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Downton Abbey: A Journey to the Highlands (2012)

Imperfect as it may be, Downton Abbey continues to be the only British series that has excited me to the extent that Julian Fellowes soapy Edwardian drama has. Filled with beloved characters, the Christmas installment was equally lovely but will crush anyone who has been disciplined enough to tune out spoilers.  
 
Lord and Lady Grantham (Hugh Bonnville, Elizabeth McGovern) are preparing to holiday with the cousins of Lord Grantham in Scotland over the Christmas season. Expecting their first child, Mary (Michelle Dockery) is determined to be a part of the family’s traveling party against the objections of her husband, Matthew (Dan Stevens) who thinks his stubborn wife ought to remain behind. Along with Edith (Laura Charmichael), their Grandmother, Countess Grantham (Maggie Smith) and a small party of servants, including Anna and Bates (Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle), the group leaves by train for their journey. Upon arrival in Scotland, the Crawley’s are met again with the wild, forward-thinking Rose (Lily James) who is clashing with her mother to the point of disrupting the trip. Things become complicated when Edith again meets up with the editor who loves her but is caught in circumstances that prevent him from marrying.
Back home in England, Tom Branson (Tom Leech) is looking after the care of the estate along with the assistance of Carson (Jim Carter) and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) who also stayed behind to keep the estate running. Branson finds himself still mourning the death of his beloved wife though he is finally feeling more at ease in the family until his old doubts and awkward feelings rise again with the upset a new member of the household staff causes.
There is something “comforting” in hearing the first strains of Downton Abbey’s theme song. Before even seeing anyone, I was excited at the prospect of the world I was about to be lost to for the next ninety minutes. Then Branson and Baby Sybil appear along with the adorable antics of Mary and Matthew which sets up a terrific show. Opening a year later may seem like another mistake given how determined this series seems to be to pass by milestone moments however knowing all the tears we shed in middle of this season, it seemed appropriate to have a lapse in time. It made the difference in Tom’s character credible and allowed the audience one last moment of beautiful happiness for a character whose world is about to be upended. Settling in for the duration of this review and without further ado, here are my jumbled but fixed thoughts on the episode that put everyone in a bad mood and shook up the very foundation of Downton’s secure existence. Let me tell you, it’s a long way away from that final happy image of the family frolicking on the lawn. (That’s all I’ll say!)
When first I read about the Crawley’s holiday involving travel, I thought that it sounded like a grand time. And it was! How lovely to see them outside of their usual surroundings and meet some of their extended family. If there is a flaw in having to cover two locations (Scotland and the family home), it’d be the edits. It’s not always as smooth a transition as it should be in cutting from one place to the next. It seemed most awkward in the instances when scenes are cut that we then return to. Other than that, this installment was perfect – or the production was. The costuming is again stunning. Cora looks classy as ever, young Rose brings a new look to the fashion and then there is Edith, who looks quite snazzy and seems to be coming into her own. At least, in fashion – the reason for this may be as a result of her editor’s “fortuitous” arrival. If I may divert from the “proper review,” may I just say: Like her or not, Mary has this dude pegged exactly! Anyone with even the slightest bit of intuition would have guessed this and hooray for Matthew getting that dig in about his dress “tails.” Yes, indeed, for once, Edith, you should trust Mary: Gregson is out to “ruin” you, my dear.
Seeing Thomas and Jimmy agree to be “friends” was the low point of the series, leading up to what could be a twisted, immoral subplot that would be the series’ most blatant “icky” move yet. My fingers are crossed that it won’t as it cheapens the integrity of the show. Delights that make up for this is the adorableness of Mr. and Mrs. Bates! It’s so evident how much Bates loves his Anna but never more so than in their impromptu picnic and later, her gift to him is equally poignant. Likewise, there is a tender scene between Robert and Cora ten minutes prior to the end. It’s important to note that there is a sad ending here – what is good and well wasn’t soured for my family since we knew over a month prior to watching it so I had already had my “rant” and disappointment out of my system. Now, I am actually curious to find out what series four will bring. The theme is going to focus on one character according to Fellowes. If it is possible to be upset and satisfied by the direction a script goes in, then I definitely am! Much as I detest what we’ve gone through, the highs and lows of the emotions, this is a gem of a special kind and a program special added to a series that has already so much to praise. From a dramatic standpoint, I understand the writing. The heartbreaks could open up something that we otherwise would never have imagined and for that, I cannot be too harsh on the show. Yet.
(Parental Concerns: Minor flirtations between a married couple is present as is the implication that a married man may carry on a relationship with another woman. One character is seen bleeding out, crushed beneath a car, another takes a harsh beating. Other minor homosexual implications crop up.)

