(Needless to say, spoiler alert, if you haven’t finished watching the season.)
It was probably just as well that yesterday was a holiday, so we can pause for 24 hours to take in the last images of the season — Mary, serenely holding the newborn heir to Downton Abbey; Matthew, lying dead by the side of the road, blood trickling from his head. How could you do this to us, Julian Fellowes? As the “Downton” creator explains in a New York Times interview, he didn’t really have a choice:
We wanted [Dan Stevens and Jessica Brown Findlay] to stay and said, “Would you just do two or three episodes? And then you’re living in America or in Dublin.” But they both felt they wanted to make a clean break. When an actor playing a servant wants to leave, there isn’t really a problem – [that character gets] another job. With members of the family, once they’re not prepared to come back for any episodes at all, then it means death. Because how believable would it be that Matthew never wanted to see the baby, never wanted to see his wife? And was never seen again at the estate that he was the heir to? So we didn’t have any option, really. I was as sorry as everyone else.
Sigh. OK then. But could, just once on this show, somebody get pregnant, have a baby and not have something terrible happen? (Cora, Sybil, Ethel, now Mary . . . ) Maybe Anna, next season? But that would be the end of her job as Mary’s maid, and surely Mary will now need her more than ever. Edith, with Mr. Rochester? Can’t imagine that turning out well; unless the Madwoman in the Attic dies a convenient death in Season 4. Perhaps Rose will get married? Daisy? Ivy? (Why are so many women on this show named after plants?)
It’s been an up-and-down season for me; moments of heartbreaking drama (most notably Sybil’s death, and the Dowager Countess’s reaction to it), alongside a few too many plots that we’ve seen before. Ethel’s story seemed to get re-told this season, and Edna romancing Tom seemed too much like Jane and Robert in Season 2. (We already know that the easiest way for a maid to get dismissed is to kiss one of the house’s gentlemen.) Mrs. Patmore’s thwarted romance was a little too much like Mrs. Hughes’ in Season 1 — the ending, at least, was the same — and poor Edith is becoming a sad story too often retold. Nonetheless, “Downton Abbey” is never less than a great pleasure, and it was lovely to see some actors really come to the forefront this season, particularly Lesley Nichol as Mrs. Patmore, who’s now rivalling the Dowager Countess for zingers. (I think “Do I look like a frolicker?” just might be the season’s best line. ) So, come back soon, “Downton Abbey” — we’ll be waiting.