Downton Abbey Finale Review: Great Bates

November 7, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

DOWNTON ABBEY: Sunday 7th November, ITV1, 9pm ALERT ME

Sadly our cold Sunday evenings will no longer be warmed by the cosy charm of stoic scullery maids and promiscuous aristocrats, as the final episode of beguiling period drama Downton Abbey is upon us.

For several weeks now, Lord Grantham & Co have been our guilty pleasure. Ever since Lady Mary Crawley and the family footman Thomas both tried their luck with house guest and Turkish ambassador, Kemal Pamuk, it was obvious that Downton Abbey was going to be far saucier than we had envisaged. Then Mr Pamuk died whilst ‘doing the deed,’ and we were hooked.

Stirrings amongst the working class has been well documented in Downton Abbey. After a series of rejection letters, housemaid Gwen finally lands a job as a secretary, having been helped by the luscious Sybil Crawley. Whether the divide between servant and master would have developed so far by this point in time is debatable, but it certainly makes for heart warming television as the two women, though of similar ages, live worlds apart yet strike a strong, unconditional friendship.

As the series has progressed, the upstairs/downstairs divide has become somewhat blurred. Sybil, the youngest and most spirited of the Grantham brood, spends her days gallivanting around the nearby towns with the Marxist family chauffeur. The cook is sent off for an operation to correct her failing eyesight funded by Lord Grantham, and the affable yet cantankerous butler Mr Carson seems to be more like a loyal friend of the family than a hired helper. It makes for comforting, enjoyable viewing, but it seems unlikely that such a well-heeled family would find this to be ‘proper’ behaviour.

The injurious partners in crime, footman Thomas and ladies maid O’Brien, have been titillating villains, scheming and bullying their way around the servant’s quarters like a pair of Shakespearean stooges. Their prey, Mr Bates, has been subjected to a tirade of abuse since he started at Downton, namely because he quickly caught on to the wicked pair’s shenanigans. Whilst their popularity at Downton has rapidly dwindled and their position become uncertain, Mr Bates has emerged as one of the most-loved characters, but has become the series’ unlikely heartthrob (in the Richard Hammond mould). Limp aside, his valiant nature and staunch moral code have projected him to the position of silver fox within the servants quarters.

War is upon England as the series concludes, but the battle between sisters Mary and Edith looks set to continue into the second series now each sister has lost their prospective husbands, namely due to their pathetic quarrelling. Edith has less to worry about than she thinks; she may be less aesthetically pleasing that her haughty sister, but Mary pulls so many discouraging faces that she is certainly no oil painting. If looks could kill…no, wait, they already did. Poor Mr Pamuk!

David Rogers says:

When Downtown was announced I joined hundreds of others in approving Hugh Bonneville for the important leading role. One had memories of Daniel Deronda, when he was at his peak. Speech in general was marginal slower in the past but frenetic editing and urging by producers to move things along has introduced questionable changes. This was noticeable in much of the upstairs yacking by the Downtown women. The number eleven million should not be allowed to mislead us. How many were totally won over?

The show is being exported to the States but I know many Americans who will be disappointed, who will simply not understand much of the dialogue and who will not be able to keep up. Was not Hugh Bonneville a relative disappointment? I accept the obvious aim to put over the genial side of Lord Grantham’s personality but constantly his speeches were nervous and lacked the expected authority; most of the time he gabbled. One person made the comment “…..despite the weakness of the leading man?. When big money changes hands we expect the best.

A second instalment is to be shot in July 2011, and that will please many, though not all. Is the plot really a worthwhile one or a series of unrelated incidents? Who, ultimately, has influence over those who would introduce modern production styles? The temptation to turn The Abbey into a kind of Coronation Street was not always resisted.

RowanFv says:

Competant review, but didn’t you find Lord Grantham unbelievable?

Julie says:

Julian Fellowes has pitched it just right and out Beebd the Beeb. Those who are not into reality TV and have had a sickener of Corrie etc, like myself, are into and have been raised on a diet of Catherine Cookson and other historical novels. It surely doesn’t matter that the history is sometimes a mystery, it’s not Time Team or Edwardian House, and as many people note, it’s not Upstairs Downstairs either, but hey who said that patricachal society was always cruel, how do they know that somewhere in some great house, the owners did not care for the land, the property, the servants.Who are these critics and where were their ancestors in 1914? What a strange society we have created, a more egalitarian one, and cynical what?
Thank you for making a programme which suits my tastes and love of nostaliga even if it is of the invented variety – much prefer it to viewing people in the raw under pressure to be outrageous in order to rise ratings. Thank you.