updated 02/21/2014 AT 5:00 PM ET
•originally published 02/24/2014 AT 5:30 AM ET
Sunday’s Downton Abbey on PBS Masterpiece brought a nice, gentle close to a difficult, unsatisfactory season. At the end we got to see Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes on a rare day off, at the English seaside, wading into the water and holding hands like two children afraid of being carried off by a wave.
This may even have hinted at a growing, sunset intimacy between the two. Given all the misalliances on Downton, what could be better than the prospect of a romance between the two characters with the best hearts?
Considering last season’s brutal finale and the sometimes ridiculous swings of the show’s plot, this could very well mean that Carson winds up like poor Mr. Pamuk, smuggled out of a bedroom wrapped in a sheet. Not yet, anyway.
SPOILER ALERT: Major plot points to be revealed immediately.
The episode, which centered on young Rose’s presentation at court, was efficiently driven along by a lot of genial period-piece business about the Prince of Wales and a presumably amorous note he had written to his special lady friend, Mrs. Dudley Ward.
The note is stolen – Rose plays an innocent role in its purloining – and there are concerns that it will be used for blackmail or sold to the foreign (American) press.
Lord Grantham snarls and thunders about the urgency of preserving the dignity of the monarchy and the Prince of Wales’ future. But, as he tends to, Pa Crawley has grabbed the short end of the history stick. The Prince of Wales was indeed eventually crowned Edward VIII, but gave up the throne for the love of Mrs. Wallis Simpson and became Duke of Windsor. Supportive of Hitler in World War II, he remains one of the most disgraceful knuckleheads the royal family has ever produced.
However, the Crawley family’s scheme to steal back the letter was enjoyably elaborate. Lady Mary, who recovered her peculiarly sarcastic steel over the season and felt little compunction about helping the silly prince, nonetheless took a part in the intrigue. Her slender stealth lent an edge of glamour to the proceedings.