Maybe I was deep into working on my last book but I missed all the hoopla about Downton Abbey until it was well into its second season. The only thing I ever remember hearing about it was that it had won a lot of awards and I remembered hearing the opening music for the show (which I love.)
One day I happened to catch part of one of the episodes and I was transfixed. It was so good! The writing, the acting and the story line drew me in quickly so I looked it up on Netflix and watched the whole 1st season.
Eventually I had caught up with the whole show and was a big fan. Then I started hearing some distressing things about some of the characters. I heard Dan Stevens was leaving the show and as I watched the last episode of the third season, he did indeed leave. He wrecked his car and our last view of him was a bloody one--one that left us in no doubt of his having expired. Jessica Brown-Findlay, who played Mary's younger sister, also died during childbirth only a few episodes before and now it's being announced that the woman who plays Cora's maid, O'Brien, (Siobhan Finnerman, can you believe that name?) is going to be leaving the show too!
Now, in a good soap opera, (which I believe Downton Abbey can be compared to in the best sense) when an actor who plays a certain character needs to leave, the writers don't necessarily have to kill him or her off. Why, they even make a way for them to pop up again when needed.
As for me, I would have been just as satisfied with another blonde, morose-eyed actor playing the part of Matthew Crawley. It was the love story between Mary and Matthew I wanted to see play out. Writers should be in charge of what happens to a character, not the whims of the actor playing the part. It makes me, as a loyal viewer feel manipulated by a forced story line.
And I read they're going to bring Shirley MacLaine back. Well, that's okay. She's a good actress but in my humble opinion, if you review her grand entrance to the Abbey, she made a snotty comment every time she opened her mouth. The part was a little over-written. I get it. The woman's a brat but I don't need to be beat over the head with it. I learned that in Creative Writing class 101.
Then, there was the political correctness that was included this season probably to satisfy some warring homosexual group who does not ever want to see a homosexual portrayed as an unwholesome character.
Once again, we see a poor, struggling homosexual beaten up (essence of As Good as it Gets) and not only was he beaten up, it happened when he stepped in to heroically save someone else and took their place while the other characters clearly show how (shall I dare say it?) tolerant they were in the situation. The writers might as well put a halo on Thomas next and show him trying to go to church but not being accepted there by the mean, old intolerant Christians. It would be the natural progression for the unrealistic story line because if you knew anything about the character, Thomas Barrow, he was not the heroic type--not even for someone he lusted after. And yes, I said lust.
Downton Abbey still has its fine moments (without the hint of a vampire or zombie lurking in its shadowed corridors) but I believe the story line moves along too quickly. We don't have time to explore a fine dramatic situation properly (e.g., Matthew Crawley taking over the running of the castle, Sybil marrying the chauffeur) and all its implications before we are thrust somewhere else and almost have to start all over again.
I predict Downton will lose some viewers its fourth season and I think it deserves to but I have hopes for the highly successful series. If the ratings drop, maybe the writers will review the first season and work to reclaim some of the charm it had and give us characters we actually get to know and believe in whether we like them or not.
And that's the way I see it from this catbird seat.