Column: Jessica Fellowes on Episode 7
Jessica Fellowes offers behind-the-scenes access to the world of Downton Abbey, from the cast to the castle, like no one else. Now, Fellowes shares her insights into the most explosive and dramatic moments from Downton Abbey, Season 3. Find out what Fellowes has to say about Episode 7, the season finale. (Note: The following contains plot spoilers for Downton Abbey, Season 3, Episode 7.)
With Valentine's Day just gone, perhaps it was fitting that this final episode of Season Three had the theme of blossoming romance. But few amongst them survived the first bloom. Of all, the harshest ending was served to Lady Mary -- minutes after she safely delivered the rightful son and heir to Downton Abbey, the only man to know her for the kind woman she really is beneath that porcelain exterior, was dead.
that shocking finale, however, we were treated to scenes of idyll. Never before
has the phrase ‘Highland fling’ had so many different interpretations but
Molesley’s may – yet again – be the most humiliating. Lady Edith
danced a jig with her editor despite the fact that, as she says, “I just can’t
see a happy ending” – and who can blame her?
looks as if O’Brien may be in faraway tropical lands by the time we return to
Downton but I imagine Cora will have a hard time replacing her with someone
lovely. Lady’s maids were notoriously tricky people – they were women who,
by and large, had to sacrifice their own lives for someone else’s, occupying
that difficult place in which they were one of the most powerful members of
staff because of their intimacy with the mistress of the house/castle yet were
unable to do much with that power except use it to manipulate those around
O’Brien herself was based on a lady’s maid employed by a cousin of
creator and writer Julian Fellowes’s grandfather, who was, he says, “as polite
as courtier but she had a black heart." She drove away her mistress’s friends and
family until she alone ruled the London house, her employer believing that
everyone had betrayed her but her one loyal servant.
at Downton Abbey, the mice were taking full advantage of the cat’s absence. New
maid Edna Braithwaite tipped a wink at Tom Branson and was gone (unfair
dismissal was easier to arrange in those days). Mrs Patmore enjoyed the
attentions of laughing grocer Joe Tufton – “no man’s wanted to squire me
since the Golden Jubilee” – but not once she realized he was after her wooden
spoon, not her fair hand. Dr Clarkson thought he might reveal his bedside
manner to Isobel Crawley but it turned out that she prefers to go to bed alone.
I liked both the cook and Isobel’s responses here – in all the
discussions about ‘surplus women’ that were had after the First World War, it
was often forgotten that many considered themselves lucky to be chained not to
a husband but to a career.
again, there were some delightful period details. That maids never cleaned
after breakfast, when the family might see them, and that servants had to clean
more when the family were away.
Americans may have picked up on the reference to the Marlboroughs – the
marriage, or rather, divorce, between Consuelo Vanderbilt and the Duke of
Marlborough. You can read more in her her autobiography, The Glitter and the
Gold – it is a gripping tale of an unhappy marriage in the Edwardian era.
And the next time anyone has too much to drink, I shall enjoy describing them
as “tight as ticks."
we return to Downton, Matthew will be gone and only then will we discover how
the ripples from the shockwave resonate through the Crawleys and their
servants. Of course, before that, we have our own ripples to contend with. I
must confess that as I had neither read the script nor watched a preview, I was
as shocked as the rest of the British viewers when Matthew was so suddenly
killed at the end of the episode. There had been rumors of his departure,
which I was frequently asked about, but I had chosen not to find out the truth
behind them (it’s easier for me to keep secrets that way). The actor, Dan
Stevens, has had many exciting opportunities presented to him and we must wish
him the very best of luck in pursuing them. But we will miss Matthew Crawley
– it was his forward-thinking vision that was to take Downton Abbey
successfully into the future and his quietly confident but kind temperament
that often calmed the stormiest of waters. Who will take up the mantle now? We
must look to a Prince Regent to safeguard the estate until his son and heir can
rightfully take over but we know not yet who that will be. So, that’s all,
folks – until season four.
Jessica Fellowes is the betselling author of The Chronicles of Downton Abbey, The World of Downton Abbey, and Mud and the City: Dos and Don'ts for Townies in the Country. Buy books by Jessica Fellowes at ShopPBS.org.