For he’s a jolly good Fellowes

Thoughts on the final episode of that most popular of soaps, Downton Abbey

“It – Downton Abbey finale – was like watching some poor soul stuff the baggage of a lifetime into a little suitcase.” Mathilda Q.

Peter Warland

Last Sunday evening, some female associates of mine wept a little but, I laughed until my throat was sore and almost threw out my hip by slapping so hard at my thigh. I watched the finale of Downton Abbey with tears of laughter in my eyes.

If you have no idea what it is that I am chuntering on about, don’t worry. Maybe PBS will run the show through the wringer again or Knowledge Network will follow suite, as usual.

This now famous soap from Britain is mainly about three sisters, daughters of an English Lord, but includes the shenanigans of the servants too. To me, was an enlarged, colour version of ‘Upstairs Downstairs’, if any of you ever became embroiled in that series. My mother-in-law had been an upstairs maid in such an establishment but she, not the lady daughter of the house, married the chauffeur.

Anyway, it is not up to me to explain to you all of the events in that series. I just have to tell you how I almost mutilated myself watching the grand finale.

You see the writer, Julian Fellowes, got himself into series of pickles. In each episode he piled trouble after trouble on to his characters but then had to sort out the mess in ninety minutes. This is what tickled my fancy and had me falling off the chesterfield.

With one sister Sybil dead and the oldest one Mary now married again, the middle girl Edith falls for a fellow who has suddenly become a super important Earl but she hasn’t yet told him that she had previously given birth to a child out of wedlock. It is also hinted that the previous earl who has just died conveniently without issue was probably gay as all get out.

The new earl’s ‘Mummy’ is a bit of a harridan and will stubbornly refuse to let her son marry ‘a tart’, aristocrat or not, but Julian Fellowes steps in smartly and gets her to relent. Amazing!

Some viewers became confused because of the naming system in a big house like Downton Abbey. The lowly maids and cooks’ helpers were called by their first names, as were Anna and Daisy. Junior male servants also got called by first names, as was Thomas, but those with some sort of rank were given their family names and called Mister or Mrs. Mrs is an abbreviation of mistress or boss, like Mrs Hughes who ran the household and caused confusion when she married Mr Carson, the butler. Got that? Test next week.

Last Sunday I kept having visions of the author Julian Fellowes sitting with an aide or two and a bottle of whiskey figuring out the conclusion of the series and wondering just how naïve their audience was going to be. Would it be all right for the awful under-butler Thomas Barrow to leave Downton to everyone’s relief, and then be rehired as Butler Supremo to replace the ailing Mister Carson? Come on! How about getting Anna to give birth finally to her own child in her mistress’s bed? You’re joking! What if the dowdy Daisy should suddenly chop back her long hair, dye it, smear on lipstick and suddenly become sexually attractive? Surely you jest.

And poor Mrs Patmore, the cook! Doesn’t she have a happy ending after mothering Daisy and having that hysterical conversation with Mrs Hughes about her upcoming marriage to Mr Carson, about whether he might or might not expect ‘a proper marriage’? So how about hinting that she might become involved with Daisy’s father-in-law? That would be a bit of a stretch.

But this is ‘a soap’, don’t forget. In ordinary families not everyone has insurmountable problems all at once, or do they? But, if they did, wouldn’t it be great if every large family had Julian Fellowes to sort out the messes they get in? If he did mine in the manner that he finished Downton Abbey I’d probably die … of laughter.