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?