Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Downton brings me down

Part of the post below was written before I had seen the season finale of Downton Abbey and part written after. This is important if the post is to make any sense at all. Also, if for some reason you are even further behind than I am and have not seen the season finale or the season at all, SPOILER ALERT!! Do not continue reading!

I was late to the Downton Abbey party, but I came dressed for the festivities, and I've never left! I'm going to watch the season finale this weekend and enjoy it immensely, in the midst of lamenting the fact that the season is much too short! I've brought the husband on board, too (it was an easy sell), but he has a hard time watching because he detests Mary so much!

Me, I don't love her, of course, but I like watching the show for lots of other reasons beyond the Dowager's wit, the downstairs drama, and the pretty picture of a society on its way out. Most entertaining to me is the difference between a British Drama written for BOTH a British and an American audience and one written just for the Brits. You see, the Americans were probably SHOCKED that Sybil died, while the Brits were probably wondering why it took so long to dispatch someone substantive. And the Americans were righteously indignant on Bates' behalf, while the Brits were probably wondering why he hadn't died already. (Have you watched much British drama? EVERYONE dies!) As I've talked about here before, British dramas are very cavalier about killing off main characters. It happens MUCH more frequently than it does on American show and usually goes virtually unremarked upon, whereas American programs roll around in the death and its ramifications for hours and hours. So it's interesting to me that there has been so little death on this show that is produced in cooperation with both countries. And while I was surprised by Sybil's death, I still recognize that she was one of the more expendable characters, the kind of character who is much more likely to die in American dramas.

Then there are the shorter seasons, of course. Not only is Downton Abbey happening in much fewer episodes than it would in America, those episodes are covering a much greater span of time than any but our most ambitious mini-series would ever attempt. Season 1 covered a little over two years; Season 2 covered two and a half years; and Season three will end up covering one and a half years. In three seasons we will have moved from April 1912 to September 1921. Such a span of time would have taken an American show at LEAST that many years in real time. This condensation makes the series move much more quickly, of course, and has the added effect of making this particular period of decline appear to be happening at a headlong pace, which, arguably, it did, depending on who you were and how much you were paying attention.

Oh. my. goodness. I CANNOT believe they killed Matthew! Are you kidding me? Matthew?? Everyman, savior, all around good guy (except for that kiss with Mary while he was engaged) Matthew? When I said the Brits like to kill people off, I had no idea that would mean Matthew was about to be crushed under a car just after the birth of his son. See, I'm an American through and through: I'm shocked and appalled at this development! And now Mary will become even more hateful and bitter, and we won't be able to blame her, really, and poor Tom will have to be the only champion for Matthew's vision, making him even more at odds with the family, and will we see less of Mrs. Crawley, because she has become one of my favorite characters, and do they really think I'm going to be able to replace Matthew with this new troublesome young girl whose name I can't even remember (Rose?)??? Awful, awful, awful. I think the husband was even more upset than I was and once again I have introduced him to a show that ends in unforeseen tragedy (though hopefully not as abruptly as the last show of this kind I hooked him on, Angel).

And now we wait for season 4. I don't know if I can take it!


Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

I was horrified as well. Sybil was tragic but she was peripheral anyway. But Matthew??? And right after another baby was born. Sheesh - let's make it as tragic as possible. But my friend told me it's really b/c Sybil and Matthew didn't renew their contracts so they had to be killed off. That season finale was the CHRISTMAS special in Britain, if you can imagine. And apparently What's his name postponed the death until the very end so the whole episode wouldn't be a debby downer. But, yes, a shocker to those with American sensibilities. I'm not sure how they can recover from this. Why couldn't someone downstairs have not renewed their contract instead??? Then they could have just been replaced by a new servant, or have become a secretary or something, instead of taken out!

Kathy M said...

They should have recast the role! It's a soap opera through and through...people would've gotten used to it. Both the actors wanted off the show permanently; apparently the creator even asked them if they'd just reappear from time to time and they said no; they wanted to pursue other opportunities BROUGHT TO THEM by their participation in Downton Abbey. Sigh.