Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Downton Abbey: A Response to the Season Finale

Downton Season 3 Finale

                 I suppose I should warn you not to read this if you haven't seen the season three finale of Downton Abbey, though like most of us, you were probably already aware of the spoiler that sent Downton Fans down another death-filled tear fest.

              The episode is cruelly lighthearted until the bitter, stab you in the heart end.  A fair is in town for all the servants who did not accompany the Crawleys on a Scottish adventure to visit Rose, Lady Susan, and Cousin Shrimpie (Yes, that is his name, and yes, it is quite amusing to watch so many proper characters say it so solemnly, as though it isn't as ridiculous as it is).  Minor and major developments occur, with Thomas taking a thrashing to protect Jimmie, leading to their friendship.  Branson, the only family representative left behind, is caught up in an awkward opportunist's guilty trap, managing to escape the greedy hands of the new servant Edna.  Ms. Patmore and Isobel are both tangled, rather needlessly, in one-episode and it's done "romances."  All in all, besides the continued evolution of Branson into a confident and capable man and the redemptive friendship of Jimmie and Thomas, not much of consequence occurs back at Downton, barring this:

Carson and Baby Sybil

          Seeing Carson pluck up baby Sybil causes one of the three best "AWE" moment.  What then, are the other two?  Back in Scotland, Cora and Robert's relationship is secure, Rose gives her feuding parents quite a ride, Edith fights feelings for her (complicated order) editor, and Mary tries to dance a jig while eight months pregnant.  The second "AWE" moment came courtesy of Bates and Mary discussing how truly remarkable Anna.  It was sweet payoff for their long way to happiness relationship.

Bates's proud love of Anna
            The episode constantly reminds us of Matthew's view of Mary.  He sees the best version of her, whereas others bring out her worst.  It is a cruel reminder of what life will be for Mary if she doesn't have Matthew.  Can she always be Matthew's girl?  It is a good question, considering what follows.  Mary manages a successful birth of the new Downton heir (with a shocking amount of hair, go figure), causing Matthew to want to do his own jig.  Seeing the family so happy and whole is sweet, but boy is it bitter.  Seeing Matthew at his happiest is all the more bittersweet and "AWE" inducing.

Matthew holds Baby Crawley
            Now for the worst part.  Unlike the death of Sybil, the finale does not give us time to see the family grieve.  Instead, while racing to tell others about the birth of his baby, Matthew is struck straight off the road.  The final scenes show Matthew lying dead as blood pools near his head while Mary sits, happy and unaware with her sweet child.  Ouch, Jullian Fellows, ouch.  Sure, I get that it opens the story to new possibilities  but what if I don't want those possibilities?  Dan Stevens chose to leave, as did Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil), but boy did they leave great roles and holes in the Downton world.  Downton has been so heavily permeated by Matthew's solid, morally strong character.  It is impossible to imagine life in Downton without him.  His death isn't an "AWE" moment at all.  It is difficult and sudden, and almost too cruel.  To quote Martha "Come war or peace, Downton still stands and the Crawleys are still in it."  How will Downton stand though, losing such a foundation?  Next season will have many questions to answer.

Lady Mary and Matthew, together and happy.


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