Remember the golden days of Downton Abbey series one? And then remember how it all went a bit barmy in series two, what with the Spanish influenza and Matthew’s broken penis? As the Crawley heir contemplated life without mini Matthew, a usurper to his throne suddenly appeared, claiming to be the very Patrick Crawley the family assumed had drowned in the Titanic sinking. He’d suffered from amnesia, lived in Canada, fought in the war, been burned beyond recognition in an explosion which simultaneously (and conveniently) restored his memory before turning up on Downton’s doorstep, or so he claimed. Was he Downton’s true heir, back to claim what was rightfully his and deprive Lord Grantham’s offspring of their fortune? Or was he an imposter chancing his luck?
Or… would he disappear without a trace, leaving us a) unsure whether his story was real or not and b) confused as to what on earth was the point in him anyway.
Tony Gillingham’s evil valet may have deserved the sticky end he met, but the aftermath to his death was as long and arduous as Lord Grantham’s musings on the good old days. From the moment Green ‘stepped’ in front of a bus, Bates had that shifty look back on his face. He certainly had a motive – Green had attacked his wife – and the police were soon sniffing around, but a mystery ‘witness’ put Anna in the frame leading to her arrest in a dramatic series finale. Was Bates the killer, acting to avenge Anna? Did Anna herself push her assailant into the path of a bus?
Or… would Sergeant Willis turn up at Downton, after an entire series of whodunit, to announce that a mystery woman had confessed to the crime, leaving us wondering why we ever cared who’d done the deed in the first place. No amount of happy reunions could paper over that storyline rabbit warren.
Mid-way through the last series Tom Branson began to look a bit mopey. Apparently the fine dining and chitter chatter of Downton Abbey’s hallowed halls were no longer fulfilling the former firecracker and he started to cast his eye further afield, fixing on a move to the States. After a series five finale packed with wistful glances and fond farewells, Branson and daughter Sybbie upped sticks to Boston to begin their new life. A new life that lasted a grand total of two episodes as the pair made a surprise reappearance at the wedding of Carson and Mrs Hughes. Delighted to see them as we were, we couldn’t help but question the reason for their abrupt reappearance. Had Branson firebombed another stately home? Did actor Allen Leech’s hopes for a Hollywood career fail to outlive The Imitation Game?
Or… did Julian Fellowes simply change his mind and hit the rewind button?
When it comes to men, Lady Mary doesn’t have a great track record. Her intended Patrick Crawley met his maker on the Titanic (or did he? See above), Pamuk dropped dead in her bed and husband Matthew broke the nation’s hearts with his Christmas Day passing. It’s a wonder anyone was daring enough to become her suitor, but series five saw the introduction of Lord Tony Gillingham and Charles Blake, both bidding to win her hand. Tony suggested a test drive and he and Mary debunked to a hotel in Liverpool for a dirty weekend. Charles attempted to lure Lady M with a wet and wild evening in the pig pen. Would she accept Gillingham, the twinkly-eyed Lord with the fortune to secure her future? Would she marry Blake, the sharp-witted man of the people?
Or… would she turn down both, ending months of will-they, won’t-they speculation, leaving behind two broken-hearted suitors and a bewildered audience.
Mysterious Baxter keeps a lifetime of secrets in that wavy mop, and they all seem to connect back to that evil ex-boyfriend of hers who has a habit of persuading nice girls like her to do bad things. But series five brought news that he’d been caught and was headed for trial. Would Baxter testify? Would she decide she couldn’t face up to the man who’d caused her years of pain?
Or… would she decide to go to court, only for her ex to plead guilty, leaving us all scratching our heads over why Fellowes had wasted so much airtime on a man we were never going to meet.
Has any Downton Abbey storyline dragged on so long and pointlessly as the Downton Cottage Hospital? In one corner we had Isobel Crawley, Lord Merton and Lady Cora in favour of something or other (I stopped listening) and in the other corner we had the Dowager Countess and Dr Clarkson arguing against whatever changes the first three wanted. They had lots of heated conversations over afternoon tea and then someone invited Neville Chamberlain to dinner to help prove their point. Then Lord Grantham vomited blood all over the tablecloth and everyone forgot what they were fighting over.