Downertown Abbey

Major Spoilers Ahead. Do not read if you haven’t watched the Season 3 Finale. I have written before about my love for television watching, which is mostly due to...

Major Spoilers Ahead. Do not read if you haven’t watched the Season 3 Finale.

I have written before about my love for television watching, which is mostly due to the profession I have chosen. Currently I am working with patients who experience a traumatic physical event (car accident, fall, gun shot wound, etc.) from beginning to end. Unfortunately, a good portion of these patient’s do not survive, and often I am faced with the challenge of “leaving it at work” to go on with my daily life. I love this work because I know God has called me to it, but it’s difficult and draining. This is why I love to come home to some mindless entertainment. Most people might not have the kind of job I do, but the stressors are really all the same. And many times, us TV watchers enjoy being led into a world of fantasy.

One of my most favorite fantasy shows has been Downton Abbey, as I love being swept away into the early 20th century Yorkshire country every week. For the first two seasons of Downton Abbey, this masterpiece of a show was fulfilling my television needs while leaving me to dream about the beauty of a life at Downton. While life wasn’t perfect for these characters, their days were mostly filled with fancy dinners, love triangles, triumph over war, and expression of love and service for their community and country.

The show was a hit all around the world, and by the time that the third season began in the UK last Fall, Americans were anxiously awaiting a 2013 premiere. I even read news of a woman who chose to move to the UK just to watch season 3. I took rather less drastic action by using other resources to watch Downton Season 3 here in the comfort of my Berkeley home (It’s PBS, people).

The season started off in magnificent ways with a wedding between Matthew and Mary – something Downton fans had been waiting for all along. There was also the brilliant news of Sybil’s pregnancy, Edith’s new love, Mrs. Hughes cancer-free diagnosis, and eventually the saving of Downton from financial ruin. All of this in the first few episodes seemed to be setting up season 3 with the kind of television show I loved watching every week.

Then… the storm hit.

I’ll get right to it for you non-Downton fans, and those who have watched every episode.

Again… SPOILER ALERT is now coming…

Season three of Downton brought us into a world where the three Grantham sisters had their whole lives ripped from them. First there was Edith, who on her wedding day was left at the altar. Literally, he left her while they were standing on the altar. Later in the season after Edith recovers from her broken heart, the writers decide to have her fall for a married man. Why must Edith’s love life be filled with so much doom? But this isn’t even close to the worst of it all as the youngest sister Sybil dies in childbirth. That’s right, a very main character has been officially killed off. And not only did she die, but the scenes Downton producers decided to show were very traumatic scenes. I watched the episode for the second time in anticipation of writing this blog and couldn’t help but to cry (a lot!) even know I knew exactly what would happen. The show did a good job expressing this loss of a mother, wife, sister, daughter, granddaughter, and even “master” to the servants of the house, but it is not something I want to experience in my mindless television watching time.

Throughout the rest of the episodes my social work brain was dissecting all movements and words spoken. I constantly was thinking about how each person was handling the death of Sybil, and the post-traumatic stress they must be enduring from literally watching her suffocate to death. And just when I thought that the family was finally making peace with their healing, the season finale came. I felt anxious as I knew that Mary’s due date was getting closer, and I imagined the fears that everyone must have had because of how the last childbirth of the family ended. Seeing Mary in the hospital with Matthew holding their baby boy and knowing that all were healthy and would survive was a huge sigh of relief, and the best way to end the season. What could happen with only two minutes left in the episode? A little rumble-rumble, bang-bang later, and Matthew is dead from a head on collision while riding in his wedding gift convertible car. I remember yelling a big, “NOOOOOO”, when I first saw it. I was desperate to talk to anyone and everyone about it, but couldn’t because the American premiere was still 2 months away! Ahh!

It honestly took a few days for me to shake the loss off. But still, I am stuck with the feelings of not wanting to watch season 4. Now, here is a family who has lost their daughter, their beloved brother-in-law/cousin and heir to the estate (gotta watch from the beginning…), which has left two newborn babies with only one parent. Though there might be happy days ahead for the people of Downton, losses like these will never be forgotten or replaced. It sounds a lot like real life, and I am not looking for real life in my fantasy mindless TV watching.

So what are your thoughts on the Downton finale? Should television be so traumatizing and depressing? Or should producers and writers take more of a “Parenthood” attitude and make season finales full of engagements, adoptions, and love between everyone? Will you be watching Downton Abbey season 4?

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  • Shanna Carson
    18 February 2013 at 11:24 am

    I don’t like the way season 3 ended –Matthew dying in car crash is not acceptable!!!

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  • Carrie Allen
    18 February 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Thanks Shanna for the comment! I agree completely!

