Last night we bid farewell to another season of Downton Abbey with a coming out ball, some royal hijinks, and a dip in the ocean. Before we say goodbye to these lords and ladies for another year, we'll evaluate who closed out the season in sufferable, or insufferable fashion.
Daisy: After a routinely insufferable year, Daisy, miraculously almost, was out to show her sufferable side in this final episode. She's cheerily receiving letters from Albert without a hint of resent, and then, finally, giving Ivy the chance to go to America. Okay, yes, this gets rid of Ivy, but Daisy's actions seemed more out of kindness and respect than manipulation. Finally, it seems as if Daisy is growing up.
The Dowager Countess and Isobel: At this point, the show is incredibly aware of the duo they have in Violet and Isobel. They've gone beyond "give them a spinoff" into "give everybody else a spinoff and just keep these two at Downton" territory. And rather than just remain their one-note, bickering selves, their relationship evolved this season. The Dowager Countess went from feeling pity for Isobel, to grudging respect, to a weary acceptance that they're on equal footing as good-natured sparring partners. And for her part, Isobel learned not to make a federal case out of every time Violet acted the snob. A blithe comparison to Marie Antoinette will suffice just nicely.
Martha Levinson: And speaking of sparring partners for the Dowager Countess, Shirley MacLaine as Cora's mother is the perfect once-a-season shot in the arm for this show. Even before she displayed her rare talent for cutting Violet down to size, Martha was delightful to watch as she toyed with a social-climbing Englishman.
Lady Mary: Oh, Lady Mary, you've come a long way from the beginning of the season when you were moping all over the place. Mary ended the season as a woman who decided to take control of her own destiny, running Downton and taking time to decide which hot man she ends up with. (More on that later...) Plus, while her zingers may be bitchy at times—"I'd rather sleep on the roof than share with Edith"—they are among the most entertaining things about the show. She's becoming a more progressive Dowager Countess.
Harold Levinson: Despite now having seen a full episode featuring Paul Giamatti as Cora's brother, we still don't really believe that Giamatti could be related in any way to the Crawley family. Just the same way we didn't really believe he should be playing Hamlet. Perhaps this is predetermined Giamatti prejudice. Sorry. Anyway, last night's episode spent far too much time with Mr. Levinson, who ultimately didn't add much except for the realization that everyone is impressed by Cora's family's money.
Thomas: One of the most frustrating things the show did this season was to tease something going on with Thomas and Baxter and then never actually let us know what that was. Thomas was just simply an underwritten character this season. Any internal life that didn't have to do with (vague) scheming or sneering was ignored so he could just become a climber with nowhere to climb. What's his endgame? We don't know! For all we know, he just wants to mess with people (see: Tom in this episode) and cause trouble.
Lady Mary: As much as it's nice to see Mary back into the swing of things and fully emerged from her dark cloud of mourning, setting up what amounts to a competition for her hand between Charles Blake and Tony Gillingham is pretty much not cool. And while it was kind of fun to watch her play off her increased interest in Charles now that she knows he's loaded as something other than opportunism, it sure seems like that's what it is.
Mr. Carson: To be clear, his insufferability is exactly why we love him. Carson is, by design, the slowest to accept social change of anyone at Downton. Even more so, this season showed us, than the Dowager Countess. His exasperation at lax American standards of propriety was on full display with Levinson's valet, and the fact that Mrs. Hughes had to do so much scheming in order to persuade him to suggest a beach outing was a testament to his bullheadedness. But that scene at the end, taking Mrs. Hughes' hand to dip his feet in the sea, made for a rather lovely metaphor for his character as a whole. Insufferable still, but lovably so.