No, really. There may be spoilers. You have been warned.

True confession. I don’t watch Downton Abbey. Oh I tried. I knew to pronounce it “Downton” and not “Downtown.” I sincerely wanted to be part of something that epic and universal. I wanted to be that au courant. I can’t get enough of Dame Maggie Smith and period costumes and castles and drama (scratch that—I have teenagers—I get enough drama at home). I’ve loved British television since I used to watch reruns of a couple of British comedies (RIP Richard Briers–you will be missed) on late-night PBS years ago (in other words, long before it was cool to love British television). I had particular interest because my son was serving in one of the areas where parts of Downton were reportedly filmed.

So last year I tracked down some reruns of season 1. I made it through about four episodes. And then I quit. The reason I quit watching is not relevant to this post nor to anyone but me. I still love that it is so epic. I still love Dame Maggie Smith. I laugh out loud at the memes. I enjoyed getting all caught up after watching the rather hysterical five-minute recap of seasons 1 and 2 that came out before season 3. But what I enjoy most now is Sunday nights on Facebook and Twitter, #downtonabbey, and Monday morning around the proverbial water cooler at work.

And how this, the third season, was (apparently) so particularly provocative.

It’s also clear that still, just over 24 hours later (actually what, a month-and-a-half later than it aired in the UK?), some are still reeling from the season finale. So I’m opening up the discussion today to a forum, of sorts, on Downton Abbey. Consider it group therapy session for anyone who needs it. Or, because I took the day off of work yesterday and missed the round at the water cooler, a friendly dish.

Do you watch? Don’t you? Why or why not? Who (yes, I know it’s “whom,” but I’m trying not to sound pretentious) do you love? Who do you love to hate? How are you handling the heartbreaks of season 3. Did you see it coming (if not, how do you manage to avoid all the spoilers)? Still planning to watch season 4? Or did you cheat and watch the whole thing on UK time and is this all old news for you?

Do tell.

February 22, 2013


  1. Eliaan

    February 19, 2013

    I watched it all months ago, but seem to have missed episode 9 so I’m so confused today. Guess what I’ll be doing during nap time?

  2. Cheltz

    February 19, 2013

    Never seen a single one. But, I don’t doubt it’s every bit as good as everyone thinks it is.

  3. emily falke

    February 19, 2013

    I love British period pieces, so I wanted to love DA, too. And being holed up with a newborn who I was feeding with a medicine dropper (long story) seemed the perfect time to catch up on at least the episodes on Netflix. But I got to that scandalous kiss at the end of the first episode and turned it off without the desire to go any further. It just didn’t draw me in enough to continue. But I do feel like I’m missing out on something. However, I feel like everyone who hasn’t watched Doc Martin is missing out on something, too.

  4. Dalene

    February 19, 2013

    Eliaan – do come back and discuss after nap time?

    Cheltz – agreed.

    Emily – You can bet I will be looking up episodes of Doc Martin next time I’m laid out with a bad sinus infection (or whatever). Thanks for the recommendation.

  5. Amanda in France

    February 19, 2013

    Downton is getting a little silly, so I’ve converted over to Call the Midwife. LOVE IT

  6. kadusey

    February 19, 2013


    I find it kind of ridiculous that we now have two Downton widowers-with-newborns. I’m fine with them killing off characters, but to kill off a new parent, twice in the same season…I’m not a fan of that.

  7. M2theh

    February 19, 2013

    The ending of season three is a bit of a rip off.

    And I must say I was happy to see Thomas go, but then he didn’t.

  8. Carrie

    February 19, 2013

    The drama is starting to rival daytime soap operas, but no one has, as yet, come back from the dead, which I believe happens often in daytime soaps.

    Hated the ending, but only the last 3 minutes. Everything else was wonderful and entertaining. But it is A LOT of drama, thats why I’m hooked on Call the Midwife, lots of period history, lots of characters, but it isn’t driven by the drama, it is driven by the stories of the women that the characters serve. WATCH IT!!!!

