Downton Abbey Characters: O’Brien, Now we will never know . . .

5 Mar

By now, we are all aware of the short contracts British television actors sign in comparison to their counterparts in the States.  

We have become aware of that due to our American addiction to Downton Abbey, and its rotating slate of characters.

As Julian Fellowes says, he can write a servant out of a season or two in hopes the actor who portrays him might decide to return, but he pretty much has to kill off family members when they leave the cast to spread their wings for another show or production . . .  

The latest news story concerns the departure of Siobhan Finneran, known to fans of Downton Abbey as Miss O’Brien, Lady Grantham’s scheming maid.  O’Brien will not be returning for Season Four.

Over the months I have grown accustomed to watching O’Brien to see what heights of manipulation she will try to attain.  O’Brien seems to know where everyone’s hot buttons lie. She never hesitates to push them.  

O’Brien’s life and meddling only get more outrageous the longer she lives.  Some have written of her, calling her evil incarnate.

And we have a fascination with her.  What could have made a person turn out that way?  We hold our breath, awaiting answers.  Maybe in Season Four.

Only now she won’t be in Season Four.  She may never return, the way things look now.

One has to wonder where Julian Fellowes would have gone with her, had she remained.  Would he have offered an explanation for how she turned so manipulative?  If so, had he already planned out what that explanation would be, or was this a character who “wrote herself” as time went on?

Authors will often say that they get to a decision point and find that their character has already decided for them where the story will go.  The character has taken on a life of her own!!!  Did O’Brien do that?

Alas for us, we will never know what motivated Miss O’Brien, unless someone discovers the truth while looking back at her tenure as Lady Grantham’s maid.  

Until then, she remains a caricature.  And everything within us wants to see her as human and to understand better why she chooses to be so sinful.

The same way we sometimes do.


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