Dear Mr. Fellowes
“you had me at hello” as the saying goes. Or more accurately, you had me at the opening credits of Downton Abbey Series 1. Episode 1. And not just me, I’m sure your marketing people have told you how popular the show is.
Many of us love the characters, the intrigue, the humour and the style. Anybody who wanted happiness has had to fight for it; and you’ve given us a certain sense of realism with war, loss and financial shenanigans.
I read somewhere that you responded well to the vehement response to Lady Sybil and Matthew Crawley’s untimely deaths. (We were never quite as distraught about poor Lavinia Swire.) I sensed you held your hands up when Dan Stevens left… ‘it wasn’t me – he left of his own accord, had to kill him off, no choice’
It feels like the characters who fought most for what they wanted, lost it not long after. And tonight we see you’ve written in the potential ruination of the couple who fought most for happiness.
Mr. Fellowes, you made us love those characters. You made us cheer them on and hope for them and cry with them when they lost. And that’s because you’re a great writer and they are great actors. But I also read somewhere that you promised to go easy on us in the series. That you heard the cries from Downton fans at the amount of loss in such a short space of time and that this series would not be so hard on us. (I’m sorry I can’t quote the sources but I’ve read them more than once and if I had the energy or time to google them I would!)
I’ll be honest, I really don’t know if I can watch it anymore. I probably won’t buy this series on DVD. I’m wondering what happens next and if I can bear it. Will you sweep the issue under the carpet quietly and quickly (which you kinda did with prostitution)? Or will we watch another beloved character die (albeit on the inside)? Another happy marriage wrecked – and no doubt there’ll be a baby on the way soon enough and…. we’ll never know will we?
So as an avid Downton Abbey fan, and an emerging writer, looking to people like you to learn from, I’d like to ask you why you insist on breaking our hearts. I think what happened tonight was a step too far. I want to be a good writer and I know that means harsh realism and not everyone gets ‘happy ever after’. But I also feel I have a responsibility to my readers, my audience – even if they are only few at the moment. If I am blessed enough to be talented enough to make my readers love my characters – then I feel a responsibility to let those characters be happy.
Your PR people will probably love that Downton is trending on Twitter. You may well be consoled by others that tell you that ‘all publicity is good publicity’. No doubt you’ll be contacted for a whole stream of interviews over the next week. Maybe clever people who know what they’re talking about will say, “Every war, even the ratings war has casualties. Some people are angry and we’ll lose a few, but it doesn’t matter.”
But I think it does matter and I hope it matters to you.