**Warning - contains SPOILERS and a little bit of SNEERING**
The first morning of winter here today; frost on the cobwebs, mist over the fields and a feeling of deep sorrow in my heart as I contemplate Sunday nights devoid of Downton. OK, so this series really failed to live up to expectations on a serious drama level, but blimey it's been fun. Even in parts when 'fun' might not have been entirely appropriate - like last night when half the cast went down with Spanish Flu at the exact same moment over dinner, leaving everyone else to rush around, bursting into rooms and saying 'you'd better come quickly!' Notably the only people not rushing and bursting were Matthew and Lord G, who foolishly saw the incapacitation of their partners as a convenient moment to indulge in a swift bit of almost-philandering, little realising they were setting themselves up for a dose of guilt and self-loathing that's going to last well into Series Three.
The plot devices have been about as subtle as Matthew's graveside makeup and the time-frame frankly bewildering; galloping at a cracking pace through historical events while the characters and their relationships remain curiously static. Branson the Upstart Chauffeur first exchanged meaningful glances with Lady Sybil in 1912, declared his feelings for her in 1916, touched her waist at some point in 1918 and kissed her for the first time in 1919. If Mary and Matthew's on-off romance has frustrated us viewers over eight weeks, imagine how it must feel to them to be still unresolved after almost eight years. At least Mary's character has developed, although it's a shame she's gone from feisty and fabulous to martyred and moany. The reason I want her to get it on with Matthew in the Christmas episode is simply because they deserve each other; wicked Sir Richard might not be as posh as her but he's certainly far more charismatic and interesting these days. He'd be well advised not to set a date for the wedding just yet and wait for a Bright Young Thing to come along in the next season.
Anyway, I loved every minute, which perhaps shows that 'worldbuilding' (I might just have made that word up) is one of the most important things in creating any kind of fiction. Because the house and the characters and the historical period are brought to life so richly (if not always entirely authentically) it carries you along and makes you willing to ignore the cynical voice inside your head sneering 'that would never happen'. The only really awful jarring note for me this series was Matthew's miraculous recovery, which stretched credibility about a million miles too far. No doubt there are useful lessons to be learnt from it all. Don't put plaster dust in your wedding cake, for example, and go easy on the make-up at funerals, chaps, if you don't want to find yourself shunted over to the cast of The Vampire Diaries. I'll probably have to watch all the episodes again to work out what it has to teach us in writing terms though.
(In the meantime, I'd probably better just get on with doing some...)