Downton Abbey Will Break Your Heart

The final episode of the first season of Downton Abbey aired in the United States last night. Naturally, I was tuned in to the Twitter party of viewers on the East Coast, even though I had already watched the whole series on the DVD and knew all about the heartbreak that was to come.

I knew, as others did not, that the various threads of storyline that were lying tangled and frayed across the screen were not, in fact, going to get tied up in a bow by the end of the episode. And for longtime fans of Masterpiece Theatre, who are used to programs that have a habit of ending with double weddings and soft-focus smooches, this would be tantamount to all hell breaking loose. And, just as I expected, the #DowntonPBS thread on Twitter pretty much exploded at the end of the broadcast.

Believe me, I was howling just as loudly as the rest of my pals.

So now that we are in our long period of mourning (I’ll consider going into half-mourning when the new series airs in the UK and I can gather up spoilers on the British blogs), we will have little to do but stalk Cousin Matthew on Twitter and continually hit refresh to see what the Dowager Countess is up to on her Facebook page.

That, of course, and speculate wildly about what will happen to them all in Season 2, now that The Great War is underway.

Let’s speculate wildly, shall we?

I’ve ended this post with my top three shocking predictions for Season 2. You can go ahead and scroll down now if you like — I’ve even included a few sexy photos of Mr. Bates and Cousin Matthew, if you’re into that sort of thing.

And don’t even try to pretend you’re not into that sort of thing.

But first, before we start rubbing our hands together and mulling over the delicious possibilities involving who marries whom, who dies tragically on the battlefields of the Somme, and who does something entirely unexpected, I think it’s important to remember two very important truths.

Downton Abbey is not a 19th-century novel

Alas. It’s more a sprawling epic, really. Which means that tidy endings are not necessarily in the recipe, at least not right away. I suspect that the creators are going to be willing to ride this horse hard and put it to bed wet, as it were. They’ll keep spinning out the various threads of narrative for as long as they’ve got our interest, which could be quite a few series’ worth. Don’t expect to get… ah… satisfaction, as it were, on any of your favorite romantic storylines anytime soon, is what I’m saying.

As Fannie Dorrit would say, I could be wrong. But I am not.

Fanny Dorrit

Julian Fellowes is not Andrew Davies

Thank God. I mean, Julian Fellowes didn’t give us any romantic satisfaction at the end of Gosford Park (I mean, yeah, mystery solved and all, but whatever), and I don’t think he’ll feel particularly compelled to give us a tremendous amount of romantic satisfaction in Downton Abbey, either. From what I’ve seen of Fellowes (and you should know that I’ve been a fan of his since he was Kilwillie on Monarch of the Glen, for the love of all that’s holy), I don’t think he’s particularly inclined toward pairing people off and sending them packing in a horse-drawn carriage.

It’s one of the reasons why he’s such a freaking outstanding writer.

Now, I realize that I’ve basically said the same thing twice up there. But that just goes to underscore how unlikely I think it is that we’ll feel any more satisfied at the end of Series 2 than we do now, at the end of Series 1.

This is the new Upstairs, Downstairs, people. It could go on for a really, really, long time.

Good news for fans of period drama. Bad news for those of us dying to see Anna and Bates, Matthew and Mary, or even Branson and Sybil, for that matter, get it on.

Having said all that, here are a few things I still want to predict for Series 2. So that when they happen, I can totally say that I called it.

Beth Dunn’s “I Called It” List

Vera comes back.

Yeah, this is the easy one. Bates’ wife Vera will show up and cause some havoc before finally disappearing forever and opening up a path for Bates and Anna to be together. What she has to say will throw still more light on Bates’ character, and this will make him even more complex and considerably less saintly in the process, and we (by which I suppose I mostly mean I) will only love him all the more ardently because of it.

Of course, by then, there’ll be some other reason why Bates and Anna must stay apart. At least for another season, I’m guessing.

I suppose they might be allowed a passionate embrace at some point during the Christmas episode. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Bates Yum

Matthew gets over Mary.

Or vice versa. I think that, given the pre-war reality they were living in before the end of Series 1, getting these two together really would have been the answer to everyone’s prayers, as Lady Grantham so delicately put it. But the war will change things, and mighty fast, for both of these characters. For one thing, Mary will find that she suddenly has quite a few more options than just shopping for clothes and supporting charities until it’s time to become someone’s wife.

Personally, I think she’s far more interested in politics and the wider world than she generally lets on. Which brings me to my final, big, crazy-pants prediction.

matthew-and-mary

Napier is a serious honey.

As an aristocrat with a fairly high-ranking position in government, Napier’s life is about to get a whole hell of a lot more interesting, too. If Mary spends just a little more time in London, I think she’ll start to see what a sleeper this guy is. He’s smart, decent, honorable to a fault, and he comes from the same world she does. All in all, he’s a much better match for Mary than Matthew is. And let’s face it, Mary would make one hell of a politician’s wife. They could make a very good team, indeed.

