Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Final Thoughts on Downton, Season 3

Overall impression--I didn't enjoy this season as much as the two that preceded it. Several reasons why--it was hard to handle Sibyl's death and then to know that Matthew wasn't going to make it past the final episode.

But also I think the driving force behind the two first seasons was the Mary/Matthew story. Will they ever get together and find happiness. My favorite episode ever was when Matthew was reported missing. They hold a concert at Downton and Matthew appears in the middle of it when Mary is singing. Corny but so romantic.

I'm not thrilled about the way it's turning into gothic melodrama/soap opera. The man with the mad wife, a la Jane Eyre? Surely there would be a provision in the courts that if someone was no longer able to recognize their husband the marriage could be terminated?

And I never felt the whole Bates story was properly explained. She made a pie with arsenic to poison herself? I don't believe it. She was the worlds most selfish, heartless woman. She made a pie wanting to poison Bates when he came to tea. I think she was taking a little arsenic herself to build up tolerance and took too much but that is never made clear.

I also found it hard to go along with Thomas being promoted, given the feeling on homosexuality at the time. And the fresh and flirty maid was too much. So there was a lot I didn't like. But i did like the way Sibyl's death brought the family together. I liked Edith becoming her own woman, to the point of deciding to be someone's mistress knowing they can't marry. I liked the way Branson is adapting to a new life and is being accepted for his good qualities (and the fact that he can catch a cricket ball).

I just wish they hadn't had to kill off Matthew. Couldn't he have been disfigured in the accident and a new actor could have taken over (having had a face operation)? Or have been in a coma for a couple of seasons and wake up when Mary is about to marry someone else? Or gone to check on land he inherited in India and make the occasional cameo appearances? Someone suggested his death was Julian Fellowes vengeance. Maybe it was.

But will I watch it next year? Heck yes. And if you can't survive until next January in the US, then I have a new book out in August called Heirs and Graces that is about the unlikely heir to a dukedom, a home even statelier than Downton, three weird sisters, two strange children and one horrible duke. (and Georgie doesn't find out that Darcy has a wife in an insane institution and nobody eats a pie with arsenic in it!)

So what are your final thoughts on the season?


  1. I really wanted Thomas to have poisoned Mrs. Bates. I'm pretty sure he poisoned Mr. Pamuk in season 1 but there was never any follow up on that.

    It won't be the same without Matthew. I like your alternative ideas, Rhys. Too bad Julian Ffellows didn't think of those.

    I just pre-ordered Heirs and Graces. :) Yay!

  2. I read that the actor who plays Matthew Crawley wanted to end his contract and go to the USA.

  3. I agree with your assessment of this season. I just read an interview with Julian Fellowes that explained the writers thought that the fans would never have accepted that Matthew would leave Mary for any reason and that the only way they could move on with the story was to completely eliminate Matthew. The article also explained how the British don't sign their stars for more than 3 years at a time as there is no financial incentive like in the US where our stars keep getting more and more money if the show is a success, and the British actors like to have a variety of work. Also since Downton was such a success Matthew and Sybill have lots of offers for other work. Anyway, I thought that Thomas would have been the one to kill Bate's wife...I also saw that there is a casting call for a handsome actor to play Mary's love interest in the next season...

    I too have pre-ordered all your books...keep 'em coming! Love them...:)

  4. I, too, agree with your overall assessment of the season; the show has definitely devolved into a total soap opera, albeit a gorgeously costumed soap opera.
    I do wish Dan Stevens hadn't left because I was looking forward to seeing how the entire Matthew/Branson management plan was going to play out. Besides, as you wrote, the Matthew/Mary story was truly the engine of Downton.
    I enjoyed the development of Edith into a fuller, more interesting and less shrewish character, but I find the insane wife in an asylum scenario too silly and was disappointed with that development.
    Like you, I'll continue watching and continue enjoying. And always, I'll continue enjoying your books.

  5. You're right: as usual, later seasons aren't as fun and novel as the first one or two, but I'm still looking forward to more, as the level is still pretty high compared to what else is being made these days.

    As far as the real murderer of Mrs. Bates, I've suspected since the moment her death was announced that O'Brien did it, that perhaps she killed her to prevent a scandal to The Family when she was in her "atonement for the bar of soap" phase.

    Do you think O'Brien will head off to India with the Scottish Laird's wife? I particularly liked O'Brien being made to seem a bright ray of sunshine by the Scottish lady's maid in the last episode....

  6. I expected O'Brien to try and work it that she go to India. Perhaps she's just too loyal to Cora.

  7. Having caught up on all three seasons after complaining loudly about spoilers on DorothyL, I'm glad to have someplace to talk about this. I watched the season finale on my iPad with earphones, and my husband came into the room to inquire why I was moaning, "Ohh, noooo!" I was devastated by both Sybil's and Matthew's deaths--two of the most attractive characters. Surely British actors get the same residuals as American actors when the shows are repeated on American TV? How unfair if they don't! And it is some consolation to know that in both cases, the actors were not axed but wanted to leave--though I'm glad I didn't catch the news before the finale. Actually, I have kind of a thing for Branson. I hope he finds an appropriate partner next season, though perhaps it's more likely he'll get thrown a challenge, maybe pressure to hide an Irish terrorist. I noticed that Matthew didn't die till a year after Lord Grantham agreed to the modernizing scheme, and the conversation with Shrimpy in Scotland suggested that the changes at Downton were well underway. (Or did that conversation take place before the year hiatus between scenes?) So maybe, having initiated that and sired the heir, Matthew isn't really needed, though he will be missed. I hope Mary doesn't get too waspish, now that the person who brings out her nicer side isn't around any more.

  8. I don't know how season 4 will go now that the two nicest characters have been killed off. Matthew was sort of the voice of sanity and glue that held everyone together, so I wonder how everyone will keep it together with him gone. I suspect Mary and Edith will return to the cattiness of the first two seasons, now that they are both single again.

    Thank God we still have Maggie Smith!

  9. Apparently the actor playing Matthew was offered the otion of cameos and declined. Fellowes said he felt death was the only option. He couldn't have them divorce--they'd been set up as too happy for that.