Nobody in the UK can have helped not noticing or knowing that for the last eight weeks the final series of Downton Abbey has been screened at 9pm on a Sunday evening.
I’ve been an avid viewer of the series since it first hit our screens in 2010. I would consider myself a big fan and I’ve hardly missed any of the episodes. However, that is probably where the problem lies. Last night’s series finale was not only far too long, being 100 minutes, but it was also a disappointment. If you are going to make the final episode an extra 40 minutes longer than normal then why not just write another 20 minutes of story and have another episode? Yes, I know we have the Christmas special to look forward to, which no doubt is going to pull in millions of viewers, but when it comes to storylines, plots, and the chronic under use of fantastic characters who deserved so much more, I for one believe we have a bit of a problem, Mr Julian Fellowes.
This sixth series has to go down on record of getting a whole episode out of what a Head Housekeeper, in this case Mrs Hughes, played by Phyllis Logan, is going to wear at her wedding as the most senseless and silly bit of writing I have ever encountered. There were so many far bigger fish to fry in the sixth series which deserved a whole episode rather than us having to witness most of the cast discussing what Mrs Hughes was going to wear to her wedding. For example, take the storyline involving footman Mr Barrow, played by the wonderfully talented Rob James-Collier. Here we had a gay character living in the early twentieth century when being gay was classed a crime. Early seasons of the series briefly touched on the subject but, soon after, the storyline was dropped and poor Mr Barrow went downhill very quickly resulting in a very sad and unpleasant storyline for him in last night’s episode. No wonder he decided to do what he did.
Then we have the wonderful cook Mrs Patmore, played by Lesley Nicol, who once again had a storyline that came far too late in last night’s final episode. Running a house of ill-repute was not funny in those days but Fellowes could have made so much more with this character and the storyline he introduced. In my opinion the story could have been introduced in episode one of this sixth season and have been played throughout all eight episodes. Mrs Patmore is a humorous character and could often give the sharp-tongued Dowager Countess of Grantham, played by Dame Maggie Smith, a run for her money.
Without a doubt Michelle Dockery played the part of Lady Mary Crawley superbly. There was always an underlying sense that she was going to turnout to be a bit of a nasty character. Ever since we were first introduced to the character I knew she was probably going to be the baddie in the household. She was moody, abrupt, and never held back when wanting to speak her mind. It was no surprise then that in last night’s episode she and sister Lady Edith, played by Laura Carmichael, came to blows. But, why oh why did it take six seasons of the series for this to happen? Once again here we have a case of an important characteristic of a character not being utilised enough.
I can not end this without asking what on earth was the point of the character Tom Branson, played by Allen Leech, being in this final series of the programme? All he seemed to do was walk in and out of various rooms without really having much to say until last night’s episode when he had a bit of a go at Lady Mary. I scratched my head wondering why he had come back to Downton Abbey. His character seemed to be more of an extra rather than that of a main character. Had he been cut from this final series altogether I am certain that Mr Fellowes could have extended or written in many wonderful storylines for the characters he chose to ignore.
However, it doesn’t go without saying that now that the series has finished I’m going to find Sunday evenings rather strange without Downton Abbey on my TV screen. For me, despite all the criticism I have given, Downton Abbey was very addictive. Yes, I had no problem picking up the storyline when I had missed an episode but Sunday evenings will now be a little like somebody giving me a roast lamb dinner instead of a turkey dinner on Christmas Day.
Have you ever watched Downton Abbey? Are you a fan, or do you switch over as soon as you hear that iconic theme tune?
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