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Downton Abbey Review: Give Thanks for Matthew

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PBS doesn't waste any time in cramming the episodes of Downton Abbey into a short time frame, as the Downton Abbey Season 3 was full of birth, death and other surprises.

That's surprising considering how little actually happened in the finale. It felt like it went on forever, yet it culminated in a mixture of happiness and tragedy.

Downton Abbey Tug of War

At least quite a lot has happened since the last time we checked in with the Granthams. Had it really only been a week? No matter. All of the disagreements and unpleasantness that were experienced in episode "306" are merely a memory now, having taken place at least eight months previous.

More of my stupidity in the ways of the household servant rankings - what was with calling Miss O'Brien and Bates "Grantham" and Anna "Miss Crawley?" Do ladies maids and valets take on the names of their bosses? How freaking weird is that? It's as if they have no individual personality at all. I can't say I'm a fan of that particular lifestyle.

The new house maid, Edna, looked far too much like cousin Rose for my comfort. Honestly, if they were in the same room, they'd look nothing alike. But at first I couldn't understand why Rose was making the bed with Mrs. Hughes. For the comfort of everyone else, her decision to hit on old house hand Tom Branson wasn't taken very well. Poor Tom was so uncomfortable being left in charge of Downton while the family was gone. He's just not the sort to honor all of that titling without a bit of embarrassment for having jumped ranks.

The household staff had a fun time by themselves without the pressure of constantly being "on" while the family was home. Jimmy even dared to sit in the parlor armchair. Everyone went to a fair and Mrs. Patmore was being wooed by the new spice merchant. Even those who accompanied the Granthams to Duneagle had an easy time of it. Anna and Bates even found time for a romantic picnic, while Anna herself learned to reel from Rose. I never thought of all the things staff weren't exposed to until Mary expressed her surprise at Anna's dance.

Edith exposed her entire family to her editor at the magazine when he just so happened to be in the Highlands at the same time they visited. Granted, we already knew things weren't going to turn out perfectly between Edith and Michael Gregson, but for Robert to greet Edith's editor by asking why he employs amateurs like his daughter was downright insulting. Every time I think I might be able to give Robert a pass, he sticks his foot down his throat again.

Matthew was willing to give Michael a chance, until he learned all Michael could offer Edith was a chance to be a mistress. He was good enough to give him time to say a proper goodbye, but Edith wasn't having any of it. I knew she would follow wherever the wind blew, and I think in her case, with as few offers as she had, I would have done the same. She's masking a lifetime of disappointment with a short term happiness, not seeing that in the long run it will be not be fulfilling and most likely joyless.

I have to note how beautiful Castle Duneagle was. While I'm not a fan of hunting, the scenery was absolutely stunning. Romping for hours under the dark, stormy skies over the green fields of heather made even hunting seem a sport I could get behind.

Cousin Hugh admitted to Robert that since he didn't modernize like the Earl did, all the money drained away from Castle Duneagle and he had to sell it all. That was the spur Robert needed to move forward with Matthew's plans. It was a requirement for Robert to give thanks for Matthew and his plans just before he was crushed by an oncoming lorry. What good soap opera would have it any other way?

There were plenty of the requisite scenes we've all come to love, of Mary and Matthew showering each other with love and affection. Matthew even talked out loud about seeing Mary naked. We won't have any of that any more. It's too bad, because I think Matthew was the one person who was keeping Mary bearable. Without him, she could very well become the harpy, nasty Mary she was before she learned about love with Matthew. It will be interesting to see what path the writers have in store for her.

Mary, herself, will be fine, because Mary is always fine. She has that golden touch in life, always finding herself on top of the world, most likely even after the death of her beloved husband. She may have felt as if she was only half herself without him, but she'll no doubt find a new half quicker than Edith will find her first full half, poor dear.

The question is, will Downton Abbey be the same without the drama and love that was Matthew and Mary?

