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.)
Marc Naimark Obviously Cora's mother is a great matchmaker. She will deal with the widowed Sybil and the spinster Edith in a thrice.
June Thomas: Cora's mother had a fortune to offer when she was looking for a husband for Cora. She doesn't have that ace in the hole when it comes to Edith.
Seth Stevenson: Will be delicious to see Shirley Maclaine and Dame Maggie negotiating over Edith's future.
June Thomas: If Lavinia could get a man, Edith certainly can. I don't for a minute believe she's not eminently marriagable.
Seth Stevenson: Evidence suggests otherwise ... Perhaps Edith would do better in the age of OK Cupid?
Catherine Rose Weisinger: I'm totally cracking up at the thought of Edith posting a profile on OKCupid.
June Thomas: What interests would Edith list in her OK Cupid profile? Church visiting? Driving? Farmer-snogging?
Seth Stevenson: Edith's OK Cupid profile today would definitely mention yoga, Thai food, and travel. They are the church visiting, motorcar piloting, and farmer snogging of modern times.
Seth Stevenson: It would also definitely include the phrase "I love Yorkshire and all it has to offer."
Dan Kois : June!!! "If Lavinia could get a man"? Can I PLEASE make an argument for Lavinia as the #1 unheralded hottie of Downton?
June Thomas: I'm not saying Lavinia was a coldie, merely that Edith is just as much of a hauttie as Lavi ever was.
Marc Naimark: Agree with Dan Kois: Lavinia was not a non-entity. She was extremely beatiful, kind, and in fact quite brave. She had inner resources.
Seth Stevenson: Speaking of Edith, her storyline is still in the balance–do we think she'll end up with Sir Anthony? Should she choose him, or could she do better?
Nnenna Okoro: Edith can do better. They should add a new male character that can be a possible prospect for her. Edit needs something to do, while one sister plans a wedding and the other a birth.
Dan Kois: Here I quote my notes during that scene between Edith and Sir Anthony: "God he's annoying. I hope he dumps her. YES"
Maryann Gorman: I'm thinking Branson might get killed in the Irish business, and we'll have Sybil back home raising her baby.
June Thomas: Maryann, that seems like a reasonable prediction. The love objects of the Crawley girls do have a short life span.
Barb Ross: Yes, Maryann. Especially since there's no chemistry between the actors.
Marc Naimark Maybe Sybil's child could marry Charley. Although at the rate he's growing he'll be far too old for her by season 3.
June Thomas: I think that Charley is growing older at the rate that the dowager countess is getting younger. Maybe she's from Ork?
Tricia Guidry: I'm wondering if Ethel and little Charley will end up at Downton and cause a stir.
Seth Stevenson: They sort of disappeared, didn't they? But Ethel and Charlie have no claim on Downton (besides Mrs. Hughes' kindness) so I'm not sure why we'd see them again. That was one of multiple weak, unrewarding storylines that popped up and went away this season.
Marc Naimark: Maybe Ethel gets real, begs the grandparents to take Charley, and comes back to work at DA, chastened and humbled and ready to get it on with another guest.
Kathleen Welch Henneberry: Im hoping Ethel gets a job downstairs at Downton, and brings the baby to work. Early modes of child care, were true sometimes back then. My irish grandmother was a maid in USA, brought my father to work with her.
Seth Stevenson: I think Matthew might die somewhere in season three. The heart of the Downton narrative is what will become of the three single daughters. When all of their stories are resolved, the show is done. Thus I predict upcoming happiness for Edith and corresponding misfortune for Sybil and Mary.
Maryann Gorman: I agree the sisters' marital fortunes are key, but it would be quite unrealistic to keep Mary alone forever. I think Fellowes is probably capable of creating drama out of a new generation of marriages.
Tricia Guidry: I know ... I thought they were leading up to a bigger part of the story. Maybe that The Earl and Jane would actually consumate their love and there'd be another bastard baby to keep Charly company.
June Thomas : Tricia, that could be a spinoff. The Nameless Products of Drudges!
Dan Kois: What was everyone's favorite scene this season? Dibs on the dowager countess talking on the phone.
