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That was one of the most anti-climactic bits of television I’ve ever watched. But maybe that’s my fault for believing the ITV continuity announcer when she promised us even more ‘shock twists’ in the final episode of season three.
I can only assume she was referring to the shock revelation that Tom Branson is actually quite good at cricket after all, because I never saw that one coming.
In fact it’s amazing JF managed to tie up almost every plotline in the series quite so neatly, and with such little pay off.
So, where to start? Bates and Anna are now happily ensconced in their shag pad new cottage, which Bates lovingly painted just in time to invite Miss O’Brien round and attempt a spot of blackmail.
Bates’ storyline was closely intertwined with the fate of Evil Gay Thomas, who was being thrown out on his ear by Carson for being evil and gay, and cracking onto stupid-but-pretty footman Jimmy.
However, Carson may be disgusted by the gays, but he’s got a heart under that gruff exterior, promising EGT a good reference and conceding that he wasn’t altogether unsympathetic to Thomas’s plight ‘you’ve been twisted by nature into something foul and even I can see that you did not ask for it.’
Alas, this wasn’t good enough for Thomas’s one time friend, current arch nemesis Miss O’Brien, who manipulated stupid-but-pretty footman Jimmy into threatening Carson with a call to the police unless he leaves Thomas high and dry.
It’s at this point Bates intervened, for reasons that are never entirely explained, other than the fact that he’s a Jolly Good Sport. He saves Thomas from having to move ‘abroad’ to escape his bad reference, and inadvertently gets him a promotion to Under Butler – thus making him Bates’s superior.
That backfired on you, didn’t it Bates? However, that means that particular plot line is ALL TIED UP until next season, where Bates hates Thomas and Thomas hates Bates again.
Although, did anyone else think Anna telling Bates that he’d make a good politician might be foreshadowing a career change? Presumably he’d join the Liberals and Carson’s head would start spinning on his shoulders. And now that Miss O’Brien thinks Bates knows about her evil, baby-killing bar of soap, what fresh hell will she unleash on him?
(Also, I’m sure I misheard this but I could have sworn that Thomas said that he had a cousin in Pompeii he could go and stay with. How…exotic).
I have to say, I didn’t really buy everyone’s acceptance of Thomas’ homesexuality, from Mrs Hughes, who pretty much admitted to being a fag hag, to Lord Grantham’s brusque: ‘if I’d shouted blue murder every time someone tried to kiss me at Eton, I’d have gone hoarse in a month.’
Really Julian Fellowes, REALLY?
In other news, Lady Mary and Matthew both visited a fertility specialist (or whatever the 1920s version of a fertility specialist is), Mary had an unspecified secret operation on the sly and now…everything is fine? What was the point of that then? Still that’s that plotline TIED UP.
Oh, and Branson was going to move out with baby Sybil, then he won over Robert with is his superior estate management skills and previously undiscovered talent at cricket, and decided to stay in the big house after all, to Lady Cora’s delight. PLOTLINE TIED UP
Edith did a bit more flirting with her editor chap, before calling up the newspaper to get the dirt on him (the 1920s version of Googling someone, I guess), and discovering that he’s married. Not cool editor chap, not cool.
But wait! His wife is in an asylum! And he really likes Edith! Hang on, have we wondered into a remake of Jane Eyre? PLOTLINE…NOT REALLY TIED UP AT ALL…OOOH.
Isobel and Violet continued to meddle in Fallen Woman Ethel’s life, presumably because they had absolutely nothing better to do in this episode.
Eventually they found her a job near where her son was living with his grandparents, and even arranged for Mrs Bryant to agree that Ethel could see little Charlie on the sly from time to time. That’s that plotline SO NEATLY TIED UP that I’m surprised Julian Fellowes hasn’t been moonlighting as one of those posh gift-wrapping people in John Lewis.
We had the entirely pointless and shoe-horned introduction to flighty Rose, who is presumably meant to be a Sybil substitute, although less interested in suffrage and nursing, and more interested in married men and jazz.
She really could have waited until next season, but at least it gave Maggie Smith something to do, which was be a machievellian, disapproving genius.
It made me wonder though, why are they letting Robert, Matthew and Branson run the estate? Why don’t they just get the Dowager Countess on it? She’d have the whole thing in profit within a fortnight.
And finally, Mr Moseley Sr, grower of the finest roses in Donwton was back! I’d actually like to see more of the Moseley’s next season – there’s a real understated pathos with the pair of them – it’s the sort of thing Downton used to do so well before it became all soapy. It would also be nice if Mr Moseley Jr was allowed to be more than vague comic relief in the house.
So, it’s been a patchy season, with a disappointing ending. A few plotlines have been set in motion for the next season, but hopefully the decks have been cleared enough for Julian Fellowes to up his game next time round.
Re-reading my notes now, I can tell that I was desperate for a sudden plot twist last night, here are just some of the predictions I made over the course of the evening.
- Evil Thomas was going to kill Bates’ outside his cottage
- Evil Thomas was going to kill Mrs O’Brien. With a bar of soap.
- Carson was going to admit that he was almost gay back in his youth, when he was ‘on stage’.
- Rose was going to announce that her married man had got her up the duff and she was giving baby to Matthew and Lady Mary
- Branson would decide to leave baby Sybil at Downton with Matthew and Mary so he could pursue a career as a professional cricket player.
See, Julian? It's not hard...