For Your Consideration: The Five Best and Worst Men of Downton Abbey

Image Courtesy of ITV
Image Courtesy of ITV

For those of us in the States, Downton Abbey is rocketing toward the end of Series 4 with more drama and intrigue than ever. Mary’s list of suitors continues to shuffle about while the other men of Downton deal with lady’s maids who seduce them and having to converse with internationally renowned singers. The world of Downton Abbey is certainly filled with all types of characters and some of the most dapper men on TV these days. But who are the best and worst men of the show? Read below to find out. (Spoilers through episode 5 of series 4)

BEST

Image Courtesy of ITV
Image Courtesy of ITV

5. Lord Grantham

The patriarch and protector of Downton has a tough job. He has opinionated daughters, a strong-willed mother, and an outspoken wife. Throughout the series he’s had to deal with tragically losing his heir (twice) and his daughter as well as a whole heap of drama. While he’s made some boneheaded decisions, he has never not loved his family (both upstairs and down), often surprising them with the depth of his affection. Prime examples include his heartwarming response to learning about Mary’s tryst with Mr. Pamuk and hiring and continually supporting his valet, the crippled Mr. Bates. This leads nicely to…

Image Courtesy of ITV
Image Courtesy of ITV

4. Mr. Bates

I struggled with this one but ultimately couldn’t bear not to include him. The valet stole our hearts with his gentle demeanor and somehow became one of the most desirable men on the show thanks to his sweet relationship with Anna. He has protected those upstairs and down from the machinations of people like Thomas and has come through prison and life as a cripple with his capacity for love and empathy intact. He even helps save Thomas, the guy who has routinely tried to ruin Bates’ life. That alone earns him a spot on this list.

Image Courtesy of ITV
Image Courtesy of ITV

3. Mr. Carson

Carson is like an amusingly stuffy grandfather. He puts on an air of propriety and duty yet underneath it all, he’s got a big heart. He may be a tough on his staff but when someone threatens them, he jumps into protective mode without missing a beat. The constancy of his loyalty and love for the Crawleys, and especially Lady Mary, has even pushed him to set aside his well established boundaries. He became the best voice of reason in bringing Mary out of the depths of grief caused by Matthew’s death, effectively helping to save the estate as well.

Image Courtesy of ITV
Image Courtesy of ITV

2. William Mason

I can already hear the protests about the sympathy vote and I don’t care. William was good and noble to the very last. He steadfastly loved Daisy, wanting her to be taken care of even when he had died. In marrying her, he also helped ensure that his father would not be alone either. Plus he saved Matthew’s life in the war, an act for which everyone in the fandom was very grateful because…

Image Courtesy of ITV
Image Courtesy of ITV

1. Matthew Crawley

There’s really no other option here. Matthew was sweet, handsome, kind and generous. He may have started out a bit self-righteous and reverted back during the whole Lavina debacle but on the whole he was perfect. In addition to saving Downton from ruin and serving heroically in the war, he also tamed Mary’s prickly heart and brought out the best in her, a feat arguably more difficult than any of his other achievements.

Honorable mentions: Dr. Clarkson and Tom Branson

Clarkson is intelligent, sympathetic and humble. He is unfailingly sweet to Isobel (just get together already!) and never passes up an opportunity to help those in need. Plus if he’d been allowed, he probably could have saved Sybil’s life.

Branson’s helped bring Downton and the Crawleys back from the brink of bankruptcy and eternal snobbery, and he is utterly adorable with little Sybbie. However, he also slept with Edna (albeit after she got him drunk) and once abandoned his pregnant wife to go on the run after some political protesting went wrong.

 

WORST

Image Courtesy of ITV
Image Courtesy of ITV

5. Sir Anthony Strallan

He may not measure up to the rest of the men on this list but Sir Anthony does deserve to be here. Not only did he twice spurn the already unlucky-in-love Edith, but the second time he did it by abandoning her on their wedding day. He may have been significantly older and therefore presumably wiser than Edith but his refusal to fight for their relationship in the face of critics (cough Robert cough) made him wholly unworthy of her. Still, no girl deserves to be jilted at the altar.

Image Courtesy of ITV
Image Courtesy of ITV

4. Richard Carlisle

Temperamental and power hungry, Carlisle sees everyone as a means to an end. He uses Mary’s secret about Mr. Pamuk to force her into an engagement and only helps others when it exponentially benefits him. Sure you can argue that Mary treated him poorly but the guy still lived and breathed blackmail. He preyed on the vulnerable in order to get ahead and was so dreadful, even Carson’s love for Mary could not persuade the butler to move to the couple’s planned estate and work for Carlisle.

3. Lord Grantham

For all of you who railed when you saw his name on the “Best” list, here’s your justice. Despite having many good qualities, Robert also nearly has an affair with a maid, almost lost the estate several times, is persistently snobbish and superior, and regularly too afraid of change to make the right decision. He was also likely, though not purposefully, a major cause of Sybil’s death. If it weren’t for people like Cora, the Dowager Countess, Matthew and Mary, Downton and the family would be in ruin because of Robert. It’s his ability to be such a good man one minute and disappointingly idiotic the next that gives him places on both lists.

Image Courtesy of ITV
Image Courtesy of ITV

2. Thomas Barrow

It is not just Thomas’ general nastiness but rather his absolute refusal to ever change his ways that makes him so awful. He has lied, cheated, stolen and even let himself get shot in the hand to get what he wanted. He is so reviled that when he was nearly cast out from Downton for mistakenly making a move on Jimmy, no one truly came to his aid except for Mr. Bates. Thomas’ response? To go back to being as spiteful as ever, including causing trouble for the Bateses. The resident prince of smirks nearly made the top spot if not for…

Image Courtesy of ITV
Image Courtesy of ITV

1. Mr. Green

This should go without saying. The valet to Lord Gillingham attacked and raped Anna downstairs while the rest of the household was enjoying a concert upstairs. Prior to that, he deliberately bated her into spending time with him, later using those instances as justification for his attack against her. He caused the eternally sweet Anna to feel “dirty” and viewers to feel consumed with rage and sadness. While some will argue that his lack of screen time disqualifies him from consideration, the severity of his actions make him an exception and earn him the number one slot on the “Worst” list.

Honorable mention: Kemal Pamuk

It felt unfair to list him in the top five because, well, he dies right after he’s introduced. But he’s worth a mention because in the brief span we knew him he seduced Mary and blackmailed Thomas (which might actually work in his favor, come to think of it). In his death, Mr. Pamuk was a frequent obstacle between the union of Matthew and Mary before she finally came clean and Matthew, charmingly, didn’t forgive her (he said there was nothing to forgive). If the Turkish diplomat had just kept his fly zipped much of the drama of the following seasons could have been avoided, and we might have gotten much more time with a happily together Matthew and Mary.

Do you agree with my list? Who do you think are the best and worst men of Downton Abbey?

Stephanie Coats
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