Downton Abbey
Episode Seven

Episode Report Card
Couch Baron: B | 14 USERS: B
YOU GRADE IT
Oy, Again With The Birth and the Death?

...while, back at Downton, Edith and Branson download a bit about their respective experiences of the past week, while Isobel tells Cora and Lord Grantham that they'll be able to meet the baby soon enough. Lord Grantham proclaims the whole thing miraculous...

...while Matthew is speeding back to Downton in his convertible, still overjoyed...

...and Lord Grantham is remarking about how dark everything seemed for a while...

...and then Matthew -- looking around at how wonderful everything is -- fails to notice a car rise from below a hill...

...while the Dowager Countess intones that they don't always get their just desserts...

...and here it is. The driver of the other car gets out, so presumably Matthew swerved off the road to try to avoid him; it's not clear whether there was any actual impact between the two vehicles. Whatever the case, this attempt did not work out, as we see the convertible flipped over and Matthew lying beside it, eyes open in death. Mary tells Anna that the family will be there soon and she should inform Matthew that he can wait his turn, as he's seen the baby and the rest of them haven't. We cut back to Matthew -- blood now flowing freely out of his ear -- and then back to Mary. We push in on her holding the baby, taking in every detail and every movement and probably looking for the resemblance to Matthew... and we're out.

I mean, what can you really say, right? If Dan Stevens wanted to leave and the show couldn't contractually oblige him to stay, this was the only possibility -- it's not like there's any other believable path by which the character could make an exit. But ultimately, we have to judge what's on screen and in the wake of Sybil's death -- which, among other things, allowed Branson's character to develop -- this seems like, if you'll forgive me, overkill. On top of that, beyond the normal enjoyably soapy stuff and the usual wicked one-liners, there were many fewer showy storylines and developments that really worked this season; Thomas' arc had surprising resonance on levels both micro and macro (as did the whole Ethel storyline), everything that happened to Edith was both interesting and served a larger purpose and even the battle for Downton between Matthew and Lord Grantham bore fruit after a slow start -- but all that is overshadowed by this ending. Not that I don't think the show can make Season Four hay out of Matthew's death, but it seems evident that it was a struggle to wrap up his character in a meaningful way before sending Dan Stevens off to whatever post-Downton life he's going to have. Not to mention, with the focus obviously on that, this episode felt lacking in spots, with the Downton people at Duneagle reduced to supporting players for the most part and the O'Brien storyline -- as I already mentioned -- seeming indifferent at best. However, outside of contract issues, this season was quite strong (rather better than Season Two, I would say) and I'm looking forward to seeing it come back. Preferably at the same time as the UK airings. Hope to see you next season!

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Downton Abbey

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