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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
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.1 / 5.0 (66 Votes)

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

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Even knowing Dan Stevens was leaving and that given the story arc his departure would be wrenching, Matthew's sudden death was still a kick in the stomach. I actually gasped as he lay there, eyes wide open in death and blood trickling down his face. Though I'd been slow to warm to Matthew and for a long time could take or leave the Matthew-Mary love story, he/they/it all grew on me and I came to appreciate Matthew's humor, kindness and love for Mary. I feel for Mary in her loss and for the child who will never know the young father who was so overjoyed at his birth.

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Since I went ahead a read the spoilers Matthew death didn't surprise me. I am so sad to see Matthew leave this show. I do adore his character and he made Mary a little bit less cold. I was glad we got to see some good scenes from them the last couple of weeks. I do not like the Rose character and I don't want to see more of her. I feel so bad for Edith. Why can't she have real love without the complications. Should be interesting to see where Season 4 starts.

Deann

BTW, reviewer, Julian Fellowes has said that season 4 will pick up SIX MONTHS after the end of season 3, NOT years later, as you propose at the end of your review. Six months isn't that big of a time jump at all, and I imagine they will be 'rebuilding' Mary's life, which is what they've said they wanted to do in the first few episodes. It would make no sense to jump farther in the future than 1921-22, because if they moved up to the start of the second World War, Mary would be considered too old to be wooed by some new suitor. And she'd have a teenage son to deal with, one who probably would want to join the war effort.Also, the Dowager Countess would be dead by that time, and I am sure Lord Grantham would be a grumpy grandpa.

Deann

Oh, and I forgot to mention how much I enjoyed the beautiful Scottish environs of Duneagle! Gorgeous castle, beautiful landscape...sigh. I really want to visit Scotland someday soon!
I am glad that Rose is coming to Downton, and I hope that she doesn't get involved with Branson, that would just be too 'cute' and sickening. I am just sick about Matthew dying, but I believe Mary will soldier on, and we will see her hopefully become involved with someone from America who will spice things up around Downton Abbey. I also don't think Edith should be agreeing to be the mistress of a publisher. There is no happy ending there, she said it herself. If she does get pregnant, she will have a bastard child and bring shame on her household. She deserves to find a man who can marry her outright. I can't wait for season 4!

Deann

I agree with you, MrWriteSF, that Mary's poor wee boy will always have the day his father died as his birthday, which is tragic. I feel, unlike the reviewer, that this was a stellar episode with lots going on, both horrible moments and happy moments. I loved that Mrs Potmore was actually relieved that the bulbous spice merchant was a filandering creep who just wanted a wife who could cook him fancy meals while he went out and played grab-fanny with every woman he met. I laughed so hard when Mrs Hughes said he was "chewing some woman's face off"! LOL! And I LOVED the scene with Carson and the baby. Such dear tenderness from such a stiff and correct man! And I loved the moment when Bates was exclaiming over his beloved Anna dancing with abandon! True love!!

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@TFV168 - Why wish a total stranger ill just because they leave a tv show? Most actors do what they do to be different characters. They need variety & diverse experiences to get better. Did you also wish Jessica Findlay Brown bad luck when she left because that's what prompted Sybil's death, the actress not wanting to return. George Clooney left ER. Denzel Washington left ST. ELSEWHERE. Sarah Michelle Gellar left after winning an Emmy on ALL MY CHILDREN. Big deal! The only thing actors owe the audience is a good performance; not indefinite servitude in one part because people aren't creative enough to see them any other way.

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If you found the timing in the 2-hour finale awkward ("one year later"), it's because it was filmed as a separate Christmas installment for the UK. They just tacked it on to the US broadcast and made it the US season finale. Notice that even the opening credits were different. I liked the contrast between life at Duneagle & life at Downton. Separating the family from the staff, and being in new surroundings, made them all seem to appreciate each other more. Wasn't O'Brien's counterpart at Duneagle positively creepy? And the horrid relationship between Rose's parents shocked even the Dowager. It will be interesting to see where season 4 picks up. I personally hope that Edith stops settling for scraps of a relationship when she deserves so much more. It's puzzling that Fellowes is writing such an intelligent character as stupid in this area. IMO, someone like Edith would have moved in with her Aunt Rosamund in London after being dumped to get away from Downton for a bit. She would have seen what other possibilities were out there. Sybil did it in the war, and usually sisters inspire each other.

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Unlike good soap operas--even "Dallas," Downton Abbey takes time in the most irregular chunks. We prepped for the cricket match and played it the following week which established a rhythm. Next, we vault ahead a full year--baby Sybil's standing in her crib; Mary is 8 months ago; and yet the below-stairs boys are STILL talking about Thomas' indiscretion??! Maybe they all need more silver to polish!
Still, I love Downton! Mr. Bates and Anna... Robert..Tom...Isis...Isobel (oh, do marry that lovely doctor!!)...Mrs. Hudson...Edith and Granny and that wonderful Shrimpy!
Can't wait for season IV. Will it still be 1921? or 1938? or 1950?

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When will Mr. Bates and Anna have a baby. I only liked Matthew and Mary because of Matthew now he is gone have reason to like Mary. Mary is a jerk! She never gives Edith a break. Mr. Bates and Anna are the best couple. I loved the way Mr. Bates looked at her last night and said Isn't she Maganificent! That could never be said about Mary! I am glad Edna is gone she was why to pushy towards Branson. Now that Matthew is gone who will be Branson best mate? Loved Ms. P and the spice guy. Ms. P. is smarter than people give her credit for. I see Rose will be causing problems in season 4. Hey guys if you have time look up the real story behind the house and the family used on the show. Talk about a good story!

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At the end of the day Downton Abbey was just another role and Dan Stevens wanted to explore other options. There's nothing wrong with that. Yes he and the Mary character were a core part of the show but it's not as if he or Maggie Smith haven't wanted to leave since the end of season 2. So I think we should be grateful that we got to see them in both season 3 and 4.

Downton Abbey Season 3 Episode 7 Quotes

My dear, no one can accuse me of being modern, but even I can see that it's not a crime to be young.

Violet

Robert: Bloody hell.
Cora: Welcome to the Highlands.