To London! Rose’s hasty wedding would take place in the metropolis, which meant packing up Mrs Patmore’s sharpest utensils and decamping to the land of cosmopolitan culture, late-night bars and improbable, unsolved murders.
Before that, there were matters to attend to. Lord Grantham browsed cheerily though a tombstone and obelisk catalogue, ahead of the great unveiling of the Downton war memorial. The Dowager Countess gasped at Prince Kuragin, who surprised her in bed. In the sense that she was still in bed when her uppity maid Denker reported that he was in the drawing room, but his reason for being there was hardly less shocking, even though the D-C was fully dressed in a lavender morning smock by the time he could announce it: he wanted them to be together, and damn his missing wife.
Can the galloping Russian tempt the Dowager out of erotic retirement? Roll on the Christmas special.
Anna Bates and her husband, Bates Bates, also travelled south with something on their minds. The police had yet again come to the house, asking to see them both but specifying that Anna, not Bates, report to Scotland Yard while in London.
For everyone else, the worry was Lord Sinderby, Rose’s prospective father-in-law, who has the air of being able to bring down governments with one swipe of his eyebrows. Keen to preserve the Sinderbys’ Jewish lineage, he disapproved of Rose. This would mean trouble.
In the event Sinderby was trumped by Rose’s mother, a woman who perpetually looks as if she has retained a lemon. She blew in like a mustard gas attack, loudly updating the Crawleys on exactly how much she right now was hating Shrimpy, a lovely bewildered penguin of a man she is desperate to divorce due to his insistence on intermittently enjoying life.
That wasn’t the worst of her. On reflection it makes sense that Rose’s mother would hate Jews, since they are a thing that exists in the world, but the force of her anti-Semitic guff still shocked the clan during the pre-wedding dinner, a misguided event at which the in-laws were allowed to air the sort of festering prejudices that newlyweds usually only find out about after it’s legally too late.
Sinderby couldn’t compete, but gave it a go by grumpily listing his top three least favourite things: card sharps, uncooked fish and divorce. With no baccarat planned and Mrs Patmore’s halibut gazpacho absent from the wedding menu, the first two were OK, but tense looks were exchanged when his Lordship got onto why marital termination is a sign you and your family are weak, degraded scum.
The plan had been for Rose’s parents to pretend to be happily married until the ceremony, whereupon Mummy would be free to go and live by herself in a house without windows, chewing nettles. Would she stick to it? Her sneer – top lip curled so far up, it was knocking her hat off – said no.
In the nether quarters, the thought of policing a London wedding armed with only Molesley (ageing, dithering) and Barrow (evil, missing some fingers) prompted Carson to hire a temporary third footman. He arrived in the form of fresh-faced Cockney rube Andy, whose naivete was quickly sniffed out by the new villain on the block, Denker.
Denker had warmed up in Downtonshire by easily defeating Spratt, the surprised Geordie butler. His plan to land Denker in it by hiding one of the D-C’s suitcases failed when the Dowager instantly noticed that there were only thirty-eight stacked on the back of the car. Spratt was blamed. It would need an altogether wilier dog to take Denker down.
Her London opponent: Barrow. While Denker promised to show Andy the “fun” of the St James’s locale, Barrow advised the new blood on the exotic customs observed in London. In the capital, explained Barrow as he provocatively tightened Andy’s bow tie, all bets were off: only one drink was to be served by the staff after dinner, after which the toffs would help themselves. Utter bacchanalian chaos.
This left the slaves’ evenings more or less free. Denker exploited the situation first by dragging Andy out on the town. At first their destination was a mystery, the only clue on their return being that Andy was frightened and Denker was drunk. Either they’d been to “Sing-a-Long-a-Dirty-Dancing” or there was something serious afoot.
Barrow got it out of Andy, trapping him sexily on the back stairs and learning that the young fool had lost his shirt at a casino. The next evening, Barrow invited himself along and was led to the Velvet Violin, an illicit underground joint full of spivs and strumpets where Denker happily installed herself at the bar.
Instructing Andy to sit tight and not get stiffed on the craps table again, Barrow won back the kid’s money by playing pontoon, before sabotaging Denker’s scam of scoring free drinks in return for bringing in stupid new customers. Andy didn’t know her from Adam, Barrow told the dodgy geezer in charge, leaving Denker facing a crippling bar bill and/or a sound beating. A heartwarming end to the story.
Is Barrow now using his unreliable, low-level criminality for good, like a rubbish 1920s Axel Foley? If so, there is still plenty of discord downstairs. For Daisy, a trip to the Wallace Collection with Molesley and Baxter didn’t have the desired effect of galvanising her lust for knowledge: instead she resented not having such opportunities up in Downtonshire.
Her whole life was a prison, Daisy said, grumpily attaching the mutton braiding to Mrs Patmore’s five-tier, four-ton wedding cake. She was leaving and would find a job in London, where jazz and libraries would temper the agony of servitude. Only a tearful reaction from M-Patz, horrified at losing her surrogate daughter, caused a change of heart.
For a while it looked like Mrs Patmore’s cake wouldn’t be required anyway, as Rose’s fiancé, jolly ventriloquist’s dummy Atticus, fell victim to a vicious stag-night prank. Hiring a hooker and foisting her on the paralytic groom: classic best-man japes. Top bantz. Legendary lolz. Dapper laughs. But photographing the liaison and Fed-Exing the prints to the bride? That’s a bit off.
Atticus hadn’t even done anything wrong: he’d respectfully declined to pluck the dusky lady’s velvet violin and shooed her from his hotel room, but there he was in the pictures, grinning widely as the harlot exited. Forgetting that Atticus always grins widely even when gravely vexed, Rose saw the shots and wobbled. Who had done the dirty?
Shrimpy cracked the case. Remembering an earlier scene where his wife had posted a cheque to someone for no obvious dramatic purpose, he checked her stubs and found… well, exactly which business one engages to satisfy one’s combined photography and prostitution needs wasn’t the point. She’d tried to sabotage her own daughter’s nuptials and he’d rumbled her.
Rose’s mum tried to grab for the chequebook, but Shrimpy slapped her with perhaps Downton’s best ever trash talk: “GET DOWN, YOU CAT!” The shrimp had turned. Rose’s mum got down. Her last roll of the dice was announcing her and Shrimpy’s looming divorce at the register office.
Atticus’s mother wasn’t having it. With no rigged deck of cards or plate of sashimi to hand, she used the nuclear option and told Lord Sinderby that he would be divorced if he stopped the ceremony. So Rose, who’d long since concluded that Atticus was blameless, had her day.
The mood was shattered that very evening, however, when the cops came to take Anna away. She’d been made to take part in an identity parade by the police, and evidently her strategy of shaking, crying and looking guilty had not paid off.
What with that and the imminent departure of Branson – he’s abandoning the management of the affordable housing development in the lower field and moving to Boston – there was a cloud hanging over what would otherwise have been a double triumph for Lord G on the family’s return to Downtonshire.
Having movingly unveiled a surprise extra memorial to Mrs Patmore’s executed-coward nephew, Lord G had a flash of inspiration and clocked that Marigold is not in fact a local orphan who happens to be about the same age as a child born just before Edith returned from her mysterious nine-month absence. The child’s resemblance to Edith’s murdered fiancé Gregson (Michael Palin) was what finally tipped his Lordship off.
Progressively, Lord G welcomed his new illegitimate grand-daughter. But after another tumultuous season, does Marigold know what she’s let herself in for?
>> Episode seven: Edith returns, Branson swears