With the completion of season three, especially the last three minutes, it’s all I can do to keep from heaving a tea service through my flat screen.
Note: Spoiler Alert. Those of us watching season three via Apple iTune or Apple TV received the last few episodes on or about January 29. This article contains some indication regarding what happens in the final episode of season three, but no specifics. However, if you haven’t seen the final episode, proceed at your own risk.
It’s important to be clear about this. I have avidly watched all three seasons of Downton Abbey, the wildly popular BBC British period drama about Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, his family, their servants, and the vast country estate they inhabit. I have happily lapped up the cascading catastrophes, the vile backstabbing subterfuge, the spinal injuries and the unrelenting changing for dinner. I have sat on the edge of my seat through the miraculous recoveries, the unfair prison sentences and the evil plotting that is forever going on out in the smoking area. Seriously, at Downton Abbey, if you smoke, you’re evil.
Downton Abbey is arguably a reboot of the 1970′s Upstairs Downstairs whereby we get to wait breathlessly for members of the ruling class to be nice to, and occasionally bed, the working class wage slaves they employ/own. All of this is fine, of course. I’m all for the occasional painful firing without a letter of recommendation, balanced off by a fancy wedding or two. Throw in World War I and lots of house cleaning and you’ve got the makings of years of televised entertainment.
But then comes the end of season three. And sadly, I must report that after much consideration, I $%$&#@! HATE Downton Abbey.
With the completion of season three, especially the last three minutes, my hatred of the show has become such a vast and burning rage, that it’s all I can do to keep from heaving a tea service through my flat screen. As it is, I’m swearing off any scenes in season four that aren’t Maggie Smith, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, at tea or at dinner parties. The rest of it Julian Fellows can stuff. And good bloody riddance.
And don’t think I haven’t given Julian the benefit of the doubt up until now. There are many peculiarities to the series that I have generously continued to let slide. Because I understand that Downton Abbey is, at its heart, a very well costumed soap opera, built on the age old formula of making us like characters and then torturing them with endless obstructions to their happiness. Fine. I got that.
So, never mind the random and inexplicable behavior of various characters who would like to love each other but just can’t because that would bring plot resolution and lord knows we KAHNT have that. AND THEN, when they do finally tie the knot, there’s the utter lack of on screen sexual chemistry. Are British actors incapable of portraying any kind of sexual stimulation? My god, if I have to watch Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Crawley) smirk her way through one more listless bedroom scene, I’m going lose all hope in BBC central casting. Raising the music alone isn’t going to do it. I have to be convinced these people are actually heterosexual.
And speaking of sexuality, there’s Thomas. Dear Thomas, the mean, spiteful gay valet. Will someone please touch his pee-pee? I know he had some affair with Lord so and so, early in season one, but I don’t think he got his pee-pee touched. I mean, maybe we could cheer this poor fellow up, yes?
And then there’s the never ending stream of very bad decisions by any and everyone. Inexplicably disastrous choices that are relied on to keep the plot moving. Like losing the estate’s entire fortune. “Lord Grantham, we did advise you not to put all your money into a single stock, the Canadian Truck Railroad (now bankrupt).” Um, hum. Yeah. Silly old Lord Grantham. Or refusing to marry the heir apparent. Or going to visit your insane and hateful ex-wife alone, just before she gets all dead and stuff. (Bates didn’t know she was about to end up dead? Well, I think the rest of us knew, right?)
And then, there’s this other thing that happens with some regularity in the show. Convenient solutions from out of nowhere. Like when some one loses all the money, someone else inherits an equally huge pile of money at exactly the same time. Its perfectly natural. In fact, that happened to me just last week. Also, letters written by dead people. That sort of stuff.
But all that aside, what’s ultimately got me pissed off is what I can only call the “Reverse Stephen King Effect.”
For those of you who haven’t finished season three, I’ll be circumspect here, but let me say this. Stephen King’s first ten books consistently demonstrated that if you have naughty delicious unmarried sex, (especially with a vampire chick or something like that) you’ll be horribly dismembered two chapters later. Annoying as it is, King clearly intends to imply some kind of moral absolutes underlying the story.
In Downton Abbey, its the reverse. If you do the right thing, get married, then attempt to be loving committed partners and, god forbid, have a child, watch out. Cause somebody is gonna get it. In spades. I mean I’m talking a Steinway Grand dropped on your head from twelve stories up.
And when they do, you have two to three episodes of people crying. And, we the viewers, are crying. And the actor or actress who is out of a job is off somewhere crying and so on. It’s really too much suffering. And too much crying. Because honestly, in the TV land where I come from, making characters, you know, disappear, is a whole different matter from torturing them with obstructions.
Well whatever the reason, season four will no doubt start off with a LOT more friggin’ crying. Something I, for one, am growing wary of. I mean, for god’s sake, who’s next? The butler? In the pantry? With a rolling pin?