Downton Abbey: The Hagiography of Thomas the Martyr


The good people of Merriam-Webster define a hagiography as: 1) a biography of saints or venerated persons and 2) an idealizing or idolizing biography.  With the last few episodes of Downton Abbey and the direction the character Thomas has gone in, it seems his beatification is imminent.

Last week I predicted Thomas would become the unwilling sex slave of a deeply closeted Lord Grantham, though I did say that would in all likelihood take place in series 4 so I’ve still got the potential to be right.  This week he showed himself to be an ardent defender of…Jimmy, the guy who almost got him fired, which two years ago would have made for Thomas’s engagement in an unfathomable amount of connivery resulting in someone’s public humiliation and/or possible dismissal from service.

I have to admit, I miss the old Thomas.  I miss him skulking behind the kitchen door, smoking endless hand-rolled cigarettes (it was the 19teens-ish after all, in a simpler time, before pre-rolled Marlboros) and scheming with Lady Grantham’s manipulative puppetmaster lady’s maid, Miss O’Brien (who I’ve seen described as a “half-maid/half-velociraptor”, and it just makes me so angry that someone other than me came up with that because *awesome*, and I digress).

Plot plot plot, plot plot plot.  Ahhh,the good old days.  From

Remember when Thomas blackmailed the Duke of Crowborough?  Or when Thomas, disinterested and gay, asked the goofily swoony and naive Daisy out on a date just to piss off another servant?  Remember how Thomas and O’Brien would focus their collective hate on someone and then savage them?  Remember when they decided they didn’t like Bates and O’Brien knocked Bates’s cane out from under him in front of the aforementioned Duke as he arrived at Downton for a visit?  Sigh.  Those were the days.  Remember when he tried to angle for a promotion by stealing and hiding Lord Grantham’s dog in a shed in the woods?  One of the locals found the dog and returned her safely, and Thomas ran batshit crazy through the woods looking for her.  Ironically, he still got the promotion because Lord Grantham thought he deserved to be rewarded for looking so hard for the dog he stole in the first place.  Or when, in this most recent season and after his emotional rift developed with O’Brien, he gave bad “helpful” advice to O’Brien’s nephew Alfred (also a servant in DA) and caused the nephew to burn a hole in Matthew’s dinner coat?  That’s the Thomas I want to see.

Often he’s the schemer who can’t catch a break.  He thought he could become a man of distinction by joining the British medical corps and also avoid getting shipped  off to the front lines in World War I.  Instead that’s where he got sent, and the mud and shit and horrors and reality of war worked him over and  he got himself shot in the hand rather than stay there any longer.  Then he tried to buy his way into the business world by taking his entire life savings and buying a storage room full of black market goods. Only his entire stock turned out to be worthless sawdust.  Thomas couldn’t even retain his position as Lord Grantham’s valet upon the return of the twice jailed, former alcoholic, potential murderer Bates, since Bates and Lord G are BFFs.

Thomas’s sensitivity to things like social status and stratification emerged with Lady Sybil’s death as he cried over her passing and said that she was the only one of the aristocratic family he worked for who treated him fairly.  He has been known to side with the plight of the proletariat, in spirit if not in deed.  During all this, Thomas has harbored a lust in his heart for Jimmy the footman, ushering in the lurid (for its time, people) nighttime kissing scandal that the house would have faced had Lord G not managed to put a lid on it.  A year after almost getting fired because of Jimmy (and O’Brien’s nephew Alfred, who witnessed said unwanted smooch), young Jimmy–drunk, cocky, and all alone–flashes his money around at a local fair and then goes walking off into the woods.  Thomas follows him because he’s turning into a creepy stalker  his love has grown from the seed lust planted and now is pure in heart and spirit.  Or something.  When Jimmy is set upon by a pair of roadside bandits who want to take advantage of his impaired condition Thomas–literally–leaps into the fracas to save him, shouting about how Jimmy should run and he’ll stop them from taking his money and causing him harm and most unfortunately reminding me of the hyper-melodramatic “I cannot carry it for you…but I can carry YOU!” scene between Frodo and Sam in Lord of the Rings.


Eventually Jimmy shows up at Thomas’s room to say “thanks” and “sorry” and all the polite things you say to someone who took a tremendous beatdown for you

Damn, son.Photo from

Damn, son.
Photo from

and then Thomas tells Jimmy he was following because…you know.  Which, if Jimmy were a woman in the modern era would be cause to call the police but because he’s a guy, he just says “You know I can’t give you want you want.” Thomas nods in forlorn agreement and then they become buddies and embark upon a blossoming new bromance.  Thus we bear witness to the beginnings of Thomas the Martyr, beaten down both by bandits and by unrequited love (cue sappy music in 5…4…3…), a kinder, gentler Thomas whose trials have caused him to transcend his Earthly desires and serve as a beacon of unconditional love and benevolence to all of the residents of Downtonland.

I don’t buy it.

I don’t buy Thomas’s repentant, self-sacrificing turnaround one sneaky bit.  The old Thomas–the one who lurked ickily in the Bates’s barn in the previous episode, the one who just this season caused the burn in Matthew’s coat, the one who got a hole shot in his hand so he could return home a war hero–is still in there, ticking away like a stealth time bomb.  The old Thomas would not only have taken that beating for Jimmy, he would have paid the guys who did it in order to fool Jimmy into trusting him.  Maybe that’s just what we’ll find out.  It’s been a year in Downton-time since the incidents have supposedly passed, but a schemer knows that revenge is a dish best served cold.  Know the parable about the frog and the scorpion, where the scorpion agrees not to sting the frog and then does, explaining, “It’s in my nature”?  Yeah.  THAT is Thomas, Jimmy’s the frog, and O’Brien is the other scorpion waiting in the wings to see who survives.

And p.s., Matthew is really dead.  Not “mostly dead” like some have speculated.  Not hospitalized somewhere with amnesia.  He is dead.  That is all.

7 responses to Downton Abbey: The Hagiography of Thomas the Martyr

  1. That ending was so City of Angels (Meg Ryan, Nicholas Cage). Even the gooey look of euphoria and staring off into the heavens! Can you say, “Rip off.” -Nikki


    • beyondpaisley – Author

      It’s been a long time since I saw “City of Angels”; it was a remake of a German flick called “Wings of Desire” which is (imho) an even better movie and one of my favorites ever. So when I need that sort of fix I just go to the source LOL. The end was certainly all about the melodrama! Xoxo


      • jp

        Have not seen City of Angels (Meg Ryan, ugh) but I have seen the end, and my take on it was, “Idiots who close their eyes while road cycling DESERVE to be hit by trucks.”


      • I’ll put “Wings of Desire” on my To Do list. But, the sound track on “City of Angels” is one of my favs…maybe why the movie stuck with me?


      • beyondpaisley – Author

        I don’t remember the soundtrack specifically–I think I was too busy comparing CofA to Wings… to get that attentive (and Wings… does have a guest appearance by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, so that’s always fun–but just looked it up and there’s a lot of good stuff on there!


  2. marjorie

    I love Wings of Desire, particularly because good looking German angels roam around libraries in trench coats. And also–Peter Falk.


    • beyondpaisley – Author

      That movie made me a fan of the incomparable Bruno Ganz and if you love him half as much as I, then I do also recommend Bread & Tulips if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s completely charming. Yes, and Peter Falk because Peter Falk, that’s why.


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