Goodbye Downton Abbey

My review of the Downton Abbey Christmas Special 2015

Its no good…I have to write something about the finale of a series which took the world by storm. I am not sure why that was but it was certainly addictive and I have been a fan from the very first episode. Perhaps it was the great acting by some of the cast. Perhaps it was the memorable characters. Perhaps it was the beautiful settings and costumes. Perhaps it was the sense of wondering what unlikely plot twist the writer, Julian Fellowes, would throw at us next. Perhaps it was all of the above. I got the feeling that after series 1, Fellowes was taken aback by the huge success of Downton and was never quite sure how to carry on the story.

I was disappointed at first by the final Christmas Special as it felt rushed and forced. But when was Downton any different? The most unlikely or dull conclusions to storylines have always prevailed e.g. the revelation of who murdered Green, Baxter’s confrontation with Coyle, the death of Mr Gregson, which all happened off screen, if at all.

There was a general tone of romance in the Christmas Special, where every couple who could have possibly united, did so. Or implied that they would in future. But thinking about it, there is nothing wrong with a bit of romance, and no one died, which was a blessing after so many sad deaths in past seasons.

I was most dissatisfied with the fate of Thomas Barrow, the most interesting and complex character from the very beginning- despite many people’s attempts to reduce him to ‘the evil homosexual villain’, he was a lot more than that. He has done many kind and heroic deeds in between bad ones- he helped Lieutenant Courtenay and tried to get Dr Clarkson to keep him on at the hospital, he saved Jimmy from being beaten up at the summer fair, he saved the children from cruel Nanny West, he carried Lady Edith out of her burning bedroom, he won Andy’s money back when Denker gambled it away and he thwarted the butler Stowell when he was harassing the Crawleys at Christmas last year.

In this year’s Christmas Special, Thomas left Downton in a flurry of tearful goodbyes, only to return at the end and become the butler of the Abbey. At first I thought ‘what an anticlimax’ but after thinking about it for a while, I realised that he is now in control of Downton. He has an alliance with Mary, who basically runs the estate now, and they are a powerful pair and she won’t criticise or obstruct him unless he does something that will threaten the estate. He can employ as many handsome footmen as he likes, so may find his true love someday. He has friends now- Andy, Anna and Baxter- and everyone else looks kindly upon him after he so nearly killed himself. He can visit Mr and Mrs Carson, Mr and Mrs Bates, Mr and Mrs Parker, Mr and Mrs Molesley and Mr and Mrs Mason in their cottages on the Downton Estate and be sure of a warm welcome. I know some of those couples aren’t official yet but they will be.

So maybe the Downton finale wasn’t so disappointing after all- it was an appropriately fanciful conclusion to a fantasy series. And now we can all imagine how our favourite characters’ lives will continue from now on.

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