  9. Melanie

    February 19, 2013

    I’m a period drama junkie, and even though I’ve quite enjoyed Downton, it certainly doesn’t stand up to the quality of past Masterpiece shows. I had inklings that Matthew would be killed off (hard to avoid the spoilers from those that watched all of season 3 months ago), but I was disappointed that his demise was so unoriginal. I feel like the same plot lines have been repeated over and over again.

    On a lighter note, the fact that there’s a character named Shrimpy totally cracks me up. I hope we see more of him just for the laughs of hearing “Shrimpy” every few minutes.

  10. J

    February 19, 2013

    Downton sounded like my sort of show, and a lot of women I know watch it. I finally have easy access to watch the first season. I’ve now watched an entire 3 episodes of season 1, and it’s just _much_ too melodramatic for my tastes. I already forgave it episode 1, and now I’m simply not certain if I want to invest any more time into the show.

  11. Sarah

    February 19, 2013

    I live in England, and never watched it. In fact, the first time I ever saw it was a week and a half ago, when I was on the plane home from the States!

    I agree with other people who said it was too melodramatic. Too much heart-ache and angst and nastiness. I think I got through the first and half of the second? But maybe not, because I don’t remember a scandalous kiss at the end of the first episode. Was that season 1?

    I’m not a big fan of melodrama, although the costumes were completely drool worthy and really made me wish that I was born in the late 1800s. Rich, obviously.

  12. Sara

    February 19, 2013

    I absolutely love everything about this show! What’s great is that my husband watches it with me too. It’s so fun having a show we both like and look forward to watching together. I’m just said that I have to wait a whole year for it to start again.

  13. Em

    February 19, 2013

    I guess I’m the first one to actually chew on the meat of this question. The problem or potential for problem is that the nature of this finale totally altered the relationship between the storyteller and the audience. It means the audience can no longer trust the storyteller with their vulnerability and suspension of disbelief. It means thousands of people lost a night or two of needed sleep because they’d been emotionally whiplashed by something that they participated in for the purpose of narrative pleasure and voyeurism. Killing him like that after having practically raised him from the dead in the last season showed a real lack of respect for the audience’s suture with the text. But then the whole season seemed bent on pushing the limits of how much depressing content we’d tolerate anyway. Did they forget that most people watch this show as a way to “have fun”?

  14. Cristie Carter

    February 19, 2013

    I did watch season one about 18 months to two years ago. Here’s the thing… I did not enjoy the backbiting, backstabbing, deliberate leaving soap out to be slipped on, the sister undercutting the other sister’s chance for happiness … I suppose all of the stuff that makes good drama. The acting was good, the sets were good, the countryside was lovely… the story too mean.

    Just another opinion. ccc

  15. Amy

    February 19, 2013

    Seriously I don’t get what the big hype is about this show! I was sick one week and so I went and rented the first season. I watched one episode and when it came to the 2 men kissing my husband said “What are we watching?!?!” I watched a little more and then started the next episode and decided it just wasn’t for me. I can’t get into it but I feel like I’m the only one, everyone else seems to love it!

  16. M2theh

    February 19, 2013

    This season has reminded me a lot of the original Upstairs Downstairs. And I did not buy Sybil running off with Branson, it really didn’t seem like she liked him all that much.

  17. Dalene

    February 19, 2013

    Thanks for the recommendation for Call the Midwife–I’m going to check it out!

  18. Lisa S

    February 19, 2013

    Haha!!! My husband started watching it first. He is hooked on most British tv…another one being Foyle’s war…..the one our whole family loved is Doc Martin.
    In the episode before the finale it seemed absurd that Lord Grantham would encourage the one guy to have a little kindness toward Thomas who came on to him….I found it to be too modern day thinking. I didn’t think they were tolerant of that kind of behavior in the 20’s. His Lordship gets outraged over other things, surely he would have been the same way in this case. It was a scandalous thing back then……

