Downton Abbey 3×07

MMbaby

The sound you heard last night was the collective Nooooos, groans, wailings, cursing, and sobs of millions of Americans struck dumb and devastated by the surprise ending to season three’s finale/Christmas special. Though I was prepared for the inevitability of Matthew’s death thanks to a Norwegian trailer that leaked a few days before Christmas (not to mention the year’s worth of rumors over Dan Stevens’ departure), it still struck me as a cheap and unbelievable way to send off a departing actor because we already had the whole baby born–somebody dies scenario occur with Sybil. After watching it again last night on PBS, my opinion still holds, particularly because of the wretched dialogue thrown in the last act that telegraphed Something Bad Is Going to Happen!

And so, Matthew’s sudden death struck a jarring note in an otherwise very self-contained episode that tied up just about every loose-end of S3: Mary and Matthew have a son, Tom accepts his place Upstairs, Anna and Bates are happy and united, Thomas has made some measure of peace with Jimmy (even Alfred seemed to have grown a bit fond or at least respectful of Thomas after the previous year’s revelations), and Robert–via the horrid marriage of Shrimpy and Susan–learned to accept some of the changes of the future. There were the flapping ends of the sudden inclusion of Rose and the continued (excruciating) saga of Edith and her Rochester newspaper editor, but I assume that if Julian Fellowes hadn’t written S3 with the departures of Sybil and Matthew in mind, Rose would have never existed and Edith probably would have married Sir Anthony. Alas, the clamor for more Downton ruled the day, and we get a S4 of the slightly bitterest fruit.

Other notes culled from my Twitter reactions:

  • Mary had the glowingest pregnancy and labor ever!
  • Thomas must really be in love with Jimmy. I wouldn’t take a thrashing for him.
  • Bates and Anna have more tender and romantic moments than Mary & Matthew
  • Daisy’s picked up some snarkiness from Mrs Patmore!
  • Ugh, Edna.
  • Rose was less annoying than in the real end of s3. Her parents are a mess and a half.
  • Cora isn’t exactly mother of the year…
  • I was indifferent to Gregson last year, but last night he was annoying. I wish Edith had sent him packing.
  • No on Isobel/Clarkson. He was rude and dismissive of her for the past two seasons, and they hardly interacted at all during S3, and all of the sudden he’s fond enough of her to want to propose?
  • Molesley has become one of my favorite characters.
  • The creepy Tufton (new grocer and Mrs. Patmore’s suitor) played a gross character on South Riding.
  • Carson and Baby Sybbie were so cute together!

What did you think about the finale? If, knowing what was going to occur, would you have preferred Downton end with three seasons?

Thoughts around the web (scatter your weeping and gnashing of teeth across the internet):

Diana Overbey (love her recap and further ruminations)
Jane Austen’s World
Entertainment Weekly
Tom and Lorenzo
Downton Abbey’s IMDb message board (a favorite haunt)

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About Evangeline Holland

Author of Edwardian/WWI historicals. Likes cooking, the smell and collecting of old books, various artsy hobbies, travel, classic cinema, period dramas, the fusty areas of history, and all things French (though is terrible with maintaining fluency in the language). Read more about her novels and non-fiction here

13 Thoughts on “Downton Abbey 3×07

  1. Agree with you completely. Mosely is one of my new favorite characters, too! He’s brilliant.

    I think this season jumped the shark, and I think the two actors who left are going to regret it big time.

    However, Matthew’s character got on my nerves this season. That whole stint with the money – my goodness. So because of some misguided notion that Lavinia died of a broken heart, he won’t take the money to save HIS future and the future of his wife and children? GAG.

    I do think, however, that Mary needs a stronger man, one who can stand up to her. Maybe a typical Alpha male. Now that might be interesting…

    • Thank you for the link to Diana’s page. I find it very good. Yours too. I am happy to have found your page via Alison Atlee. I watched season last summer and quickly became obssesed like so many others. The reason was my favorite late night guy Craig Ferguson kept talking about it and he is also a fan of Project Runway my other obsession. The hats alone were reason enough for me to watch as that was the one thing I wanted of my grandmother’s (cherish them) and I always wanted to open a hat shop.The writing and the characters kept me going I never thought I would praise twitter but it has made a way for us to all connect and comiserate and find pages like yours. I wiil still watch I have to see if Edith ever finds happiness and no one ever talks about Carson and Hughes. I see a couple in the making there

  2. Thanks so much for the mention at the end of your review! I enjoyed reading your thoughts about how season 3 might have been different if Fellowes hadn’t known Sybil and Matthew were going to make their respective exits. I also wonder if he possibly upped the cute-couple factor on Anna & Bates because he knew we needed a stable loving couple to look forward to watching next season now that Mary & Matthew are no more. I thought Anna & Bates had some of the best scenes of the episode. And I almost hope Anna doesn’t get pregnant, given the disastrous “baby born-somebody dies” scenario Fellowes seems to love so much.

    And as a side note–thank you for mentioning Mr. Tufton was on “South Riding.” He caused an immediate “ick” reaction from me when he came on screen, but I wasn’t entirely sure why. Now I remember!

  3. They could have made it more interesting by having Matthew be the one who kills someone by his recklessness. Then send him to gaol – a way to rid him from the screen and a ironic twist of upstairs now in the clink.

    Unfortunately they have killed off the only two characters I care about – not much incentive to watch the Mean Mary, the Lazy Snobby Lord, and the Dullard Edith. What’s left really except to see Downton continue to slip away. The big stock market crash is coming….

