All cried out? Me, too. Now let’s take a deep breath and talk about what’s happened.
The last minute of “Downton Abbey”‘s season finale was devastating. But with Dan Stevens leaving the show, I think Julian Fellowes, the creator of “Downton Abbey,” did the right thing by killing off Matthew Crawley. There was no war to send the character off to, no plausible secret mission or business proposition that would detain him overseas, and with the history that he and Mary shared, there was no logical way to have their marriage fall apart, especially with her being pregnant. And with the actor’s intention to depart, Mr. Fellowes took a better course than recasting the role. It would be very difficult to duplicate what Dan Stevens brought to the character—the charm and intelligence (not to mention the most amazing eyes on TV)—and the comparisons between Matthews v.1 and v.2 would be endless and distracting.
So for better or worse, our hero is gone. Aside from his role in modernizing Downton’s methods, Matthew seemed to be the glue of the show this season, serving as Tom’s ally, striking up a friendship with Edith and in general, being the “go-to” character in the story lines involving Rose and Michael Gregson. So his loss will be felt by all, but the impact will be greatest on the two women closest to him—Mary, course, but also Isobel, who will have to cope with the death of her only child. Speaking of Isobel, I loved her scenes in the finale with Dr. Clarkson, and how oblivious she was as to why he would raise the issue of remarriage. Somehow I think this subject will be revisited when “Downton Abbey” returns.
What about Mary? What does the future hold for her? Others may disagree, but I liked seeing Executive Producer Gareth Neame refer to her “the heart of the show”. I’m looking forward to seeing the direction she takes following Matthew’s death. Will she assume an active role in managing the estate to carry out his grand plan? Money won’t be a problem for her, so there’s no need to rush into another marriage, though I expect she won’t be idle in that department for too long. And Edith? I really hope she doesn’t get stuck in a Back Street life, waiting for the mad Mrs. Gregson to die. I’d like to see more of her in the working world, tweaking the upper class with her pen.
Tom Branson and Rose will obviously be major players next season, though I’m praying that Mr. Fellowes and Co. don’t put these two together. She’s an irritating twit, though I really enjoyed the scenes she shared with Anna in the season finale, teaching her how to dance the reel. And Tom’s status in the household, as an outsider to both upstairs and downstairs, was beautifully portrayed. Mrs. Hughes’s heart-to-heart with him near the end of the episode couldn’t have been better written or acted.
And what about the servants? I thought the Thomas storyline was a waste of time from start to finish, though it served its purpose if only to end in O’Brien getting hers with “Milady’s soap.” Having encountered an uber-O’Brien in the form of Wilkens, maid to Lady Flintshire, perhaps the original has started down the road of character rehab (don’t hold your breath). Mrs. Hughes has earned a larger role in Season 4, and deserves a far better storyline than the trite “suspected cancer” bit she was recently saddled with. Carson will no doubt remain the rock of the household, and the younger servants will go on as they have, though I’d enjoy seeing Daisy run the farm that was promised to her. And we need to keep an eye on Bates—no matter what exculpatory evidence was produced, I still think he murdered his wife. I really believe there’s something very shady about this man that has yet to surface.
So now we’ve got a long wait until “Downton Abbey” returns. Hopefully next season will be televised on PBS in concert with its airing in the U.K., as has been proposed—some people actually think it might make it easier to avoid spoilers. Wanna bet? The ‘net became infested with rumors about actors being cast as Lady Mary’s new love interest before the image of dead Matthew even left the screen.
Frankly I think we all need to chill out, give “Downton Abbey” a rest, enjoy the coming warm weather, and reconvene for discussion in the fall. Don’t you?