1. Reinvention is very big this season.
Judging from how often word “reinvention” itself came up among the cast members.
“There’s big social change in this season,” Michelle Dockery, who plays Lady Mary, told BuzzFeed. “You can tell by the clothes, it’s very, very modern. And Mary really embraces those changes. Reinvention is a good word.”
That spirit of renewal is perhaps nowhere more apparent than within the character of Lady Mary herself. “It’s the new Mary,” she said. “Because she’s through the grief now and she’s moving on with her life and embracing a social life again, and exploring things romantically and also taking on more responsibility with the estate. She’s really kind of growing up and growing into a different person this time.”
2. But that doesn’t mean Lady Mary will be choosing a new husband any time soon.
Yes, that means that the love triangle is still in full force and both Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden) and Anthony Gillingham (Tom Cullen) are back in Season 5. “They are on the scene,” Dockery said. “Mary doesn’t settle with anyone any time soon; she was never going to. That’s important, not just for the story, but for the audience, because Matthew [Dan Stevens] was such a well-loved character, and Dan, of course, so you can’t really have Mary marry someone immediately. She’s just feeling her way through things, really. She’s still being very impulsive. I love that about her, that she doesn’t always think things through. She’ll make a decision and she goes with it, and then often, she’ll regret it afterwards or think, in hindsight, she could have dealt with it better. I love that about her. It’s a very human quality.”
3. Evelyn Napier (Brendan Patricks), however, is far out of the running.
“Poor Evelyn,” said Dockery. “There’s not really much hope for Evelyn. I think it was always going to be that way with Evelyn though; it’s sort of the past now, for Mary.”
4. Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and Bates (Brendan Coyle) are still trying to find their way back together.
“Anna is a changed person from what’s happened,” Froggatt told BuzzFeed. “A little bit of her spark has just been put out for a while, because any sort of traumatic experience is not something that just disappears; it’s something that stays with you and you hopefully learn to live with it.”
But there is at least some hope for the star-crossed couple, even if Season 5 offers some more drama for the duo. “[Anna] and Mr. Bates are trying to heal themselves and heal their relationship and move forward, but it is difficult for them because there is this cloud hanging over them,” Froggatt said. “The subject of Mr. Green [Nigel Harman] keeps getting brought back up and it’s being thrust back at them. They are struggling to find the space to be able to heal, and even though Anna doesn’t believe Mr. Bates had anything to do with Mr. Green’s death — she doesn’t think Mr. Bates knew it was Mr. Green — she has this niggling thing that she can’t leave it alone. She can’t quite work it out, and it’s another anxiety for her, and it’s another confusing emotion for her.”
Their secrets may, however, come back to haunt them… or bring them closer together in the end. “Each of them is keeping a secret from the other, but they’re doing it for the other one’s benefit,” she added. “They’re doing it to protect the other person.”
5. Mary, meanwhile, will potentially be haunted by the action she took at the end of last season.
“She’s incredibly protective of Anna, which is why she does what she does with the burning of the ticket,” Dockery said. “That continues into Season 5. Anna — she’ll always have her back, but at the same time, it is this secret now. Mary is party to the crime now, because if it was Bates, Mary destroyed evidence, so she was taking a big risk there, but she was taking it for a friend. They’d run over coals for each other. They’re so close and it’s lovely to see their relationship develop.”
Having said that, however, Dockery admitted that there may be consequences for burning that train ticket, which tied Bates to the location of Mr. Green’s death. “I think it will always haunt her,” she said. “She’s essentially destroying evidence. I think Mary has that attitude that she’ll get away with it. Maybe she will because of who she is, but maybe she won’t.”
“What I love about Season 5 is the fact that that friendship that you see the beginnings of between Mary and Tom really comes into fruition,” Leech told BuzzFeed. “They really become confidantes for each other in Season 5, and it’s very much as brother-in-law and sister-in-law, but it goes beyond that. It starts as that, and it becomes a proper friendship… I think Tom’s clever enough never to get involved in relation to a romantic life. He very much keeps it as much as he can in relation to her asking for advice and vice versa, he’d never put his foot in it.”
Dockery agreed. “They’re much closer,” she said. “It’s funny looking back, how she felt about Branson to begin with, with Sybil and Branson and how she wasn’t for that relationship, and now they’ve become very, very close. There’s a similarity in what they went through, having lost a partner, so they spend quite a lot of time together on the estate and they’ve become each other’s confidante, which is something you never would have imagined in Season 1 — that Mary would be confiding in the chauffeur.”
