Downton Abbey -- The Series Finale
Can the show rise about its flaws to deliver a satisfying finale?
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the finale. I wasn't sure that they could pull off a good finale. I thought in a lot of ways the show died when Matthew did. I know one character doesn't make a show, but Matthew was the heart and soul of the show. Strangely enough, it was Edith that had to fill that role, and even though for the most part it was Lady Mary's show the series finale belonged to Lady Edith.
When you think back to how the show started the characters have changed a lot; some not for the better. In the case of Mary she transformed from the horrible harpy from hell she was in the previous episode to a decent human being. Thanks to the miracle of true wuv the beast is no more. She even ends up helping Edith to get her happy ending after destroying it in the previous episode.
I have to say I'm not really a fan of Matthew Goode and don't see what all the hullabaloo is over him. I don't really think Talbot and Mary have much chemistry; make that any. I wouldn't call them one of the great couples of Downton Abbey. I actually thought he had better chemistry with Edith. But then I never saw much chemistry between Tom and Sybil, either, but people online claimed they were the biggest Downton couple, while I always thought that honor belonged to Mary and Matthew. The couple that I thought had the best chemistry was Matthew and Mary. But putting all that aside the fact that marriage to him has brought out a kinder and gentler Mary is what matters. It seems he is the man to bring her true love and happiness.
I actually think Talbot has brought out Mary's better side moreso than Matthew did. She isn't as controlling with Talbot and always needing to have things her way as she was with Matthew. And Talbot seems to be the kind of father to George as Matthew would have been. There was a nice scene where he had George in his office, having secretly snuck him out of the nursery. That more than anything made me see this was a good pairing for Mary. So it's a happy ending, especially when he decides to stop racing cars and sell them instead, which thrills Mary [instead of appalling her that he's in commerce]. To complete it, Mary is pregnant with Talbot's child. Perhaps she'll finally find peace along with happiness, which has alluded her most of the show.
Mary [with the help of Violet] arranges for Edith and Bertie to meet and talk. They quickly make-up and become engaged. Bertie's mother is a bit of an obstacle, because Bertie doesn't want to tell his mother the truth about Marigold. Learning from not being honest with Bertie, as well as not wanting to pretend Marigold isn't her child for the rest of her life, Edith puts her future at risk by telling the truth about Marigold. Although Bertie's mother suggests that Bertie dump Edith, he refuses. She eventually comes around and the engagement is announced. In a rare show of unMaryness towards Edith, Mary decides to keep her pregnancy a secret so she doesn't steal Edith's moment from her. That's major growth from Mary. Perhaps in future the sisters will grow to have a relationship similar to Violet and Isabel. I don't see them ever being bosom buddies but perhaps they'll learn to appreciate each other the same way Violet and Isabel seem to.
Speaking of Isabel, thanks to a little push from her best frenemy Violet, Isabel gets together with Lord Merton. Merton's dastardly daughter-in-law in so longer trying to push Merton and Isabel together to get him off her hands when he's diagnosed with pernicious anemia. In fact, believing he's going to buy the farm, she actively tries to keep Isabel from seeing Merton, probably not wanting to share the Merton wealth with her when Merton kicks off. But Isabel, with Violet prodding her along the way, storm the Bastille and rescue him from her foul clutches. I was disappointed when it wasn't revealed she was secretly poisoning him. Considering the way she behaved, I don't think it was beyond the realm of possibilities. Turns out Merton was misdiagnosed and only has anemia, so he's not about to kick off. So it looks like a happy ending for Isabel and Merton.
Robert is getting put-out by all the attention Cora is spending on her hospital project. That is, until the visiting Rose takes him to see Cora addressing a group of the poor and indigent and it makes him very proud of her and the work she's doing. He later tells her how proud he is of her. So that brief wrinkle in their marriage is ironed out and all is well. If you look back at the start of the show when Cora didn't seem to leave Downton she's come a long way baby, and so is Robert in being proud of her.
