This article contains spoilers
The house is returning to normal after the war, but the people are not, and outrageous actions are spreading like germs in the penultimate episode of Downton Abbey.
“When a war is over the first emotion is relief, the second is disappointment.” Sir Richard Carlisle (Iain Glen)
Lady Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) sums it up in a breath; “The war has changed me. I guessed it’s changed everybody.”
“Before the war I felt my life had value, I wish to feel that again.” Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) seems to have lost his way now that the war is over. He locks his lips onto a maid, leaving viewers with open jaws.
His behaviour doesn’t improve as he tells Cora she sounds “stupid”. This comes after she expresses worries about Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Matthew (Dan Stevens).
Mary seems to be struggling against a rising tide of trouble. Carlisle offers her maid, Anna (Joanne Froggatt), money to report on Mary’s actions. Refusing, Anna tells Carson (Jim Carter) about Carlisle’s offer. Carson refuses to move away from Downton to work for him and an offended Mary throws insults into the air; “and I thought you were fond of me?” Bitterness sinks deeper into her heart and she says; “butlers will be two a penny now they’re all back from the war”.
The spark of light is Matthew regaining the use of his legs. The whole family delights in the doctor’s words; “You will have a normal life and it won’t be long in coming”.
Yet Mary and Matthew remain distressingly separate.
He is to marry Lavinia (Zoe Boyle) when he is able to walk down the aisle. She is to marry Carlisle. “Aren’t all of us stuck with the choices we make?” She asks, “Would I ever admit to loving a man who chooses another over me?”
Ever the wisest member of the family, the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) “suspected long ago that the flame hadn’t quite gone out”.
Mary isn’t the only sister with a complicated love life, (yet when it comes to Carlisle, that relationship is devoid of love), Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) decides to run away with the chauffeur, Branson (Allen Leech).
“My answer is that I’m ready to travel and you’re my ticket.” She tells him.
Elsewhere, Bates (Brendan Coyle) fears being blamed for his wife’s death, Ethel (Amy Nuttall) desperately tries to show her baby to his grandparents and Thomas (Rob James-Collier) is bankrupted by a failed scheme.
It is the last episode of the series next week. Will the loose ends be tied together? Or will heartbroken viewers be left desperate for more?