Downton Abbey, Series Three (2012)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Though I cannot promise I won’t “slip up,” this will be a spoiler-free review.
Anyone who has watched this series – which I believe is basically... everyone, knows its sorrows, joys and triumphs. It’s an award-winning ITV series penned by Julian Fellowes that has evolved a great deal in the last three years. Praised for its first season but earning lackluster reviews in its second (which I attribute to the time frame), the series returns for a stronger, but emotionally driven third season. One that wouldn’t be the Downton Abbey we know and love without some fun and soapy drama – and there’s plenty of it!

It has been many months since the house of Downton Abbey has seen such life and happiness as that of the impending wedding of Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Matthew (Dan Stevens). Butler and stickler of the rules, Carson (Jim Carter) couldn’t be more proud if Mary were his own daughter – always his favorite, Carson would do anything to see to it that Mary and his employer Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonnville) receive only the best care and are never subject to scandal. Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) and the family couldn’t be more delighted that Mary and Matthew are finally marrying after a tumultuous relationship and for once, Cora and her mother-in-law, Countess Grantham (Maggie Smith) agree on something. The big day isn’t complete without the arrival of Cora’s opinionated – and bossy – American mother (Shirley McClain)… and Cora’s youngest daughter, Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay) who created waves of conflict in the family when she married the chauffer, Tom (Allen Leech). Accepting a tradesman for a son-in-law soon becomes second to the dreams of Edith (Laura Carmichael) becoming a journalist, the arrival of new downstairs staff, Thomas’ shenanigans, scary possibilities for Mrs. Hughes (Phyillis Logan)… and financial woes for Downton Abbey.

What makes this series such a success is its characters. It’s been said time and again by reviewer after reviewer. And it’s true; the foundation would simply crumble without them. It’s the things that we laugh, cry and bite our nails over that makes Downton so distinctively what it is. Three years in, that is still the key to why this is so darn successful and I am pleased to say that even entering an age of renowned promiscuity – the “roaring 20’s,” Fellowes still retains the charm and (mostly) wholesome ideal. Marvels galore – from new characters and old favorites… to inventive new costuming! – will delight devoted fans of this popular British-originated and now “imported” American series.

Leaving off from the second season, certain character’s fates were left in tatters and in jeopardy, and others lives were finally getting on the track of happily-ever-after after much angst. I’ll confess to reading spoilers and gossiping about this in anticipation with a couple of friends so I wasn’t unprepared for anything that was happening in the stately halls of my favorite British mansion. There is plenty of soapy drama mixing in with tears… and lest you despair, never fear, there are events that make us smile and our hearts inexplicably happy. Edith’s happiness takes a turn, ripping a page straight from a Bronte novel. Thomas and O’Brien continue to scheme directing hate towards each other. Lest you think some fan favorites are absent, you’d be mistaken; Daisy, Anna and Bates are still a familiar presence, as is Isobel and even the re-appearance of the fallen maid, Ethel. New faces also become a fixture at Downton between a besotted new kitchen maid and a vain footman. That alone creates loads of tension.

Some of the highlights consist of meeting Cora’s mother (she and Violet are a riot together – like she and Isobel, they are constantly at odds) as well as the characters who have evolved into something more mature and if possible, more wonderful. Being something of a romantic, I wish Matthew and Mary had shared more intimate moments of flirting and stolen kisses but being the proper British couple they are, that is kept to a minimum but seriously, as my mother said, “even when they’re fighting, they are cute!” She is so right! Their interaction is darling and all too rare. Everything from the motor cars to the scenery, the grandeur of a London club to the costuming is gorgeous and beautifully puts us in mind of this era. I love the production for that reason alone if nothing else though there are many other reasons. With rumors that some of the main cast (nooo! Please say it isn’t so!) is leaving and no report that there will be a fourth series (yet!), I can accept this ending but am wishing that we will be granted another series beyond just the upcoming Christmas special. So many moments were precious (including the acceptance of Tom – loved Robert’s shifting attitude) and memories were made that we will no doubt cherish all of which is carried by the phenomenal cast and the emotional, witty script. Perhaps it’s not as “brilliant” as when it first debuted though far be it from me to judge, but Fellowes is on the right track and for me, Downton Abbey won my heart over anew.

Downton Abbey premieres in the U.S. January 2013 on Masterpiece Theatre.

