Review: Downton Abbey – Series 3

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Lord Grantham and Co. are back
in town, and the start of the
series finally wrapped up that
will-they-won’t-they saga, with
Matthew and Mary tying the knot.
Thing is, that was kind of the point
– now that the Earl’s daughter has
married the heir the mansion stays
in the family and everybody’s happy.
Surely, no more programme?
But never fear, his lordship has
suddenly lost all his money, so they
might all get turfed out after all.
Meanwhile, Matthew’s about to
unexpectedly inherit an equally
huge fortune, something he’s making
rather a habit of. But will he or
won’t he use it to save Downton?
Well we’ve got all series to find out.
Despite this looming disaster,
it’s largely business as usual: there
are random downstairs subplots
and incredibly one-dimensional
downstairs characters – evil Thomas
continues being evil and new
valet Alfred’s only notable attribute
seems to be being tall. There’s
still plenty of clunky, anachronistic
dialogue: Sir Strallen casually
greets Lady Edith, ‘how’s it going?’
and there are scores of implausible
plot twists: an evil house guest
slips Tom a drug that forces him to
rant angrily about English repression
– an odd thing to carry around
in one’s dinner jacket.
But there’s also some new features:
my personal highlight being
Fellowes’ forays into sexual
references, resulting in some hideously
awkward lines: Matthew:
“I’m looking forward to all sorts
of things”, Mary: “Don’t make me
blush”. (Yes it seems Lady Mary has
come over all demure lately – you’d
think a woman who’s driven a Turkish
diplomat to his death with her
passionate throes would be a little
harder to embarrass).
Everyone is still insisting on telling
us what year it is, but there’s
the newly added feature of reiterating
their nationality every five
minutes, too: “I’m an American,
and it’s 1920”. Yes the roaring twenties
have arrived – well, maybe not
quite roaring – “Can I tempt you to
one of these exciting new cocktails
grandmama?” “No, thank you, they
look a little too exciting for me.”
And, maybe this was just me, but
was there a hint of sexual tension
when Shirley serenaded old Maggie
at the end there? Well, it is 1920.
There’s also the touching story of
Mrs Hughes’ possible development
of cancer, though this led to a rather
rapid change of tone at the end
of episode two, as the housekeeper
came over all Beckettian: “One day I
will die, and so will he, and you and
every one of us under this roof.”
Steady on, guys. We don’t come
to Downton to reflect on the ultimate
futility of all human endeavour
in the face of mortality;
we come for the yards of lace and
beads, the evil footmen, the dodgy
character development and Maggie
Smith’s eyebrows. Parade’s End
it ain’t – but a girl can only take so
much sophisticated and thought
provoking Edwardian drama per
season.

Lord Grantham and Co. are back in town, and the start of the series finally wrapped up that will-they-won’t-they saga, with Matthew and Mary tying the knot.Thing is, that was kind of the point- now that the Earl’s daughter has married the heir the mansion stays in the family and everybody’s happy. Surely, no more programme? But never fear, his lordship has suddenly lost all his money, so they might all get turfed out after all. Meanwhile, Matthew’s about to unexpectedly inherit an equally huge fortune, something he’s making rather a habit of. But will he or won’t he use it to save Downton? Well we’ve got all series to find out.

Despite this looming disaster, it’s largely business as usual: there are random downstairs subplots and incredibly one-dimensional downstairs characters – evil Thomas continues being evil and new valet Alfred’s only notable attribute seems to be being tall. There’s still plenty of clunky, anachronistic dialogue: Sir Strallen casually greets Lady Edith, ‘how’s it going?’ and there are scores of implausible plot twists: an evil house guest slips Tom a drug that forces him to rant angrily about English repression – an odd thing to carry around in one’s dinner jacket.

But there are also some new features, my personal highlight being Fellowes’ forays into sexual references, resulting in some hideously awkward lines: Matthew: “I’m looking forward to all sorts of things”, Mary: “Don’t make me blush”. (Yes it seems Lady Mary has come over all demure lately – you’d think a woman who’s driven a Turkish diplomat to his death with her passionate throes would be a little harder to embarrass). Everyone is still insisting on telling us what year it is, but there’s the newly added feature of reiterating their nationality every five minutes, too: “I’m an American,and it’s 1920”. Yes the roaring twenties have arrived – well, maybe not quite roaring – “Can I tempt you to one of these exciting new cocktails grandmama?” “No, thank you, they look a little too exciting for me.” And, maybe this was just me, but was there a hint of sexual tension when Shirley serenaded old Maggie at the end there? Well, it is 1920.

There’s also been the touching story of Mrs Hughes’ possibly suffering from breast cancer, although this led to a rather rapid change of tone at the end of episode two, as the housekeeper came over all Beckettian: “One day I will die, and so will he, and you and every one of us under this roof.” Steady on, guys. We don’t come to Downton to reflect on the ultimate futility of all human endeavour in the face of mortality; we come for the yards of lace and beads, the evil footmen, the dodgy character development and Maggie Smith’s eyebrows. Parade’s End it ain’t – but a girl can only take so much sophisticated and thought-provoking Edwardian drama per season.

 

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