If you're a big fan, you already knew what was coming in the season finale. But it didn't make it any easier -- or less heartbreaking -- to watch.
The majority of the Season 3 "Downton" finale, or the "Christmas special" as its called in the U.K., took place in Scotland, where the whole family (minus Branson) visits the Highlands home of the Dowager's niece, Susan, and her husband, Shrimpy. Most of the trip included bagpipes, hunting, more bagpipes and Scottish reel dancing.
But more on that later (and more on O'Brien meeting her Scottish lady's maid doppelganger). Because the most pivotal turn of events involve Matthew.
Since the U.K. episodes air way before they do here, there had already been reports months ago that Dan Stevens was leaving the series at the end of Season 3. I had heard the news and chose not to read further. I didn't want to know exactly what would happen.
And what happened was so rough to watch.
We start this two-hour finale (yes, another two-hour episode), one year after the events of the penultimate episode. Looks like Mary's vague ladyparts surgery worked, because she's pregnant, about eight months along. So it's the perfect time for her to tramp around the rough Scottish highlands.
Still, everything seems fine for awhile. Mary takes it easy (even though she dreams she could dance and do more fun things like stalking and hunting with the men). Towards the end of the 10-day trip, there's a ball, and Mary starts to sense things aren't as they should be. The baby's coming early!
As Mary and Anna get off the train for Downton, Mary asks to go to the hospital right away. She sends for Matthew (who stayed back at Duneagle castle. Side note: I didn't believe he would ever do this, despite Mary's urging that he stayed behind), and is taken in at the hospital by Dr. Clarkson and Isobel.
The baby comes quickly (we don't get to see the birth, despite probably everyone's desire to see Lady Mary shout out in pregnancy throes), and Matthew arrives to see his wife cradling their son! New heir!
Mary's very proper summation of the events: "We've done our duty. Downton is safe." (To be fair, at the hospital she does show some sweet emotion when she says that, without Matthew, she only feels half of herself. Aww.)
Matthew is overjoyed, holding his son, fighting off tears, talking about how much joy this "little chap" has brought with him (most Britishy way of reacting to a birth: "I feel like I swallowed a bunch of fireworks!" he says).
The couple's finest moments are short and sweet. Matthew reassures his wife that she's going to be a wonderful mother because she's such a wonderful woman. He says he falls more in love with her every day that passes.
Mary says, "Will I be your Mary Crawley for all eternity?" (a little heavy-handed here, especially since you knew something was about to happen to Matthew). A running conversation between Mary and Matthew this episode was that she feels as though Matthew is the only one who knows the real her, and everyone else thinks she's mean and cold and nasty, which is pretty true).
Matthew leaves the hospital and the last few minutes of the episode are heartbreaking. We see the family anticipating the baby's arrival, intercut with an ecstatic Matthew driving quickly to the house.
Robert has a moment of reflection: Despite all their hardships over the past few years, the house will soon be financially sound and there's two healthy heirs living in the home now.
"I wonder what I've done to deserve this," Robert questions.
As soon as the Dowager offers that not everyone gets their just desserts, we go back to Matthew, a victim of a car crash. We see his car overturned and he underneath, his head bleeding. He's quite dead and no one knows yet.
The last scene is wordless and perfect. We see Mary cradling her son, touching his full head of hair, watching his tiny fingers twitch. There's a permanent smile on her face as she anticipates her extreme happiness and fulfillment to come.
But that's not going to happen.
It all leads to several questions going into Season 4. There are spoilers online if you'd like to not be surprised. I chose not to read some of the plot points, but I'm assuming much of the season will be dealing with Matthew's death, raising his son, Mary attempting to move on.
I think the house is going to be fine. In Scotland, Robert realizes that Matthew's leadership and modernization have saved the house (Shrimpy reveals that he did nothing to modernize Duneagle and now he's about to lose it all). It looks as though Branson will have to step up even more; he's now even further entrenched in a family he was hesitant to become loyal to.
But what about Mary? And the baby? Will she feel up to motherhood now? Will she move on with a new husband who will formally adopt the baby? And will the family welcome him?
And how exactly will the family cope with yet another death of a b23eloved family member?
It's not going to be easy. But it'll be easy to be excited to see how everything plays out in Season 4. Side note: Don't worry about Dan Stevens' career. He's starring in "The Heiress" on Broadway with Jessica Chastain and is reportedly set to play Darcy in a sequel to "Pride and Prejudice."
