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He Said, She Said Review Site
Downtown Abbey

Downton Abbey: Series 3

What She said:


The world of Downton Abbey will never be the same—at least not after series/season 3 of this critically acclaimed program.  The first series introduced us to the aristocratic Crawley family, reeling because they didn’t have a proper heir to inherit the estate and their fortune.  This pushed Matthew Crawley into focus as the distant cousin twice removed who would surely take it all if the eldest daughter did not marry right.  Of course, their service staff have their own slice of drama; competition for jobs, romances, scandal.  

Series 2 followed the family into the chaos of World War I.  Matthew and several of the downstairs crew head off to battle.  Some survive, some don’t, and love continues to blossom all around.  There was a lot of controversy about the absurdity of Matthew’s paralyzed state, but that sets things up for him to ultimately become engaged to Lavinia Swire.  Of course, the wrecking ball of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 hits, and lives are forever changed.  A love is reaffirmed with an extra special Christmas special and that brings us up to series 3, which premiered in the fall in the UK and will premiere in the U.S. this month. 

Series 3 follows the Crawleys starting in the year 1920.  Things seem to be going pretty well.  The eldest Crawley sister, Mary, is set to marry Matthew (money saved), and the youngest, Sybil, is paving her own way as the wife of the former family chauffeur, and a revolutionary Irishman, Tom Branson.  She’s even pregnant!  But the Crawley world quickly begins to crumble, as usual.  Tensions continue between Branson and the family, middle-child Edith pursues a relationship and is ultimately jilted at the altar, Mary and Mathew struggle to become pregnant, and the Crawley family’s finances are falling apart.  You can credit Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham for the money woes.  He’s made some faulty railroad investments.  Things are no less dramatic downstairs.  There’s a new footman and a pretty little helper in the kitchen who Daisy initially despises out of jealousy.  Anna also struggles to get Bates exonerated from his conviction for the murder of his late wife.  In the meantime, he’s stuck in dank and depressing prison, where his cell mates don’t play nice with him.  Ultimately, with Anna’s hard work, Bates is finally set free and the two of them are reunited in wedded bliss.

This season has its share of dire tragedies, mostly involving the Crawley family.  I won’t elaborate on any of them, but let’s just say there is more than one death.  It’s heart wrenching. 

And that brings me to where we go from here.  I have no idea.  There was a lot of criticism of series 2, many saying that things just got too unbelievable.  I never really had a problem with it.  Let’s face the fact here—the show was far-fetched from day one.  I mean, all the heirs die in the sinking of the Titanic.  Need I say more.  Series 3 leaves us with a lot of questions.  With so much despair both upstairs and downstairs, how can Downton survive? 

Downtown Abbey

While, overall, I found series 3 to be a bit more engaging than series 2, this season was not without its flaws.  Now that Matthew and Mary are together, I kind of want them to be apart.  Mary has reverted to her formerly snobby self, and Matthew seems too love struck to notice.  Also, I much prefer Anna and Bates apart than together.  Maybe it’s all about the thrill of the chase, but I find both couples exceedingly annoying when things are all chummy for them.  One other complaint from this season was the downplay of Violet’s character.  If anything, we need to be giving Maggie Smith more, not less.  By the end of the season she seems like the comic relief for the program, relegated to making one-liners rather than adding to the complexity of the plot.  Too boring for this wonderful lady.

Now to the things I did like.  Well, Lady Edith is growing her own wings.  This is refreshing because, while she’s still not a particularly pleasant person, at least she’s improving herself in some way.  Resigned to becoming a spinster, Edith takes on the role of an opinion writer for a newspaper.  Of course, her older and very married editor begins to make eyes at her.  This becomes a fun development of series 3.  I also liked the development of Branson’s character.  He begins to take on adult responsibility as he becomes a father.  However, I’m hopeful that he’ll still tap into his rebel side at some point during series four.  Let’s hope that the pressures of conforming to the Crawley way-of-life haven’t drained all the fire out of him.  The two new footman are fun to watch bicker.  They’re like a couple of competitive young teenagers continually fighting over the attention of girls.  There’s a bit of a plot twist where O’Brien begins to turn on Thomas, and this is a welcome change from their typical teaming up for evil doings.  However, I’m still not sure how I feel about Thomas’ growing into a somewhat better person.  Too little, too late, and too self-serving?

As usual, the costumes, hair, makeup, and scenery of Downton Abbey are spectacular.  Everything, upstairs and downstairs, just smells so rich.  This show has always had grade A cinematography and a wonderful musical score, especially considering the fact that it’s just a TV program.  Whereas we so often get away with the production value of a program like Once Upon a Time, Downton Abbey takes it to a level above and beyond that. 

Is series 3 what series 1 was?  No.  But, even when Downton Abbey is not at its best, it’s still more engrossing than 95 percent of the television programs out there.  Plus, what do you have to lose?  It’s only 8 episodes and a Christmas special—not a huge time investment of time with a pretty substantial payoff.

Thumbs up.