I am rooting for Thomas. I know he's been a self-absorbed jerk most of the time, but anyone with a heart could see that much of his arrogance has been a shield to hide his odd-man-out loneliness as (apparently) the only gay person in that household. What on earth did the Thomases of that era do for love and companionship? Everyone else around him has at least a chance at a happiness supported by their peers--that will never be the case for Thomas even if everyone does "know" about him. There's "knowing" and there's true acceptance. IMO Jimmy is unworthy of Thomas's abiding affection, and the eagerness with which Thomas accepted Jimmy's tentative offer of friendship, after the beating he took to protect him, held such poignance for me.
Ah, Mrs. Patmore--I like her more and more; she and Mrs. Hughes are two of a kind in their warmth and no-nonsense decency. The below-stairs youngsters would be lost without these wise women to guide them. And I too loved the way baby Sybbie brought out the old softie in the often insufferable Carson; I wonder will we see him bouncing Mary and Matthew's infant on his knees?
I may be in the minority on this, but I couldn't help feeling for O'Brien's Scottish counterpart, especially as I watched her being dressed down by the hyper-critical Lady Susan about the hairstyle. It must be torturous being a lady's maid to such a quarrelsome and unhappy person, more a prison sentence than a position.
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.
I have to concur with the commenter who expressed skepticism about how truly accepting the Downton inhabitants would really be to a Thomas Barrow; consequently I'm pulled in two directions about the resolution of the Thomas-James crisis. I was heartened and relieved--thrilled, even--to see the way even Robert willingly intervened on Thomas's behalf. (God bless you, Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Bates!) On the other hand given the era's unforgiving attitude toward LGBT people (particularly gay men) I couldn't help wondering how believable all this outpouring of kindness and sympathy was, and what to expect should Thomas finally meet the man he could love who would love him back.
Wonderfully encompassing review, Carissa, though I have to take issue with your characterizing Thomas's near-disaster as "the hole he dug for himself." Don't let your dislike of Thomas blind you to his plight and to the fact that in this instance it was O'Brien that was doing the digging. (And the "hole" she was digging for Thomas was a grave.)
What a despicable woman O'Brien is. I haven't disliked her so much since she allowed Cora to step out of that bathtub and onto the soap. How perfectly appropriate that that would be the act that stopped her from destroying Thomas. Note that Thomas merely mentioned the soap to Bates, rather than telling him the full story. Does anyone else smell future revenge? Once he fully rallies (as he seemed to be doing on the cricket field) I don't see Thomas letting this go.
CONTINUED FROM BELOW: It's likely all of his life Thomas has been lonely and despairing of finding the kind of loving companionship that everyone around him, above stairs and below, take for granted--which has kept him guarded and resentful. He was and still is truly grief-stricken at the death of the kind and forward-thinking Sybil, and knows that if Bates returns his own days at valet to Lord Robert are numbered.
The watchful and perceptive O'Brien knows all of this if she knows anything. That she could steer her old frenemy toward such a level of humiliation, heartbreak and pain is difficult to comprehend and will be excrutiating to watch.
I too loved the way the women stood up to the men in this episode. It was quite beautiful the way each of them in her way supported one another, with the possible exceptions of young Daisy's continuing jealousy of Ivy, and especially the implacable O'Brien, who is becoming more malevolent with every passing season.
It's chilling to watch her cold calculation as she manipulates both Jimmy and Thomas, setting them on an obvious collision course. Jimmy has done nothing to deserve being played like this, he's merely an ambitious newcomer eager to find a comfortable place for himself within the household.
And Thomas--as insufferable and spiteful as Thomas can be and has been, what O'Brien is setting him up for is beyond the bounds of decency. Quite a lot of Thomas's nastiness can be explained by the plight of being gay in a time and place with little tolerance, understanding or kindness for people who were different in this way. It's likely all of his life he has been lonely and despairing of finding the kind of loving relationship everyone else around him, above stairs and below, take for granted, which has made him guarded and resentful. He was genuinely grief-stricken by the death of Sybil and knows if Bates returns his days as Robert's valet are numbered. The watchful and perceptive O'Brien surely knows all this. That she could deliberately subject her frenemy to such cruel humiliation and pain is difficult to comprehend and will be excrutiating to watch.
To me Thomas and O'Brien are the most intriguing members of the household. Because they are often so unpleasant, to one another and to others, it's easy to dismiss them as irritants. I'd love some backstory on O'Brien--which we're likely never to get since she's not a major character--to better understand what fuels her insecurities and pettiness. And Thomas... poor Thomas. He's arrogant and spiteful, but consider the reality of his life in those times, a gay man in an era where to be so was literally criminal. To act on any feelings of affection or love--like everyone around you is free to do--risks ostracism and disgrace, dismissal and financial ruin, and possible imprisonment--or worse. Think about how deep Thomas's loneliness must run that his only "friend" in that great house is also his enemy.
Okay, we need a plan, because this show and its characters needs to prevail. Beyond telling our friends and families and perfect strangers in elevators to watch, what do we need to do to keep it going? Yes, those final shots were masterful if "Don't Say Goodbye" really marks the end of the series, but, especially with Kal, I want so much more. Connor, whose epic cluelessness and neediness grated on me, has grown on me--I want to see what happens next with this guy and with his Scienetics involvement. And Raquel? Where does she go from here? But mostly... I need to see what happens next for Kal, Rook, Chris--and Tariq.
Can't hardly wait for Season 3 (mumbles to herself) please let there be a Season 3... please...please...
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