Downton Abbey Series 3 Episode 8 Review — Everyone’s a Team Player

Downton Abbey Season 3 Episode 8

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!

The good:

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 not-so-good:

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!

  • Anonymous

    I don’t really understand why you find it unbelievable that people in Downton know that Thomas is gay. It is a very small closed community where people will know a lot about each other. And yes Robert made Jimmy first footman, because Carson said it was up to Robert to make Jimmy accept that Thomas was staying or something like that and this is how Robert accomplished it

    • Indeed TilyT.
      Concerning “cousin Rose”, the character isn’t pointless at all. There are two more reasons why she was introduced in this episode. She may very well return in series 4 which, of course, has to be proven next year. The writers usually don’t introduce a new character. The Downton Abbey writers are too clever to make such a mistake. They are obviously already prepareing series 4. Rose also set up the theme “affair with a married man” which will be what the story arc of Lady Edith will be in series 4.

      • Anonymous

        The writers usually don’t introduce a new character.

        Two that I can recall immediately from this series: the doctor who existed solely to create conflict with Dr Clarkson and possibly lead to Sybil’s death (which could have happened without him, being viewed as an unexpected accident), and Branson’s brother. Both characters who were brought in for one episode and both seem unlikely to return.

        That said, it’s quite possible that Rose will be back next year. In fact I hope she is, otherwise she truly was a waste of airtime in this episode.

        • I’m sorry. I should have said: a new character that gives the family a new and fresh spin by staying in the picture. Still, poor Sybil though.

    • Anonymous

      My problem isn’t with people in Downton knowing Thomas is gay, it’s with him apparently not knowing that it was a kept secret. I can’t recall any instance in which any of the staff talking to him alluded to it, aside from O’Brien (although I could very well be wrong). I just think it’s odd that he made so many people dislike him over the course of ten years, and yet no one ever used this supposedly common knowledge against him in some way.

    • Suyhen

      I did not know that Thomas was gay….did I miss something in series 1 and 2….and I cannot for the life of me figure out what the relationship between Thomas and O”Brien used to be??????Can you fill me in?

      • mp

        In Season One Thomas made a pass at two gentlemen visiting DA. One was a person who was interested in marrying Mary because she might inherit a fortune, but when Robert told him that he was wise to his game, this gentleman bolted (cannot remember his name). However earlier he convinced Mary to take him to the gentlemen’s quarters where he went into Thomas’ room where he retrieved, and ultimately burned, love letters he sent to Thomas during a fling he had with him one previous summer. Again in Season I a visiting gentleman from Turkey rebuffed an advance from Thomas, but Thomas had to do a favor for him in order to gain his silence. Thomas showed him Mary’s room where the Turkish gentleman took sexual freedoms with Mary and ruined her reputation. I always wondered why no one at DA wondered how Mr. Pamuk found Mary’s room on his first day there in that huge, huge mansion, especially Mary. Evil Thomas betrayed Lady Mary to ensure his secret would be kept. Thomas and O’Brien were good friends because they were always looking for, and making, trouble with the other servants, especially Bates. They hated him from day one because he was crippled and probably would not be able to carry his weight. Bates had saved Robert’s life in a war, and Robert was repaying Bates with employment as his valet. Thomas was jealous. Hopes this helps you.

  • lee66132000

    [“Apparently Thomas being gay was a known secret around Downton Abbey, even if, uh, Thomas didn’t know that it was.”]

    Mrs. Patmore knew back in Season 1 and tried to warn Daisy about him.

    • Chassity Johnson

      It was alluded to several times in season 1: as stated above, Mrs. Patmore hints to Daisy that Thomas “isn’t a ladies man” and is a “troubled soul.” 2. After Mr. Pamuk arrives, Bates says to Robert “He [Thomas] cheered up when he saw the gentleman.” 3. Same episode, when the maids are sneaking a peak at Pamuk, Thomas turns to them as he’s following Pamuk and gives them a conspiratorial smirk.

  • “Even Thomas got a happy ending”

    Sadly, Thomas hasn’t had one since the first episode of season one.