7. Russian refugees will descend on Downton.
No, this is not a scene from the new season of Downton Abbey (it’s from an M&Ms commercial of all places), but it does depict Rade Serbedzija, appearing here as a shady mobster of sorts. Serbedzija will join the cast as Kuragin for Season 5, which will feature a Russian refugee subplot, one that heavily involves the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) and Lady Rose (Lily James).
“They open up the house, and Mary is a part of that,” said Dockery. “She’s very proud of Rose. She admires her for what she’s doing. And of course, it’s what then evolves with Violet’s involvement with it all — without giving too much away — where Mary takes more of an interest… She’s not do-gooding quite as much as Rose is.”
Laura Carmichael, who plays Lady Edith, added: “It’s Rose’s project, really. You see Rose try and better herself in a very sweet way. She’s maturing out of parties and decides she needs to do something worthwhile, and it’s adorable. It’s really lovely.”
But don’t expect Branson to get involved, given his revolutionary leanings. “He would have some issues supporting it as much, given what happened in Russia at the time,” Leech said. “There’s a nice moment to play. I think that’s the reason you don’t see Tom getting so involved; obviously, he has some issues with the imperialist nature of some of the people who are there.”
8. Edith has hidden her illegitimate daughter on the estate, but that doesn’t mean that things will play out any easier with the child nearby.
“The main thing for Edith now is the child,” Carmichael told BuzzFeed. “She’s had a baby, and she’s having that awful feeling of being separated from your child, and she’s living with that. And yet she cannot share that with anyone because it’s too great a risk to her reputation.”
But having the child nearby doesn’t soothe her conscience in any way or remove the pangs of motherhood. “For her, it has to be slightly comforting, but as you’ll see throughout the season, we really see the struggle of doing that, of having the child live on the estate but nobody knowing why she has such a great interest in this orphan,” Carmichael said. “How to balance that with her instinct — which is to see her as much as possible and be part of her life and be her mother without risking it coming out and without alienating the adoptive parents… [That] is the thing that we really deal with, how the Drewe family copes with having the lady of the house come as often as she possibly can to see the child.”
And those pop-ins add a patina of additional danger for Edith. “It’s a drama waiting to happen,” said Carmichael. “Everything is on a knife-edge, really.”
9. But Mary isn’t going to do Edith like Edith did her.
As in, she’s not going to out Edith’s secret the way that Edith nearly destroyed Mary’s reputation by contacting the Turkish ambassador way back in Season 1.
“I think they’ve gone beyond that,” said Dockery. “I don’t think Mary’s out to get one over Edith — she gets a little impatient with Edith when she’s down and she’s obviously got something going on, and Mary doesn’t really know what it is. She gets very impatient with her, because Mary’s very much a get-up-and-go sort of person … and with Edith, she just finds it a little bit irritating that she’s not happy.”
Likewise, Carmichael said there hasn’t been a rapprochement between the two Crawley sisters. “It’s still pretty frosty, to be honest,” said Carmichael of Mary and Edith’s relationship. “The lucky thing for Edith is that Mary doesn’t know right now, so who knows what she would do with that information. I can’t really tell you any more without giving it away. It’s interesting.”
10. Likewise, the father-daughter relationship between Mary and Robert (Hugh Bonneville) remains complicated.
“Mary’s always slightly battling with her father, but they manage to find common ground,” said Dockery. “It’s just the way that it is — I think he’s still adjusting to her being in such a high position on the estate, and being a woman, and, as it goes on, he begins to — I guess he has faith in her, that she can take responsibility for what she has to do on the estate.”
11. The mystery surrounding the presumed death of Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards) will continue into Season 5.
Particularly, Edith’s fixation with determining just what happened to her would-be husband after he arrived in Germany. (That story about him attacking a gang of brownshirt ruffians on his first night there strained credulity.) “It continues to obsess her and the family really can’t understand why,” said Carmichael. “They met him a couple of times, they knew she was keen on him, but they don’t have any idea about the extent of their relationship and the fact that she was pregnant by him and she’s had his baby. That is a secret to the family, and it means that they can never fully empathize or be the caring family they need to be when she’s going through this hell.”
12. Lady Rosamund (Samantha Bond) is a thorn in Edith’s side. (And so too, potentially, is Violet.)
“[Rosamund is] not historically very good at keeping a secret, but she’s already outed it once. She’s already let Violet know,” said Carmichael. “Edith therefore doesn’t quite trust her in the same way.”
And given that Edith has so few confidantes who know just what she’s sacrificed, for her, “the journey this season is how to cope, and what that feels like, and that’s the story that [creator] Julian [Fellowes] really focuses on this year — how painful it is for Edith… and what she can possibly do to get over that,” Carmichael said.