HIGH(LANDS) SCOTLAND DRAMA:
Mr. Carson informs us that the Duneagle trip is the "high spot of his Lordship's calendar." And sure, it's beautiful (we see so much hunting and "stalking" in the heather that the episode could double as a tourism campaign for Scotland), but it also brings a lot of dramatic moments.
Unhappily married: The owners of the estate are Susan, whom the Dowager seems to have a close relationship with, and her husband Hugh "Shrimpy" MacClare, the marquess of Flintshire (best title ever). And the couple pretty much hates each other, or, as Shrimpy kindly says later when Robert asks what's going on, "We don't like each other."
They're together because it's proper to do so. The elite don't divorce, you see, especially when they have to accept royal appointments. Shrimpy and Susan are preparing to move to Bombay, India, for a foreign post. And they don't know what to do with their free-spirited daughter, Lady Rose.
Yes, Lady Rose. Again. We saw her in the last episode gallavanting around London with a married man. And she's still pretty annoying (which is different than just being a "free spirit"). And yet, we feel sorry for her in this episode. It's not that she just doesn't get along with her mother, it's that her mother criticizes her every move. Susan even says she looks like a "slut," when she disapproves of her dress for the ball.
In the end, both Shrimpy and Susan agree that Rose will be better off at Downton when they're in India. Looks like we have a new Downtonian to deal with next season! For Robert's part, he not only realizes that Matthew's modernization plans for the estate were right, but that he loves and appreciates Cora even more.
Yeah, seeing a high-bred couple bicker all the time will make you appreciate the love you still have for your wife.
Edith and Gregson: Despite Edith being all, "Dude, you have a wife in an asylum. Back off," Michael Gregson is still hell-bent on courting his columnist.
Not so smoothly, he informs Edith that he'll just happen to be in Scotland at the same time the Crawleys are there. And he'll be close to Duneagle. His reason: He's on a "Sketching holiday. He's sketching and fishing." Ha, sure. P.S.: What, exactly, is a sketching holiday?
Still, he's welcomed at Duneagle and greeted by Mary's sneers; she makes mean comments about the situation to Edith. In an understatement, Matthew says to her, "You can be quite horrid when you want to be." But, you know, he still loves her, because he has seen her "naked and held you in my arms. I know the real you." OK.
Matthew decides to sort-of adopt Gregson, who sticks around even though Edith tells him that she just can't see a happy ending in this situation. While fishing, Gregson tells Matthew about the wife-in-asylum situation and Matthew just can't let him pursue Edith any longer (it'll be such a scandal!).
Gregson fully intends to tell Edith he's backing off, but at the ball, after Gregson tells her that even Matthew won't let this happen, Edith decides that this will not be their final evening together.
Good for Edith, standing up to her family and such, though it's really tough to tell whether she even feels the same way about Gregson. Still, I like Gregson. He seems like a nice, loving guy. We'll see what the family thinks of him.
Miss O'Brien and the Scottish O'Brien: Though I really wanted to see O'Brien and Thomas have some sort of showdown (it's a year later, so maybe they've made up or come to some sort of understanding), instead we see O'Brien become friends with Susan's lady's maid, Miss Wilkins.
Wilkins, somehow, is less attractive than O'Brien, but seems to mirror her personality (at one point, Wilkins even calls O'Brien her kindred spirit, which was weird).
But O'Brien doesn't quite see things the same way, especially after a chat between the two where Wilkins describes just how set she is in her miserly, angry-angsty way. Things get even more heated between the two after Wilkins gets jealous when Susan wants O'Brien to do her hair like Cora's
Wilkins' O'Brien-esque revenge: attempting to (heavily) spke her drink at the ball. O'Brien takes one sip and knows what's up (poor Moseley, who downs the drink, goes for another, makes a fool of himself dancing, and then passes out). O'Brien later tells Wilkins, in a roundabout way, how awful she is.
Yikes. Does this mean O'Brien will actually be nicer in Season 4?
Bates and Anna: There wasn't much for Bates and Anna to do this episode, since they're, you know, happy. They walk the grounds, picnic, offer Lady Rose a peppermint/advice when they catch her crying, and generally smile a lot.
Though it was pretty cute to see Anna get Scottish reel dancing lessons from Rose so she can impress Bates at the ball. Turns out Bates' grandmother is Scottish. How sweet.
Meanwhile at Downton:
While the family's away, Branson is stuck by himself with the staff, baby Sybil, the dog and flirty new maid Edna. Really, first there's Edith, then Ethel and now Edna. Please, no more "E" names.
