A very sweet moment between two characters warmed our heart in the 'Downton Abbey' Christmas special.
Editor's note: The following article contains spoilers about the new season of Downton Abbey, which has just completed airing in the UK. If you wish to remain spoiler-free until Season 5 starts in the United States on Jan. 4, please avert your eyes.
LONDON, ENGLAND — The festive Christmas episode of Downton Abbey was full of surprises, thrills, and a whole range of emotions.
Structured in two acts — the first of which was actually away from Downton — the two-hour Christmas Special provided resolution for some storylines, unveiled secrets from the past and left a few questions up in the air.
Most importantly, though, the writers gave viewers a huge holiday gift at the end of the episode: a surprise engagement.
A Trip to Brancaster Castle
The opening sequence, which juxtaposes Mary's sombre visit to Anna in jail with a very busy Downton preparing for the family's departure, reflects the mixed emotions throughout the episode quite well.
When on the train to Brancaster Castle, where Lord Sinderby has organized a shooting party, Tom voices his doubts and concerns about joining the family in the trip. Lady Mary's reaction? "We, Crawleys, stick together," which puts a stop to any further discussion of the matter and also captures the overall theme of the Downton Abbey Christmas Special.
Upon their arrival, Tom is repeatedly belittled by Stowell (guest star Alun Armstrong), Lord Sinderby’s butler, which bothers Mary but not for long.
Barrow, whose plotting and scheming skills are second to none, steps in to stop the nonsense. However, his elaborated plan comes close to going a step too far when Lord Sinderby's mistress and illegitimate son show up unexpected and certainly uninvited, almost causing the man a heart attack. Rose, with the help of Mary and the Earl, is quick to intervene and to save the day.
Lord Sinderby's butler is shady as hell. #DowntonAbbeyChristmas— Sarah Lichtor (@slichtor) December 26, 2014
Meanwhile, the Earl speaks openly to Edith about the current arrangement with Marigold, reassuring his daughter that she has his full support. Edith's expression shows her relief and it's clear a huge weight has been lift off of her shoulders and freed her.
Now the only one not aware of the situation is Mary — not that she cares.
Feeling emotionally lighter, Edith immediately seems much more open and also rather charmed by one of Lord Sinderby's guests. And she's not the only one with a potential new love interest.
Mary's easy banter with Mr. Talbot (guest star Matthew Goode) reveals possible interest in the gentleman.
Is love in the future for the two Crawley ladies?
Dear Matthew Goode: please be a regular on #DowntonAbbey next season. Sincerely, everyone.— Jinglefer Hawkes (@JennMarloHawkes) December 26, 2014
Frankly, they both deserve some happiness in that department.
A Rollercoster of Emotions for the Bates
Elsewhere, the future seems to get even gloomier for the Bates family when during jail visitation when Anna reveals to her husband that the police had become aware of her less-than-clean past. (The full story involves a knife and an abusive step-father.)
And later, with a trial date set and no positive resolution in sight, Mr. Bates decides he will take the blame and confess to the murder of Mr. Green, despite not being guilty. He knew such a move would result in the immediate release of Anna.
However, nobody was ready to give up on them just yet.
Downton Abbey, can we please have a happy ending for the Bates'? Especially after the heart ache you've put us through the last few Xmases!— D (@Puddepha) December 25, 2014
Mr. Moseley and Mrs. Baxter particularly put forth great effort to prove Mr. Bates' alibi on the day of the murder and succeed in doing so after spending all their time off going from one pub to the next.
When he is informed about the new development, Mr. Bates heads back to Downton to reunite with his wife just in time for Christmas Eve.
There are glimpses of happiness on both their faces.
Finally watching the Downton Xmas special. Oh, lord, can we just move on from Bates/Anna? As always, they are so freaking boring. #zzzzz— radiantbaby (@radiantbaby) December 26, 2014
During their struggles, the whole Crawley family has stood by Anna and Mr. Bates. What the future holds for them is yet to be seen, but one can guess the support from the family will continue to be unwavering.
Tom and Sybil’s impending departure is dreaded by the whole family, and without a doubt, by Mary the most. (Though, she'd be the last to admit it.)
He eventually confirms their departure but promises they will do so after Christmas — a statement that's seemingly only to reassure Mary.
Does no one else notice Tom and Mary and their blatant eye sex?! #DowntonAbbey— evY (@evyfrances) December 25, 2014
Edith points out that her sister "hates to be left behind when everyone else is getting on with their lives," but Mary is quick to strike back. "This is not that," says the eldest sister, "it's the thought of being left behind with you."
It's clear that Tom's move unsettles Mary.
Later, right before Christmas Eve dinner, Tom, Mary, and Edith find themselves in the children's room sharing a touching scene in which they remember the late Lady Sybil. If this scene wasn't enough of an emotional blow, the Earl also takes the opportunity to tell Tom that he admires the man Tom has proven to be.
@DowntonAbbey sobbed my heart out when Tom, Mary and Edith took a moment to think of Sybil #Downton #DowntonChristmas— Caitlin☯☮ (@Caitlinnxxxxxxx) December 25, 2014
Will Tom ever be back?
Heartaches and a New Beginning
While dealing with a silly "broth" war between Sprout and Denker, the Dowager Countess of Grantham has to deal with a much more serious matter: a face-to-face reunion with Prince Igor Kuragin’s unpleasant wife, which she would have gladly avoided.
After cousin Violet breaks her engagement to Lord Merton because of his sons' strong stands against the union, the two ladies sit down for a cheeky and honest chat about their busy past year, in which they had a proposal and a proposition.
Meanwhile, downstairs, following up on their talks about investing their savings into a bed & breakfast, Carson and Mrs. Hughes visit a few properties, and when it’s time to seal the deal, she reveals that she has no extra money as she has been using it all to provide full care for her disabled sister.
This does not stop Carson from going forward with the investment, which he makes on behalf of both using his own money, and stuns Mrs. Hughes declaring, "I do want to be stuck with you," followed by a marriage proposal.
— Sarah Lichtor (@slichtor) December 26, 2014
OK, he did not go down on one knee, but still.
Her reply? "Of course I'll marry you, you old booby. I thought you’d never ask."
Neither did we, Hughes. But we're so glad he did.
The Christmas Special concludes Downton Abbey's run this year, but a sixth is on its way.
So, see you in the fall?
What did you think of the episode? Tell us in the comments.
Dani Botti is a freelance writer based in London, England whose work has appeared on English and Italian websites, including gossipandgab.com, 2night.it, and tvseries. While her main professional joy remains covering U.S. television shows, she's also an experienced movie reviewer and on-the-ground reporter, covering film and telefilm festivals.
Tags: DOWNTON ABBEY, ENTERTAINMENT, RECAPS, TELEVISION