So Long, and Farewell – Downton Abbey Season Finale

Spoiler Alert – if you haven’t seen the season finale of Downton Abbey yet, don’t read any further if you don’t want to know what happened!

So, just when you think everything is going so well, they go and pull the rug out from under you!  Not so fast, Downton Abbey viewers, as we learned in the season 3 finale last night.

In a way, it is probably better that here in America we didn’t have to wait weeks for this episode, which aired over in the UK on Christmas.  Imagine if we all sat down on that special night, and had to watch that ending!?!  I know UK viewers were none too happy about it, so if it’s any consolation, at least we didn’t have to wait for the devastating news:

Matthew’s dead.

If there’s one thing to take away from this season, it is that everything changes, and with last night’s ending, boy will it really change now.  So many questions to be answered, and so many storylines to be developed. But before we speculate about next season, let’s review how this season wrapped up.

The final episode takes place one year after the previous episode, with the family traveling to Scotland to stay with cousins Lord (Shrimpy!) and Lady Flincher, parents of Rose, whom we met in previous episodes. Nearly everyone from the house travels north, leaving only Branson and Mrs. Crawley behind, along with most of the downstairs staff.

At the beginning of the episode, we get the feeling that the mood at Downton is upbeat, the house is humming with activity, Mary’s pregnant, and it seems all is well on the estate. The family’s ready for some R&R and even Edith’s editor is on his way up north.  Arriving in Scotland, the Crawleys find the Flinchers at odds with one another, husband and wife can’t stand one another and Rose is bickering with her mother.

Despite the dissension among their hosts, the Crawleys seem delighted to be in the Highlands, ready to go stalking and dance at the gillies’ ball. (If you have no idea what a gilly is, I highly recommend you watch the terrific BBC series, Monarch of the Glen.  In short, a gilly is the guy who manages the hunting on the estate.  He’s like the deer-killer-whisperer.)  How funny is it when the bagpiper starts piping everyone into dinner and also wakes everyone up in the morning?  Love it.

One person who is really enjoying the tradition at the Scottish estate is Lord Grantham.  As we know, Robert is always hesitant to change, and he’s just begun to change his own estate for the future, so having the opportunity to participate in the old ways just for a short time makes him super happy.  But it seems that all is not well at the Scottish estate, and in the end Robert is thankful for the steps he has taken and most of all his family, and, really, Matthew (!).

Meanwhile, Cora sees Sybil in the young and rebellious Rose, who even the Dowager Countess can see is being stifled by her mother.  By the end of the episode, Rose’s parents ask the Crawleys to take her to stay at Downton while they are abroad in India. We can only imagine what she’ll get up to in season 4.

Mary, who has to be the smallest 8-month pregnant woman I have ever seen, wants to participate in the fun but is hampered by her pregnancy.  She delights in being horrid, however, to Edith about her editor.  I think it is sweet how Matthew is always there to be referee between the two of them. He’s very protective of Edith, especially when he learns that her editor is married and doesn’t side with the guy because he doesn’t think it’s fair to Edith.  Ultimately, Edith is going to follow her heart on this one, so it should be interesting to see what happens as this situation is far more scandalous than any other she has faced.

Back at Downton, Branson is having a hard time getting used to his new position, both in the family and as estate agent. A brazen new housemaid sees an opportunity, and makes him feel not worthy.  We know Edna is bad news from the start and it is nice to see she is promptly dispatched by Mrs. Hughes.

Ah, Mrs. Hughes.  She really is the mother figure for the staff, isn’t she?  From advocating for the young staff to get some time off to looking out for Mrs. Patmore, who is wooed by a determined flirt, to giving advice to Branson, she really is the conscience of Downton Abbey.

The finale wraps up several storylines, most importantly the Thomas/Jimmy storyline.  A year after the incident, there is still much animosity between them. Thomas redeems himself by coming to Jimmy’s rescue when Jimmy is cornered by thugs. Jimmy is able to finally accept Thomas as a friend.

Some other great moments from last night’s finale included the scene with Carson and baby Sybil. We knew that Carson was very protective of the family but who knew he was such a softie?  Gotta love this quote when Mrs. Hughes catches him with the baby: “there’s no need to get sentimental, Mrs. Hughes.”

Then there was Molesley getting drunk, a byproduct of the Scottish O’Brien trying to outsmart Original O’Brien.  Nice try, Scottish O’Brien. You’re going to have to try a little harder to get something past Original O’Brien.

For all the different stories this season on Downton Abbey, this really was a season of change, and a season of sadness.  Of course, we all know that life can change at any moment, so it is especially poignant that the last scene we see is Mary and her son, so full of joy as we know the heart-wrenching reality is just around the corner.  As Violet so aptly puts it “we don’t always get our just desserts.” And so it shall be, as the Crawleys deal with even more change.  It will be interesting to see how Mary deals without Matthew.  I imagine she’ll be pretty strong because she has everything she wants – her beloved home is safe, her son is born, healthy, and an assurance that the legacy of the family will continue.  But it may take quite some time to heal her broken heart.

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