So… those who have watched it, let’s talk: What did you think of these installments? Do you have any strategies for what could come in a possible fourth season – what scandal will befall the house of Crawley in the next chapter? What are those of you planning to watch it on ITV looking forward to seeing? Let’s pile up the comments with some jolly good gossip, friends!

(Parental concerns: Implications revolve around homosexuality [it was against the law] and one man makes unwanted advances towards an unwilling participant, including one kiss [episode seven]. Minor flirtations are present between a married couple as well as references to prostitution and an extra-marital affair. There are a couple of “tense” prison scenes.)


  1. WHAT? The cast may not come back?? NO!!! I forbid this. They must come back! :'( I demand to see Edith married and happy, Matthew and Mary get pregnant, and...and... *sniff*

    1. My reaction is the same as yours, Rosie!

      Spoilers: Rumors are everywhere that Matthew (Dan Stevens) may not return so yeah... I am like, "how can we have Mary without Matthew???" In all likelihood, it will return for a fourth series and everyone will be back. These are probably just scare tactics to get better contracts but if it's not... I might cry. Then again many of these actors do want to work in Hollywood, so it could be fact...END

      Like you, there is so much more I want to see! :)

  2. Great review!
    I share many of your thoughts about this series, and I've kept myself mostly spoiler-free, for once! Though I'm a little upset at the one spoiler I have seen, which has to do with the character they kill off, as soap-opera dramas are wont to do. Tell me it's not true!!
    Anyways, I'm likely to watch it all the same, in spite of my feelings towards Julian Fellowes at the moment.

    By the way, I so appreciate your small-print warnings!

  3. Again... thank you for reading!

    This is definitely a "soapy" drama series but in retrospect, it's SO much more also. It has humor, sorrow, drama and mystery - and it can be really wonderful when it wants to be.

    SPOILER: Unfortunately, that rumor is true. I hope you won't be upset by it too much. I knew well in advance so it didn't affect me as it did some fans who were watching it live. END SPOILER

    If you liked S1 and S2, you should appreciate this one - it is SO good even when it brings on tears.

    Thanks for that closing comment! When it comes to popular series like this, I am always wondering which is the best course: write the review with spoilers or try my best to refrain from spilling everything? The former is the best route. I prefer to know all the "big" spoilers but I know others don't appreciate that so... I refrain. Most the time. Besides, if anyone wants to talk spoilers, all they have to do is ask and I'll oblige. :) I hope you found this one relatively spoiler free.

    Enjoy when you see it, Jess-Rose!

  4. Ah well, Fellowes has to add some drastic drama, doesn't he?
    I'm looking forward to it in spite, hoping it lives up to the first two series'.

    Yes, you succeeded in keeping spoiler-free. So far, that one plot point is the only one I know about, and this will be the first time I'll watch DA without already knowing what will happen next. I'm pretty excited!

    1. Fellowes does like the soapiness in this drama series - or it sure reads like that! LOL!

      YES! Glad to know I succeeded in no spoilers, from your perspective, Jess-Rose! I try to consider all potential readers and I appreciate you bringing that up. :)

      Hope you enjoy - and are able to keep away from spoilers. Sometimes that's a HUGE challenge. Good luck!

  5. I just don't know if the show could continue without Matthew. He's SUCH A pivotal character. But hey, at least it wasn't Maggie Smith that is rumored to be leaving...I would seriously stop watching the show. lol

    I thought I heard somewhere that they are going to have a fourth season? Now I can't remember where I saw it. Perhaps it was just another rumor...

    I haven't finished the third season yet...trying to ration myself so I won't have a long wait for the Christmas special. *laugh* But I'm loving it thus far...

    1. Hiya, Jessica!

      Subsequent to this review being posted, yes, the series was renewed for a fourth season (yay!) but I've not heard if Matthew (or the rest of the cast) were going to be back. Likely it's all a rouse for their to be more suspense and more money for their contracts. It's still mean though.

      So glad you are enjoying this season so far, girl - making it last is excellent policy though I don't think I could be as restrained as you when it comes to 'Downton.' :D The Christmas special sounds WONDERFUL. Do let me know what you thought of it; I'll likely just wait and see it when the U.S. DVD set releases in January. It'll be something to anticipate. :)


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