The penultimate episode of Downton Abbey has arrived, and with it the inevitable climax of the dreaded racing plot. But just who met their end?

Well, we’re in the final stretch, Downton fans. With only two episodes remaining in the period drama — including the Christmas special — there was a lot of ground to cover in order to wrap up everyone’s plots satisfactorily. This, of course, meant a day at the races for half the characters, while the rest enjoyed a picnic on the grass back at Downton.

Hitting the breaks

We don’t know about you guys, but we’ve been feeling a little uneasy about this whole Henry Talbot romance since it began back at the close of series 5. That’s nothing against Matthew Goode, of course. We’re definitely fans of his, but it’s all seemed a little awkward. Not only due to his profession — and Lady Mary’s obvious discomfort about it — but also the insistence from all sides that Mary pursue him.

Her uncertainty over his safety and the traumatic emotions it brings is a valid enough reason not to move forward with a romance, but the whole thing came across as her being pressured, especially when Talbot quipped that he hoped by integrating more with her family they might persuade her into accepting him.

Yikes.

downton-abbey-6x07-mary-talbot

Of course, their day at the races ends in the expected tragedy. They’ve been building up to it over the course of this season, and so it was unsurprising it’d shake out that way. But while most fans assumed that Talbot would meet his untimely end — thus providing a chilling parallel to Matthew — it wasn’t so. His race partner, Charlie, was the one to go up in flames, though we were worried for his safety when he attempted to pull Charlie from the car.

Lady Mary was clearly relieved that Talbot hadn’t met his maker, but when he tried to press her at the scene about where they stood, she asked that he leave it for today. With that much emotional turmoil on both sides, it was clear rash decisions would and could be made by either party, so we thought it was remarkably sensible.

But, this being Downton, Talbot couldn’t leave the subject alone and called Lady Mary by telephone. When she allowed Branson to nudge her into taking the call, against her better judgement, we knew it was the death knell for their not-quite-blossoming relationship. Nipped in the bud, despite Branson’s steadfast belief that Mary and Talbot are meant for each other, Lady Mary seems done with it, leaving her future wide open heading into the finale and the Christmas special.

The preview for next week has Talbot confronting her at home. He’s either a very brave or very stupid man. Or, perhaps, both.

Those who can, teach

The future looks bright for many of the characters downstairs. Mr. Molesley, at the behest of the head teacher at Downton’s school, has taken his exams and passed — and is offered a place to teach there. Molesley has always been a nurturing, kind soul, so we’re glad to see him find his true calling. His encouragement of Daisy to pursue her passion for knowledge, and guidance toward taking exams of her own, has been a quietly beautiful plot woven throughout the show. Though we have to wait to find out the results of Daisy’s examinations — which may not be revealed until Christmas.

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Andy also found his illiteracy outed at their picnic lunch, despite Thomas’ best efforts to save him the embarrassment. Of course, in the company of teachers, he’s offered classes at the school house, which Andy gladly accepts. Though, when Barrow offers to continue to help Andy study, he’s shut down quite quickly, without a word of thanks for his efforts thus far. We’re not enjoying this alienation he’s suffering, and can only hope that it won’t end the way we’re thinking it might.

Elsewhere…

  1. Edith might find happiness at last! Bertie proposed, and though she’s thinking about it we’re pretty certain she’ll accept. Now, if they make it down the aisle after the inevitable comes out about Marigold, that’s another thing…
  2. Mrs. Hughes got her own back for Carson’s quips about her cooking. A timely “wrist sprain” had her talking him through preparing dinner, and he was exhausted by the end. Perhaps he’ll think twice before making his criticisms from now on!
  3. Mrs. Patmore’s bed and breakfast is open to the public, and has its first guests! Everything seems to go smoothly, except for that one man scribbling furiously in the bushes. Er. What was all that about?
  4. The Dowager Countess is swanning off on a European trip for a month, after the hospital disaster, but not without bestowing one last gift on the household…
  5. There’s a new puppy at Downton. That’s right, a puppy. Best thing to happen this season. Hands down. Who doesn’t love a puppy?

Next time on ‘Downton Abbey’

Henry Talbot returns to Downton to convince Mary she’s made a mistake, but she doesn’t sound as though she’s having any of it, and he might make some… unfortunate comments that’ll put an end to his romantic endeavours for good. Talbot and Mary aren’t the only ones having words, as Edith appears to be letting out all her pent-up frustration at her sister. It’s been building up for a while, and we have to wonder what finally tips her over the edge.

With the next episode clocking in at an hour and 40 minutes, we’re certainly going to be put through the ringer before Christmas comes. Here’s hoping that everyone makes it through mostly unscathed.

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