29 comments

  1. This episode... is taking everyone to places I don't like.

    Edith is going to become that man's mistress.
    Thomas/Jimmy is getting too buddy-buddy for my taste.

    And Julian has an incredible out for Matthew, which he does not take -- to have Matthew stay in the Highlands to try and recover Grantham's cousin's estate, as he did Downton. Fellowes is an idiot.

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    1. Don't disagree at all. With that being said, I liked this much better than I thought; I suspect it had to do with my knowing over a month before seeing this what to expect. Still upset at Edith's foolishness (for once listen to your sister!!!).

      As for Matthew, yes it could have been done much differently - and should have! The other day I was reading spoilers on S4 and thought, "um... Charity is NOT going to like this!" :)

      Thomas and Jimmy? Other than ew! (which I did express most vehemently!), what more can be said!?

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    2. I enjoyed it up to the last 2 minutes, then that soured me on the entire thing. =P I guess Edith's stupidity isn't all that surprising, considering she locked lips with a married man in season two!

      You mean the spoilers about finding Mary a love interest? You're right -- DO NOT WANT.

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    3. I can sympathize with you, Charity. Watching it "live" did have to be a shock. We had over a month to prepare for it.

      Edith needs to SHAPE UP. That girl has some serious "issues"! Just saying.

      Yes, that it what I was referring too. I was eagerly reading all about it and thought how mad you'd be at this prospect. Me? I'm kinda' curious. :)

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    4. I knew about it before seeing the episode (tumblr) and so, I sat through the entire thing dreading the end. I still haven't gone back and rewatched it. In some sense, I think for me, the series ended before the Christmas special.

      Why not shift the focus to Edith and find her a handsome young suitor, so she doesn't get stuck being some old guy's mistress? Why does the ENTIRE show have to be about Mary being in love? You don't just get over someone's death like that. You don't just "move" on.

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    5. Oh, good! I'm glad you weren't just sitting there is a state of complete happiness and then completely crushed! For some reason, I thought you hadn't seen the spoiler yet. Super happy to know you weren't; that would have been horrible!

      Don't get me wrong I so want Edith to have an attitude adjustment and stop being written (or set up) as the "bitter sister." Tired of that! It'd be lovely to see her in a relationship that is truly innocent and she is able to love and respect her suitor. I don't foresee, Mary being "over" Matthew that quickly. I suspect she'll struggle with re-marrying but given how much time passes within one series of this show, who knows... season four could span two years!

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    6. No, I knew about it beforehand -- and it still ruined my Christmas. =P

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    7. That is so NOT COOL. Note to Fellowes: Thanks for nothing!

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  2. Someday...I will watch this show. Sorry to hear about bad parts though! :P Hate it when producers feel like they "have" to throw that in.

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    1. Yes, indeed you will, Charity! It's quite a gem. :)

      Sadly, there are a few "bad parts" but the good usually outweighs them. Because of a PC society, it has become "necessary" for writer's to throw these things in... or so they think!

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  3. Replies
    1. Yes, you should check into it, Krysten. Anyone who likes British drama will likely find a treasure in this. :)

      Thank you so much for stopping in - visit again anytime. :)

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  4. I just finished watching the second season today! I wanted to start watching the third but had to restrain myself and do something else! I can hardly wait to watch it though!!

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    1. Yay! So excited for you, Chasity. Hoping you enjoy the third. I know that feeling - being patient with this show is way hard. ;D

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  5. YES! Love me some Downton Abbey!
    xo TJ

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  6. This episode was so different than the rest of the season! I agree, seeing the family and servants out of their element was really neat. I'm also in total agreement when it comes to Thomas and James. I'm desperately hoping they don't take the perverted route. :( And as for the end of this episode... I am still in denial. :'(

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    1. Hey, Rosie! Glad to see you again, girl! :)

      Yes, this installment was different. Loved that the character's got out of their usual surroundings though. It was fun. As for the whole Jimmy/Thomas thing, here's my reaction: EW! Don't know what else to say. :/

      Oh, I hope you recover by the time the fourth series premieres. Given I didn't see this for over a month after knowing the big spoiler, I was able to "deal" with it while watching the episode. Still, it was, obviously terribly sad. Fellowes had better make it up to up in the next season. BIG TIME.