Other thoughts:

  • It was a shame that it took Thomas coming to Jimmy's rescue for Jimmy to offer a hand of friendship, but at least he got it.
  • I was surprised Matthew got to see his baby before his life was taken.
  • Am I the only one who wished Isobel had let Dr. Clarkson propose?
  • How sweet was the scene with stuffy pants Carson holding and rocking baby Sybil?
  • Have you notices that Molesley has become comic relief at Downton?

There is no way to know exactly what Downton Abbey Season 4 will hold because each new series jumps forward in time. We might be watching the children of Sybil and Mary romping in the gardens of Downton and Edith could have a child, as well as Anna. The landscape of Downton should be changed if Matthew's plan is put into place and that might mean a larger cast, with more characters outside the Abbey proper and into the town.

Share your thoughts on the finale and what you think the future holds in the comments!

Review

Editor Rating: 3.7 / 5.0
  • 3.7 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.1 / 5.0 (66 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.

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I can say now that I have never been more depressed over a television show. I understand that the writers did the best they could since the two actors decided to leave (Matthew and Sybil) but I agree that loosing both of them within just a few episodes is too much.
Of course Matthew's death is a huge opportunity for a dramatic change and new story lines but I'm afraid that when a show looses one of the main characters, it doesn't recover from it easily. I expect chaos in series 4 because Matthew was the one who was holding everyone together - Robert with Tom, Mary with all of them - not to mention managing Downton Abbey. Bringing new faces like Rose won't make viewers forget and she definitely cannot fill Sybil's place.
Apart from that, I think that the best moments where Carson holding baby Sybil, Molesley dancing (so funny), and finally Thomas being friends with Jimmy. I don't really like Jimmy but Thomas is growing on me although I originally hated him. I see that he tries to be mean and selfish to protect himself from getting hurt all the time. I have been feeling so sorry for him lately.
Anyway, looking forward to next season. Please don't kill anyone else.

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I can say now that I have never been more depressed over a television show. I understand that the writers did the best they could since the two actors decided to leave (Matthew and Sybil) but I agree that loosing both of them is too much. Of course Matthew's death is a huge opportunity for a dramatic change and new story lines but his character was so important that I believe a lot of viewers would be extremely dissapointed

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The final episode of Series 3 has only just aired in Australia and seeing that we already knew that Dan Stevens was leaving the cast it wasn't a complete surprise they killed him off. Frankly, I'm not sorry to see him go - his character had a lot of spunk and was quite interesting in the early series, but of late he became such a prig and smarty pants he won't be missed IMHO. He has come up with the money and ideas to save Downton, Tom will carry out the new ideas well and now that Lord G has accepted them he will give his total support I imagine. Lady Mary has always been something of a pain and probably always will be - I am curious as to who they drum up for the next love - hopefully minus the nauseating love scenes. I won't miss Dan Stevens, but certainly will miss Siobhan Finneran - loved that character - we've all worked with people like her, manipulating everyone to suit her own purposes. I don't even blame her over the "soap and the bath" incident, I think I'd be tempted to do the same thing. How I wonder could a spunky character like the Shirley MacLaine mother give birth to someone so sickly sweet - any wonder Lord Grantham is such a grump. Downton is of course nothing but a Soap in fancy settings, clothes and posh accents. But compulsive viewing - love it - Thank you Julian Fellowes!

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No, DeLo, I completely agree that it would be awful to be employed by such a nasty person as Lady Susan. I'd say I don't understand why she'd take it, but perhaps it was the same there and then as it is here and now-if you have a job, you *keep* it! Lady Susan seems like one of those people who is so miserable that she can't help but 'spread it around'. Honestly, I wasn't sure if Matthew died or not. Yes, the wreck was awful, but he's 'bounced back' before...like how they originally thought he'd never walk again and then here he is, hunting and fathering a child. Either way, it's sad to see him go, if for no other reason than that he's nice to look at! DeAnn, I hear you on Scotland. I only spent about a day and a half in Edinburgh (near the English border), and I would *love* to go back!

