Monday Morning Blues, Downton Style

pledge drive
thanks for this cartoon, Kristin!

“Aren’t you going to blog,” Paul asked me last night when he found me curled up in bed after watching Our Show.

“I just…can’t.”

I wasn’t trying to be melodramatic. And here’s a little secret (which I think I already alluded to): I already knew about The Death. After Sybil died, I just couldn’t handle another shock to my system. I know, I know. It’s a show for crying out loud. But a show like this, where the writing is good and the characters are so nicely developed, you do get a sense that you know these people. You are rooting for them, you want to see good things unfold for them.

Death, you discover, is not on your wish list. Even for fake characters in a fake show.

unadulterated bliss = imminent death

So yes, I started reading up on the final episodes of Season Three and when I read about that I was just so disgusted and disappointed. I know a lot of us feel that way.

Here’s something interesting I read this morning, if this will make you feel any better. That twit, the actor who plays Matthew, he basically gave Mr. Fellowes no other choice.

We wanted them 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.

So you see, Julian (may I call you Julian?), you tried to spare us this misery. And we love you for that. But you had no choice and we see that now. We take back all the horrible things we said about you, don’t we dear reader?

I may have been equally disappointed with PBS itself, trying to tug at our broken heart strings as we sat in disbelief at the sight we just saw: the blood had barely stopped oozing from Matthew’s dear, in-search-of-greener-pastures skull when the staff of PBS was asking for money. Too soon, fundraising committee, too soon!

But I will say their plan worked (to a degree) because despite our being bored out of our (non-cracked) skulls, I would allow no one to change the channel, in the distant hopes that we might see Scenes. The thing we all live for. Yes, yes, the show is always great. But Scenes from Next Week’s Episode is where it’s at.

Alas, no scenes. And no “tying up that mess” closing few minutes. We were literally, Paul and Ethan and myself, sitting there calculating how many minutes the show actually ran, compared to what our channel guide was telling us, and thinking maybe, maybe???, the show would return for a brief closing scene.

No such luck. Do you think PBS made any money? They were banking on hordes of numb viewing patrons pulling out their wallets in a state of grief-stricken shock.

So Matthew died, and we didn’t get to deal with it at all. Paul describes the handling of Matthew’s death as “lame” and “a rip-off.” Also, Paul adds, “on Downton, if you’re good, you’re gonna die.”

But that was at the end. A few other highlights before that mess:

I saw something funny on twitter last night: The family’s away from Downton Abbey and all the senior citizens are hooking up. That felt about like it (with obviously so much more).

I loved how Mrs. Patmore was relieved when Mrs. Hughes broke the news about the town “suitor.” I also loved how quick Mrs. Patmore was to trust her friend. That could have turned into one of those “you’re just jealous” soap opera moments and I’m impressed that this was much closer to real life — when you are bosom friends with someone, you just trust them, the end. We were able to cut through so much bologna because those two woman know that they have each other’s back, as real friends do.

Is Mrs. Crawley that dense? I think so. Paul thinks so. But we just can’t be sure. I’ll admit I was interested in seeing that romance going somewhere. Wouldn’t it be nice for them to each have someone? But it’s cute how oblivious Isobel seems to be. (Unrelated: way back before Downton, when our Isabel was born, I wanted to spell her name Isobel. But I figured no one would EVER get that right, and as it is she often gets the french spelling, Isabelle, which if you ask me is a totally different name than Isabel. One is flowery and romantic; the other is neat and tidy and also romantic).

Anna dancing a Scottish jig while Bates looks on: I smiled and teared up in spite of myself. Oh you’ve won me back. I’m definitely on your side. I’m cheering in your corner.

john bates
So sweet, but not as sweet as…

Mr. Carson picking up baby Sybil (who was watching her by the way?) from her crib and holding her there. Melting.

Mrs. Hughes really is the heart of the home. She has her eyes on everything and her finger on the pulse. We cheered when she clued in to the maid with an eye for Branson. And I was proud of Branson for not giving in. And I LOVED how Mrs. Hughes was able to explain to Tom the importance of not letting anyone make him feel bad or guilty or embarrassed about his life, the changes he has made. She really loves the family so much and here I go again forgetting that this isn’t real life. I’m so ashamed.

Tom and Jimmy can be friends. I like how that closed out. And that was impressive how he stood up for Jimmy.

