For the season finale of BBC’s Downton Abbey, writer Julian Fellowes decided to kick every viewer in the metaphorical junk once again. Remember last week’s episode that was just too full of happiness and glee following Thomas’ embarrassing incident with Jimmy? We knew it was too good to be true and in these situations you should always follow your instincts.
The family decides to take a holiday and visit friends in Scotland. Even though Mary is very pregnant, she insists upon going much to the worry of Matthew and her father Robert. It’s a year after Sybil’s death and the family seems to be recovering decently. For some reason, Tom Branson decides to stay at Downton while the family is away and boy does that cause some drama.
While the cats are away the mice will play. The staff wants to use a little free time since the Lord and Lady of the house will be gone for nine days. There is a carnival in town and Alfred, Jimmy, and others would like to attend. Mrs. Hughes pushes Carson into letting them go and she decides she will attend to keep an eye on Mrs. Patmore. She has a new grocer delivering to her and even though he is old, gross, and fat, she likes the attention he gives her.
A hot new maid has a severe crush on Tom Branson and wonders why he ostracizes himself from the staff when he was once part of their world. She starts to be friendly with him against Mrs. Hughes wishes and she follows him to a local pub. She convinces him to come have dinner with the staff downstairs rather than eat alone in the dining room while the family is gone. He takes her up on the offer and visits the staff downstairs, much to Carson’s chagrin.
In Scotland, the family visits Shrimpy, his sour puss wife, and their crazy daughter Rose. Sour Puss is very concerned about her wild daughter and is constantly trying to control her. Shrimpy doesn’t like the situation or his wife for that matter. Robert and Cora notice immediately that things are going well with their friends.
Sour Puss tries things like having O’Brien teach her staff to do her hair like Cora’s. O’Brien isn’t impressed with the Scottish staff, even when they try to woo her a bit. After this incident, her Scottish rival is so angry for being schooled in the art of hair that she tries to get O’Brien drunk on whiskey at the party, but it doesn’t work.
Shrimpy is going bankrupt and tells Robert that he is lucky for being innovative in his business affairs. Robert realizes that he owes this all to Matthew for showing him the error of his ways and expresses gratitude for Matthew to his wife Cora. Sour Puss asks Cora if her crazy daughter Rose can live with them while she and her husband are dealing with bankruptcy and possible divorce. That will make for some interesting episodes in season four.
Edith’s editor decides to pay her a visit in Scotland and lets her know that he is in love with her. The situation is impossible because he is already married to a wife in the looney bin, but he insists that Edith give in and be with him. He consults Matthew on a fishing trip and even Mr. Crawley can’t be swayed. Mary doesn’t like the chap much either, but that’s no surprise.
Back at Downton, hot maid walks in on Tom Branson getting changed. The man looks very nice without a shirt on. She kisses him and asks him to meet her for lunch. He seems flabbergasted, but doesn’t really know what to say. Hot maid is so proud that she brags to Mrs. Hughes and Carson that she is having lunch with Tom. Both are furious and decides to fire her. Hughes consults with Tom and says that they’re letting hot maid go. He says to give her a decent reference at least, but seems relieved that she is leavening. Then he starts crying, admitting to Mrs. Hughes that he misses Sybil very much and that it has been difficult for him. She tells him to be proud of what he has accomplished and never be ashamed of his success.
Mary decides to go on a picnic and then she dances a little at the party, which leads to early labor. She hops on the train home and lands in the hospital. Matthew follows her just in time to hold his newborn son. Mary and Matthew have been very loving and kind to one another lately, which was nice to see for once. Mary stopped giving him a hard time about everything and he tells her that he wishes the world could see his version of Mary, which is sweet and kind. Then he goes for a drive. And then he gets in an accident and the bastard up and dies.
The fact is, actor Dan Stevens felt claustrophobic in his role as Matthew Crawley and decided not to renew his contract. This must have happened after the start of filming season three because the lead up to his character’s death was absolutely nil. We had no idea this was coming and no indication other than the episode before when he and Mary were so sickeningly sweet to one another. But the man had to move on. The character of Matthew was crucial to the plot because it forced other characters to step outside of themselves and see their mistakes. His mother is another great example of that. He will be greatly missed.