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Downton’s Dicey Downstairs Dandy Seeks Impossible Cure

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An old saying warns, “No matter where you run, you will find yourself there.” Downton Abbey’s gay under-butler, Thomas Barrow, is running as fast as he can away from his homosexual orientation. But once he stops running, guess what Thomas will see reflected in the first mirror into which he looks: a breathless, not-so-young, male homosexual.

Played by hyphenate heartthrob, Rob James-Collier, under-butler Thomas Barrow, has been the Snidely Whiplash of Downton Abbey, from the get-go. With dark, smoldering looks, a winning, but treacherous, smile, and venomous intentions, Mr. Barrow is, and always has been, Downton’s duplicitous, downstairs dandy with upstairs ambitions.

In other words, in this Abbey, he is the man you love to hate, as well as the babe you long to bed. His smoldering good looks notwithstanding, Mr. Barrow has been as luckless between the sheets, as he has been at social climbing.

This season, Thomas is hell-bent on changing his same gender sexual orientation. Not unlike former Olympian Bruce Jenner, Downton’s under-butler is desperate to transition. Whereas, the real-life Mr./Ms. Jenner’s transformation will most likely meet with success, the fictional Mr. Barrow’s recreation as a heterosexual is doomed to fail.

But how can you blame him from trying? Well into DA’s fifth season, Mr. Barrow has yet to find a shred of happiness – not upstairs, nor downstairs, not even on the landing. Over and again, his dastardly deeds have backfired, causing him, and everyone else, grief.

Edward Speleers Underwear
Before arriving at Downton as Jimmy, actor Ed Speelers did some modeling.

For a while, in Season Three, Thomas Barrow briefly believed he had found a kindred spirit in Downton’s young, new foot man, Jimmy, a handsome, young blond, and certainly not the series most macho man.

But Jimmy’s pretty looks and fey mannerisms were cloaking his inner heterosexual. When Tom tried seducing Jimmy in his bed, the lad reacted with disgust, and all hell broke loose.

Rob James Collier and Ed Speeler 2
Thomas and Jimmy in their work clothes.

Now don’t get me wrong. Mr. Barrow savors pandemonium, but only when he is observing it from a safe distance, gloating as he watches his hapless victims twisting in the wind. The failed seduction of Jimmy, along with its subsequent furor, almost cost Thomas his job.

Miss OBrien
Barrow’s only Downton friend and co-conspirator, maid Miss Sarah O’Brien, left the series after Season Four

The unctuous under-butler’s only friend, and his co-conspirator at Downton, was Sarah O’Brien, a scheming maid, cut from the same cloth as the conniving Mr. Butler. But Miss O’Brien left at the end of last season. And Jimmy departed at the beginning of this one. O’Brien’s departure clearly sealed Barrow’s fate as an outcast – the abbey’s very odd man out.

Alone and lonely, friendless, Thomas Barrow blamed his life’s ills on his homosexuality.

That’s why, this season, set somewhere in the 1920s, Downton’s dark dandy is desperate to recreate himself as a heterosexual.

Most recently, Thomas has tried to eradicate his sexual orientation with mysterious drugs and painful injections.

But instead of transforming Mr. Barrow into a skirt chasing Lothario, the so-called treatments has made him pasty looking and sick.

But what really causes Thomas Barrow to be an embittered, empty, and evil man? Why does DA’s gay under-butler make Peter Pan’s Captain Hook, and Dallas’s J.R., appear benign in comparison?

Perhaps it was the choice made by Rob James-Collier, the actor who plays him. As James-Collier has put it: “I really wanted to get down to why Thomas is like he is. For me, I made the choice it was his sexuality. You wake up every morning and your religion is telling you you’re condemned. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of men like Thomas did do this, because what was the alternative?” Then answering his own question, Rob James-Collier, adds, “There wasn’t one.”

And how does DA’s Writer-Creator, Julian Fellowes view Barrow’s most recent endeavor? “He falls for the quackery that this can be cured,” Fellowes has opined. “He believes that he can get rid of this dumbbell he is dragging around with him. His fortitude takes him through a period of incredible physical discomfort for an impossible result.”

Rob James Collier shirtless
No matter where Thomas Barrow runs, the man in his mirror will be gay.

As for yours truly, I return you to my starting point: No matter how far, or how fast, Mr. Barrow runs, and regardless of where he goes, Downton’s gay under-butler will find himself there, and the man he sees reflected in the mirror, will still be a homosexual.

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