we rejoin the Crawley family in their drawing room, where Robert is reading about the recent election of the Labour party into government. Unsurprisingly, he is less than enthused by this particular change. This sentiment isn’t one shared by the entire family, however, but they don’t get into the politics of it too much before the arrival of the youngest members of estate — George and Sybbie.
Sybbie also has a nickname for her Grandfather that he isn’t too fond of, and hopes that his grandson won’t pick up: “Donk.” Named for her current favorite past-time…pin the tail on the donkey. We have to admit that got more than a chortle from us.
We also learn of plans to erect a memorial to honour and remember the men who lost their lives during the war. Though Robert initially assumes that the committee means to have him as Chairman — as tradition would suggest — they instead want him for his land. Ouch. But who do the committee suggest appear in Robert’s stead? Well, that would be Downton’s very own butler, Mr. Carson. It appears that he is well loved in the village, and had strong ties to a large number of the local men who fought in the war.
Love is all around
Jimmy isn’t the only one with some romantic prospects. Everyone’s favorite Dowager Countess has been setting up a match between Isobel and Lord Merton — despite Isobel’s protestations of her interest in return. It all seems to be going in Violet’s favour, until she realises just how elevated Isobel’s station will become should they marry. After that, Violet begins to run interference — by holding a luncheon during which she throws a widowed Lady into Merton’s path. Its not all doom and gloom for Isobel, however, as Violet’s more preferable match for her makes an appearance: Dr. Clarkson.
Branson is also torn between his head and his heart, as school teacher Sarah Bunting returns. She’s of a similar political mind to Branson, as we well know, but her brash and outspoken ways set him at odds with his family — especially when she attends Cora and Robert’s anniversary dinner. We likely haven’t seen the last of her, but it certainly isn’t going to be smooth sailing for them, no matter the outcome.
The secret is out
After a whole season of bullying the poor woman, Baxter finally took a stand against Barrow. Through Moseley’s encouragement she tells Lady Grantham her dirty little secret. She’s a convicted felon. Whilst working as a Lady’s maid in London, she stole some valuables, and went to prison for three years for the deed. Cora is, understandably, not happy with this development — but Baxter will be remaining in her services for the foreseeable future. We get the feeling, like Cora, that we don’t quite have the whole story here. There seems to be more to the ‘why’ surrounding the crime, which we hope to get a satisfying answer to by the season’s end.
As for Barrow, who attempts to out Baxter himself? Well, Lady Grantham shuts him down. Hard. Which is understandable, considering that he was the one to recommend her for the position in the first place. Cora makes it very explicit that Barrow’s position at Downton is just as likely to be terminated as Baxter’s for his deception.
With everyone neatly in place at the estate, following Lord and Lady Grantham’s wedding anniversary, everything starts falling into place for the climax of the episode.
Edith, who received a German primer belonging to her former lover Michael Gregson earlier in the episode, throws it to one side during an emotional fit when she thumbs through it to find a picture of their daughter. She turns over and cries herself to sleep, as a flame catches the pages and sends the whole room up in smoke.
Lady Mary and Gillingham share some conversation about their future, as the fire spreads in the other room, and he makes a very scandalous suggestion. That Mary join him for a week, so they can better learn about each other (in every sense of the word), before she commits to being his wife. She agrees, but only on the condition that no one find out. This moment is interrupted by the discovery of the fire, and her concern is immediately for her young son.