Downstairs Mr. Carson develops a condition that causes his hands to shake uncontrollably when he's trying to serve at dinner. This threatens his job at Downton and he faces the fact he must retire and leave the house he's so devoted to. A solution comes in the form of Thomas. Thomas gets another position, but he's not very happy in it. So, he's thrilled at the chance of returning home to Downton. He'll be appointed to Carson's old position while Carson will continue as an overseer that everything is being done properly, as only he in his snobbishness and stick-up-his butt mentality can do. So after trying to push Thomas out of Dowton for the entire season, it's Thomas that manages to save him from having to leave Downton. A bit a karma and coming full circle for these two.
I have to admit I didn't really buy Thomas' suicide attempt. I think the whole story was handled too fast. Especially the fact Thomas' desire to die suddenly supposedly died because he got a reprieve from having to leave and because Young George paid him a visit. In the end it felt like it was treated almost as an afterthought. I'm also not so sure I buy Thomas' transformation from the foul cretin he was to who he is now, but I also missed a season of the show, so maybe I missed the moment when he started to change.
One thing the show didn't do well was social issues. Like how bad it was to be a gay man in that time, as well as Anna's rape, which was equally mangled, as it quickly became all about Bates and the victim was completely ignored in the whole thing. Anna turned into a drip that lived to worry that nothing should upset the volatile Mr. Bates. It was a behavior she never broke out of as she even kept her pregnancy from him in case something went wrong and he'd get upset is she had a miscarriage.
Anna and Bates seemed for most of the season to be relegated to background characters, when they were once the leading characters among the downstairs staff. What started out as a strong and great relationship, didn't end as one. Anna and Bates big moment in the finale was her giving birth to Bates child in Lady Mary's bed. It's kind of appropriate as most of the time Anna acts more married to Lady Mary than she does Bates. Instead of talking to Bates and bringing her problems to him she brings them to Mary, since she doesn't really trust Bates to be able to be supportive or handle any problem she might bring to him. A great marriage...NOT!
Daisy is another character that didn't fair too well in the end. Her big story was getting together with Andy, although as nasty as she was to him it kind of left a bad taste in your mouth when she did. I also thought it was pretty unethical and unprofessional of her to sneak into Mary's bedroom and swipe the hair dryer and in most cases when she got found out, she would have been sacked, because that would have been considered theft. Instead of getting a new hairdo out of it. Poor Andy. He ended it getting stuck with a pinched-face shrew. Hopefully, she'll improve with age.
Of all the staff, I thought Mrs. Pattmore would be the one who might have the worst trouble transitioning to the changes that were happening in society. She seemed to be so stuck in her ways and afraid of any new modern kitchen gadgets she was introduced to. But she ended up opening her own Bed and Breakfast. Thanks to Robert and Cora her establishment overcame the scandal it got hit with. And her future looked to be the brightest of all the downstairs staff.
Thomas was still employed in the old servant system. Mosley, while employed as a teacher, was still working for someone. While Mrs. Pattmore would be her own boss. She also had a potential new boyfriend in the form of Mr. Mason.
Of course, the character that faired the worst had to be the Tom character. He kind of became a lump that acted more like Mary's maid more than Anna did. Gone was the hellraiser with strong political beliefs that Sybil fell in love with and he was replaced by a neutered dog. His main goal seemed to be to get Mary and Talbot together and he ended up going into business with him.
A better story that could have been given to him was if he had gone to work at Edith's magazine as a political journalist instead of acting as Mary's consort. He was a journalist back in Ireland. He could have slowly developed a relationship with Edith's editor, Laura Edmonds, and could have been one of the happy ending couples. Instead Laura caught the bridal bouquet and there with hints a coupling might happen with them in future off-screen.
But as I said, the finale ended up being better than I thought it would be considering the seasons after season three weren't very stellar. And with the exception of a few blips it was a good ending for one and all.
As a postscript fans who don't want to let this show go claim there's talk of a Downton Abbey movie to continue the story or there even being a sequel to the series. I really hope that doesn't actually happen. Sex and the City had the perfect finale ending then they did the two movies and ruined it. Sometimes you just need to leave things as they are and move on to something new. The show had a better ending than I thought it would, so let's leave it at that.