Let’s Talk About Thomas Barrow’s Queer Story In “Downton Abbey 2: A New Era”

Downton Abbey 2 trailer A New Era
Thomas and new love interest in ‘Downton Abbey 2: A New Era’ (Screengrab: Trailer)

A whole lot of fans have been wondering about how Thomas Barrow will be handled in Downton Abbey 2: A New Era. Well, in my opinion, Barrow’s storyline in the sequel was okay even if it wasn’t as satisfying as I had hoped.

This article includes major spoilers concerning Thomas Barrow’s arc in Downton Abbey 2. Consider yourself warned.

We last saw Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier) in 2019’s Downton Abbey motion picture. Set in 1927, that particular movie had Thomas meet Richard Ellis (Max Brown). The two grew romantically close, but the final moments had Richard needing to leave Downton. With news that Richard won’t be returning for the sequel, fans were understatedly concerned about Thomas’ romantic life.

Downton Abbey 2: A New Era, still set in the late 1920s (from what I could gather), gave an answer about what happened to Thomas and Richard’s romance while also providing Thomas with a new love interest.

The latest Downton Abbey film had a scene where Thomas opened up to Mrs. Carson (Phyllis Logan) about a letter he had recieved from Richard. It’s revealed that Richard wrote to Thomas about getting married to a woman soon. I think the entire scene was handled quite well. Considering the times the story’s set in, queer men getting married to women to remain part of society was expected. I liked how Mrs. Carson told Thomas that he couldn’t be angry at Richard for making such a decision and Thomas understood the reality of the situation.

While the Downton Abbey TV series has had Thomas go through a whole lot of trouble when trying to accept his sexuality, the current version of Thomas was the type of gay man who didn’t want to hide his true self. He too could have settled down with a woman, but Thomas has always wanted more in life, even if the chances of getting what he wanted were next to none. In a sense, being accepting of his sexuality and living alone was more important to Thomas than trying to suppress his identity by marrying another woman and appearing straight.

Fortunately, things changed for Thomas due to actor Guy Dexter (Dominic West) arriving at the estate to shoot a film. Guy trying to flirt with an emotionally walled-up Thomas made for some interesting moments. You could tell that Thomas was being very careful about jumping back into romance after what had happened with Richard.

But Guy was more or less relentless (in a non-creepy way) in his pursuit of Thomas. Guy outright offered Thomas a job as his assistant and possibly more, if Thomas was interested in making things romantic. I laughed when Guy told Thomas that he didn’t have a wife to look after him and Thomas could fill said role. I get that two guys being a couple doesn’t make them “husband” and “wife”, but considering the era, Guy asking Thomas to be his “wife” was basically Guy asking Thomas to marry him.

Near the end of the movie, Thomas decided to leave Downton to be with Guy with the narrative more or less telling viewers that Thomas got his happy ending.

While I liked Guy as a romantic interest for Thomas, I think the movie could have done a bit more to develop their relationship. The entire ordeal felt like a “love-at-first-sight” type of thing from Guy’s perspective. At least the previous movie had Thomas and Richard spend some time together as friends before turning their relationship romantic.

Even though Guy and Thomas didn’t really spend time getting to know more about each other, we did get a scene where Guy told Thomas that he didn’t believe in hiding who he was and what people thought. I think the narrative wanted viewers to see that Guy’s openness (with respect to that particular time) is what attracted Thomas to him.

There was also a moment where Thomas offered some support when Guy, a silent film actor, was worried about the growing popularity of talking films. Guy also told Thomas his real name.

Either way, I do feel the two could have still benefited from a few more scenes getting to know each other. They didn’t even share a little kiss or anything. So, seeing Guy wanting Thomas to leave Downton to go and live with him in America felt a bit weird to me. It was as if Thomas was saying yes to taking a huge gamble with his life. What if things didn’t work out between the two men? Would Thomas have to return to Downton or fend for himself in America?

Having said that, I doubt the weirdness was intentional by screenwriter Julian Fellowes. I think Fellowes just wanted to give Thomas a happy ending and having him leave Downton with a rich and popular movie actor was the way to do it.

When Thomas told Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) about his resignation, we got a well-written scene where Mary wished him good luck in the cruel world they lived in. Thomas was accepted at Downton. But for him to find a chance at love, he had to leave and explore elsewhere. And Guy was ready to give him just that.

With how everything ended in Downton Abbey 2: A New Era, if we do get a third installment (even though I feel it’s not needed), I doubt Thomas will return. He got what he wanted. And I think we can continue to imagine him being happy even if the film series continued. Unless Fellowes makes Thomas go through some intense breakup drama that forces him to reapply for a job at Downton.

If it were up to me, I would have the third installment feature some of the Crawleys going to visit America and deciding to drop by Guy’s estate which would give them (and the audience) the opportunity to see a happy Thomas still living with Guy.

Anyway, my headcanon was Thomas falling in love with a local produce guy in Downton with their romance involving said man bringing flowers and little treats for Thomas during his deliveries. Oh well, you can’t have it all. Sigh!

While the film has been released in a bunch of territories, US residents will be able to watch it come May 20, 2022.

Feel free to share your thoughts on Thomas Barrow’s journey with us. 

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

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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2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Thomas Barrow’s Queer Story In “Downton Abbey 2: A New Era”

  1. We saw the film yesterday, and I also wished that they had developed the relationship a bit more. A kiss, holding hands, sneaking out of each other’s quarters? Seemed weird for Thomas to give up the career he had worked at for so long with someone he didn’t know. I like to think he will be happy though.

    1. Yes, the two should have been shown spending more time together and getting to know each other. However, having rewatched the film twice now… I have a feeling that Guy and Thomas not being allowed to get too close to show physical affection might be due to certain COVID protocols and the crew filming those scenes first… I say this because the scenes where they are alone and interacting with each other had the two maintain a couple of feet of distance for some reason (which I think were filmed earlier)… except for that one scene in Thomas’ office where Guy tells him to come to America with him (which was filmed after and certain protocols were eased).

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