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TV Review | New conflicts humanize ‘Downton Abbey’s’ characters

‘Downton’s’ style and class continue into third season

Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 08:11

“Downton Abbey” portrays the lifestyle most people hope they could have if they lived in England a century ago. Decadent, stylish and high−class, the series oozes glamor and the special breed of romance found in films like “Pride and Prejudice” (2005) and “Wuthering Heights” (2012).

The period drama, which first aired in 2010, revolves around the high−class Crawley family and its opulent country mansion, Downton. Set in the early 20th century, the show centers on Downton’s inhabitants, including the Crawley family and the lives of its caretakers, including footmen, lady’s maids and more. It encompasses serious explorations of the emotional issues that occur within the abbey, but also employs dry British wit through characters like the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith).

Now in its third season, “Downton” has become increasingly concerned with the long−awaited marriage between Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) and Matthew Crawley and the looming financial troubles of the abbey. This marriage, which seemed inevitable from the start, is definitely the freshest feature of the new season. Finally uniting the pair was a good decision on writer and creator Julian Fellowes’ part. The first few episodes have also started laying the foundation for the juicy and convoluted plots that “Downton” is known for.

In this latest season, the owner of the mansion, Lord Crawley, must also handle a bankrupt business and the stresses of managing Downton, a place that carries more meaning than the average house. Aside from serving as a symbol of respect and tradition, the abbey employs and is an important source of income for many. With this financial crisis at hand, Crawley must decide between maintaining Downton and selling it. Forcing the upper−crust Crawleys to endure the commoner’s financial struggles will inevitably make the characters feel more human and relatable.

While Lord Crawley is occupied with his own dilemma, his daughter, Mary, and son−in−law, Matthew, embark on married life together and the family’s staff downstairs faces a number of its own troubles.

The story surrounding Anna Smith, lady’s maid to Cora Crawley, is not nearly as exciting. It deals with the consequences of the imprisonment of John Bates, Anna’s husband and Lord Crawley’s former valet. Unfortunately, this storyline is starting to stagnate: Bates is in prison, Anna is left alone and the plot seems stuck.

Fortunately, the same cannot be said for the rest of the show’s arcs and characters. With the eldest and youngest Crawley daughters married, the middle daughter, Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), moves forward in her relationship with an older gentleman, Anthony Strallan (Robert Bathurst).

Though it is moving slowly, the show’s new season does not disappoint. How the Crawleys will deal with the new economic situation is a question yet to be answered: Will they lose the abbey and all it stands for? With trouble ahead for the Crawleys and their servants, it’s safe to say the drama within “Downton Abbey” is still going strong.

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