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    2. Glad to be back around! Been so busy. lol

      It's just disgusting, really. Bleh.

      I probably will, but you're right. He REALLY needs to make it up to us. They did kind of leave it open though for the accident to go either way in case (SPOILER)Dan changes his mind and comes back. But it doesn't look good. :(

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    3. Ugh! Know that feeling, Rosie. These last couple of weeks have been different/busier for me. Next week should be normal. :)

      So many of us are hoping Fellowes does something spectacular for S4. He'd better otherwise, I suspect, a lot of fans will drift away. I did read that he doesn't plan on killing anyone off so that is a huge plus. I'm holding him to that. :)

      Spoiler Alert: Ironically, my mother and I were talking about Dan's exit and the possibility of his return. Since it ended right after the accident, yes, he could return given the reaction of fans but as you say, that's VERY unlikely. I am not expecting it in any way but a girl can dream, right!? END

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    4. Hopefully, for me too. Hehe.

      Yeah, that is what's at stake. I hope he doesn't fail us fans. That is good news though, about him not planning on killing anyone in the future. -.- I wish he had promised that for this season... lol

      Yup. *sniff* I can only hope and pray he listens to the mourning fans begging him to return.

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    5. Hope so. I like "normal" weeks. They make me happy. :)

      Oh, gosh, me too, Rosie! Seeing the two pivotal deaths was SO sad. Especially considering they were the two character's that were most lovable. Or I felt like they were. :)

      I hear you! If he had any sense, he would. ;D

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  7. Is this the third season??

    My dad bought the first and the second season of Downton Abbey for our family on Christmas last year, and I was HOOKED!
    I just couldn't stop watching!

    You know that "Just one more episode!" feeling? Yeah. All the time.

    OH MY GOSH!!

    Sorry. Had to do that...
    I'm SO excited to watch it!

    Anyway.

    Thanks!

    x

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    1. Yes, it is, Nine! This is actually the final episode (or more formally the "Christmas special") of the third season. Here is the review of season three, proper, if you are interested. Downton Abbey: Series Three

      Hope you enjoy the third season!

      What you've described is my mother and I also, Nine! We adore this series. There are some ups and downs but overall, it's excellent - and oh, the characters and costuming! How awesome both are. Glad your family likes it also.

      I know exactly what you mean - that "just one more" is a feeling I experienced LOTS while watching this. :) Never apologize: enthusiasm on favorite fandoms is most welcome and encouraged around here.

      Thank *you* for dropping by with a comment and reading. Appreciate that muchly - and thanks for the "friend request" on GFC. You seem very nice also. :) Looking forward to more fun conversations.

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  8. Rissi!!! Guess what???

    I watched A Journey to the Highlands last week. I fell in love with Downton Abbey all over again. It is simply addicting.

    Do you know if series 4 is out yet, and are they making a 5th series?

    xo Nine

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  9. AND...I can't believe Matthew is dead. How could they do that to Mary?!

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    1. YAY! How exciting, Nine. Glad you saw this Christmas special and enjoyed it. :) The show does have that affect on us - it's made me fall in love with it time and again. So lovely!

      The fourth season is out this fall in the U.K. and I'll be reviewing it later this year. It'll be out in the U.S. come January (and they'll be a giveaway for the S4 set around here to coincide with its U.S release). As for a fifth season, I am not 100% sure they'll be one. It'll depend on the reaction fans have to S4. From what I've read, writers and the series stars would like another season, but that isn't set in stone yet.

      Oh, yes! Matthew's death was sad. That being said, I knew going in what was going to happen (I'd read spoilers) so by the time I actually watched this episode, I was "over it." I'd already ranted and raved with friends and am now excited to see what comes in Mary's life... or that is my hope! :)

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  10. I agree about the music! ITS SO ENDEARING! and Gregson was totally out to ruin her. the end of the series was wrecked for me by silly instagram snooping :( But i learned my lesson and won't search #downtonabbey on a sunday night ever again!!
    <3
    Leighanna
    wildflowersinbloom.com

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    1. Pretty music. Pretty costuming. Endearing characters. That, in short, sums up 'Downton.' :) Gregson... he is probably NOT the best person to be romancing Edith. It's sad really because, well, she deserves a happy ending yet each one is thwarted. *sigh*

      As for spoilers, I totally understand when viewers don't want to know the spoilers. I'm the opposite; I *have* to know. ;)

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