Mary-hearts-Napier

As for the rest of them, well, I expect we’ll see the usual sprinkling of cannon fodder, heroes, swindlers, and war profiteers as the series goes on. And you know I can’t wait — you know damn well that I’ll be eagerly devouring every single morsel that they deign to give us.

But I’m always more interested in the romance factor; I can’t help it. It’s just how I’m built.

And if Julian Fellowes gives us even one lousy wedding in Season 2, I’ll eat my hat.

17 Thoughts.

  1. I’m so glad I’m not the only one dorking out over this show! I ordered the DVD a few weeks ago, and I am rewatching it! There were quite a few deleted scenes in the US Masterpiece Theater edition. And I’m going there in April!! I am possibly more excited about going there than I am about going to Paris!

  2. I like your warning to not expect things to fall neatly into place next season although I think I will be disappointed if we don’t have even one wedding. (Although, Fellowes could marry someone off with an ill-matched partner thus giving us plenty of angst.)

    I wonder how many seasons they foresee? I’ve heard that a 3rd is planned but honestly, I do hope for some happy resolutions when all is said and done!

  3. oh, i was so crestfallen when the “to be continued” word flashed on the screen … i purposefully haven’t read much about the series so i’d be surprised, but i mean, really — how to cut a girl to the quick. i can’t stand waiting. but if it means we get to meet vera, well, i guess that might be worth the wait.

    sigh.

  4. I love Downton Abbey. My boyfriend got sucked into it, too. We’ll have to come up with some other period drama to indulge in on Sunday nights for a while… *sniff* …. but it will be worth the wait, I’m sure!

  5. If we don’t get any weddings, can we at least get some bed-hopping across class lines? I know you’re a Tory, Julian Fellowes, but you’re a Tory with a taste for the carnal… so give it to us.

  6. Jennifer – I’ll be in London in March. It’s awfully tempting to take a quick train ride up to Highclere and see if I can’t corner Fellowes in some local pub and shake some sense into him. I mean, have a calm and reasoned discussion about these entirely fictional characters.

    Charleybrown – I think they’re making plans to spin this baby out for as long as we’re willing to pull up a chair for it. And I can only applaud that sentiment.

    Lucy – I think we’ll get to meet Vera in Season 2. And I expect her to be every bit of a nasty piece of work as Bates’ ma made her out to be.

    Leah – I nominate North & South. I think a little John Thornton is just what the doctor ordered after all this excitement.

    Sarah – I think that’s a genius idea. Let’s have more bed-hopping, by all means! Bed-hop early, bed-hop often!

    Roberta – Edith can go to the devil for all I care. I really have zero sympathy for that girl. But maybe she will redeem herself, eventually. War does do strange things to people…

  7. I couldn’t get into the series at all but I know a lot of people who did. The Brits are waiting with bated breath for series 2 but it is not back until the Autumn.

    As a result I can’t speculate on the plots. Highclere is midway between London and Bath but you will need a car to visit as there is no public transport!

    Oh and Upstairs Downstairs has been remade by the BBC and should be heading your way soon.

  8. Glad you’re having fun speculating on our beloved/detested characters also. I have predicted at least one death in the war and that Lady Sybil probably becomes a nurse and goes to the front to help out (and I’m betting that her parents don’t like the idea). As long as Maggie Smith keeps the zingers coming, I really don’t care in which direction they move.

    “We can’t have him assassinated…I suppose…”

    Bwahahaha!

    Great blog by the way. I just discovered it today. So jealous about your trip. I will be hanging on your every word.

  9. Great stuff! I am new to the series, and was DVR-ing it. I watched the last two episodes this past weekend, and like Lucy was peeved at the “to be continued” message. Here’s one for you-Thomas and O’Brien. The evil do-ers. O’Brien got hers, but what of Thomas? What’s going to happen to him to get his evil payback?!

  10. Fanastic blog- just discovered it! What about Matthew and Lady Sybil eventually pairing up? They seemed to share a meaningful glance when he brought her home after the riot and that got me to thinking. Unexpected maybe, but possible… like when Laurie married Amy in Little Women (which I’ve still never gotten over)

  11. The season two finale was screened last night in the UK.

    I can confirm, there was a wedding 😉 And a death…or three…
    And you are right about not having everything tied up neatly – but what did you expect?

    Can’t wait for the 2 hour Christmas special now!!!

  12. Yeah, Season 2 kind of shot all my theories straight to hell, I’m afraid — but I’m not complaining! I still hope to see Napier make a reappearance at some point, because I think he’s a damn good egg, but now I want Mary and Matthew to end up together so hard it hurts. So excited for the Christmas special!

  13. I just watched the episode in which Cousin “Patrick” returns. In a family meeting about his claim, did I mishear or did someone refer to the childhood German governess as “the Nazi governess”? 1918 was prior to the Nazis, nicht wahr?

  14. Why do you feel so strongly about Edith? She gets no attention and her sister whom she is at war with was kinda justified in sending the letter to the embassy. I am just watching this and now I am caught up. I have promised myself not to read the spoilers!!

  15. Oh I’ve softened in my approach to Edith considerably since this was first written. Remember this was all only after Season 1, and the characters have evolved considerably since then. :)

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