Last Sunday night, I settled in my bedroom for the evening with a glass of wine, my peach satin PJ’s on, and the TV turned on to PBS to catch the Christmas special for Downton Abbey, which had just wrapped up season three. Yes, I could have watched this special sooner through various means of online TV episode procurement, but I didn’t. I wanted to enjoy the episode as it came despite the various murmurings from the internet that probably, maybe, most likely, something would happen to a certain character that I wouldn’t like. In my head, I liked to imagine that this probably, maybe, most likely, something that would happen would hold off until season four or wait until the very end of the series or just, you know, get left on the cutting room floor as the writers realized that getting rid of great characters was really stupid and everyone should just live happily ever after or move away to the countryside, never to be seen again but presumably be okay in the end.
I watched the entire episode and at the very end was left in a state of shock. Not even the wine could make me forget what had just happened. Or a good night’s sleep which I was sure to get absolutely none of that night because… (go away now if you don’t want any spoilers!) (I mean it!) you… you killed off Matthew Crawley. Beautiful, perfectly coiffed, glassy blue eyed, intelligent, cheeky with 1900s sexual innuendos, husband to Lady Mary, Downton estate gamechanger and newly made father to a healthy baby boy, Matthew Crawley.
What. Just. Happened.
Downton Abbey, we need to have a talk about season three and its Christmas special.
All of the troubles in season one and two from Matthew’s involvement in the war and being wheelchair bound to Cora slipping on the soap that O’Brien left next to her bathtub and suffering a miscarriage, seem to pale so much in comparison to season three that those seasons actually seem like happier times.
In season three with the accompanying Christmas special, there are so many bleak moments coupled with lighthearted ones that try as they might to shine bright would still get canceled out by upset. Edith gets left behind at the altar, Sybil gives birth and dies shortly afterward from eclampsia in a violently awful turn of events, and then Mary finally gives birth to the heir of Downton with Matthew driving home to tell the rest of the family only to get his car hit and die instantly on a dirt road. Then there were assorted other odds and ends that bothered me like that maid trying to make the move on single dad, Branson (get outta here), O’Brien conspiring so badly against Thomas to the point where he was nearly out on the street unemployable, and even Mrs. Patmore being gypped out of a romantic storyline. And when Mrs. Patmore cannot find true love, that’s when it just gets morbidly depressing up in here.
Worst of all, is the question of the home as a whole. What will happen to Downton now? Matthew was going to be one of the biggest aids to getting the estate back on the right financial track. Now that he’s gone, what will happen to the home? We obviously can’t expect Robert to take care of things – he thought the American chap “Ponzi” of the infamous Ponzi scheme could have helped out!
You can’t do that, Downton Abbey. You can’t take me on this journey starting in 1912, back in the day when Mary was still engaged to Patrick, Edith was still attempting to win Matthew over with her uh, Edithness, and Sybil hadn’t put on those cool harem pants yet, all the way to 1921 with this much heartbreak. I’ve invested a lot of time in the lives of these characters which isn’t all that different from how I am with most TV shows, but it was definitely a first when it came to Masterpiece Classic programming. Sure, there were a lot of impossible moments early on, especially the ones surrounding Mary and Matthew’s “will they/won’t they” relationship dance, but we got past all of that. But having seen the third season and the Christmas episode, I almost wish I had stopped watching at the end of the second season with that respective Christmas special. Now that was a solid episode. Sir Richard Carlisle was getting the boot outta there and everyone was happy and pregnant and engaged and maybe a little in the dark about the reality of their finances but shh, it’s Christmastime at Downton – and snowing!
There is a faint rumor going around that if NBC picks up a period drama from Downton Abbey’s creator Julian Fellowes, he may be leaving the show in favor of the new pilot. In the event of that happening, I’d just like Mr. Fellowes to know that I’d be more than happy to step in and bring a little warmth and sunshine to the world of Downton as a writer for the show. True, I may accidentally slip in a reference to the Edith with Googly Eyes Tumblr account, but that’s all right because Edith is a progressive woman and ahead of the times. And bonus – we’d get a long lost Crawley cousin to magically show up who would be very much on board with anchoring the family onward and upward through the rest of the 1920s.
Image courtesy of salon.com.