After a misunderstanding, O’Brien inadvertantly caused the death of Cora’s unborn son, and changed the Crawleys’ future once more. But despite O’Brien’s oily persona, she hasn’t forgiven herself for what she’s done.
“She is very much living with that guilt,” said Finneran. “That manifests itself in the fact that she becomes completely and utterly Cora’s protector. She won’t let anybody get anywhere near her… If O’Brien feels that Cora’s existence is being marred by anybody or anything, O’Brien will go out and do her damnedest to stop what she sees as a problem.”
Finneran added: “She’s much softer in the respect that she looks after Cora. She also shows kindness to a new footman who comes to the house who is struggling with shell shock, but she’s the only one who really sees that. If she’s aware of the new people who are coming in… she knows how they are going to affect her and her life in the house. But she is very aware that this man is suffering and looks out for him, really.”
Meanwhile, O’Brien and Thomas (Rob James-Collier), the dastardly duo of Downton, have been split up after Thomas left his post as footman. “She misses Thomas very much because he was an ally,” said Finneran. “But I think he was a friend as well. She would confide in him. Not everything, but quite a lot.”