The series 3 finale of Downton Abbey did a good job of tying up most loose ends while untying a couple more. It was a good episode, at least in that it was solid and somewhat satisfying, but it definitely wasn’t without its flaws. This is going to be a review of two parts, but I’ll focus on the good before I start complaining!
Almost everyone got what they wanted this week. Robert finally came around to Matthew and Branson’s ideas for running Downton, even if he had to be talked out of going into a scheme with Charles Ponzi partway through the episode. Mary fixed a small issue that now means she and Matthew can try for a child with some hope of success. Branson decided to live in Downton Abbey until baby Sybbie is a little older, allowing Cora more time with her granddaughter. Ethel got a job close to her son and was allowed to have contact with him. Even Thomas got a happy ending, not only keeping his job but getting a promotion, too.
All in all, it was a satisfying episode. We could probably have done without Rose; her involvement in the plot seemed to be little more than a heavy handed way of bringing up the subject of aristocratic women having affairs with married men. (Presumably this is foreshadowing a relationship between Edith and her editor. I can’t fathom why the writers decided to give him a mentally unwell wife. Can’t poor Edith just catch a break already?)
It’ll be interesting to see where Downton Abbey goes in a fourth series because aside from Edith’s love life, everything seems tied up. The only situation really left to be dealt with was O’Brien, and I’m assuming she’ll get her comeuppance in the Christmas special. Or at least I hope so…
The most obvious problem with this episode was cousin Rose. Why was a new character shoehorned into a series finale, especially one that had so many situations to deal with? She took away screen time from other characters, and aside from giving Matthew some great moments, she was essentially a pointless, long-winded plot device (see above).
Whilst the rest of the episode was satisfying, it felt like a form of fanservice in parts. I know little about Branson’s situation back home and his political views (there were some interesting comments on last week’s review about this) but even I didn’t really like what happened to him in this episode. A commenter on a previous review said that it seemed as though Branson was being ‘civilised’ by being turned into an Englishman, and I could really see that point ringing true this week with Branson playing cricket (which, for all it’s international appeal, still feels like a ‘posh’ English game) and deciding to live in Downton Abbey until Sybbie is older. At this point, the show might just as well have had Sybil fall for an English chauffeur and play the class card instead.
And then there’s Thomas. I’m in two minds about how this situation was dealt with because I really love the character and I’m glad he’s going to be sticking around on the show. But while I bought Carson and Mrs Hughes giving Thomas a pass, I thought Bates was a bit far fetched. He suddenly felt sorry for Thomas because he’s gay and therefore got a bad lot in life? Things just got completely ridiculous when Robert came into the picture. Apparently Thomas being gay was a known secret around Downton Abbey, even if, uh, Thomas didn’t know that it was.
It was just a little too over the top, even by Downton standards. Not only did Thomas get to keep his job, he’s now under-butler, second only to Carson. I hope that move was a way of ensuring more in-staff bickering in future episodes, because it was a step too far. Downton Abbey may apparently be a progressive household, but this is the 1920s, for crying out loud. And did Robert make Jimmy first footman? That happened so quickly I wasn’t sure I’d heard correctly!
Overall, a solid episode. It’s bound to make a lot of fans happy and it’s definitely set to annoy others. This reviewer is firmly on the fence; I’ll see how I feel about it after the Christmas special airs and shows how things are working out at Downton Abbey.
What did you think of the Downton Abbey series 3 finale, dear reader? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!