The marriage of the couple in Scotland made me so sad. But I think it’s a reality for so many people. You have the children to keep you distracted and then, unfortunately, discover you don’t really know each other, much less like each other, after all. I wanted them to explore the themes of Menopause Making You Crazy, but that might have been too much? I felt bad for Susan MacClare, who at one point tries to make a funny/sweet comment but her husband is unfortunately so used to her negative ways that he can’t take the bait. They are constantly nipping at each other and you can see it’s just become a way of life.

It will be interesting to see how Rose’s storyline works out. Someone wrote (sorry, I can’t remember who!) that when Rose first came on the scene it felt like the times a little kid is trotted out to bring life to a script. Is this a similar tactic? Will she “replace” Sybil? It doesn’t seem like it, but I hope she can calm her self down a bit, just so I don’t have to feel on edge every time she’s on screen.

It kind of amazes, when I think about it, that all the time and energy in the household with the staff and servants and all of it — it’s all about family. All these people cooking and cleaning and running this house and it’s for a group of people (not ordinary people of course) — a mom and dad and gramma and kids. Something about all the fuss and To Do of the meals especially makes me want to work harder. All those people coming together day after day, just for this family to live their life. Yes, it’s over-the-top. But somehow, to my mind, it also elevates (in a good way) the station of Family. Family life is quite important. (Note to self: get a maid and a cook. It’s worth it.)

Paul was quite proud of O’Brien for not falling for the whiskey-tricks of the other maid. “Does that woman think O’Brien wouldn’t notice the taste?” He was incredulous. And quite pleased with the end results.

Paul also admitted that he thinks his favorite character among all the characters on this well-written show would have to be: “Miss O’Brien’s sideburns.” He hopes they get more lines next season.

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  1. Although I am not happy with last night’s ending, I still find myself desperately sucked in….

  2. I for one hope they skip ahead about a decade in the season 4 start-up. I don’t think I’m up to the endless tale of tragedy and dashed hopes this show has been turning into. It’s become downright maudlin. And it feels manipulative, even if it is because the young stars have become soooooo overwhelmed by having a world of opportunity open up at their feet.

    I just haven’t found Dan Stevens all that compelling as an actor, as pleasant as it is to look at him. Little Joe was more interesting and he stuck around on Bonanza for 13+ years. I would be surprised if Stevens turns out to be quite as prolific or becomes as universally known and loved.

  3. Love it, all of it. Well done! One other thing. . .what about the duplicity of Mary? Now that Matthew is gone, will she just enter wholly into the role of evil snob sister or will the new heir soften her? Ugh! I don’t want to wait!

    • I agree! There was so much foreshadowing with that…only Matthew knows the real her? So where does that leave things now. It will be interesting, but I have to say it seems like they revived the old agitated Mary in recent episodes. I feel like we hadn’t really seen that side of her in a while.

  4. I had a totally different take on Isobel and the doctors interactions; had a big viewing party at my house and we all thought that she knew EXACTLY what she was doing. Plus it would be so out character for her to be that dense. She is so independent she has no intention of getting married again. She even said that in one of her comments to him. She was just being unusually diplomatic.

    I also knew about Matthew all season, accidentally read it in a spoiler before the season started. We all thought it just seems so soap-opery and cheap. And the actor is a numbskull if he thinks he is going off to get better parts than this one!

    I was kind of disappointed with this whole season of Downton. The writing just seemed so very desperate in a written-under-a-deadline kind of way. More like a formula TV plot.

    • I can see what you mean about Isobel. I should have taken into consideration her love of independence. I was blinded by my desires for True Love for her…

      Having said that, maybe Alfred could go work for her, as a cook in her house???

      • Having Alfred’s culinary talents pop up every so often is one of the more interesting story line possibilities. He needs to get out of this bumbling existence as a footman and go become Jamie Oliver’s grandfather.

  5. Imagine the feeling I had all day after Christmas after seeing this on a website the day it aired in Britain? I wasn’t feeling normal again ’til Epiphany! I used an Edwardian palate cleanser–Brideshead Revisited [available on instant view on NetFlix]–to get clear of Highclere and recall Evelyn Waugh’s great work. Coincidentally, the woman who played Marchioness Shrimpie was also Lady Cordelia Flyte [the most Catholic of the Flytes] in Brideshead.

    And Isobel Crawley was totally diplomatic and QUICK! She thought he was going to ask her to return to the hospital. He threw her a curve and she hit it out of the park. Here she was, a respectable widow on the brink of grandmotherhood. Why oh why would she want to resume the life of a doctor’s wife?