    • Anonymous

      Well, relatively happy. I fear that’s the best he will get, unless he finds a love interest in series 4 and the newly progressive Downton decide they’re all okay with their under-butler having a boyfriend.

      • The writers of Downton Abbey will have a problem with this topic unless the jump to 1967. Until then it’s still illegal to do more than holding hands. Yet, I am totally with you. Thomas needs some long-lasting happiness in his personal (love) life. He’s even at a huge crossroad at the moment. Either he’ll be a even bigger plotter after this season finale or he’ll open up a bit more which would change his set-up towards everybody. The struggle towards his new position, in life, downstairs etc, that something I’d like to follow. Ok, he shouldn’t be an angel. A little plot here and there is still fine with me. 🙂

  • Tjrv

    Very disappointed with this final episode. Thomas’s story was stretched beyond belief considering what the social and religious codes would have been at that time. Also, in order to wrap things up in a nice, tidy ball, Branson’s character was almost completely reinvented. I have always been left wanting more after each episode. Tonight’s ending was just flat.

    • I don’t think so. The writers like to have parallel developments. Robert finally is ok in manage the estate in a new modern way, so is the point of view towards having a gay servant. Everything is changing through time and you don’t want do fail just because you are not willing to acknowledge it. That’s the message of the finale and it’s a very current one. I endorse it! Good job, Downton Abbey writers!

  • M Parker165

    So for some reason…the *leaders* of the house decided to accept Thomas being gay, basically the entire downstairs knowing it…..but…..the ladies of the house mustn’t, mustn’t, mustn’t have dinner by a woman who turned to prostitution only to feed and care for her son, and is vilified for it, must leave the town for it, but he is given a promotion. 


    • irishcoffee

      good point

    • Aprildoner

      right on

  • Suyhen

    I thought the Finale to Series 3  a very satisfying episode:  Our happy side was well rewarded.    Bates’ show of great compassion was edifyingly Zen……and O Brien breaking into  a cold sweat appealed greatly to our sense of justice.   So happy that Thomas could think of something….
    Was  good to see somber and dutiful Anna with a smile as she happily went down the stairs sign that she is indeed happy.  Virtue, patience rewarded:  isn’t that what it is all about?Great to see the cricket match and Thomas do so well.  And Carson ever so elegant in his uniform hop and pitch.  Quite liked the chumminess of all concerned.  Us, non Britishers, love the idyllic English aristocratic ways…Matthew is probably my least favorite character….cannot understand how all he has become a Broadway sensation.  Lady Mary is fantastically boring and Lady Edith should indeed get a break.  Lady Grantham’s will be cross-eyed by the time the whole series finishes…the forlorn look is getting to me. Even was pleased that  Rose is a Lady of her Own in London.  Happy that Charlie will get to see his mom….and Lady Grantham was true to form and in the duel, I always root for her.  Cousin Isabel is just too righteous.So…everyone out of The House having a family outing.  Even the scare we got with the police coming in was resolved in an elegant way.  

  • Avril78

    I’m a fan of good endings — too much drama and heartache is ENOUGH. Downton is great escapism with excellent dialogue and acting, that’s the joy. So what that it’s a bit far-fetched, but far-fetched in a “good” way. Thank you Downton Creators, thank you for not taking us down a sorry, depressing road.

  • Rachel

    Uggggh. Tom playing cricket. Tom the Irish Republican playing cricket. Why. is. he. playing. cricket.

    Shunning English sports was adopted as a means of counteracting British cultural imperialism in Ireland, and was a major part of the republican movement at the time. It might seem like nothing but this actually has a huge symbolic significance and says more about the state of Tom’s character than any other action thus far. Fellowes is literally stripping Tom’s Irish Republican identity away and remaking him in his aristocratic image. And DO NOT get me started on the whole “I’ll still be an Irish Mick in my heart.” Okay, it’s one thing if this show was written by an Irish man, maybe then I’d feel differently about this line, but it’s not. You can’t just have a character use a derogatory term to refer to their group when you’re not part of it so you can be all “but HE said it, so it’s all cool guys!!1!!”

