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Theodore Smith
Theodore Smith

Downton Abbey - Season 5

Harriet Walter and Peter Egan will reprise their roles as Lady Shackleton and Hugh MacClare respectively. Richard E. Grant, Anna Chancellor, and Rade Sherbedgia join the cast, respectively playing Simon Bricker, the Dowager Lady Anstruther, and a Russian refugee named Kuragin. Maya Lindh and Ethan Chapples will play Rose's sister Annabelle and her husband, respectively. Ed Cooper Clarke will portray Lord Merton's second son, Timothy. Catherine Steadman will portray Gillingham's former fiance Mabel Lane Fox. Shirley MacLaine and Paul Giamatti won't be reprising their respective roles as Martha and Harold Levinson, but they may possibly return in a future season.

Downton Abbey - Season 5

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So I'm obviously burying the lead here, probably because I'm still processing the big final twist of the episode. No, I'm not talking about that door that closed in front of Bates and Anna on its own. I'm talking about the engagement of Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes. It's certainly not traditional for a couple to jump straight from holding hands at the end of season 4 to buying a house as an engaged couple, but I'm not going to question it. These are two good people, who deserve each other and all of the happiness in the world. One of the great things about Downton is that I don't feel silly saying that. (Well, not that silly.) How viable are these two as a couple though? Considering how quickly things happened, that remains to be seen. Carson and Hughes have always gotten along and obviously care for each other quite a lot, but their roles in the house have meant that they don't always see eye to eye. Honestly, I'm too pleased with how this year wrapped up to get into the nitty-gritty of what this means for next season.

Therein lies much the intrigue upstairs, while the downstairs is still primarily roiled by the season-four rape of Anna (Joanne Froggatt), and the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the brute that victimized her, while Thomas (Robert James-Collier) once again appears intent on stirring up trouble.

When Downton Abbey first aired, Julian Fellowes (creator and producer) was annoyed at the media for pointing out anachronisms like TV aerials and the use of the word 'boyfriend'. (The word 'boyfriend appeared in print in 1889, long before the period setting of Downton). Fellowes said "they think to show how smart they are by picking holes in the program to promote their own poshness and to show that their knowledge is greater than your knowledge". In a later article coinciding with the start of the second season, Fellowes apologised and commented "I behaved rather badly by getting the hump."

The Dowager Countess is making a lot of appearances in this Best Of list, and is it any wonder? Frankly, she hasn't had a lot to do besides spit one-liners for the last several seasons. Her doing something besides tutting and tossing out witticisms is a better use of Maggie Smith's talents. I loved how Clarkson called Violet out on being jealous of Isobel's potential new position in society, which she essentially answered as Arrested Development's Lucille Bluth: "I don't understand the question, and I won't respond to it." Still, Clarkson was ultimately won over by Lord Merton's knowledge of iodine, and that was that.

One thing PBS must be commended on this year is sticking with ITV's original format (more or less) regarding its Downton Abbey broadcasts. Though technically next week's episode will be the season finale (which aired of course as a Christmas Special in England), "Season 5, Episode 8" set it all up perfectly, while also being satisfying in its own way.

A theme throughout this season of Downton has been the slow movement of our main characters away from each other. Isobel considers a future with Lord Merton, leaving Violet more on her own, while Mary schemed to get rid of Tony Gillingham so she could find the right man. Isis passed on, Cora took a flirtation too far, and Edith took off for a little while to London with Marigold. Branson is plotting a move to Boston, and Rose's marriage to Atticus means she will no longer be a Downton regular. Downstairs, Daisy considers a move to London, Patmore eyes retirement, and in the worst storyline Downton has ever managed to do, Anna is now headed for jail.

"Season 5, Episode 8" set up the final episode very clearly: Branson will not leave until after Christmas, and the Sinderbys have invited everyone from Downton to vacation with them (as we know the Christmas Special always finds the family somewhere other than home). As far as the regular season goes, this year hasn't been great or terrible. It has just been Downton. Not at its best, not at its worst, just existing through the clangs of time.

Although I have tried to be as blasé as Lady Mary about the fact that Downton Abbey will officially end with Season 6, I am still having trouble coming to terms with the truth. The final season premieres in the U.S. on Sunday, Jan. 3, so prepare yourself for the end with a recap for Downton Abbey Season 5. While denial is one stage of grief, it's time to move on to acceptance quickly, since the beloved show already finished airing in the U.K. Downton is over after nine more short episodes, but before that happens, relive Season 5 to get the most out of the new season.

Remembering all of the ups and downs of Season 5 only makes me more depressed that Season 6 is the end, but if you've made it this far without British spoilers of the final season, then there is something to celebrate. Before Season 6 officially premieres in the U.S., prepare yourself a nice cup of tea and catch up on everything that happened in Downton Abbey Season 5.

Images: Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2014 for Masterpiece; fyannachancellor, calmmanning, downtonreactiongifs (6), annamays (2), mrbarrow (2), reysolowalkers, happymathilda, herewestand, carlithiel (2)/Tumblr

Downton Abbey is back. The Season 5 premiere returns us to beloved characters and a changing Britain in 1924. It is good for fans and good for PBS. This season, changing social mores and changing roles for women are especially featured. Lady Mary must deftly handle multiple suitors, Lady Edith must manage the heartstrings and risk of having her child close after being born out of wedlock, and Tom Branson, chauffeur turned Crawly family member, must deal with the affections of the outspoken local school teacher, Sarah Bunting.

The season 5 premiere picks up in 1924 -- 12 years after the show began -- and seriously, the characters really haven't aged a bit. But the political atmosphere has changed. Ramsey McDonald has just been elected as prime minister, which means the Crawley family members fear more change is on the horizon. It's a running theme throughout an episode filled with new discoveries, manipulation, secrets and romance.

Sunday's premiere introduced several story lines sure to play out the rest of the season. What's the fate of Baxter? Will others learn about Mr. Bates' more recent past? What will become of little Marigold? And who will Lady Mary choose -- will we see the handsome Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden) soon?

See the season five premiere of Downton Abbey a day early as PBS SoCal screens the episode at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel. A VIP ticket will net you an orchestra seat and a admission to a post-screening tea time, featuring finger sandwiches, petite pastries, scones, tea and a mimosa. 041b061a72


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