Why I’m done with Downton Abbey

Spoiler alert: This post contains information that gives away the Downton Abbey season 3 finale, along with other plot points of this latest season. If you’re trying to catch up on the craze and don’t want to know what happens, then stop reading (but come back to this post after you’ve watched the season finale because I want to know your reaction).

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I was late to the Downton Abbey party, and ended up watching the first two seasons through Netflix. I got hooked, like so many of my friends who loved to talk about Mary and Matthew and evil O’Brien and Thomas (the conniving servants we all love to hate). And so I was excited about actually watching a season along with my friends for a change and being able to talk with them about the developments as the season progressed.

Most Sunday nights of late, one of my friends has posted on Facebook his favorite quote of the evening from the Dowager Countess (played by one of my all-time favorite actresses Maggie Smith). I usually recorded the show, and so I had to avoid Monday-morning commentary about the show so I wouldn’t learn any of the plot before watching it. But I have enjoyed the banter back and forth about the show and its characters this season.

You know a show has hit it big when there are t-shirts. “Free John Bates” and “Keep Calm and Ring Carson to Bring Tea” are just two that I came across in a catalog late last year. You can even buy a t-shirt that proclaims your affinity for one of the sisters: “I’m a Mary,” “I’m an Edith,” or “I’m a Sybil.”

You can also rate a show’s popularity by the number of spoofs it inspires. Jimmy Fallon has done spoofs on his late night show, Saturday Night Live spoofed the show, and even Sesame Street has gotten in on the act:

But this Sunday was my last episode. Writer Julian Fellowes has gone too far and killed not only a beloved character on the show but also managed to kill my desire to keep watching.  Continue reading

Somebody’s something

I’m a newcomer to the BBC’s wildly popular Downton Abbey, and have worked my way through Season 1 and 2 on DVD. If you haven’t made it through season 2 yet, let this serve as your spoiler alert (but come back and read this post after you’ve caught up on the series).

Toward the end of Season 2, Lady Grantham receives a letter from her daughter Sybil with news that she’s expecting her first child. Lady Grantham is thrilled, but Lord Grantham is not, for the simple reason that he never approved of the marriage between his daughter Sybil and the household’s Irish chauffeur, Tom Branson. He threatens to disown Sybil because of her decision to marry someone outside of her class, but because he really does love her and is generally a decent chap, he softens his stance, and the marriage takes place.

Lord Grantham sounds resigned as he says that Sybil’s fate is sealed now that she’s pregnant, as if before her pregnancy, she could or would have undone her marriage to Tom. Lady Grantham’s response to him is that it wasn’t the pregnancy but the marriage itself that set Sybil’s life on its current course. (She further cements her place as one of my favorite characters by assuring Lord Grantham that she won’t be kept from her first grandchild simply because Sybil’s marriage doesn’t fit with conventions of the day.)

Lord Grantham isn’t alone in his thoughts that children are the cementing element of a marriage. The term “starter marriage” became popular in the late 1990s, and I remember some coworkers teasing a newlywed among us that she could have a starter marriage (as several of them had already had): a short marriage that ended in divorce and never produced children. How sad it is to me that there’s even a term for such a marriage and a prevailing attitude that the end of such a marriage can be taken lightly because it doesn’t matter as much as one that produced children. Continue reading