    This whole season has been a hot mess. It was getting some major side-eye from me for the first four episodes, especially the house burning bit with Tom, but then after Fellowes killed Sybil off for no reason I just gave up entirely and watched it purely to hate on it. How can people think this is good writing? Having a woman die in childbirth is one of the most cliche tropes I can think of. There was absolutely no point to killing her whatsoever; it was done for shock value and cheap drama. It’s like she never even existed now. The only time she’s mentioned is when Fellowes needs to justify extremely out of character behaviour- “Sybil would have wanted it.” By the way, Rose, the probably newest regular cast member for series four, the obviously replacement for Sybil, had more lines and scenes in one episode than Sybil did in the entire third series. 

    Thomas’ storyline was godawful. There were a thousand different ways Fellowes could have written it, and this is what he chooses. Why is Robert okay with Thomas being gay? This is the same guy who tried to buy his daughter’s fiancé off and refused to attend the wedding because he was a servant, this is the same guy who for TWO EPISODES bashed Catholics and fought against his granddaughter’s baptism, this is the same guy who wouldn’t let his wife and daughters eat food that a former prostitute made, but we’re supposed to believe he’s suddenly okay that the man who dresses him is gay and is also sexually assaulting people??? Oh that’s right, he needs to keep Thomas around long enough because apparently he’s a brilliant cricket player even though he has a bum hand. It was like this whole storyline wasn’t even about Thomas because- screw it- obviously no one cares that he’s gay so what’s the problem, right? It was to show how ~magnanimous~ and ~honourable~ Bates and Robert are. Speaking of, why was Bates even in this storyline? He and Thomas had a rivalry, what? SEVEN YEARS AGO? So Thomas is written incredibly out of character (he would never just “give up” like that) simply so Bates can swoop in and save the day because apparently Thomas is rendered incapable of saying “her ladyship’s soap” to O’Brien. This doesn’t make any sense anyway, because it was pretty firmly established in the second season that O’Brien wasn’t telling ANYBODY, including Thomas, about the soap incident. And it is deeply offensive to me that the only way Fellowes can depict gay people is through the ‘no straight man is safe’ stereotype. First Thomas kisses Jimmy while he’s asleep, and then Robert makes some stupid joke about all these silly gay classmates trying to kiss him. And the VICTIM-SHAMING. I can’t even be upset with Thomas, because his character would never be so stupid as to listen to O’Brien after she previously told him she would get him AT SOME POINT IN TIME, and I know this is just Fellowes being an awful writer, but holy cow the victim-shaming. Bates is finally being shown for the true beast he is and acting like an utter knob to Jimmy just to bully him into leaving off Thomas, saying he’s being a baby about the situation. And the worst part is, since it’s Bates delivering the line, the audience is expected to cheer at this. And the scene between Mrs. Hughes and Carson discussing Thomas, and Mrs. Hughes saying it was Jimmy’s fault because he probably ‘led Thomas on’ had my jaw literally dropping open in disbelief. These aren’t ‘heel’ characters saying these things, these are the characters that everyone is supposed to like and agree with. The audience is being told that it is actually Jimmy’s fault for leading Thomas on because of the way he looks and acts. So now, if Jimmy is in fact closeted as a lot of people suspect, and he and Thomas get together, it would implicitly “legitimize” what Thomas did by sending an unspoken message of “See? It’s okay because Jimmy actually did want it, he just didn’t know he wanted it yet! Or he did know, but he was just afraid to admit it! Or he knew but he didn’t want the others to know he was gay!” (and so forth.) As if that wasn’t enough, the entire scene with the police coming to arrest Thomas was absolutely unnecessary; it was just a vehicle for Fellowes to absolve Robert of all his f*ckups by having him admit to Alfred that he’s not perfect.

    I have to say, I’m glad this series turned out to be so ridiculously awful. Fellowes managed to sever any emotional connection I previously had with this show, and it will make it that much easier to forget it.