Edna instantly is a bit too familiar with Branson. She endlessly asks Mrs. Hughes about him, his lower-class upbringing, who Lady Sybil was, etc. She also tries to get in his good graces by reminding him of the man he once was, and tries to make him feel guilty about who he is now.
She also annoyingly pronounces Sybil as "Sy-beeeeel."
She even goes as far as to kiss Branson, who is taken aback, but throughout Edna's machinations doesn't really discourage her. Finally, Hughes decides it's time to let Edna go, tells Branson that there's no reason for him to be ashamed and praises him for adjusting to his new life.
It was extremely tough to see Branson crying over Sybil. "I can't bear to be without her," he confesses to Hughes.
I think he will not only bear it, but thrive at Downton. He kind of has to.
Patmore's gentleman caller: A thoroughly amusing (if random) subplot involved this Jos Tufton character pretending to be in love with Ms. Patmore.
He's a funny guy as he delivers food to Downton. Patmore even calls him a "cheeky devil." But when he invites her to a fair, his true colors come out as he flirts with every single woman there. "I love to be in love!" he says.
"You're the cook for me!" he says to Patmore. Not wife. Not woman. The "cook for me."
Later, Hughes tells Patmore about Tufton's real intentions. And, surprisingly, Patmore is relieved. She saw right through this guy's plans. Is it weird it made me really want to see Patmore fall in love?
Clarkson and Isobel: Out of nowhere, Clarkson begins to fall for Isobel (she's a former doctor's wife, he's a doctor. Perfect match, right?). He invited her to the same fair, and after some liquid courage, he begins to float the idea that they could become more than just friends.
Isobel, diplomatically, puts the kibosh on things before Clarkson even gets the chance to clearly tell her his intentions. She's happy with her life, with them being friends, etc. Poor Clarkson.
Still, I wonder now if the loss of her son will change her mind. Will she be looking for love now, for support?
Jimmy and Thomas: It's a year since the great Thomas Kisses Jimmy Incident, and the two appear to have some sort of cease-fire thing going on. Jimmy tries to ignore Thomas whenever he can, though Thomas is still kind to him.
Everything gets heated at the fair (there must have not been a lot going on around the area because the fair was the weekend's hot spot). After Team Downton wins a tug of war (with Thomas' and Tufton's help), Jimmy uses the money he won betting on the match to get drunk.
Stumbling around the grounds, he runs into the thugs the team beat, who are about to beat him to a pulp until Thomas runs in, offers himself up and lets Jimmy run away.
Thomas is beaten badly and taken back to Downton. Jimmy decides to swallow his pride and visit Thomas, who's recuperating in bed.
"I can never give you what you want," Jimmy says.
"I understand that. I do. And I don't ask for that," Thomas responds. But he wants to be friends, and Jimmy, finally, say that he can do that.
It was quite a touching scene, especially with Jimmy starting to read the newspaper to his injured new friend.
But I wonder what's going to happen with these two. All throughout the season, I had a friend who was guessing that Jimmy and Thomas would hook up. Is that even a possibility for Season 4? If not, will Thomas find someone to be with?
It's just another reason to look forward to next season. You're excited, right?
MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE SEASON FINALE
Best Dowager line: The Dowager didn't have quite as many great quotes this episode compared to the rest of the season, but she did have concern about Branson staying behind at Downton: "I know he's housebroken, more or less, but I don't want freedom to go to his head." I wonder how she would have dealt with the Edna situation?
Best glare: Carson, when Jimmy and Alfred ask if they will be able to get a break with the family away.
Best way to describe the decor of Duneagle: Guns, shotguns, elk heads, more guns, swords and guns.
Worst part of going to Scotland: Is it necessary to not only have bagpipes play before dinner but also in the morning? Side note: My roommate, who plays bagpipes (really) says the tune played in the dining room is called "Black Bear."
Best reaction to bagpipes in the morning: "Bloody hell" -- Robert
Bitchiest Thomas comment: While most the staff is surprised by Patmore having a man interested in her, Ivy says, "Why not? She's a woman isn't she?" Thomas' reply: "Only technically."
Biggest understatement: The hunting guide says, "We don't rush things at Duneagle." Seriously. The trip seemed to last forever.
Meanest Mary comment: "He's not one of your hard luck cases is he?" -- to Edith when talking about Gregson.
Best Susan put down: Shrimpy: "Stop it! Stop making everyone so unhappy all the bloody time!" Our words exactly.
What did you think of the Season 3 finale? What do you want to see happen next season? Post your comments below!Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun