Downton Abbey Review: A Very Special Christmas Episode

SPOILER ALERT. I’m not kidding.

Gather the family around the old television set, folks. It’s time for another heartwarming Downton Christmas Special. You remember the last one, of course. The one where Matthew and Mary were finally united in love, one magical snowy evening?

This one was just like that. Mary has the baby. Matthew’s so so happy. He’s Leonardo DiCaprio, “King of the World” on Titanic, happy. Toodling his way home in his slick convertible. What a great ending to a wonderful–


“The End”

Roll credits.

I for one look forward to the next season, where a bloodthirsty serial killer hides among the downstairs staff, killing off beloved characters each week. Will Anna be able to use her newfound detective skills to catch the killer in time? Thrilling!

Okay. Now that I have that out of my system, allow me to give a more measure response to the episode, storyline by storyline:

  • Matthew’s death–Honestly, how can I be upset about this? Don’t get me wrong. I am very upset, but then I poked around online. Because there’s no way a show as good as Downton would pull a stunt like this just for kicks and giggles. And I found articles like this one. Dan Stevens chose to leave the show. He was adamant about it. And so how do you have Matthew and Mary break up? You don’t. You kill the character. There was no other option, short of recasting Matthew, and that . . . would be silly. Especially since they managed to tie up all his conflicts. He’s got an heir. He loves Mary. Lord Grantham’s his BFF again. Exit, stage left. (Interestingly, I also discovered this is why Sybil died, though in her case, the writers had more of an advanced notice, so they could prep the audience a tad more.) I’m very glad they did it at the end, so that the whole episode wasn’t gloomy. But then again, maybe they could have just done it off screen. Have season three start with Matthew dead, and just move on. Don’t know. Sad, but there it is. I wonder if Dan Stevens will have some repercussions from his move. I get that he wants to move on to bigger and better things. But fans are not happy, Dan . . .
  • Rose–Here’s a storyline I’m excited about for next season, at least. She’s got a bit more of a history now, and she promises to challenge the Downton balance more than ever. I’m all for it. Though the Dad/Mom hating each other plot was tiresome to say the least. Sort of came out of nowhere. I was watching the episode wondering why in the world they decided to have two dreary guest characters bring the whole thing down. Yuck.
  • Branson and the Maid–Stupid, really. Yes, it’s been a year, but it’s only been a year. I did like how they tied it up at the end, with Branson just being lost at Sybil’s absence. The maid was a little shrew, though. I’m glad she’s gone.
  • Lady Crawley and Doctor Doolittle–Um . . . yeah. What was up with this little side plot? Writers: “Lady Crawley has nothing to do for an entire episode. Oh noes!” Solution is to have the doctor be after her? Really? Snoozeville.
  • Thomas and Jimmy–I’m still thinking Jimmy’s gay. Just very deep in the closet. Nice to see Thomas do something selfless, although it makes no sense whatsoever. Then again, love often doesn’t. Still, I have a hard time believing Thomas is still sweet on Jimmy, unless it’s because Thomas agrees with me, and is convinced Jimmy really is gay, no matter how much Jimmy likes to shout “I’M HETEROSEXUAL” at random intervals.
  • Edith Grantham, Professional Mistress–I can see the business cards now. This plot has FAIL written all over it, but then again, I’m an anti-Edith kinda guy, anyway. Still. (Actually, come to think of it, the new maid’s name was Edna. Edna. Edith. Ethel. Is there some unwritten rule that all female characters on this show whose names begin with E shall be unlikable? Seriously.)
  • Mrs. Patmore Gets a Suitor–A fat, obnoxious one, who we’re led to believe she actually likes, and then at the last minute, she stares at the camera and says, “NOT!” A bit of tomfoolery. They were really stretching to have enough material for some parts of this episode, I felt. Which leads me to
  • All of the Fair Stuff–I’m a big fair fan. And it was interesting to see how little they’ve changed in many ways. But . . . the fair was pretty frilly for the most part. It felt like padding.
  • The Scottish stuff felt like padding, too. The piper. Learning to reel. Fishing. Hunting. Boring. Some good period details, but really? What was any of it advancing? 
All in all, I thought this episode was more of an afterthought. They’d tied up all the real story lines last week. This one was here to kill Matthew, and that’s about it. For the most part, I think we’re all better off just pretending this episode never happened. Matthew can still die. I just don’t have to watch him bleeding from the ears anymore.
What did YOU think?

Leave a comment