Even though I’m super glad that Downton Abbey 2 will be released on December 22, 2021, the fact that actor Max Brown won’t be returning as Thomas Barrow’s love interest Richard Ellis is disappointing.
When the first Downton Abbey film was released back in September of 2019, audiences loved the focus on the queer storyline featuring Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) getting to meet Richard Ellis. He even helped get Thomas out of prison after the Crawleys’ butler decided to visit an underground queer bar. Not only that, before leaving Downton with the Royal Staff, Richard gave Thomas a pendant and they said goodbye with a kiss.
So, of course, when the sequel to the Downton Abbey film was recently announced, fans were looking forward to seeing Thomas and Richard’s relationship continue. However, it looks like Richard won’t be returning after all.
Fans of the franchise, including myself, tweeted at actor Max Brown concerning his involvement. He was considerate enough to reply that he wasn’t asked to return.
After seeing Thomas live a lonely life, in a romantic sense, during the six seasons of the Downton Abbey series, having Richard be part of his storyline in the film was a pleasant offering. Even though fans knew the two couldn’t “really” be together, at least, the prospect of the two being able to share a connection of some kind, if a sequel ever happened, was calming. But turns out, Julian Fellowes has other plans for Thomas in the upcoming sequel.
In a sense, Thomas and Richard not being together isn’t too surprising if you’re already aware of Thomas’s original storyline from the first film. For those who don’t know, according to Michael Engler, who directed the Downton Abbey movie, Thomas was supposed to call Richard only to have his wife answer the phone. Even though it made sense for Richard to be married, especially being a member of the Royal Staff during that time, the creative team decided to cut said scene from the film to leave Thomas with “some hope and optimism” after Richard’s departure.
While I was expecting this particular thread to continue in Downton Abbey 2, with Thomas feeling confused about his connection with Richard after realizing he’s married, I wouldn’t be surprised if the sequel shows Thomas trying to move on and only mention Richard having a wife in a throwaway line.
Also, during a 2019 interview with NewNowNext, when asked if Thomas could reunite with Richard, Julian Fellowes answered, “To be honest, I haven’t really started thinking about all that kind of thing. [Laughs]. I certainly see Thomas Barrow being in it because I think he’s one of the fundamental characters of the show, so on some level or another we would be continuing his story.”
Pairing Fellowes’s answer with what Engler shared, I think it’s safe to assume that Thomas forming a bond with Richard in the first movie was supposed to be a one-and-done deal even though the final version of the film cut the original scene Engler talked about.
If I try to be optimistic about the current situation, at least, Thomas visiting the nearby underground bar showed him that there were numerous queer people around. He just has to find a way to interact with them. So, maybe he will already have someone when the sequel comes around?
My headcanon involves Thomas falling in love with a local produce guy who always brings a bunch of flowers or a tasty little organic snack for Thomas with each delivery to the Crawley household. Fingers crossed my headcanon becomes canon.
Also, the upcoming sequel has cast Hugh Dancy (Hannibal) along with a couple of new additions. We don’t have details about Dancy’s character yet, but I’m hoping he ends up being a love interest for Thomas.
At least Thomas and Richard will continue to live on in fanfic. As of writing this, AO3 has more than 400 works focusing on the two characters.
Feel free to share your thoughts about Downton Abbey 2 with us.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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