Claire Morisset Mickelson: "Shrimpy? Shrimpy, is that you?" ;-)
Cheryl Duncan: Favorite romantic scene: Mary and Matthew's dancing to "Zip Goes a Million" before Lavinia pops up. Favorite dramatic scene: Daisy and William's wedding and the way the upstairs and downstairs characters were united. Favorite overall: The DC and all of her pronouncements and one-liners.
Marc Naimark: And if I recall, they were on opposite sides, just like when they welcome guests to the house.
Seth Stevenson: I will stick with a D-C scene, but go earnest: her talk with Matthew in his bedroom was full of humanity, respect, and kindness. And so well acted.
Tricia Guidry: I loved Lady Violet's line to Sir Richard ... "do you promise?" Maggie Smith has been excellent!
Lyn Poats: I replayed the "nut cracker scene" eight times. Well played Cousin Isobel!
Seth Stevenson: I had the sense that Isobel's line in the nutcracker scene might have been improvised. She seemed to break up a little when she said "It's for your nuts." (And does anyone know where I can get an actual implement that will remove the stones from horses' hooves?)
June Thomas: I, too, though I detected a bit of a crackup when Cousin Isobel referenced the nuts.
Catherine Rose Weisinger: Does anyone else think there's more to the relationship between O'Brien and Thomas than meets the eye? Maybe he's secretly her son, born out of wedlock? I thought that the first time I saw them plotting together.
Dan Kois: YES. I view that as Downton's #1 most delicious plot development yet to come. I really want to know their backstory, and what their bond is, and why they stick together. Later episodes this season showed that relationship fraying a bit; I hope that as it is ripped asunder, the show explores what connected them in the first place.
Marc Naimark: But I just don't see O'Brien as a housemaid somewhere getting seduced by a houseguest. She's no Ethel.
Dan Kois: Absolutely not. Her devotion to Cora (and her over-the-top reaction when she felt spurned) makes me wonder if O'Brien's friendship with Thomas might not be at least in part due to shared "otherness."
Claire Morisset Mickelson: Ooh, Dan, I like that on O'Brien! Didn't occur to me.
June Thomas: O'Brien and Thomas are my very favorite characters—and O'Brien at least is a great actress. (Thomas is fine—he does a good crackup.) I plus-one the demand for more Tho'Brien back story.
Lyn Poats: I wonder about the "pretender" heir.
Matt Leach: Pretender Heir will return, seeking vengeance for his mistreatment. Edith's love will reconcile everyone. And we will all complain mightily about the plot development.
June Thomas: The only reason I doubt they'll bring back P. Gordon is that even during a brutal war, they shied away from giving prominent characters disfiguring problems. William's death was so pretty—not a scratch on him, and other than a bit of dried blood on his face, even Matthew's terrible injuries left him lovely to look at.
Seth Stevenson: If P. Gordon never comes back I will demand a personal explanation from Julian Fellowes as to what the heck that lip-swiping gesture was that got Lord G all hot and bothered.
Dan Kois: Seth: I assume the real Patrick Crawley and his lip-swipe will show up in Downton Babies: The Animated Prequel.
Seth Stevenson: Or on 2Downton2Furious.
Dawn Loges: I'm worried about Isis' mating prospects. One of those baying hounds from the hunt? Or a village stud she met on her one night of freedom?
Seth Stevenson: Wonderful point re: Isis. I do hope she'll find a suitable match. But times are changing for dogs in 1920s Britain, so anything could happen.
Dan Kois: Dawn—YES, me too. Especially after so many dogs came back three-legged after the war.
Dawn Loges: Isis may be the only female at DA that the Earl of Grantham can actually control.
Dan Kois: All right, we're heading out in a few moments, but thank you so much everyone for participating! Please check out the last few dispatches in the TV Club.
June Thomas: Thanks, everyone, this was really fun!
Seth Stevenson: Okay, thanks all, it's been delightful dishing Downton with you!
Cheryl Duncan: I want to thank the three of you for some great reading this season. I loved all of your entries and it made following this season even more enjoyable. I will suffer D.A. withdrawal starting at 4 this afternoon!