If you haven’t seen the final episode of Season Three, STOP READING NOW. This post is going to be filled with spoilers. Of course, I have to confess that I haven’t seen the whole thing. My sister called last night for my birthday (Thanks, sweetie! Loved hearing from you!) so I was away from the TV for about an hour and probably missed a lot.
However, I really wish I’d missed the last few minutes. What the heck is Julian Fellowes thinking by killing off Matthew? Is he channeling Nicholas Sparks now? Is he so terrified of writing a romance that he asks himself, with machiavellian glee, how he can avoid a dreaded Happily Ever After in the most horrendous way possible?
Now, I must confess in the interests of full disclosure that I have killed off characters before. Sometimes, they were even characters I loved. I wept as I wrote their ends, but the story demanded it and their own actions led to their deaths. But I’ve never accidentally killed a hero, for pity’s sake!
Part of what upset me was the senseless, random manner of Matthew’s death. It reeks of writer desperation. As if Mr. Fellowes is grasping for something, anything that will jerk his viewers from elation over the birth of Mary’s baby to despair. We’re being manipulated.
I’m a firm believer in cause/effect. There was no burning need for Matthew to die other than just writer intervention. Downton Abbey is a character-driven piece. For Mr. Fellowes to suddenly yank us in another direction by relying on a shocking plot twist turns his beautifully drawn, “breathing-on-their-own” characters into marionettes, jerking along to the puppetmaster’s whims.
OK. I know there are random bad things that happen in this world. But Downton is fiction. Part of why I love romance is that the scales of justice balance. The good are rewarded. The bad get their comeuppance. And somehow, it all turns out all right.
I guess I feel the same sense of betrayal as when I read my first and only Nicholas Sparks novel (MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE). It felt like a romance. It read like a romance, but then at the last possible moment, he made his hero do something totally out of character and totally stupid so that he’d die. I felt as if I’d been “bait and switched.”
Now it’s your turn. Do you watch Downton Abbey? What are your thoughts?