Poor Thomas Barrow. Season 6 has not been kind to Downton Abbey’s under-butler and the only gay in the village. Nobody likes him, he’s barely got a job and he never gets laid. Can he possibly redeem himself before the series finale, Sunday March 6?
It’s hard to see how. We count 25 distinct sins Barrow (memorably played by Rob James-Collier) has to answer for.
Sure, he got dirty searching for the Crawley family dog; saved sad daughter Edith from a conveniently-timed fire; and he plays nice with the kids in the nursery.
He’s also gay, so we want him to succeed and overcome the kind of prejudice maybe we’ve endured. And finally get some, for God’s sake.
But will it be enough to avoid the horrible end he really does deserve?
We look for clues among these, the many sins of Mr Barrow:
1. Season 1, April 1912
Downton’s very first episode establishes then-footman Barrow as an ambitious schemer, twice over. When he’s in jeopardy of being passed over to be Lord Grantham’s valet for limping vet Bates, he convinces Grantham that Bates is literally too lame for the job.
2. April 1912
Meanwhile, he blackmails the handsome young Duke of Crowborough, who he’d hooked up with at Downton one summer, to be hired as the Duke’s valet. But the aristocrat steals back incriminating letters Thomas was holding and destroys them, and Grantham hires weeping Anna’s future husband Bates anyway because there’s just something about Barrow.
3. March 1913
Thomas’ sin on maybe Downton’s wildest night was hitting on a hot Turkish diplomat, who threatens to reveal the servant’s indiscretion unless Thomas hooks him up with Lady Mary. After promising exotic pleasures, the Turk dies in Mary’s bed, loyalties are tested, and a confused Barrow finds the dead man back in his own room. Left out again.
4. May 1913
Clueless Daisy has a crush on Barrow, who leads her on just to spite footman William, who likes Daisy, and to bait Bates. Bates threatens to beat him up, but Barrow is unmoved, smirks. He’s not making any friends.
Thomas is revealed as a thief and maybe a drinker when he’s caught by Bates in the wine cellar. Thomas retaliates with grim accomplice O’Brien by planting Lord Grantham’s snuff box on Bates. Treacherous!
6. May 1914
Thomas is still on the wine thing almost a year later, now framing Bates for the missing bottles with still-clueless Daisy’s help. This reveals Mr Carson to be a former drunkard. Servants! They’re just like us.
7. July 1914
First Barrow is caught stealing from Mr Carson’s wallet, then he ridicules the staff for being sympathetic after Lady Grantham has a miscarriage. William punches him.
8. August 1914
It’s War! so Barrow selflessly enlists. Faker.
9. Season 2, November 1916
After tea with Downton heir Matthew Crawley at the front, Barrow gets his hand shot off because he’s a coward. Or is suffering from PTSD, because maybe Barrow has a soul.
10. April 1917
Thomas is back from war and working at the village hospital. When he falls in love with a blind lieutenant, the lieutenant commits suicide. Can’t get a break.
11. April 1919
At war’s end, Thomas tries profiteering but goes bust because he’s criminal and incompetent. Back at the Abbey, he plays the vet card and returns as footman. Look out, valets.
12. December 1919
With Bates on trial for murder, Barrow makes a move to take his job, but Lord Grantham rejects him, again. So Barrow kidnaps the family dog to play the hero when he “finds” her. So sad.
13. Season 3, March 1920
O’Brien’s nephew Alfred joins the staff, and Barrow is delighted, until he’s looked over again and Alfred is promoted Matthew Crowley’s valet. What fresh hell is this?! Barrow plots O’Brien’s demise, spreads ugly rumors.
14. May 1920
New footman Jimmy is Thomas’ next object of affection. This can’t end well.
It doesn’t. O’Brien exacts her own revenge when she implies Jimmy likes Thomas, so Thomas creeps on Jimmy in bed, just as Alfred walks in. Gross! Humiliated again.
16. September 1921
A day at the fair finds Barrow following a drunk Jimmy, Yes! Until Jimmy is rolled and Thomas takes a beating for him. At least it’s human contact.
17. Season 4, February 1922
Barrow curries favor with Lady Grantham when he sabotages wicked nanny Miss West because it takes one to know one.
18. May 1922
Barrow squeezes Lady Grantham’s new lady’s maid Baxter to do his bidding, threatens to reveal criminal past.
19. Summer 1923
Barrow witnesses former chauffeur Tom in a compromising position with common agitator Sarah Bunting, snitches to Lord Grantham.
20. Season 5, February 1924
Barrow rats out Baxter to Lady Grantham, is rebuffed for his duplicity. Suddenly, a fire! Lady Edith burns bedroom, Barrow saves her, and himself.
21. May 1924
Barrow looks sick, what’s wrong? He’s taking meds to cure the gay away. Does he have your sympathy yet?
22. Season 6, May 1925
With Downton streamlining, Barrow sees the writing on the wall and takes an interview at a decrepit estate. It’s not nice enough.
23. May 1925
Barrow outs a luncheon guest as a former Downton servant, right in the drawing room! Not appropriate.
24. May 1925
Also, he keeps creeping on new footman Andy, who is super-obviously not interested. Or maybe he just can’t read? The latter. Barrow can read.
25. June 1925
Barrow and Andy’s secret sessions haven’t gone unnoticed by Mr Carson, whose questioning reduces the under-butler to tears. So mean! Leave Thomas alone! He’s the best.
Or is he?