Every week for the fifth season of PBS's period drama Downton Abbey, Sophie Gilbert, Katie Kilkenny, and Joe Reid will discuss the intrigues, upstairs and downstairs, of public television's favorite Yorkshire manor.
Kilkenny: Gone were weighty mentions of the godforsaken war memorial and land prices: The season five finale of Downton Abbey was split into two parts, the first a self-contained hunting party at Brancaster Castle in Northumberland, the second a heartfelt Christmas special back in Yorkshire with a final send-off for Tom. With all this talk of guns and angina, I began the episode expecting a mysterious death à la Gosford Park, but in keeping with the seasonal cheer, Fellowes kept the majority of the unexpected conflicts light—the worst of it being Denker battling with the pot to make Violet's restorative broth and the Crawley family battling the imperious butler Stowell to give Tom some sugar and a dinner roll, for heaven's sake.
But the intrigues weren't all culinary in nature. The Sinderbys' hunting party introduced several new love interests who will no doubt return next season—the cheery land agent Mr. Pelham, who faces stiff competition in Marigold for Edith's affections, and aristocrat Henry Talbot. I'm torn about the casting of Matthew Goode in this role: On one hand, yay! With Goode you never know what kind of dashing heartthrob you're going to get—the cookie-cutter romantic lead (Leap Year), the snotty English boor (Match Point), or the serial-killing kind (Stoker)?—and his smoldering eyes already promise a major improvement on Gillingham. And yet—who hired this man's agent? Being Mary's Love Interest is a full-time job, and not usually a very complex one. But who knows? His conversation with Mary heavily foreshadowed an internal struggle with PTSD—Dan Stevens didn’t get to play that to its darkest extreme until The Guest.