2.27.2013

The Bad Theology That Spoiled Downton Abbey

** SPOILER ALERT **
** BUT IF YOU STILL HAVEN'T FINISHED SEASON THREE IT'S ON YOU AT THIS POINT **


I was, along with everybody else, sad about the untimely deaths that peppered Season Three of Downton Abbey. Losing Sybil was one thing, but seriously? Matthew, too?! My sadness was tinged with anger. (Well, tongue-in-cheek anger; this is, after all, a television show.) I popped onto Facebook to seeth:

Seriously, we all just need to quit Downton Abbey like a bad boyfriend. Drop it like a hot potato. Should we stay or should we go? WE SHOULD GO. How dare you, Mr. Fellowes?


Hell hath no fury like a woman grieved by her British soap opera.

I was quickly informed by friends that Mr. Fellowes wasn't to blame. Just as the Actress Who Played Sybil, the Actor Who Played Matthew wanted to skip out of Downton to play other roles, and presumably not be known as merely the AWPS and the AWPM.

Yes, it's just a show, albeit a extraordinarily good one. Actors have every right to chose not to renew their contracts (and apparently British television contracts are customarily shorter in length than their American counterparts). The deaths weren't out of keeping with life or theater; women die in childbirth and men crash sports cars. Families experience multiple tragedies in painfully short spans of time.

In life, lots of unanswerable questions arise, most of which can be reduced to the most anguished word in human experience: why? In life, pastors and friends to offer support and presence to those who mourn without accidentally saying something extremely stupid and unhelpful. Like, "God must have needed another angel."

But on Downton Abbey, the truth is a cousin to that blasted angel tripe. We know why the deus ex machina gave Sybil eclampsia and sent Matthew into the ditch, and it makes their deaths feel arbitrary and the ongoing story flattened and one-dimensional.

Which is not to say I won't be watching!

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