    And one final note: Everyone that Mary Crawley beds dies. First the Turkish fellow [Pamook!–when you’ve seen one Pamook you’ve seen Kamal] and now Matthew. I think Fellowes should bring back Evelyn Napier and have him [who never married] form a friendship with Mary. Cuz if they have Mary turn to Branson, I’m going to quit this show.

    • They better not have any inter-family romance. It would be just too tidy. But maybe that’s what happened back then, if you didn’t have the chance to meet new people? Kinda like the Bible…

  6. You nailed everything as usual. I had heard that someone was going to die, so my friend and I were discussing the possibilities all weekend before the show. I came to the Matthew conclusion, because he was the only logical choice (although I did NOT look online!). So I was waiting in dread the entire episode. So awful. But I did go online last night (as I was wailing on FB about it) and saw the information about the actor. So unfair for us! I’ll be interested to see where this leads, although it does resolve the heir problem.

  7. I am so irritated that it was only 7 weeks.

    I am so upset about Matthew–haven’t they been through enough? But I think it opens some interesting storylines since Matthew was the one that was saving the estate financially. Now it will be up to Branson because Lord Grantham is not forward-thinking, but Grantham and Branson will butt heads. And I think Branson is going to fall in love with a maid or some other servant…causing more issues without Matthew there to buffer it.

  8. Downton – SOB!! Just discovered your blog via clover lane – glad to know someone else blogs about Downton 🙂 Your post was spot on – thanks. Could they have made that servant cast more gloomy in Scotland??? My MY I had a feeling O’Brien was going to take that chick’s job. Sheez – she was sooooo sad looking and MEAN. Just like O’Brien. lol Did they have to have Matthew’s eyes OPEN and blood oozing down his face??! My DA addict friends and I are just gobsmacked with this on Facebook. Sybil I could understand, somewhat even though she was the nicest sister, but couldn’t they have found a face like Matthew’s and plugged him in when Dan left? I don’t know – just seems beyond sad. Too many deaths. That Edna girl was evil – SO glad when she was given the boot. The gall of her! And please PLEASE can’t Julian write a decent, NORMAL, beau in the storyline for Edith???! How on earth will that all pan out?

    Team Branson here!

    • Awesome! Paul wanted me to spend a little more time focused on the gruesome makeup for Matthew death scene. He was so intrigued by how gooey they made it. I was like “too gross.”

      I agree — Edith just needs a nice normal guy. I hope the newspaper guy moves on…

  9. Yes the actor is leaving so yes the character has to leave too, but not like that. ANOTHER parent dies on the day their child is born ~ NO that is just not right!

    BTW loved how Mrs. Hughes turned Branson around and encouraged him to the man Sybil knew he could be ~ forwards not backwards.

  10. They could’ve replaced the guy with another actor! Ugh. What a downer.

  11. Rachel, I love reading your thoughts on the show and I had not considered the who aspect of how the servants show the importance of family life. My own comments are too long to post here so forgive me for just adding my link. BTW, I have been following O’Brien’s bangs on Twitter. I had never thought about her sideburns until you said it. 🙂

  12. My husband said he’s done. He can’t take anymore heart stringing kind of drama! I just blinked in disbelief. Sigh. Thanks for all the Downton reviews — they’ve been fun to read! And… I agree with Chris and Ruth Anne. I think Isobel totally knows what she’s doing, but knows how to look like she’s playing dumb, so she can kindly let someone down… and at the same time, they’re not quite sure if she really did it on purpose or not. Totally quick thinking.

  13. Regarding Isobel: I also believe she knew exactly what the good doctor was intending, but it’s not beyond imagining that she might have a total change of heart now that her son has assumed ambient temperature.

  14. Brilliant review. I knew Carson was The MAN…I adored him with Sybil. What will we read in Monday’s now that Downton is over?

  15. I knew Dan Stevens left the show (the jerk), so I spent the entire episode on edge waiting for something to happen to Matthew. You should have seen me when he was hunting! Then when it finally happened I was like … that was it? Really? Paul is right, it was lame. Like Julian Fellowes was going, fine, if you have to leave then it’s done. You’re dead. Good-bye!

  16. Sybil’s dying was very sad and, to me, very unexpected. I cried like a baby when Ethel had to give Charlie to his grandparents. But the Matthew thing was a nasty shock and left me angry rather than making me feel engaged in the series. It has become a little tedious. But I admit, I can’t wait for the next series……..

  17. I was just waiting to see what you’d say about this. I don’t often comment, but I never miss one of your posts, and I know you take Downton as seriously as I do!

    Loved your insight.

