Dan Kois, June Thomas, and Seth Stevenson were on Slate’s Facebook page on Tuesday to chat with readers about the Downton Abbey season finale. The following transcript of the discussion has been edited for length and clarity. To see the full conversation, click on this link.
Also see our Magnum Photos gallery on the English countryside.
Also see our Magnum Photos gallery on the English countryside.
Dan Kois: Hi everyone! Glad to be here to discuss Downton Abbey.
Marilee Leach: Does anyone else think that Mr. Bates killed his ex-wife?
Janet Koch: I think O'Brien gave her the arsenic ...
Dawn Loges: Did Anna have an alibi? At times I suspect her.
Janelle Klann Lewis: Someone else speculated that Bates’ wife isn't really dead (she set him up). I don't believe we ever saw her face. Her note saying that she was afraid of him didn't hold water.
Marc Naimark: 1) Thank god the Xmas Special was fantastic.
2) Did O'Brien kill Mrs. Bates (the late Mrs. Bates of course)? If so how? When?
3) If not O'Brien, who? Bates himself? I'd kill for Anna. (And it's not like Mrs. Bates was a person; she was just a plot device, and even Bates could see that.)
4) I don't recall this: why did Bates end up married to Mrs. Bates in the first place?
5) Why do I care about Bates? I guess I do care a bit about Anna. Sad that she's not off to America.
Dawn Loges: I was also wondering how the prosecutors knew what Mrs. Hughes overheard. I guess we can't hold Downton to CSI logic standards or we would not enjoy the show
June Thomas: Hi everyone, since the topic of the moment seems to be who killed Mrs. Bates, my personal theory (with no evidence to speak of) is that she killed herself to frame Mr. Bates. So great was her hatred or her ex and her desire to make him miserable, she took the rat poison herself, knowing that he had signed the poison registry in order to get it.
Kathy Lovin: I'm with you June. I think Mrs. Bates would go to any length to ruin her husband's life and happiness.
Kathleen McManus: Does anyone else think, like I do, that Sir Richard may have had something to do with Mrs. Bates death?
Marc Naimark: Sir Richard! Nice idea. Would Mrs. Bates let his threats of lawsuit stop her from hurting the Crawleys? No she wouldn't. So if Sir Dick was out to protect Mary, that makes sense.
Seth Stevenson: Hi all. I love the idea that Sir Richard had Mrs. Bates killed to protect Mary (back when he still liked Mary).
Marjorie Birch: Or Mrs. Bates attempted to "cross" Sir Richard by asking him for more money.
Kristen Curry: I think it was Mr. Mustard in the Library with a Candlestick! Either that or she did it just to spite Mr. Bates and Anna and their pure love. Evil woman!
Seth Stevenson: That's COLONEL Mustard to you!
David Hodges: I love Bates, but I find the evidence against him overwhelming. Are we supposed to believe that Mrs. Bates killed herself just to spite him? Seems unbelievable. The only thing I can think of is that Carlisle had her taken care of while he was romancing Mary.
Marc Naimark: June Thomas says Mrs. Bates offed herself. I can go with that. Certainly we can't ascribe normal human motives to a plot device. Just why was she so keen on making Bates unhappy anyway? She had a fair bit of money from him, she could have lived a quiet life or set herself up with a pub or something and met a nice widower or whatnot. It's not like Bates is some kind of sex god.
Celeste Friend: Bates isn't a sex god? Says who?!?
Marc Naimark : Hi! And who says? Anyone who saw him in bed on his wedding night, that's who.
Dan Kois: I agree with June. Downton is guilty of a lot of sins, but one of them isn't misdirection. I think if Bates or O'Brien or Anna or Sir Richard or anyone killed Mrs. Bates, we'd know about it by now. This is not a show that keeps secrets. The most likely result, I think, is that Mrs. Bates was so villainous that she killed herself to frame Bates. (And yes, we did see her face, didn't we? I sure remember seeing it.)
Seth Stevenson: Whoa, that is some spite from Mrs. Bates! Posthumous spite! That would be extreme behavior even for this show. More Desperate Housewives than Downton Abbey. I can't quite get on board with the Mrs. Bates spite-suicide theory ...
