Thomas Barrow is a character, and the primary antagonist, on the UK-US produced period drama, Downton Abbey. He was played by UK actor, Robert James-Collier.
Very complex servant
Thomas, sometimes called Barrow, was originally the first footman, who had aspired to be a valet. He arrived at Downton Abbey, a castle estate in Yorkshire, England in 1910; but he was under a cloud from his arrival.
He was a gay man who could not live as a gay man, because of the fact that homosexuality was a crime in the UK at that time (a prime example was that of Oscar Wilde being locked up in prison for many years due to that). If he had been caught with any man and being in a relationship, he could have been imprisoned for the rest of his life.
So, because of that, he hid his hurt and pain about not living his life the way he felt he should, under a very cold façade and lashed out at the world by doing the most conniving and treacherous things to both the upstairs and downstairs families.
In the very first episode, he was discovered to have had relations with a man named Philip who happened to be the Duke of Crowborough, during a London season. He then took the love letters that he had written Thomas and threw them in the fireplace, destroying any chance that Thomas had to blackmail him.
His dreams of being a valet were dashed when John Bates, the former personal assistant of the Earl of Grantham during the Boer Wars, would be hired as valet. Thomas was infuriated that he was passed over by a crippled man (he derisively called Bates "Long John Silver") and would do anything to try to get him sacked. During the first episode, he reveled in seeing him fall on his face (with the aide of scheming lady's maid, Sarah O'Brien, who had kicked his walking stick out from underneath him).
He would steal a bottle of wine and tried to get Bates blamed for it, but he failed. He then also tormented William Mason, the second footman, by playing on his affections for Daisy Mason, the kitchen maid at that time, and flirted with her, knowing that she liked William. He also taunted him after his mother's death which led to William nearly beating Thomas to a pulp.
He had few friends, and often used the various lady's maids to Cora Crawley to elicit information about the family which he could use to his own evil advantage. He was nearly caught for stealing when Joseph Molesley, the butler and valet to the Crawley family's cousin, Isobel Crawley Grey, caught him trying to steal Charles Carson's wallet out of his topcoat. This nearly sealed Barrow's fate as he would have been most certainly sacked for theft. In fact, Robert Crawley and Carson were discussing on whether he should be canned.
During the second season, he went into the army, and inflicted a blighty which was enough for him to return to Downton as a Lance Corporal Sergeant, in charge of Downton when it was a convalescent home. Barrow walking in the front door really unnerved his former superior, Carson, as he resented Thomas and felt he really should have been sacked.
During the third season, Thomas lost his friend, O'Brien, as she became more interested in helping her nephew, Alfred Nugent get his bearings as the new footman, which aggravated Thomas. This certainly ended their friendship and they were always one upping one another.
Thomas was caught in new footman James Kent's room as he kissed him. Earlier, he had been taunted into thinking that he was interested in Jimmy and vice versa. Carson found that out, and confronted Thomas on what he was doing. Thomas calmly told Carson that he was not foul, although Carson would not like it.
Although James and Alfred wanted to see Thomas canned, he would remain as Under-butler, and even the two footmen understood it.
While he was very treacherous and scheming, he did have redeeming qualities. He crossed swords with a woman named Miss West, who was the nanny to the recently born children, Sybbie Branson and George Crawley. He was resentful of the way she was mistreating Sybbie (his concern for the children was due to the closeness he had with their respective mothers, the late Lady Sybil Branson and Lady Mary Crawley) because the nasty nanny would leave her to her own devices, and would not feed her properly. She would later be sacked due to Thomas after he made it clear that she was neglecting the children.
In the fifth season, he was again almost sacked when it was revealed to Cora that he had hired a former criminal as her lady's maid, and was willing to use her past against her. However, he would again avert disaster, when he would selflessly save Lady Edith Pelham from sure death in a fire which destroyed her room.
Thomas's attempt to bully Baxter, the aforementioned lady's maid, would meet with resistance by Molesley, who was interested in her. Thomas' pain was building up, and after yet another confrontation with Carson, he would sit by himself and cry.
In the final season, he is shown to have a great relationship with the children, and would play with them. He was especially close to George, whom the little boy considered his best friend and favorite servant. However, Thomas, very unhappy, would later attempt suicide. To keep scandal out of the house, it was told that he had the flu.
In the final episode, Thomas would temporarily leave Downton to work for another family, but he hated it. He would return to Downton and would later become the new butler, as Carson would finally retire due to the palsy. By this time, Barrow realized how far he had come from a conniving footman in the first seasons.
However, in the end, Thomas would become more and more friendly, and he would become nicer. It was shown that Thomas realized that he was loved, and gay or not, he would be very content.
When homosexuality was decriminalized in 1967, he would have, doubtless, been one of the champions of that cause. Sadly, he would not have been alive when Same-sex marriage would have been legalized in 2014, as he would have probably died in the late 1970s or early 1980s.