Downton Abbey: Season 3 - Final episode reviewed
Review by Rob Carnevale
I’M stumped for a better word but the third season finale of Downton Abbey was a shocker.
Rife with poor cricketing metaphors (especially the one about a central character ‘batting for the other team’) and overdosing on cheesy sentiment, this final episode of an otherwise enjoyable run showcased the good and the terrible about Julian Fellowes’ show.
Sadly, the good was in short supply. This was more about the terrible. Season three peaked with the death of Lady Sybil and its heart-breaking aftermath. But while it promised a grand finale involving the possible departure of another main character, the conclusion proved anti-climactic. Worse, it was self-congratulatory.
Set against the backdrop of the annual cricket match, the finale’s main drama concerned whether gay footman Thomas (Rob James-Collier) would be forced to leave Downton either in handcuffs or shame for his homosexual advances towards Jimmy (Ed Speleers) as engineered by the vengeful O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran).
Early on, there were some scenes to savour, such as Thomas’ attempts to defend his honour in the face of being called ‘foul’ by Mr Carson (Jim Carter)… scenes in which we actually felt sorry for one of the show’s arch-villains and in which James-Collier played a blinder.
But from the moment we caught Bates (Brendan Coyle) eaves-dropping and suspecting foul play, there was the sense that righteousness would prevail and the tension began to dissipate (even though there were a couple of cracking scenes between James-Collier and Coyle to underline their feelings towards each other along the way).
Bates is far too decent a man to let a wrong go un-righted. And so, after much wrangling, Thomas was allowed to stay, O’Brien had been put in check, and even Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) had been given a part to play.
A last act double bluff involving the arrival of two policemen to possibly take Thomas away underlined the anti-climactic nature of the episode, as the possibility of a cliffhanger ending was over before it had chance to gain momentum. But then it would have been bad form to have two consecutive seaons end with someone being carted off by the police. It just wouldn’t be cricket, so to speak.
Elsewhere, the drama was hum-drum to say the least. Edith’s flirtatious relationship with her new editor resulted in the discovery that he was a married man.
But, again, the prospect of having to wait to find out whether he was a scoundrel was quickly cast aside with a quick revelation. Still, in Edith’s case, she is due to be cut some slack from the writers having already been jilted at the altar this season.
And then there was the continuing ‘drama’ involving Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Matthew (Dan Stevens) and their attempt to secure an heir for Downton – resolved, once more, in the blink of an eye (or a missed operation).
These two have now become one of the most tiresome elements of Downton Abbey and their dialogue is truly atrocious. Twee would be too kind a word. Grating possibly more accurate, particularly when they exchange lines about their impossibly powerful love for each other or their joy at finding out they can have a “little prince”. It truly is pass the sick-bag time whenever they are allowed to be alone together.
There was more, of course, including a tiresome sub-plot involving a new character and her extra-marital liaison in London.
But Fellowes’ screenplay seemed more interested in getting to the cricket match finale, which saw everyone coming together in a big show of unison that was even capped by a slow-motion shot of family black-sheep Tom (Allen Leech) running back into the family fold.
One could assume that Fellowes was awfully pleased with himself for bringing things to such a spiffing, jolly conclusion. But where was that cliffhanger… that utterly compelling reason to find out the fate of a certain character?
Are we supposed to be so smitten with Downton that merely the prospect of a Christmas special will see us returning in droves? Possibly, yes. But there’s no escaping the fact that this was an underwhelming way to bow out…
Rather than hitting us for six, Downton‘s third season finale ducked out with a whimper. And Fellowes, as bowler in chief, proved himself to be a bit of a dibbly dobbly!
- Downton Abbey Website
- Season 3: Episode 5 reviewed
- Season 3: Episode 3 reviewed
- Season 3: First episode reviewed
- Christmas Day episode reviewed (2011)
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