‘Downton Abbey’ s3/Christmas ep – A very unmerry Christmas

10 Mar

Matthew dies.

(You should never read anything I write on this blog unless you’ve watched it first.)

I wasn’t going to do this.  I wasn’t going to write about this episode.  But I knew that a year from now I’d regret it if I didn’t.  By now (hopefully) you’ve seen the corresponding episode of Picture Shows & Petticoats.  Elizabeth and I recorded it immediately following the broadcast of this Downton Abbey episode in the United States.  We were a little upset.

What you need to know is that this was the best episode of the entire season…until the last 60 seconds.  And it’s a terrible shame that the first beautiful 91 minutes have to pay for it.

It’s one year since the final episode of season three: September 1921.  The Crawley’s are preparing for a nine-day trip to visit their cousins at Dunn Eagle Castle in Scotland.  Mary’s finally pregnant with an heir, but Anna is not.  Bagpipers are everywhere.  And awkward at the dinner table.  Coronets abound.  O’Brien meets a kindred spirit…which ends exactly as you can imagine.  Rose will be heading to Downton Abbey next season, and I suspect that Downton Abbey will do her some good.  How long has it been since Lady Sybil ran away with Branson?  Well, we just now meet the new chauffeur: Mr. Stark.  Matthew gets the skinny on Mr. Gregson and when he steps in to divert Edith from her next disaster she tells him he’s a disappointment.  She’s been spending way too much time with Tom.  Anna’s hair is beautiful, and so is everything else about her.  Good thing Bates appreciates her.

Meanwhile, for the downstairs crew left behind at Downton…  There’s a new maid at Downton Abbey, and she’s got one agenda: to enter Tom’s room without knocking.  Mrs. Patmore’s got an admirer…an admirer who admires as many women as he can get his hands on.  Dr. Clarkson and Isobel have a date that ends badly.  Daisy and Ivy are finally friends.  Carson holds Baby Sybi, though her grandmother still hasn’t.  Jimmyjohnjones has too much to drink at the fair; Thomas stalks him home and ends up taking a beating for him; Jimmyjohnjones runs away like a little girl; now Thomas and Jimmyjohnjones are friends.  The whole world goes nuts, and Mrs. Hughes is the only person sane enough to notice.

Mary comes home early to have the Baby Prince at the hospital.  The family returns quickly, Matthew making a beeline for the hospital while the family goes home to freshen up.  Matthew talks about the joys Baby Prince brings and how he feels like he swallowed a box of fireworks.

And then Matthew dies.

The producers should have replaced the actor instead of killing off such a major character.  Or maybe asked the writer to eliminate the character’s importance before eliminating the character.  In Dan Stevens’ interview, he said he wanted the freedom to work on other projects.  But with the incredibly final way they dispatched with Matthew’s character during a special episode (rather than during the actual series), I have a very Joey from Friends feeling about it.  I can’t help but wonder if the writers pushed Matthew down the elevator shaft for some other reason.  Conspiracy theories, anyone?

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