Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Disappointed in Downton? Join the club

To say that the fourth season of Downton Abbey was a disappointment would be a massive understatement.

I found the entire fourth season – which concluded this past Sunday – to be one big letdown.

I understand the problems associated with producing British television. I know that the actors sign three-year contracts (while the American contract is a standard seven years) and that most of these shows do not have increased revenue to offer these actors enough money to entice them to stay when those initial three years end.

Do I think Downtown has been hurt by the recent cast departures? Absolutely.

Matthew, Sybil and O’Brien were integral parts of the Downton cog and – apparently – that cog doesn’t turn the wheel without them.

While those three characters were important to Downton, though, they’re not the main reason why season four was such an abject failure.

What were they?

5. Rose’s rebellion couldn’t have been more boring: With Sybil’s absence, I get why the writers decided to introduce another young woman. Here’s the problem: Rose can’t live up to Sybil’s legacy. Sybil was definitely my favorite sister and, when she died, it took a chunk out of my heart as well as those of the rest of her family. Rose is a poor substitute. While I don’t dislike taking a look at the flapper lifestyle, Rose is so vapid and so worried about making her mother pay that she becomes completely unlikeable. Rose is not loyal, she’s not steadfast and she has no familial pride. So why are we supposed to root for her again?

4. What happened to Violet and Barrow? The Dowager Countess was once the (biting) highlight of  Downton. This year she did . . . what did she do again? Well, she made Edith feel bad about getting knocked up and she got sick for an episode. Yeah, that’s about all she did. That’s a great waste of Maggie Smith’s talents and memorable snark. Do better next season. The same goes for  Thomas Barrow – the guy we all love to hate. This snake in the grass has launched all-out assaults on various servants at Downton throughout the years –but with the departure of O’Brien, Thomas seems to have lost his teeth. He had even less to do this season – besides sit there and say ominous things and glower in the corner – than any previous seasons. Bring back the jerk we love to watch scheme.

3. Edith gets more and more (and more and more) pathetic: I know that some parents play favorites, but the way that Lord and Lady Grantham dote on Mary (and Sybil, before her death) and yet constantly treat Edith with derision and out and out neglect is baffling. Since we met Edith, she’s fallen for a really old guy, got left at the altar, fallen for a burned guy faking his identity, fallen for a married guy that fell off the face of the earth, gotten knocked up, given up her baby and . . . she’s just one pathetic story after the other. Edith showed signs of greatness in season two when she helped out during the war effort – but she immediately plummeted to pre-war pathetic posturing in record time after that. Does Edith have to be everyone’s punching bag?

2. Mary is the most unlikeable character – and yet she’s also propped the most: Michelle
Dockery must be some sort of saint, because the way the Downton writers prop Mary has to be a reflection of how much they love Dockery. I have never watched a character with so little redeeming value that manages to take over every single storyline every season. Even when Matthew was alive, Mary was a complete pain, but her love story with Matthew was her one redeeming quality. Now, after mourning poutily and neglecting her child for a year and a half, Mary is ready to move on and she’s encouraging three different suitors to start chasing her around. Here’s a hint: Trying to convince me that Mary deserves three suitors (while Edith just gets more and more pathetic) is not going to make me like Mary anymore. In fact, it’s going to have the opposite effect. I truly think I just might loathe Mary now.

1. Anna’s rape became all about Bates: The truth is, through the first three seasons of the show, Anna and Bates were the central love story. Sure, Mary and Matthew got all the glory – but Anna and Bates set the rhythm of the house and their sweet love story was what anchored Downton when it threatened to float off into soapy space. Unfortunately, the big story of this season was Anna’s brutal rape at the hands of another servant. After the initial attack, all of Anna’s feelings and problems were subjugated because everyone was terrified what Bates would think. Anna had to suffer and deal with things because Bates would kill her attacker and then Bates would have to pay for his actions. Nothing was about Anna. To add insult to injury, after Bates did find out about the rape the story became more about him and Mary – how Mary felt about Anna’s rape. It was insulting all around. Then, in the final two episodes, it becomes relatively apparent that Bates did murder Anna’s attacker – but everyone’s fine with it because he stole a letter from someone’s pocket. Huh?

What do you think? What were your biggest complaints with season three of Downton Abbey?


Blogger Gary Delcourt said...

The show jumped the shark when Matthew died. The storyline should have been anchored by him as the heir apparent to Lord Grantham. He brought charm, strength, integrity, and youth to an aging palace. After Sybil died then Matthew there was giant hole in the storyline and show. To me if felt like when you are at a party and the main party people leave and you are left with the boring, empty party goers.

February 26, 2014 at 6:00 PM 
Blogger anon said...

What I've observed is that if you like Anna and Edith and hate Mary, you will hate this season. I liked this season and have watched it more than last season so you can guess the characters I like to watch. I am glad Thomas was insignificant this season as well so high marks as well.

February 27, 2014 at 12:18 PM 

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