Amazed by the Negative Reactions to the Season 3 Finale to Downton Abbey!
Within 8 hours of the season 3 finale of Downton Abbey, pundits, critics and bloggers were filling the web with vitriol and promising to eschew any interest in future episodes. Julian Fellowes has been vilified for killing off two of the show’s most beloved characters. But Fellowes had to deal with the decisions of Jessica Brown Findlay and Dan Stevens to leave the show. Sure, one can argue the actors will rue their decisions. But for every Shelly Long, McLean Stevenson or Anthony Edwards, there is a Denzel Washington, George Clooney, or Steve Carrell. I wish both Ms. Brown Findlay and Mr. Stevens well.
There has been much discussion as to whether the multiple untimely deaths in the same family would constitute unreasonable machinations. However, maternal death from childbirth was still quite high in 1920 – at least 4 per 1000 births in the UK. Today that rate is 12 per 100,000 births in the UK.
Fatalities from motor vehicle accidents were significantly higher in 1921 that today – despite the exponential increase in the number of vehicles on the road and the number of miles driven. Using numbers from the CDC, studies show that despite the fact that the number of miles traveled by motor vehicles is more than 10 times greater than in 1921, the annual death rate has decreased from 18 per 100 million miles traveled to 1.7 per 100 million miles traveled in 1997- a 90% decrease – no doubt due to the increase in safety features. Matthew Crawley had no seatbelt, no shoulder harness, no crash resistant bumpers, no speed limits, no double yellow lines, no anti-lock brakes, no power steering, and no appreciation for the hazards inherent in driving rural unpaved roads. This was not an unreasonable way to bring about his untimely death. We are just a few years past the Spanish influenza epidemic that killed millions – including Lavinia.
I think Dan Stevens is adorable. His presence made Lady Mary soft and appealing. Love can do that. But, Downton Abbey is an ensemble cast that doesn’t rely, in my humble opinion, on one or two characters. Lady Sybil’s death was tragic; but I don’t believe her death adversely affected the show. From my perspective, it afforded an opportunity for the other actors to show depth and shine. I’ve no doubt the same will result from the departure of Matthew.
In any event, this is television. It is for the most part far superior television than what we Americans often have at our disposal. Downton alone has reinvigorated the importance of PBS. We have other quality series, but they are few. Among those I include “Game of Thrones”, “Boardwalk Empire”, and “Homeland”. I must admit the preview of “Selfridges” looks intriguing. So, “Downton” is a bit soap opera; but it is damn good soap opera. And I will be waiting to see what Fellowes brings us in Series 4.
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