One of the best characters in Downton Abbey: A New Era remains the unforgettable Thomas Barrow. The loyal, passionate, and humble servant-turned-butler of House Crawley was also one of the most complex and intricate characters in the set. Among all the big hats, fancy outfits, and lavish lifestyles on screen, Barrow has always captured attention with her honesty, vulnerability, and strength. Which is why his ending to the final chapter on the big screen is both fitting and richly deserved.
Behind all the stiff upper lips and pent up emotions, Barrow, brilliantly played by Robert James-Collier, was on a seemingly hopeless personal quest for acceptance and love. There is an elusive work of happiness for many, not to mention a gay man in early 20th century England. Mere public awareness of his sexuality was enough to land him in jail. To Barrow, it seemed love was something only to be envied in others.
The latest film from award-winning creator and writer Julian Fellowes has delivered a heartwarming book on the character’s long and complex journey since the show’s pilot episode. The story arc with Barrow began on the heels of heartbreak. Thomas had planned to go to work for a duke, who was also his lover. Unfortunately, the duke planned to marry the rich and quickly abandoned Thomas. He even burned all evidence of his connection to the then footman – a crippling and cruel disappearance from his earliest dreams of love.
While most of the characters in Downton Abbey were able to find love or companionship, the struggles Barrow faced over the desires of the heart left him with little opinion on the kinds of joy others found around him. While the Crawley family came to understand and accept Barrow for who he was, his wants and desires were still ignored and hidden from the eyes of others. That was until he had his own love affair at the end of Hollywood.
Downton Abbey: A New Era sees Thomas Barrow forge a new relationship with dashing movie star Guy Dexter, played by Dominic West. The silent film star is in Yorkshire shooting her latest Hollywood film and is immediately, but subtly, smitten with Barrow. At the end of the film, Barrow has decided to quit the valuable job he worked so hard and long for, serving as head butler at Downton Abbey. The sudden decision to make such life-altering changes came after she agreed to go with Guy under the guise of being his personal assistant rather than his open companion. It’s a lasting solution to living in a world that criminalizes certain types of love.
With Barrow off to travel the world with his new companion, it has come full circle on his journey, from a lowly servant who fiercely rose through the ranks to rule one of Britain’s most important mansions. His professional goals achieved, filling the void in his lonely heart was a just reward for his years of self-sacrifice, devoted to ensuring the happiness of others.
Downton Abbey has always offered a magnificent, if somewhat rosy, portrayal of early 20th century life in the upper echelons of British high society. But one area he continually excelled in was the depth of humanity and emotional range of his characters. Thomas Barrow, always loaded with a bit of attitude and judgment, was also someone the audience could relate to – and stay sympathetic with – even when he was behaving at his worst. This is because the character and his many defense mechanisms were by-products and coping skills of a man forced to live within the harsh confines of English society that neither accepts nor embraces his true self. , which makes Downton Abbey: A New Era a great reward for the public and the character. There was almost a sense of relief when Barrow finally had the chance to enjoy the kind of happiness he had only watched others enjoy by silently standing apart, ready to serve everyone but himself.
To see Barrow’s long-awaited love story for yourself, Downton Abbey: A New Era is in theaters now.
Why Matthew Goode is missing from Downton Abbey: A New Era