And so, as the final season of Downton Abbey draws to a close, most characters find themselves in a safe harbor but two of the most troubled are still on stormy seas, and discrepancies of social rank are making trouble.
Faces framed by parasols as they stroll around the grounds, Edith and Lady Grantham discuss whether Edith can accept Bertie's marriage offer without telling him that toddler Marigold is her daughter. Edith worries that if she tells the truth, she may lose Bertie, but her mother points out that a marriage with such a secret at its heart will not last and that ethically she must tell him right away. In fact, all Edith's friends and relations who are in on the secret advise her to come clean.
The situation is further complicated when Bertie's cousin, who owns the estate Bertie manages, dies in Tangier and Bertie inherits both the title and the castle. Edith, who appears at dinner in a fabulous gold gown with crystal neckline detailing, "will outrank us all," Lord Grantham exclaims delightedly, prompting Mary to respond with a waspish, "He won't want to marry her now." Evil Mary is back, and dresses the part in a full-length black sequined gown.
Her bad mood is due in large part to her break-up with dashing racing driver Henry Talbot. Tom, who has become not only everyone's confidante but now also an all-purpose advice dispenser, like a sort of Irish Yoda, tells her Henry is the one for her.
At Tom's urging, Henry drops by to press his case, but Mary resists because she doesn't think he'll be happy living on her estate "outranked by your own stepson." Henry takes off, leaving Mary more unhappy than ever.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Patmore is devastated to learn that the apparently respectable couple who were the first guests at her new B&B were in fact there for an adulterous weekend, and that, as a result, she's losing bookings and her cottage may be mentioned in the newspapers as a "house of ill repute." Despite the cook's distress, everyone both upstairs and down can't discuss this with a straight face.
At a tense breakfast table, Edith perceptively observes that Mary can't stand it when her sister's life appears to be going better than her own, prompting Evil Mary, who has deduced the truth about Marigold, to say, "I admire you, Bertie. Not everyone would accept Edith's past."
As always, the cover-up proves to be worse than the crime. Bertie can accept Edith's past but not that she didn't trust him. "I'm terribly sorry, of course," says Edith, with the most intensely British display of repressed emotion since Brief Encounter as happiness is snatched from her grasp yet again.
At least things are looking up for Mrs. Patmore after the Granthams very publicly take tea at her B&B, and for Mr. Moseley who, after a rocky start, proves to be a gifted teacher at the local school.
Tom gives Mary a stern talking-to, castigating her for ruining Edith's life and calling her a bully. Then finally the worm turns and Edith confronts her sister, calling her nasty, jealous, and scheming––and, at last, the b-word. She takes off for London, after receiving advice from Tom.
Further distress fills the house when troubled under-butler Barrett slits his wrists in the bath. Fortunately, he is discovered before it is too late.
Summoned by Tom, Lady Violet returns from France to talk some sense into Mary. Having visited Matthew's grave to ask for his blessing, Mary agrees to marry Henry, and there's another wedding in the village church attended by the whole cast, with the bride in an ivory crepe dress and matching understated long jacket.
Can series creator Julian Fellowes really let Downton bow out with poor Edith still on her own and Barrett suicidally depressed? We'll have to wait until the feature-length final special to find out.
Catch Downton Abbey on PBS, Sunday nights at 9 p.m.