ad00absurdum: (DA - thomas and iphone)
Ad Absurdum ([personal profile] ad00absurdum) wrote2016-08-18 09:59 pm

Six seasons of Downton Abbey and why I am still bitter at the end of it all - part 2

So, what I didn't like was how Thomas Barrow's character was treated in later seasons and the finale. Because worse fate or luck - whatever you'll call it - was only dished to Anna and Bates. And in the end even they had their happy ending: they were together, they had a baby and were secure in their positions as servants to the Granthams.

But Thomas - no such luck. Season 5: painful attempts at curing himself of homosexuality. Which actually was very interesting from historical point of view, but in DA universe got Thomas nothing but pain (physical and I'm sure emotional as well) and eventually a visit to Dr Clarkson's office.

Season 6: Downton has to reduce the number of servants so the obvious candidate is the under-butler. Not the newest footman, not a hall-boy, not a maid. No, instead it's the man that spent half his life in the service to the Granthams and rescued little Sybbie from an awful nanny and lady Edith from burning into a crisp in a fire. Carson could have said something, perhaps pointing out another candidate to lord Grantham, but he's all too eager to be rid of Thomas too.

Maybe it wouldn't be so annoying if Thomas was the same little shit he was in season 1-3, but he is not: he actually tries to be nice, especially in season 6. But even before that, it seems he really gave up scheming against his fellow men and when he does scheme, it's on lady Mary's request. And what's more, his scheme goes off so brilliantly that everybody is literally happier afterwards. Well, OK, his scheme on lady Mary's request did go well but also got him called a "stupid fool" by lord Sinderby. And that got Thomas furious (because there's nothing worse for an NT than to be called stupid and incompetent and this insult was both to his intellect and competence). So he went for the heavy guns. Later lady Mary admits to her father that she was the one who ordered Barrow to scheme and also says that "it looks like he overdid it". But the funny thing is, he didn't. This was probably the best scheme in Thomas's entire career.

So, instead of finally getting a break, he's ostracised by the rest of the servants at the Abbey (only Miss Baxter is somewhat sympathetic), he's still being told by Carson to find a job and leave in every other sentence and he's so lonely and feels so unnecessary and unwanted that he tries to commit a suicide. No one really cares (though Miss Baxter and the new footman do rescue him) and it looks like lady Mary's dithering over her suitor(s) in that episode is much more important to the writer than a character actually trying to kill himself.

At least the family don't cart him off to a hospital 'cos then he would end up imprisoned in a mental institution.

So then Thomas gets a few weeks to recuperate (at least the upstairs kids like him), but he's still being told to get a job elsewhere. OK, so he finally finds a new job as a butler in some godforsaken old residence. There's only a cook and a maid in the house by way of the downstairs staff and the upstairs family consists of an old couple of unpleasant toffs so it's not the grand career he's always dreamt about. But it is a job. So OK.

And then finally at the end of the series comes the last special Christmas episode. And everybody - and I mean everybody, be it the Abbey's downstairs staff or the family - finds love. It's actually a bit sickening to watch. And what does Thomas get? His old job at the Abbey back. True, he will be the butler now (because Carson's got some mysterious palsy-like illness) but Carson will stay and have an eye on him the house. And I wouldn't complain too much about it, except when lord Grantham learns of Carson's disease there's a talk of searching for a new butler and Carson says that he will of course retire and will live in his cottage because he doubts the new butler will take kindly to the old butler sticking his nose in the business of running the house. And he says, he himself wouldn't let the old butler do that if he were to be the new butler at any place.

With the re-hiring of Thomas, though, Carson is free to stick his nose and dictate how things are to be run to his heart's content. So in effect Thomas, while having the title of the butler, will still be an under-butler: a pair of hands for Carson since his own are shaking too much to do any useful work.

And I would even be fine with that if Thomas was someone who didn't care for people and his sole ambition in life was to be at the helm of a big house. But the really tragic thing is that Thomas rather desperately wants someone to love and who would love him back. It's pretty clear that he'd always wanted to be a valet to a gentleman who would also be his lover.

So the position of a butler, while in itself good and the pinnacle of a career for a servant, is not what Thomas would really like deep down. It's infinitely better to what he had before but you can bloody see he will never really be happy. He will dedicate his life to his work, but the bitterness-turned-sadness-over-the-years will always be there.

And that is why I'm so bitter about the ending of the series I could double as a beer.

Next part: how to fix it. Stay tuned.