  19. Dovie

    February 19, 2013

    I really like the show, it is melodramatic for sure but what I really enjoy is the complexity of the characters how you can totally hate a character like Thomas in one episode or several in the the next series of episodes have your heart be drawn out and sympathetic to and and heartbroken for his plight. Life is full of complexity, the people in my life are full of complexity, I am full of complexity and to see it portrayed so well is fantastic. The dowager countess alone is worth watching it for me. Someone needs to make you a composite recording of all her scenes, so even if you don’t watch it all you can have her fabulousness to enjoy over and over. I was super annoyed with the ending, I think there were way better ways it could have been handled, even replacing the character ala the Doctor. He wouldn’t need to regenerate mind you but he could go away on a foreign posting or something and then come back, and have an episode played straight about how much it had changed him. Stupid writers.

  20. Cindy

    February 19, 2013

    My husband heard about Downton before I did–in the fall of 2010 when we were going through some personal heartbreak. We watched the first season together over the next few weeks, taking a break from the hard things in our lives and enjoying Downton Abbey. There were things we hated (the kiss in episode 1, the soap, uneven acting and plot lines) but there were also many things we enjoyed. We were excited to watch the “next” season together when it started last January, and have looked forward to this one all year. Sure, from time to time it has disappointed. But oh have I enjoyed a peek into that time period, I’ve loved seeing the costumes & the hairdos (Sybil’s hair in Season 1 was amazing!), and it’s been interesting to think about how things changed in Great Britain as a result of WWI.

    If I’m irritated about anything after the end of season 3, it’s the actor & actress wanting to capitalize on their popularity that came because of the show, instead of having any loyalty to the show. I read somewhere that they would have liked to have the actor who played Matthew come back for a few episodes in the new season so that they could write his character out in another way, but he wasn’t willing to do that.

  21. Dalene

    February 19, 2013

    Several of you have reminded me of one of the other things I have enjoyed (you know, in my watching of the watching). I know a few husbands and wives and also mothers and daughters (older daughters, of course) who enjoy the ritual of watching together. I think that is awesome!

  22. Sage

    February 20, 2013

    Love that you wrote this. Tonight I was telling my husband how funny it is to have a shared story that only some people care about.

    I’m on season 2. I agree with above comments that it is overly melodramatic, but I have still enjoyed it. But Doc Martin is more enjoyable. I’ll have to check out the Midwives suggestion.

    People do like to have a common story to share, so I agree, Dalene, it is fun to watch the watching!

  23. jks

    February 20, 2013

    I agree with Em and other commenters. Killing off Matthew was just too much.
    I have really enjoyed all three seasons. I thought the writing was good and the characters were interesting and the plot was compelling.
    But this? It is enough to make me if not throw in the towel, at least drop it and wander away. By the time Season 4 comes around I’m pretty sure I won’t care very much about whether I watch it or not.

  24. emily falke

    February 20, 2013

    Lisa S – Yay for another Doc Martin lover! My mom likes Foyle’s War, too. I’ve decided I need to get through The West Wing first and then I’ll watch that.

  25. Lindsay

    February 20, 2013

    After watching the finale yesterday, I was super upset. At first. But then I read an article where Julian Fellows said (multiple times) that he didn’t want to kill off Matthew, that he tried to work with the actor to have him come back for just a couple episodes, but the actor didn’t want to. Makes me want to boycott whatever he does next :). I know actors need to look out for their best interests, but his and Sybil’s lack of loyalty kinda turn me off. So, anyway, now that I know the reason he died (because of the actor, not because the writers wanted to be edgy), it doesn’t bother me. Still a bummer, but I’m rather apathetic about the show now.

    Re: Thomas. I thought the second to last episode was bunk. It doesn’t matter that he’s gay–if ANY servant had sneaked into anyone’s bedroom (Alfred into Ivy’s, for instance, or Ivy into Jimmy’s) and tried to kiss their sleeping coworker, they would have been fired for lack of impropriety. The whole, “Poor Thomas, we all knew he was gay, so we’ll give him a promotion” just didn’t carry water with me. And, on that note, Thomas, what were you thinking? Even if my husband tries to lay a romantic kiss on me while I’m asleep, I come up thrashing. Not cool, Thomas, not cool.

