Downton Abbey Season 5 Episode 1 Review: Change is in the Air

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The residents of Downton Abbey have experienced a lot over the years, but in Downton Abbey Season 5 Episode 1 it felt like the Abbey had settled into a new normality compared to the last two seasons.

Without the shadow of death or war, Downton Abbey Season 5 started out with the family in a positive place. Despite the sense of calm, it's evident that change is in the air, on both a macro scale for Britain as a country and a micro level for the Crawley clan. 

The reactions of the family to the election of the Labour government were both telling and varied. Robert and Violet naturally saw it as a threat to the future of the aristocracy, while Mary questioned the issue they had with the election of a lower class candidate. 

Unexpectedly, Mr Carson was asked to be the chairman of the village committee in charge of erecting a World War I memorial. Robert was visibly disappointed by the request, but played it off in a lordly, graceful manner. Out of his admiration for the hierarchical order, Mr. Carson was uncomfortable with the idea. The passing up of Robert represents the changing attitudes toward the social class system in England.

I feel a shaking of the ground I stand on. That everything I believe in will be tested and held up for ridicule over the next few years.

Carson

Meanwhile, Daisy was trying to learn how to handle finances in order to help William's father run the farm. Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore supported Daisy and encouraged her to learn. To the contrary, Mr. Carson felt Daisy's position as a cook was enough and her further learning wasn't necessary. 

Mary's views on her expectations for her second marriage presented the most obvious change and signify the developing contemporary outlook on love and marriage taking place in English society. I expect it will also make for a compelling and interesting story this season.

The older I get the more I feel we do these things very oddly. Even now we must decide whether to share our lives with someone without ever spending some real time with them, let alone, you know.

Mary wants to feel as happy in her second marriage as she did in her first marriage. It is understandable that after the death of Matthew and a failed engagement to Richard Carlisle Mary wants to truly know the person she will wed. 

Mary's wish turned into a possibility when Tony snuck into her room, asked for her hand in marriage and proposed the pair secretly go away together for a week and get to know each other. The offer didn't stop there, as Tony was up front about admitting his desire to be lovers. Of course, no one else can know about it, but Mary may have just received the love offer of a lifetime. I am excited to finally see Mary fully move on and find the happiness she is seeking on her own terms. 

The courtship between Lord Merton and Isobel was equally entertaining. My favorite scenes have always been those between Isobel and Violet, whose banter makes hilarious light of showing how their differing world's both conflict and converge. If Isobel married Lord Merton she would have a living husband, a house and a respectable position in the county. Cora, rightfully so, pointed out that Violet would not be thrilled by this shuffling up of status.

Meanwhile, there was manipulation going on among the ranks of the servants. It was revealed to Cora the secret Baxter has been hiding and how Thomas was using her to gain information. It was genius on the parts of Molesley and Baxter to tell Cora before Thomas was able. Thomas was taken by surprise when Cora scolded him for the part he played in hiring a thief to work in the house and figured out he was using her for his own manipulations. 

It felt like a plot device that Thomas ended up in the right place at the right time to save Edith from the fire, leading again into Cora's good graces. It is yet to be seen what will happen to Baxter now that she has been exposed as a jewel thief. There is clearly more to the story, which will most likely be her saving grace when Cora makes her decision. 

Finally, the first installment of the new season gave us a wonderful and classic Grantham family dinner party. Rose invited Miss Bunting as Tom's friend, however she clearly had some ulterior motives. When Miss Bunting walked in it was clear she was out of place and obvious there would be some type of confrontation. It was odd to see someone of such common status sitting at the table with the Crawleys; not surprisingly, it ended with a disagreement about principles. 

Principles are like prayers. Noble, of course, but awkward at a party.

Violet

This was a strong premiere for Downton Abbey. Change was the tone and the storylines felt new and fresh. Edith's situation with her daughter was touched upon, but I think it will come to a head later in the season.

What did you think of this episode? Do you think Mary will go off with Lord Gillingham? Where do you think Tom and Miss Bunting's relationship will go? What do you think Edith will have to do to get her daughter back? What are you looking forward to this season?

If you somehow haven't yet, you can watch Downton Abbey online via TV Fanatic! 

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Downton Abbey Season 5 Episode 1 Quotes

I feel a shaking of the ground I stand on. That everything I believe in will be tested and held up for ridicule over the next few years.

Carson

Violet: You should write a book: Daughter's-in-law and how to survive them.