    It’s not fake, is it? They’re real people, right?!

  18. a) I knew about the impending death too, which was bad because I was just waiting for it the whole episode. Then I actually got crazy enough to think “maybe it won’t bappen. maybe that twit (your word is way nicer than my word was) has come to his senses.” Sad, naive Keri.

    b) Clover Lane gave you mad props. She’s right. You are the premier Downton reviewer. I found her blog through you and love it, so graci for sending me over way back when.

    c) as much as I adore your reviews, I am voting for a few by Paul next season. The sideburns comment earned his spot as guest reviewer!

    • Keri, I felt the same way! I was like “maybe they changed the ending because that actor changed his mind?” Rats. No such luck.

      I will tell Paul you are a big fan. He kills me with his commentary. So funny.

      And Clover Lane rocks! Glad you like her as much as I do!

  19. This is the most entertaining post on Downton that I have ever read! I think that our husbands must be twins separated at birth. Has Paul every lived in Nebraska?

  20. Found you through Clover Lane. Love to read and talk about Downton! Yeah! Glad I found you! I totally believe Mrs. Crawley knew what was going on. She is too smart and diplomatic not to! Love Mrs. Hughes! She is awesome. My girls knew that Matthew was going to die so every time he got around a gun or anything, they would scream for him to be careful! It was hilarious and so I couldn’t be appropriately sad because they were so dramatic and I was so irritated that it was really going to happen.

  21. Have you been following this???

    It’s fantastic– if Downton Abbey was on Facebook, what it would look like. They haven’t posted Episode 7 yet, though I keep checking… and checking… and checking. I read all of the Season 3 “recaps” and laughed so loud I woke up the napping kids at one point. Oops.

    And I’m in the camp that is 99% sure that Isobel knew just what she was doing when she interrupted the doctor to explain how set she is in her ways that she wasn’t intending to marry again, especially when her friendship with someone like him can be so strong. She let him down so gently and prevented him from saying something that might ruin their friendship by embarrassing him when she rejected his proposal. But yes, I’m hoping she reconsiders!!!! They would be lovely together.

    I read today that a new love interest has been cast for Mary. Sigh. Then again, there wasn’t really anywhere for Matthew’s storyline to go, and despite my feelings for him and Mary in Season 1 and 2, Season 3 has been less than stellar for him. I found this take on his death the most similar to my own thoughts:

    And, as tough as it is to have a beloved/integral character leave a show, I have to remember that the actors and actresses have their own lives and dreams to live, even if they’re totally wrong and should have stayed on Downton Abbey forever. 🙂

  22. One more fantastic Downton Abbey link:!

    It’s Downton Abbey characters singing One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful.”

    Annnnddddd… in possibly good news, the actor that was supposedly going to play Mary’s new love interest has denied the report. Perhaps the actor wanted to live/not be the bad guy. Those are the options: death or bad guy. 🙂

  23. I also had heard Matthew had left the show so I knew ahead of time he was going to die. The hunting scenes were agonizing, then I thought he might get hit by lighting out there in the Scottish highlands (what, with all that thunder), then I wondered if there would be a train accident. Nerve wracking!!

    What I’m wondering is what the protocol is for the new heir? Matthew was the heir but technically he never inherited, so does it pass to his son? Is he even next in line?

  24. My favorite part of the finale was when Matthew proclaimed that he “felt like he had just swallowed fireworks” upon the joy he felt at the birth of his son. I keep remembering that line. That is a very apt description of the feelings of overwhelming joy with the birth of a baby.

    I am so very sad that his character is gone. However, I will surely tune in next season to see how Mary handles it all. Does she move on and help be administrator of Downton? Does she wallow and mope and become pitiful? Somewhere in-between? It will be interesting to see.

    Thanks for all of your thoughts! I’ve enjoyed reading them!!

  25. I thought I heard Mary tell Matthew to go sign the papers making him the official heir, with him replying that there was no rush and he would do it later. Presumably Matthew’s son automatically would have become the heir with Matthew’s demise, had things been made official.

    I wondered if that little exchange wasn’t perhaps a teaser for next season drama.

  26. Great re-cap! Unfortunately, I had read something (by accident) that mentioned that Matthew was going to die so I wasn’t that surprised. I used to watch Julian Fellowes on Monarch of the Glen and that was a common tactic of that show too…people either died or they went on trips ’round the world. I love the show too much to stop watching!

    My favorite line from this episode was by Mrs. Patamore…”Either way, it was the cooking he was after and not me” Love it! It’s all about the food!