Beware of spoilers.
I believe that writers can develop what I like to call a god-complex. They become so intimately involved in the practice of creation, of breathing life into characters, that they can become calloused and begin to enjoy the act too much when the pen doubles as the Reaper’s sickle, wielding the duel power to take life as well as give it.
Julian Fellowes is the brilliant writer / creator of the globally renowned television show called Downton Abbey. What Fellowes has done in this third season is make us care. Well done. We are like sled dogs, he holding the mushing reins. When he gives we rejoice, and when he removes we mourn. That is good writing.
When this season ended in the UK, Americans had barely had time to dream over Lady Mary’s would-be wedding clothes. And I had to wait until March to see what Britain calls its “Christmas episode.”
Screenwriters are taught to add “gap” or elements of surprise into scenes. No amount of gap could compare to the final moments of this third season. Matthew who has seen so much death on and off the battlefield, who finally marries his dearest love, who accepts his title and position and saves the estate he is to inherit, and who meets his very own son is suddenly wiped from the storyboards. Matthew gone. Matthew immortalized as Mary’s perfect love.
Ah ha! The writer, a British Lord himself, playing dice with his universe?
I heard once that “fame is secular man’s grasp on immortality.” In Greek mythology, the true hero tests the fates and moves to make a mark on history in order to become legend, for only in legend can he become immortal. Matthew was in this sense immortalized before he could be deemed less lovely.
n the special features of Downton III, the writer claims that he allows Mary to have her perfect love. Is it divine punishment to offer true love and then take it away in its prime? I suppose it fits, mythologically speaking, but the true test here is how much an audience can take.
My theory is simple. Despite the ensemble drama, Mary is the main character, the hero of this story. She is central. She is fixed. All others play foil to her tale. Certainly she could die and the role of hero would be replaced, but for now she is left to carry on through tragedy. Great heroes have great dreams unfulfilled, great flaws to overcome, and and great hurdles to cross completely alone.
We shall see how it plays out for this hero despite the looming thunder of Downton’s Zeus.