Downton Abbey Feels...and an epiphany

Moderate spoilers for Downton Abbey Season 6 (episodes 6 and 8 specifically) plus past episodes. See bottom of post for trigger warnings (the trigger warnings are spoilers btw).

Readers from the UK and other places that watch the show have probably already seen this season. But I watch on PBS so that means the season starts in January. But it's cool. It's fun watching the Christmas special in March. Anyway... this episode gave me feels. That's not unusual for the show. There have been several major character deaths, war, and tragedy. But this episode hit me because of my favorite character. And when I mention who my favorite character is everyone is probably going to collectively punch me in the face over the internet. That was a clue. My dear Downton Abbey fans my favorite character is Thomas Barrow.

Now, I'm not going to excuse the terrible things he has done and said. Thomas can be a real dick. But he also has a kind side and it makes me happy to see him reveal that. I feel that he is one of the most complex and best written characters on the show. You hate him one moment and the next you sympathize with him and, dare I say, like him. Plus his sass is spectacular. And who can't relate to someone that is 500% done with their job? Anyway. This episode ended with Thomas being told he's pretty much losing his job and isn't wanted. And on top of that he's faced with more homophobia. He tries doing something good and he's told that he's untrustworthy and basically some sort of sexual predator. He feels more isolated than before. Yes, he may not be so isolated if he wasn't such an asshole all the time. But honestly if I had been through the shit he had I probably wouldn't be cheery and nice either. He's had to learn to hide his true self and manipulate others as a form of self-preservation.

So now to the feels. I've had Thomas feels before: WWI (pretty much his whole WWI story arc including the trenches and the hospital), when he almost got arrested, when he got his ass kicked, when Sybil died etc. But this episode ended with Thomas sitting in a room alone at night, while everyone else is going about their lives, sobbing. This man is in pain and is broken and no one knows. No one gives a flying fuck. And he knows this. You can see the pain and agony (kudos to the actor that plays Thomas btw, freaking amazing). Now, I can relate because I've been there. A lot of people have. No, I've never had to struggle with the same things he has. I'm straight. But I have been made to feel like an outcast before. And I have dealt with depression for a lot of my life. So obviously the combination has led to many nights sobbing and feeling so bitterly alone, worthless, outcast, disliked. Knowing everyone was going on about their business while I was breaking. So this scene happened and I was like "well fuck". It also hits harder because I know what's going to happen in the coming episodes (perils of reading Downton Abbey fanfiction when half the world has already seen it). So turn away major spoilers here....

I know about Thomas' suicide attempt. And I know I have to brace myself for that because I have been there too (that's a tale for another day). It's just so amazing that through the power or writing (and excellent acting) you can be made to feel more normal because you're not alone. After the feels I just had a moment of awe about how I can relate to this character. Through his pain (which is a mirror to my past pain) I can be made to feel that I'm not alone. This is what people go through. No matter your place in the world, who you are, or what time period, pain and sadness is universal. Sometimes we forget that and think pain belongs only to us. So I may not be a footman, or live in the 20th century, or be a gay man but I have felt isolation and sadness and the crushing feeling of giving up. And, like Thomas does (more spoilers) I got through it and have made something of my life. And in the future I may be in that situation again. Feeling broken and alone. But then I may gain comfort (as stupid as it sounds) from this show. It goes to demonstrate the power of fiction; something I am always in awe of. And that's why I get super pissed when people say they only read non-fiction and imply fiction is frivolous and that you can't learn anything from it (but that's also a post for another day).

So in conclusion of this long-ass post that has gone from feels to philosophy: 1) Downton Abbey is amazing. And 2) Embrace the power of fiction. Let a book or show impact you. When you write feel empowered that you never know the impact your writing will have on someone (who knows, maybe even this mess of a fangirl post will help or inspire someone).

Trigger Warnings: suicide attempt, depression, homophobia

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