The penultimate episode of Downton Abbey didn’t leave much of an impression on me when I first watched it. In fact I forgot most of it right after. Watching it back, I realized it was because this episode’s main event is Henry Talbot’s race at Brooklands, so I must have blocked most of it out.

Spoiler alert right off the bat:

His best friend dies tragically in the race, Talbot falls apart, and Mary finally breaks up with him for good. And that’s enough time spent on the most annoying people on this show.

Most of the good stuff happens with the servants. Mrs. Patmore has finally opened up her dream B&B, Mr. and Mrs. Carson adjust to married life, and Molesley has a schedule to sit for his exams at the school. In the last episode, the school teacher, Mr. Dawes, recognizes and appreciates Molesley’s obvious respect for education that he invites him to take his exams along with Daisy. I actually forget now how it all came about because I thought at the time that the show was just setting Mr. Molesley up to fail.

But guess what? Molesley does so well that Mr. Dawes invites him to teach at the school! Hooray for Mr. Molesley! This is one of the best character growths in this show, I have to say. In the beginning, Molesley was a bit of a sketchy and smarmy character who always tried to find the easy way out. You weren’t really sure if you could like him, or even if you were supposed to. But over time, we were shown that he could be a nice guy, especially with the way he looked out for Baxter and Daisy. Now you can’t help but wish him well.

Another great development: Mr. Dawes finds out that Andy can’t read, and volunteers to help him out. So everyone else now knows that his meetings with Barrow in his room are all quite innocent and that Barrow was just teaching him how to read. Of course, now that Andy no longer needs him, Barrow goes further into depression.

I’m glad to see that the Earl is now up and about. Hopefully this is not a case of the show lulling us into a false sense of complacency only to pull the rug out from under our feet with another major shocker.

Lady Violet once again shows us what a boss bitch she is. Lord Merton’s future daughter-in-law, Miss Cruikshank, is suspiciously nice to Cousin Isobel and invites her to her wedding. But the Dowager smells something fishy and confirms that this evil woman only wants Isobel to get back with Lord Merton so she, Miss Cruikshank, can get the old man off her hands. Lady Violet gives this pernicious woman an awesome smackdown for Isobel’s sake. Good looking out, Dowager! It’s so nice to see how the friendship between these two women has blossomed, from all that sparring in the first season to this warm and genuine relationship they have.

After her good deed, Lady Violet decides to go away for a while until the whole fuss about the hospital merger dies down.

In the past couple of episodes, we’ve been introduced to Lady Edith’s editor, Miss Edmunds, and I have to say I like her. She seems like a strong, confident woman, but she does not have that abrasiveness that Fellowes used to think was necessary for strong female characters (See Bunting, Sarah). There are hints that she might be Tom Branson’s new love interest, and I do hope it works out for them. If she doesn’t turn out to be an evil shrew, it would be nice for Lady Edith to have an ally in the family.

Oh, and speaking of Lady Edith, Bertie Pelham finally pops the question! You’d think this bodes well for our favorite sister, wouldn’t you? Wrong!

Next up, the last – could it be? – episode of Downton Abbey! Whyyyyy.