“However much Rosamund and Violet care for Edith, their take on it is: ‘You must move on and pretend it never happened for the sake of everyone and your reputation,’” she continued. “They think it’s the most caring thing to do. And that was true of so many people of this time, and so many women who have to give up children that they would have loved. It’s incredibly painful, and you hear that they thought of their child every day, and many women have to do that, and what we see happen in Season 4 is how you cope. She couldn’t quite go the whole way, she couldn’t quite let go, and therefore, it’s dangerous. But yeah, Rosamund and Violet don’t know that Edith brought the child back, so it’s another secret to add to the pile.”
13. Ultimately, Season 5 is about “motherhood” for Edith.
“What it’s about this year, is seeing her as a mother, and the difference between her as a mother to Mary as a mother is interesting, and what that does to the pair of them is great,” said Carmichael. “It’s about motherhood.”
14. And yet, there’s the hope of some sort of bond forming between Edith and Tom.
There were hints of an Edith-Tom friendship beginning in the fourth season and that carries through to Season 5 as well. “You see a warmth between both Tom and Mary, and Tom and Edith, where they are confiding in each other,” said Leech. “They’ve gone through tremendous stuff. While he lost a wife, they lost a sister, and they all have children now, and obviously Edith’s going through her issues, so they do all become confidantes. They funny thing is, of course, the only people who don’t confide in each other are Mary and Edith, because they still hate each other. That relationship’s there as well, and obviously Edith has a really amazing storyline this year, and Tom comes in and out of that, tries to offer all the support he can.”
“There’s really lovely moments for the three of them, with their families and with their futures, either on their laps or by their sides,” he continued. “It really is lovely to see that come together — and it kind of also heightens the fact that there’s one daughter missing. I always thought that’s really interesting. Tom’s taken the place of Sybil [Jessica Brown-Findlay] in relation to these siblings.”
15. But it’s not romantic, because that local schoolteacher — Sarah Bunting (Daisy Lewis) — is back as a love interest for Tom.
“[Branson] has his dreams and aspirations to be as good a man as he can be, and Season 5 sees him wrestling with the idea of whether it’s gonna be within Downton or without,” Leech said. “That’s his struggle throughout Season 5, and Sarah Bunting, who’s the schoolteacher you saw at the end of Season 4, she stokes the fire a little bit in him again, because she’s such a kind of firebrand in her own right. She’s very like what Branson was when he first arrived at the house.”
“Through the season, you see him wrestling with the fact that she has no real understanding of the family now that he does. He doesn’t see them as she does,” he continued. “He has a great line: ‘I don’t believe in types, I believe in people.’ The more he tries to explain this and show this to Sarah Bunting, the more he realizes that maybe there is a life outside of this. Maybe there’s a life outside of this for him. She constantly says, ‘There’s more to you than this,’ and I think some of that rubs off him.”
So does that mean that Branson will take Sybbie (Fifi Hart) and run off to America any time soon? “Season 5 is him trying to figure out exactly [what he wants]: What are these things you want to do? Where do you want to go?” Leech said. “It’s definitely a real journey for him this year.”
16. But there’s tension between Branson and the servants at Downton.
Remember how Thomas (Rob James-Collier) made a big thing out of trying to remind Branson that he wasn’t one of them and wasn’t a member of the Crawley family either? Well, it appears that Branson’s in-limbo state will be a source of conflict between the chauffeur-turned-estate manager and his former downstairs colleagues — and not just with Thomas.
“It’s not only him,” said Leech. “More people are beginning to see that maybe there’s more to life than being a servant. Tom is an example of what you can do, what you can achieve — OK, the way he went about it was slightly against the grain, you know, eloping with one of the daughters, but a lot of people see him and resent him for the fact of where he sits now. That’s a constant, constant struggle for the staff, and a constant struggle for Tom, and again, maybe a good reason why he needs to get out.”
17. Something is going on between Carson (Jim Carter) and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan), who took each other’s hand at the end of Season 4.
Or is it? “It’s bubbling away there,” said Froggatt. “We’re not quite sure what’s going to go on with Carson and Mrs. Hughes, but nobody else knows about it. They keep it very much private and to themselves. But that beautiful scene where they held hands going into the sea, it was so cute. I’d love to see more of Carson and Mrs. Hughes in their private state, because I love those scenes between them.”
18. The opening episode of Season 5 may or may not make you cry.
Leech confirmed that it may (though it took a while).
“Something sad happens? Something dramatic happens,” said Leech. “Very dramatic. Sad?… I haven’t seen it… Oh yeah, something sad does happen. Yeah. I’ll confirm something sad does happen.”
But nothing sad ever happens on Downton! Oh, wait.
Something sad ALWAYS happens on Downton. You’ve been warned.