    And I know Tom wasn’t at all himself in the last episode, but I liked him so much better. He was such a hothead before; I thought he and Sybil were both stupid.

    Love Lady Grantham, though. And Cora. And Daisy, Mrs. Padmore, Carson, Mrs. Hughes, and even Edith. I will probably watch next season, but my “suspension of disbelief” is now over.

  26. Marm

    February 20, 2013

    I have loved the show, but am curious to know if Elizabeth McGovern’s portrayal of Cora bugs anyone else. Does she have any facial expression other than a sort of half smirk/smile and sideways glance of the eyes? No doubt she is beautiful and wears beautiful clothes and I like her character, but as far as her acting goes I think she is the weakest link in the cast.

  27. coni

    February 20, 2013

    Ditto Kadusey and Lindsay (great reveiw, too.) So I read that Dan Stevens (Matthew) did not want to continue with Downton Abbey because his wife had just had baby #2 and he wanted to move his family to NYC so he could do some Broadway. That’s all good, but it would have been nice had he given them at least a few more shows so they could do something more creative with him – – like send him to NYC to do some acting on Broadway. 🙂 Most in my circles are thinking we won’t continue with DA. Kind of a boycott of Matthews awful untimely demise.

  28. jennifer rueben

    February 20, 2013

    Dan stevens gave the people at Downton Abbey an entire season after he notified them he was leaving to do Broadway. Please remember that this show comes to the US market after having completed its season in England.With the inter-net nothing is a secret so most of us were well aware that Matthew was going to be killed of. I feel as my teenager would say that this series has “jumped the shark”. I have to also agree that some of the actor have a very limited range of expressions. But anything Maggie Smith does I will watch. Please writers give her more screen time.

  29. Melody

    February 20, 2013

    I’m an on-again-off-again Downton fan. .. I watched the finale with my grown daughter. But I had missed the prior three episodes so I kept asking things like, “How did Bates get out?” and “Why is Anna working at that place in Scotland?” It was hilarious. (To her credit, my darling daughter was happy to oblige. She has a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old who do the same thing all day.) As for the ending. . . I was indignant, horrified, furious. But by the next day I could not care less. Perfect!

    Also, reading your post, I want to say: you described my own feelings about the whole Twilight Saga(s). Precisely. Thank you for that.

    Great fun here at Segullah! I love this post.

  30. Melody

    February 20, 2013

    Did anyone else feel they stole that ending scene from “City of Angels” when Meg Ryan – silent, joyful, in slow mo, with sunshine filtering through leaves – doesn’t see the logging truck?

  31. Carrot Jello

    February 21, 2013

    I don’t watch. Not a fan of soap operas.

  32. M2theh

    February 21, 2013

    They should have had Matthew get food poisoning or choke on a fish bone, then there could be lots of dramatic scenes with Mrs Patmor feeling like a murderer.

  33. Amber @ Tales of Domestica

    February 22, 2013

    I have never seen it, but I am interested. Life has been so overwhelming as of lately and there isn’t much t.v. I have been able to catch up on. Maybe someday I will be in the “In” Abbey crowd.

  34. cherin olsen

    February 22, 2013

    re: killing off matthew. people, he got another job!
    how else would you have written him out of the script?

  35. ellen patton

    February 22, 2013

    give Friday Night Lights a shot!

  36. jes

    March 3, 2013

    i am so late to this party, but just wanted to suggest to long time masterpiece fans that you watch “kingdom” – it’s a mini-series done by stephen fry. absolutely beautiful. and i second the motion for doc martin and foyle’s war and call the midwives. i heard an interview with julian fellows where he said he was trying to give downtown abbey pacing similar to that of “the west wing.” i think that’s why it’s become so mainstream in the US when so many other masterpiece shows have not – it’s paced like a US soap. does that mean i didn’t eat it up? of course not. but, like others, i’m getting a little disillusioned. i didn’t even cry at the end of season 3. i just looked at the tv and said, “seriously?”

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