Did anyone else feel a touch of deja vu watching last night’s Downton Abbey? It seems an unfortunate given now that every time a new Crawley baby is born one of their parents has to die too. As if we weren’t all traumatised enough from Lady Sybil’s death in childbirth halfway through the last series…
Set a year after the end of series three, and in summer rather than at Christmas, last night’s two-hour-long special began with the Crawleys heading off on their holidays – and the revelation that Lady Mary was eight months pregnant.
As soon as we realised Mary was with child alarm bells started ringing. The impending new arrival was clearly the source of the Christmas special’s drama, and we know a birth never goes smoothly in TV land – but that was five minutes in and nothing exciting happened for another hour and a half. Even dedicated Downton fans (myself included) found themselves getting impatient for the doom to unfold…
First, though, we had to go to Scotland where people waved loaded guns around near Matthew, and Mary ignored everyone’s advice by partaking in a spot of Scottish dancing and driving on bumpy roads.
Disaster was averted though, and while the inevitable was put on hold we watched sweeping shots of the Scottish highlands while irritating Lady Rose snivelled and Anna learnt to dance Scotland-style.
Meanwhile, back at the Abbey, Fellowes crafted three budding but in the end completely pointless romances – Mrs Patmore and her randy spice seller, Isobel Crawley and the put upon doctor, and Branson and a new flirty maid – only to decide by the end of the episode that none of them were going to come to anything.
Then, after what felt like hours, Mary finally went into labour. But with Matthew and the Crawleys still in Scotland something was bound to go wrong. Would the Crawley clan be wiped out in a freak train crash or Mary simply not be able to go on pushing without her beloved Matthew by her side…?
No, everyone made it back down south safely and a bonny baby boy was born without a hitch.
With just minutes left in the Christmas special, we started to think all might be well in the end. Perhaps we would walk away death-free after – albeit, a rather boring – two hours? Maybe the absence of Dan Stevens’ (Matthew) name from the series four cast list (after the first episode where, presumably, he plays dead body number one) had been merely an oversight on the part of a press office junior?
But, no, in typical soap style, a joyful Matthew faced his fate – in quite possibly the most telegraphed yet tension-free car crash ever filmed – just moments after a male heir to the estate was secured.
It all seemed rather sloppy and unsatisfactory to me – and leaves us contemplating the possibility of a horribly neat union between widow Mary and widower Tom – but what did you think? Was Downton’s Christmas episode a two-hour tearjerker, a piece of predictable programme making or just a not-very-special special?
Let us know what you think in the comment box below…
Ellie is an entertainment, TV and film journalist writing news and (hopefully incredibly witty) comment for RadioTimes.com. She loves light-hearted dramas and glossy US series - and is more than a little bit obsessed with Downton Abbey. Foodie, sun-seeker and aspiring novelist in her own time. Likes the fact that her name rhymes with telly.