Steve Paradis: If you want a tidy solution to the Bates murder, why not one of Carlisle's flunkies, dealing with a loud leaky pipe—stops by, gives her a nice cuppa’ tea with a gin/arsenic lacing to shut her up and save the exclusive.
Cheryl Duncan: The news that Shirley Maclaine is to play Cora's mother totally led me to believe that Mary really was going to America in the third season. Imagine my surprise then that the proposal, which was beautiful.
Dan Kois: Yes, that was an excellent double-cross by the show's producers, who (in my memory) hadn't done much before in the way of pre-season casting news. I do hope that we'll cross the pond a bit, though—the idea of Edith, for example, loose in New York is too delightful to miss.
Jessica Graham: I'm sort of bummed that Mary isn't going to America! But pleased with the proposal, of course.
Brenda W. Clough: I too am sorry that Mary is not going to the Middle West to pursue her cowboy. I think that M&M will wed, only to see the Bandaged Canadian return as the Real Heir.
June Thomas: Jessica, do you really think Mary and Matthew will get to the altar? Julian Fellowes' interview with the New York Times suggests he's not going to throw any more obstacles in front of them, but that would really surprise me!
Cheryl Duncan: I think the challenges to Matthew and Mary's happiness will come from outside of their relationship in season 3, such as the would-be Patrick coming to claim what is his, or Sir Richard's wrath and its consequences. Oh, and though I do want happiness for Edith, that neighbor guy is way too old for her (although he does have a nice house!).
Jessica Graham: Someone upthread mentioned that they thought Bates *did* kill his wife. I feel like Downton writers would never let that be the case, but what the HECK happened? Is it all really just so that we might see witness the martyrdom of Bates?? (I am tired of that plotline. Something I can say here, to strangers, but would be ostracized for saying amongst friends :).)
Dan Kois: Jessica, I too am tired of the martyrdom of Bates, as terrific a martyr as he makes. I hope next season springs him quick and lets he and Anna struggle with more traditional spousal concerns. Like, if you're married to a maid, she should straight up never clean at home, right?
June Thomas: I'm tired of the Bates story, too. I wouldn't complain if there was some off-screen resolution between Seasons 2 and 3 so we never had to hear about the murder plot again! (I guess that's asking for rather a lot, though.)
Sean McArdle Pflueger: I really was hoping that Bates would die at the end of the last season. Killing characters can refresh a series.
Sean McArdle Pflueger: I.E. Joss Whedon's series.
June Thomas: I would be sad if we never saw Sir Richard again. He's an interesting character and a useful one.
Claire Morisset Mickelson: I'm with Sean. Even though I like Bates, I believed he would actually hang.
Dan Kois: Oh man, if Bates had hung! That would've been Game of Thrones-esque in its chutzpah. But imagine a whole season of gloomy Anna and hopeful Molesley, and I sort of think this option is better.
Sean McArdle Pflueger: Anna could have been rekindled by a new servant if Bates had died. Now she WILL be moping the whole season worrying about Mr. Bates.
Seth Stevenson: @Bates h8rs—I, too, am sick of Bates' march toward martyrdom. Too much punishment inflicted on one man.
Seth Stevenson: Did anyone else feel this season took a nosedive around episodes four and five but then gloriously righted the ship? I have to wonder if the extra time to write is what made the Christmas episode sooooo much better than the ones that preceded it.
June Thomas: There were nose-divey moments in the finale/Christmas special, too, though, Seth. Particularly the trial, which I just wanted to fast-forward through.
Marc Naimark: I can accept the trials of Job undergone by Bates, but not the fact that he himself is responsible for so many of them.
June Thomas: For me the most ridiculous of all the ridiculous things of this season (which I loved) was the ridonk trial, where there was no way the prosecution could have known who overheard a phone call that no one but Bates would've known about anyway
June Thomas: The things I am most curious about next season are: 1) Will we ever see Sibyl again. 2) Will Edith ever find love? (And I feel so shallow for wondering those wonders.)