I was a slow starter in watching Downton Abbey. I’d watched one episode in the middle of the first season but wasn’t impressed and didn’t return to watch it the next week. I’ve always been a slow starter when it comes to Masterpiece Theater. Most of their work seems to require a slowness in getting to know the people, to appreciate their humor, and to understand their actions. In an age of short sitcoms versus endless soap operas, many of the Masterpiece shows require more from a viewer. A dedication to think. A desire for more than to be just entertained.
Hearing all the hoopla about the show, I started watching it. After the second season I ordered the first season on Netflix and began to appreciate the people and place of Downton Abbey. I loved to see England – downstairs and upstairs. I learned more about World War I – the courage of the English people, the devastation of Europe and life as it was, the desperate soldier on the battlefield.
This season I was shocked at the death of Sybil in childbirth. And I watched as great acting drew me in and I cried for the great love that was torn by death. I watched as Tom Branson dealt with grief and I was reminded that great love does exist, that grief lasts longer than one episode, and that a television show can have the courage to show real life at its best.
I watched as Tom Branson grew into a wise, humble, and steady man who set aside himself to do what is right. As people accepted him and began to respect him. I loved the end of the cricket game when the three men of Downton Abbey appeared to set aside all quarrels and to begin to love each other as family. I felt anticipation of what was to come.
I was encouraged by the courage of Mrs. Crawley to want to help women, especially Ethel, even to the point of risking her own reputation. I was surprised by the twists and turns and even the outcome.
And I chucked at almost every line delivered by the Dowager Lady Grantham.
However, I felt betrayed by the treatment of Thomas Barrow which was much more a 21st century story line than the reality of England in the early 1900s.
And I began to despair that Downton Abbey would succumb to the need for a cliff hanger – that manipulation that says to fans that we aren’t faithful enough to return unless we have an adrenaline rush and an “Oh, no! What’s going to happen now?” experience at the end of the show.
Downton has succumbed to all the hype. It now feels like entertainment which must manipulate the story line because actors no longer want to commit to it, because morals must be politically correct according to the 21st century, and because the truth of early 1900 England isn’t worth telling.
Goodbye, Downton. I still want more than to be entertained.