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I hated the ending, thought it was not just maudlin but so unimaginative; I mean, dying in a car accident is right up there with "It was all a dream" for hackneyed. I'm no writer, but even I could quickly think of alternatives. How about if Mathew had indeed found out he could not be a father yet Mary was pregnant--and that caused him to leave mysteriously for parts unknown? His character could be kept going through occasional mysterious letters next season, while the family could struggle with a baby that looked nothing like Matthew. And maybe Edith could get back together with that Patrick Crawley heir (the guy in bandages) and challenge Mary's baby as the heir. Lots of intrigue possible without that manipulative and demoralizing ending! Downton, you are better than this!

Tvgarth

I agree there was a LOT going on both visually and dramatically during Downton's closing of Season 3. Just the sight of those two perfectly matched black carriage horses, each with a perfect white stripe traveling the length of their faces and of course 8 perfectly white stockings on their elevated hooves. One can only pause a scene like that and stare in wonder at what's before you. It's easy to take much of the "scenery" for granted but we are quite privileged indeed to see the lengths the producers of this show will go to reproduce upper-class Britain at its finest. Fortunately, equal time is given to the script and character development and I am unashamed to admit I harbor deep feelings for many of the Downton characters, among whom Mrs. Hughes is at the top of the list. I did not know Dan Stevens was leaving and his death came as quite a surprise and I had a difficult time with it, wondering if it really rang true (especially so soon after Sybill's death), but nevertheless was sad for the loss...for Mary, their new son and for the whole family who loved him. I believe Isobel may reconsider the good doctor after this revelation; in fact, how is everyone, including the downstairs going to handle this? It's not going to be easy for Tom now that Matthew is gone and I am quite sure that Rose is going to throw a wrench into just about everything at Downton unless someone (the Dowager) finally gets her under control. I have moments of a love/hate relationship with her so we shall see and it all simply cannot come soon enough for me. Along with the very different "Homeland," Downton Abbey is a real winner for television and Masterpiece Theatre. Anyone else see that their next show revolves around the man who created Selfridges? Not Harrodd's but silly ole Selfridges-I lived there for 15 years and never thought of Selfridges as any part of the landed aristocracy. I guess we'll soon find out if that story holds any interst for us Downton fan s, won't we? one of the just before the demise or

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It's OK to say that Mary is prickly, and Thomas was a jerk in Season 1. Of course they were! Why would anyone watch a show where all the characters were perfectly nice and polite and sipped tea all the time? How BORING that would be! I watch DA because I like the dynamics of a family that cares for each other through their disagreements, and sticks together because they are invested in their long-term survival and preserving their heritage. They may not like each other all the time. But, they're in in for the long haul and they refuse to give up. All the characters have depth and contradiction, just like real people, and I plan to continue watching for a long time.

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"Will Downton Abbey be the same without Matthew and Mary?" No! Sorry, I know that it's not Julian Fellowes' fault that Dan Stevens and Jessica Findlay Brown wanted to leave, but with both leaving at almost the same time, it's too much. And yes, Mary was a total jerk before Matthew came along. Like Lizard, I am just not as invested in the characters as I was before.

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I am rooting for Thomas. I know he's been a self-absorbed jerk most of the time, but anyone with a heart could see that much of his arrogance has been a shield to hide his odd-man-out loneliness as (apparently) the only gay person in that household. What on earth did the Thomases of that era do for love and companionship? Everyone else around him has at least a chance at a happiness supported by their peers--that will never be the case for Thomas even if everyone does "know" about him. There's "knowing" and there's true acceptance. IMO Jimmy is unworthy of Thomas's abiding affection, and the eagerness with which Thomas accepted Jimmy's tentative offer of friendship, after the beating he took to protect him, held such poignance for me.

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Ah, Mrs. Patmore--I like her more and more; she and Mrs. Hughes are two of a kind in their warmth and no-nonsense decency. The below-stairs youngsters would be lost without these wise women to guide them. And I too loved the way baby Sybbie brought out the old softie in the often insufferable Carson; I wonder will we see him bouncing Mary and Matthew's infant on his knees?
I may be in the minority on this, but I couldn't help feeling for O'Brien's Scottish counterpart, especially as I watched her being dressed down by the hyper-critical Lady Susan about the hairstyle. It must be torturous being a lady's maid to such a quarrelsome and unhappy person, more a prison sentence than a position.