I’m putting a spoiler warning here. I should not have to, because the show was done airing in the UK on Christmas 2012. It’s done airing here as of Sunday night. But I know there are people like my sister who have saved the show on DVR to watch later. So I’m putting in an annoying paragraph for those who are watching at their leisure. I really hate Time Shifting. No…I love Time Shifted Viewing for the most part, but we really need a new spoiler etiquette. Because I’ve been yelled at for spoiling Eureka to a person who had just started watching the show at season 1 on Netflix during the final season….5 years later. I’m sorry, jackass, but if you’re five years behind you can just suck it up and realise that the price you pay is that you may find out something you didn’t want to know. Jeez. I’ve also got a friend who’s after me to not spoil Season 2 of Homeland until they watch it on the next Free Showtime Weekend. You know what…if you’re going to not pay to watch the show like I did and wait a year to see it for free…just forget it. You deserve what you get.
Now….on to Downton Abbey.
I was one of the people who started watching Downton when it was shiny and brand new. I was one of the people who talked everyone I knew into watching it on Netflix to get caught up. I’ll just say it. I am a Downton Early Adopter. When the show got big in Series 2 (Stateside at least…it’s always been big in the UK) all of a sudden everyone was throwing around Dowager quotes and making hip jokes about Downton/Downtown. It got that saturation that annoys me, frankly, because with saturation comes a general patience with Lowest Common Denominator Storylines.
I think Dan Stevens and the chick who played Sybil knew what a lot of us viewers know…the show has gone from a classic drama to a turgid soap in three short years. Looking back on it, I’d say my personal Jump The Shark moment was the episode in Series Two when a maimed WWI vet checked into the Downton Rehab Center (or whatever it was called) claiming to be the heir Patrick who was presumed lost on the Titanic. It was just so…shlocky.
Why do I keep watching? Because watching Downton Abbey is like going on a date with your hot cousin. When you’re in the middle of it you’re just having a blast. “Here I am with a hot person of the opposite sex, doing really fun things like going to a Godfather retrospective and eating a Mad Anthony Sundae at Atz.” Then when you get home you’re like…”Hey. Wait. THAT WAS MY COUSIN!!!! GROSS!!!”* That’s how it is with Downton. You watch it and you’re all into “oooh, what’s Carson gonna say about this??” and then afterward when you’re brushing your teeth getting ready for bed you start thinking about it and you’re like “hey. That was kinda dumb. The Mrs. Hughes Breast Cancer storyline is the exact same storyline as Mrs. Patmore Going Blind from Series 1. Do they think we wouldn’t notice?”
Once the show killed Sybil in parturition, with that snide Britishy way where all the toffs were standing around watching her have seizures and arguing about who was the toffeeist, it died. Yes, the show died with Sybil. There was a good episode of Wake, where we figured out what was going to happen with the baby–idiotically called Sibbie–and whether or not she could be baptized as *gasp* C.a.t.h.o.l.i.c! I figure they can always add a little priest hole off the nursery and Lord Grantham can stand around in his Fusty Post-Series One Idiotic Dad From CBS Sitcom Land and witter away about “This is not what Downton was Entrusted To Me for! Priest Holes! What’s next? A Gay Discotheque?”
Well, yes, apparently, if you got stuck dragging through the last three episodes of the series which tiresomely revolved around a man kissing another man ONE TIME BY ACCIDENT and the LITERAL federal case they made out of it. I know they thought it was making a grand statement about homosexuality, but really. Maybe in 1988 when My Beautiful Laundrette covered the same ground more daringly and better-acted, yes. But now? Everybody has a gay uncle coming over for Sunday Dinner with his Good Friend Alex. Gay men are more common than lemon meringue pie**. The only purpose the whole Thomas Kissed Jimmy And The Other Guy Saw It had was to make me wonder when the ruddy hell we were going to get back to the Whore Can’t Cook storyline. Under any other circumstances I would’ve hated that story, but honestly, wondering what strange dish she was going to burn this time was more interesting than all the junior high boykiss shenanigans. By far.
And then the big thing happened. Killing Matthew. Yes, I know that Dan Stevens wanted to leave the show and I can’t blame him. I want to leave the show, and I don’t work there ten hours a day. But if history has taught us anything, there are a million ways to write an actor off a show without pinning his character’s bleeding corpse under an overturned automobile. I realise that yes, I’m spoiled by Ritchie being stationed in Greenland and marrying Loribeth by proxy over the phone. And I’m spoiled by never ever once seeing Maris Crane in the flesh. But I know that characters can stay alive even when the actors who play them want to direct Tom Hanks in a mermaid picture.
Here, originally posted to Facebook, is my list of Things We Could Have Done With Matthew. And before you decide that any of them are stupid, let me remind you this is a show where a man with a wooden hand played two-handed tug of war without the hand falling off.
1) He could be stationed in India, while Mary stays at home with the baby.
2) He could be on an extended tour of the U.S. studying new agricultural methods to improve Downton.
3) He could be staying in the London house and sitting in on Parliament.
4) He could be transferred to Ireland to deal with the Troubles.
5) He could be back in Manchester working on an important case. 6) He could be ill with tuberculosis and in a Sanitarium.
7) He could have decided to join one of the Arctic expeditions.
8) like the real resident of Highclere Castle–which plays “Downton Abbey” in the show–he could have gone to Egypt on the King Tut archeological dig.
I’m sure there are other things we could do. But no. We’re stuck with this rotten midden heap of a show.
What time is Call The Midwife on?
*Unless you’re George Michael Bluth.
**seriously. I cannot find one anywhere and i’m not in the mood to fool with eggwhites in the kitchen.