    Just kill this show. Kill it with fire.

    • Anonymous

      I love this comment more than you could possibly understand. Every single point you made is completely valid and I agree wholeheartedly.

      Truth be told, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that Downton Abbey — which was previously barely above ‘light fluff’ — has now become a hot mess of fanservice. This episode truly was satisfying for fans, but it’s sort of like saying you’re no longer hungry after eating nothing but dried bread. Are you full? Yes, but you sure as hell would have preferred cake. /awful analogy

    • rachelL

      I hated when Sybil died as well — especially because death by childbirth is such a cliche, as you said — but the choice to write her out may be explained by the fact that according to IMBD Jessica Brown Findlay is currently filming one movie and in pre-production for a second. So killing her off may not have been entirely the choice of the writers. And at least they did their homework and got the symptoms of eclampsia correct! 

      • Rachel

        I understand JBF probably wanted off the show but, honestly? Her and Tom were living in another country. Fellowes didn’t HAVE to bring them back over from Ireland. He didn’t HAVE to ban Tom from Ireland. And he certainly didn’t HAVE to kill Sybil. Fellowes is the only one who writes the show, he can and does do whatever the hell he wants with his characters, continuity/consistency be damned, as evinced with his treatment of Tom. I was initially excited that S3 would be covering the Irish War of Independence, but now that I know what ‘covering the Irish War of Independence’ really means in Fellowes-speak, I wish he had just left them both in Ireland, never to be seen again. I didn’t need to see a strong female character that I admired reduced to nothing more than a pregnant prop and “Branson’s wife” only to be killed off in an incredibly sexist way. And as much as I like Allen Leech, I didn’t need Tom brought back to Downton only to be portrayed as an uncouth, crazy Republican until he learns the error of his ways and embraces an aristocratic lifestyle. He’s not even a character anymore, he’s just a plot point for Flopbert’s redemption arc that will probably be resolved in the CS.

        Also, I’m not sure, but I believe Downton is being renewed for a fourth season. I also heard that Dan Stevens doesn’t want to sign on. This means Matthew will have to be written off the show somehow. And if Fellowes finds a way to write DS off without killing him, I will be incandescent with rage. 

  • Cec

    This whole season was weaker than season 1 and 2. Actually the first season is the best, and they should stop making it if they cant keep up the standard. I love Downton Abbey – but overall disapointed with this season. 

  • Anon

    I highly doubt it was a series finale as you call it. Season three finale. They are NOT cancelling a hit! What I find disappointing is that eight episodes are becoming normal.

  • thirdculturekid

    I was really disappointed with the whole season, and particularly with this episode. Without the backdrop of the war to give tension, there is a lot lacking, it has become a boring self indulgent parade of events. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but the writers here have totally lost the plot. Should have left Sybil in Ireland or if they were going to kill her off, have it done in some kind of incident with the English Army, that would have led to a lot of nice stewing, and back and forth to Ireland trying to claim the child etc. For god’s sake let Edith become some kind of radical suffragette journalist instead of being so twee. For a moment there I thought we had something going when there were one or two comments about who could vote etc. Women didn’t get full voting rights till 1926, would be nice to see someone taking on that fight! God even Maggie Smith’s character, the bitchy old lady lost form this time. Mary and Matthew are just jaw-achingly boring. I really hoped they were going to sell the place face ‘hard times’ (ha ha we still own half the village) and maybe start to understand a bit about the reality of life – yes I get it it wouldn’t be Downton Abbey anymore. Isn’t this set in Yorkshire? The 1920’s had mass unemployment, as local industries started to decline. Would have been much more fun to see Matthew get involved in local politics rather than estate management. And the deterioration of Branson is just too much to bear! Irish Independence fighting was a big deal, and seeing him lose his passion like that is dispiriting, would have been much more fun to keep the fighting spirit than have it all lovely and cosy. I’ve lost interest totally and wont bother with season 4 if there is one

  • Mary C.

    Didn’t like the Rose character. More of Branson, please.