  4. Lynn-Jane on February 18, 2013 at 10:49 AM said:

    Well, I knew the outcome of Series 3, thanks to my Brits friends, but even though I knew, I thought the “Mary and Matthew” conversations were telegraphing the ending…….

    Loved Carson and little Sybil

    I would LOVE to Edith to spread her wings and have an affair! Or turn her into a great writer ala Edith Wharton or even a racy one such as Lady Gwynn ( sp? )

    I’ll wager Mary will marry again and so will Tom

    BTW- Matthew Dan Stevens )is on Broadway with Jessica Chastain in “The Heiress” and Mary was in “Anna Karenina”- they are getting around!

  5. Lynn-Jane on February 18, 2013 at 11:00 AM said:

    PS….I do not object to Isobel/ Clarkson. Before the war and during it, all of the men thought women did not belong in “public positions”….things changed! Just as they will again when the women are air raid wardens and drivers in the 2nd WW….and besides, Isobel has lost Matthew and she and Clarkson would make a good “medical match”……office mates as well as marriage mates!

  6. So, what next? Edith gets her editor lover to use his connections to track down the mysterious heir-wanna-be in Canada, then invites him to stay as her guest at Downton while his claims are sorted out by the lawyers? The tiresome editor is kicked off the series, having served his purpose, while Rose and Edith proceed to fight over who gets to marry him and do battle with Mary and her male child for the rightful ownership of Downton? The legal costs eventually bring down the Grantham’s rule at Downton…. only wait?! In a Christmas special taking place a few decades later, after most of the family have died in WWII, Sybbie, once slighted by the others for her embarrassing pedigree but now a Hollywood star, is seen tears streaming down her cheeks (she is half Irish, so she is allowed) as she reads her father’s last will and testament. Next we see her buying the now dilapidated Downton Abbey as a quiet retreat where she can get in touch with her roots.

    While she is fixing up the place one unknown or missing relative after another falls out of the woodwork, revealing past scandals and secrets that intricately link the former upstairs and downstairs. One of the contractors turns out to be an impoverished but oh so noble-blooded Granthamite who teaches her the all-important lesson of how upper class English values are the key to human(e) survival and proves his love and progressiveness by supporting Sybbie’s radical idea to open up Downton Abbey to the public for part of the year. But trouble begins anew when she brings her Hollywood set over to begin filming a movie about the past glories of the estate…

    The actor who plays Molesley deserves a special award for the sneaky sideshow he puts on in all of his scenes. That dance of his was cathartic, like a commentary on the ludicrousness of it all ;-)

  7. Uh, I meant to write that Rose and Edith fight over the alleged Titanic-survivor-heir, not the editor. I am drugged on cold medications. Perhaps Fellowes was, too?

  8. Caroline on February 18, 2013 at 12:31 PM said:

    Yes I would prefer a tidy and happy 3 seasons than this horrible mess that the fourth has made!

  9. Ever since I read Dan Stevens was leaving to look for other roles, I knew Matthew had to die. But, I agree, Mary needs next someone who will stand up to her. I found their relationship a little hard to believe when she was at her worst. As for Edith and the editor, I like that little drama. I hope she moves in with him and REALLY shocks the family, and maybe becomes a novelist a la George Elliott. I would think by now she is sick of family respectability, so it would be demeaning to have her and Rose fighting over inheritance when she could finally be a semi-glamorous woman of the future with her editor someone who is finally in love with her. And at times I find the scenes Anna and Bates have been given tiresome. They had better acting opportunities when things were tough. Now that they’re happy, they’re kinda reduced to smiling at each other all the time.

    Despite all, I’m hooked on Downton Abbey and look forward to season four. Just wish it was sooner than January.

  10. I agree, Matthew’s death was pretty badly played. Sybil’s was done really well and wasn’t soap opera-y at all, but Matthew’s… yipes, I never thought I’d see so much (poor) foreshadowing on this show. Does Fellowes hate Dan Stevens or what?

  11. not Bridget on February 20, 2013 at 5:48 AM said:

    Fellowes knew both actors were going to leave after their 3-year contracts were up; he knew this before series 3 began filming. He was able to write a dramatic and affecting episode around Sybil’s departure. (She & Branson could have just gone to Amerikay, but Alan Leech wanted to stay & the show needed a nice-looking young fellow upstairs.)

    I bet that Fellowes kept hoping that Stevens would change his mind. When he did not, a slapdash death was tacked on to the end of the Christmas Episode. (Which upset quite a few Brits expecting some cozy holiday entertainment.)

    Fellowes says the next series will begin 6 months after The Tragedy–which robs the cast of some meaty chances to emote. The least he can do is write some really excellent scripts for his loyal remaining troupe. And let the production staff loose on some settings other than the impressive but stodgy Downton. Prison does not count!

  12. Fellowes mentioned in an interview that he tried to get Dan Stevens to stay for the first episode of the 4th series, so that they could get rid of Matthew then but Stevens refused, so the decision was made to kill him off in the Christmas special. Frankly I would have preferred if the series had either ended after this series or that Matthew died off screen perhaps in a hunting accident. Two deaths of major characters in one series was a bit much.

    I like the idea of Edith deciding that she was going to throw caution to the wind and snatch some happiness with Gregson. Her family treat her appallingly as she were deficient in some way. I too hope that she becomes a twenties version of George Eliot and moves in with him.

    Rose, to me, seems like a 21st century version of Georgiana from Upstairs Downstairs, the young, madcap relative who comes to stay with the famiy. Perhaps she and Branson can hook up, keeping it in the family so to speak.

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