    Something I didn’t mention in the blog (because it was getting so long already) was that Dan Stevens (the actor for Matthew) actually had some harsh things to say about Downton – didn’t like the writing or the show – and wanted to be for sure killed off. They begged him to come back for one or two episodes in the fourth season so they could think of another plot line and he refused. So production felt they had no other choice but to kill him off.

    BUT, another option they could have chosen was getting another male actor all together and make him Matthew. Now, I do HATE when this happens in shows –

    http://voices.yahoo.com/the-top-10-tv-character-switches-all-time-5216873.html

    but I think for the sake of Matthew’s character, it was worth thinking about. The news would have gotten out that Dan Stevens wanted to leave, everyone would hate him, and everyone would accept the new guy. It would have been awful but I don’t think as awful as this ending? Thoughts?

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  • Cayla Collier
    18 February 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Downton Abbey was possibly my favorite show/movie to watch ever…up until Season 3. Yes, I was devastated when Sybil died but I could even handle that. But to end with Matthew’s death I agree is “not acceptable”! I must say I haven’t even seen the last episode. I knew a couple of months ago how it ends and just can’t bring myself to watch it.

    My ideal would have been for everyone to stay for season 4 and to have wrapped up the entire show in a good (happy) manner. After all such an amazing show can’t go on forever (as we now see)and I just wanted it to go out on a high note.

    This has very much devastated my Downton world.

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    • Carrie Allen
      19 February 2013 at 10:30 pm

      Agreed, Cayla! Thanks for the comment!!

      PS. You should watch it! :)

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  • David Plassman
    18 February 2013 at 11:22 pm

    Drama needs to entail all of the aspects of life even the tragic. It is at it’s best when redemption is a power that overcomes. I will be looking for that in Season 4. I have found strength in the Serenity Prayer (full version) in the last few years: “taking as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that you will make all things right if I surrender to your will, that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next.”

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    • Carrie Allen
      19 February 2013 at 10:33 pm

      David – you make a really great point here and I appreciate the comment! I think that I like to see this more in movies because it’s just two or three hours that I can leave in the theater and walk away with some life lessons. I think my dislike with watching such tragedies on tv is that it keeps living in my mind for so long.

      But this blog is my intro for a lot of the blogs I want to write about suffering this year, and your comment is such a good reminder of the most important aspect of suffering! Thank you!

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  • Theodore Williamson
    19 February 2013 at 2:59 am

    Dan Stevens irks me. Of course I don’t know him personally, but it seems kind of ungrateful to prematurely leave a show that has given you so much fame. The only other thing that I have seen him in was Masterpiece’s Sense and Sensibility (Amazing btw!). It’s extremely hard to become a successful actor and to just leave the show that has given you so much success is kind of disrespectful to all the other actors who are trying to make a name for themselves. I think the replacement idea is a good and wouldn’t have taken that long to get over. They replace actors in movie franchises too (e.g. Dark Knight, Harry Potter 3-7, etc.)

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    • Carrie Allen
      19 February 2013 at 10:36 pm

      Theodore, your comment reminded me of this article I read about Dan Stevens and contracting:

      http://insidetv.ew.com/2013/02/17/downton-abbey-matthew-death/

      I guess in the UK they have a different way of doing things… though I think that is a lame excuse.

      I totally agree with you about Dan Stevens, and I honestly think that he sounds a bit arrogant, ungrateful, and harsh in his interviews he has done. So I am not a big fan anymore. Because of this I think people would have embraced a new Matthew, just as you said. Thanks so much for the comment!!

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  • Grammy
    19 February 2013 at 9:28 am

    Knowing Dan Stevens wanted out of the show takes the fantasy and romance out of the show. As you said in your blog, this show does sweep us away into an elegant time of make believe. This ending and
    knowledge of Dan Stevens desires make it just another TV show that is out to capture and audience and make money!

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    • Carrie Allen
      19 February 2013 at 10:38 pm

      Amen, Grammy! This whole thing has taken all the fantasy away from me. I really do have a different attitude about the show… kind of like it’s a chore now to stay updated because I do kind of want to keep watching to see how it all ends, but I am not excited about it. Total bummer! Thanks for the comment!!

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  • Lauren
    19 February 2013 at 11:05 pm

    I completely agree. People will always say, “we’ll that’s real life!” And I always say, “exactly! But when I watch tv I want happy fantasy life, an escape!” I was VERY pleased that for at least one full episode in parenthood, they decided to make it happy. Downton abbey, not so much. I was ticked. Apparently no one can have a baby with a happy ending. As for watching season 4… I don’t want to right now, but I’m sure I will. I still have horrible visions of Sybil suffocating so violently and now Matthew with blood pouring out of his head. Good thing we all have a year off to get over the 5 million tragedies they put us through.

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    • Carrie Allen
      21 February 2013 at 1:00 am

      Lauren, I imagine we would be great friends. :)

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