For those who watched the finale of season 3 of Downton Abbey last night let me say...that was not necessary. OK, in truth when an actor that is irreplaceable wants to leave a series there is very little that the writers can do about it except kill them off. And no the character of Mathew Crawley could not be replaced by another actor and expect people to just accept him as "Mathew." This series could not survive as an English Bewitched with it's two Darrens.
But I have to say that the story of Downton Abbey is changing and I am not certain what will happen in series 4. The draw of Downton was its upstairs downstairs quality but with humanity invoked. It is the dichotomy of stories and how rich and poor alike have the same problems, issues and go through the same trials and tribulations. It was less a soap opera and more a story of life. OK, yes somewhat of a soap opera but not with so much negativity involved.
Was it not enough that lady Sybil died from eclampsia mid-season? Yes childbirth was and still is dangerous and in many cases deadly. Funny how during the scene before she died when they were discussing the dangers of infection from a cesarean I though give her and the baby antibiotics. But then I remembered it would be decades before antibiotics or blood-pressure pills would be invented. Amazing what we take for granted in today's world. So there truly was little hope for Sybil all along.
Like many others I wish that Julian Fellowes could have found another way of getting rid of Mathew but then again one of the great stories of Downton was the love between Mathew and Mary. To destroy that in some way would have been worse than killing off Mathew. Now we can return next year and know that no matter what happens in Mary's life she shared a great love. Is that enough to satisfy a young woman in the prime of her life? For some perhaps, but in this case I doubt it, especially where Downton is concerned. I foresee escapades and some self-destructive actions on Mary's part, but then again she has the new heir to Downton to think about as well. I also foresee a leeching Isobel, trying to interfere with the raising of her grandchild since he is the only part of Mathew she has left. Watch for fireworks, tears and trauma.
As for the rest, Edith is headed for heartbreak and trouble. The idea that her editor could not divorce an insane person during that time is unconscionable. But perhaps Fellowes will allow the wife to die ala Jane Eyre and there can be some happiness for one of the girls of the Crawley family. Sad though how so much happiness in this series ends up being based on another's sadness. Perhaps it is a writer's issue or a British issue for that matter, but in life people can actually be happy without it causing someone else pain. Promise. Sad too that after WWI, when an entire generation of youngmen were killed off in war, that women like Edith didn't really have much in the way of suitable, uncomplicated and appropriate companions.
Another side effect of Downton and a good one at that, is that the social impediments and social ignorance of the time reminds people of the "good old days" and how they weren't necessarily so good afterall. Thankfully, social mores and norms have come along way in one hundred years. We can remind ourselves to be thankful that we live now in a time of acceptance and actionable tolerance, well for the most part at least.
Branson has turned out to be quite an interesting character. As the agent of Downton he has a new handle on his future and an interesting attachment to the family. I found it obnoxious how he wasn't invited to the relative's hunting party even though he is the son-in-law living in their home. I found it interesting that the Crawleys went happily without him. It seems that he may be family but he is not "of the family." We shall see what happens next, for eventually a youngman is going to find a new love. Not with one of the maids of course (that was a nice scene when Mrs. Hughes explained his new place to him and that he was entitled to it), but there is something on the horizon for Tom and no I don't think it is Rose,
Ah Rose, Rose, Rose and children today think that issues between them and their parents is something new. Now she wouldn't even be considered a wild child. She would be just a teenager. Many people don't like her character. I find her interesting. She is a young-woman of the roaring twenties. A new breed of female. One learning how to enter the "modern era" but constrained by Victorian mores. It will be very interesting to see how this rambunctious teenager gets along at Downton with all the sadness to come. She is definitely going to be a challenge for them beyond anything they have ever dealt with. Another plot twist to bring to fruition the changing and developing times in Britain and the rest of Europe before the advent of depression and war.
As for Lord and Lady Grantham and the Dowager they will be back and up to snuff. Cora will help Mary in the raising of the Downton heir and run interference with Isobel (I actually had hoped Isobel would have married the doctor. That would have been a lovely story.) Robert will retake charge of Downton and work with Branson to continue to modernize. It was nice in the last episode that he realized just how right Mathew had been all along. The Dowager will continue to be herself, supportive of her granddaughter, unsure what to do with Tom and clinging to traditions that are passing her by but something also tells me that the Dowager is going to take charge of Rose no matter how it aggravates Rose. Rose may have just wished she had gone off to India with her mother in the end.
Yes the production values and film making is exquisite in Downton Abbey. But the magic of Downton is that it brings us back in time to an era that we all fantasize about. It transports us. We become invested in the lives of the characters as with any good story. We, who have been raised on Jane Austen and the Brontes, always wondered what life in a great house was like. We even wonder about life in these great houses today, or else why would tabloids and gossip columnists be so highly listened to or people fantasize about winning the lottery and owning a Downton Abbey themselves.
I don't know what 1922 will hold for Downton. Let's just agree that we will be waiting for the next chapter and hoping in series 4 they stop killing off characters. Someone needs to tell Julian Fellowes that people are allowed to be happy for decades. It happened back then as it happens today and it can happen at Downton too.
Qi en Pace,
Update: I realized that I had forgotten to discuss the downstairs family of Downton Abbey. Truth be told there was nothing to conjecture about. Everything really seems fine. Bates and Anna are very happy (I hope they have a child in series 4), Even Barrow and Jimmy decided that they could be friends after Thomas saved jimmy from muggers. Alfred is still being silly about not cooking, sad that it is not considered manly enough for the times. O'Brien is still her nasty self but it seems that since Bates can always say "soap" it will keep her away from them at least or anyone else she decides to hurt. I think all in all the downstairs lot is in a happier place no doubt than the privileged class right now at Downton. Probably why there wasn't much to write about. Apologies.