As this third series draws to a close, I realize this British series about life at this abbey in the aftermath of World War I is filled with forms of courage, for the aristocracy as well as their faithful long-time servants. We the viewers watch remarkable actors showing how these individuals deal with the massive changes in their lives.
Matthew faces his guilt at Livinia’s death, his fears and vulnerability as he recovers from serious wounds to his body and his psyche. Even when he is able to express his deep love for Mary, a tender passion they both share after so many trials, he is plagued by fears of inadequacy, especially whether he can father a child. Mary has a deep faith, and goes to London privately to find if she may be infertile, has an operation that the doctor tells her will make conception finally possible. She has the courage to take action on her own rather than being stuck in Matthew’s belief he is at fault.
Matthew has the courage to realize the Abbey has been poorly managed and cannot become self-sustaining without major changes, but he keeps expressing his concerns in ways that make his father-in-law feel defensive. As the whole family mourns the death of Sybil, Matthew chooses to befriend the grieving husband-father, Tom, who feels out of place because he is a Catholic Irishman, not from noble blood, and he thinks his only choice is to leave with the baby, seeking his fortune in his homeland, bereft of the support of this family into which he has married. He welcomes the concern and caring of Mary and Matthew, who stand by him in his dark hours. As their friendship unfolds, Matthew realizes Tom knows about farming and the ways and needs of the simple folks who are dependant on the survival of Downton Abbey. When the concerns of Mary and her wise Grandmother help Mary’s mother Cora and her husband realize their daughter Sybil would have died even if the old family doctor’s advice had been followed, they begin to grieve together, knowing no one is to blame for this tragedy.
In the servant’s quarters, Daisy slowly gathers her courage to consider a life beyond being a servant as her father-in-law sees her strengths and zeal for life, and offers his inheritance if she will come manage his estate while he is alive. She begins to envision a better life, and it may even include a man partner where she shall have the respect she deserves. She is outgrowing being a lifetime servant and all that implies.
As this series of the Downton Abbey saga comes to an end, Mary gives birth to a healthy baby boy. She and Matthew have a few precious moments celebrating privately this new beginning in their lives. As Matthew drives away, exuberant to be a dad with his beloved wife, his life is suddenly ended by a truck colliding with his car, which overturns and he is thrown to his death. It’s a sad and startling ending, and a reminder to us all that life is unpredictable, sometimes very unfair even when you’ve been noble and courageous in overcoming obstacles. We are left in suspense, not knowing how the families and the servants will deal with this huge and impactful loss, so soon after the death of Sybil whom everyone loved and sorely misses. She lives on in her sweet daughter and her strong-willed husband.