Wow, the third season flew by. Here's some thoughts on the development of my favorite characters (and yes, if you haven't seen the finale, there's spoilers ahead):
Lady Mary and Matthew: Goodness, Matthew too? Young people drop like flies around here. Not that I wished for Matthew's death, but I admit I preferred this couple's chemistry before they got married. In some scenes it felt like Matthew had to convince himself he knew the true Mary. I found myself cringing in these moments, and wondering where is this angel he sees? And why is there an untrue Mary that everybody else knows? Mary's "horrid" to her sister, and she's mostly preoccupied with maintaining Downton and her position. Matthew clearly didn't share this passion. And Mary's references to her newborn son in terms of the security of Downton were almost ghoulish: "Here's your son and heir... We've done our duty. Papa must be doing a jig." To which Matthew only responded, "I'm doing a jig." Yikes. These two might have eventually ended up like Susan and Shrimpy.
Anna and Bates: I liked that Bates turned out to be a total baddass in jail; his downtroddenness was getting old. Now he's back on top: Life as a valet will be a breeze compared to defending himself in prison. And lucky Anna! She has a satisfying personal life and a career that gives her a sense of purpose. Hooray for the middle class!
Thomas: Yes, Thomas can be an immoral cad, but I still want to see him happy and at peace. I naively believe this will make him nice. When Jimmy was wandering under that bridge after the fair, I had a premonition about where this storyline might go, and I think I like it better than what we got with Thomas settling for being "friends." How about this alternative ending instead: No muggers under the bridge. Jimmy, drunk, lets down his guard. Thomas wasn't completely off base, feeling there was something between them. It's Downton Abbey meets Brokeback Mountain. No one knows about their dangerous affair (O'Brien only suspects) but Jimmy is afraid of getting caught. After a few close calls, he quits Downton while he still has a chance of leaving with a reference, and of staying alive. He confesses to Thomas that he's seen a previous lover beaten badly. Thomas is left heartbroken, but it's better to have loved and lost. (What do you think?)
Daisy: I want her to take her father-in-law's offer and start her own business. I get his point; there won't be many more years for these great houses, and jobs in service will be scarce. Accepting that this change will come means saying goodbye to Downton. I'm not sure Daisy is strong enough or smart enough to do it, but I'd like her to be!
Tom Branson: Odd that he wasn't invited to Scotland, given that he's Sybil's husband and the father of their child. The shallow dalliance with Edna the Maid might have been little more than an excuse to have the actor appear shirtless, it didn't further the character. Tom's reaction to mixing with Sybil's relatives in Scotland, and "hunting" (ie: crawling over to a rifle that's already aimed for you), might have been more interesting.
Downton Abbey: The manor itself was a main character this season and the question asked throughout was, "as beautiful as this place is, is it worth it?" What is the point of maintaining this culture at such exorbitant costs? Sometimes it seems like it's merely an intricate, live performance art for a very limited audience. What will become of this elegant way of life, and what will we all strive for when it disappears?
Already, I can't wait for Season 4! Will Lady Mary and Tom Branson raise their children together and eventually fall in love? Will Daisy ever wise up? Will Thomas ever find peace? Will Lady Edith throw her life away for a married man or will she become a Suffragette? And, by the way, who is Lady Edith's Maid?