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TV Rewind | Downton Abbey: When sophistication is mixed with scandal

Created by Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey ran for six seasons and enjoyed great popularity. The show's following was such that it even had a feature film after its TV run.

Written by Sampada Sharma | New Delhi | Updated: December 13, 2020 8:58:29 am
downton abbey tv rewindDame Maggie Smith's wittiness was the best thing about Downton Abbey.

The old English culture has always fascinated common folk. So when the TV show Downton Abbey first started airing in 2010, the audience lapped it up as it took them into the world of the aristocratic Crawley family.

Created by Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey ran for six seasons and enjoyed great popularity. The show’s following was such that it even had a feature film after its TV run.

What is Downton Abbey all about?

Downton Abbey, which starts in 1912, is set in the fictional town of Downton which is managed by the aristocratic Crawley family. The show talks about class as it used to be back in the day, with the divide between the owners and servants being as wide as it could be. But it is their relationships that carry the story along.

Along the way, as England goes through the Great War (World War I) and the culture of aristocracy starts to decline with the Labour Party starting to take charge of the country, Downton goes through many ups and downs but manages to retain its integrity.

The best bits of Downton Abbey

Despite a large set of regular cast members, Downton Abbey had the ability to weave engaging stories that involved numerous characters. Over its six-season run, the series managed to have fairly convincing, and sometimes bizarre plots that kept the audience hooked. The show’s core strength was its characters, and of that lot, it was the snarky remarks by Violet (Maggie Smith) that always won the day. Violet and Isobel’s (Penelope Wilton) tete-a-tete remained consistent throughout the series, and it was their relationship that gave Downton a much-needed breather.

downton abbey Isobel (Penelope Wilton) and Violet (Maggie Smith) came from different worlds, but they formed a friendship that was more honest than any of their other relationships.

While Downton Abbey played by the rules of its era, it gave enough room to rebellious women to live life on their own terms. Sybil’s (Jessica Brown Findlay) track was symbolic of that rebellion right from the start. Another strong track of the show was the eventual path of Tom Branson. Tom was never a part of the Crawley family and never really associated with their culture until he left their estate and realised that even amid the English formalities, he had found familial love with them.

Edith’s (Laura Carmichael) track was generally laced with tragedy through the run of Downton Abbey, and she took her own sweet time to come into her own. Meanwhile, Mary remained entangled in childish behaviour, right until the end.

The episodes that dealt with the Spanish Flu proved that the makers had a strong grip over multiple storylines where each one of them had high-stakes. Even the episodes surrounding Sybil and Mary’s childbirth were executed particularly well.

The not-so-impressive bits of Downton Abbey

The show loved playing matchmaker to Lady Mary and the first time around, it had the audience deeply invested. Her eventual love story with Matthew (Dan Stevens) felt like it was written in the stars but after that ended, the second round of “Mary’s men” was quite tiring. A large part of the fifth season felt like a never-ending mess because of the endless suitors who were waiting for Mary. Even in the last season of the show, Mary’s story was the least impressive out of all.

The storyline between Bates (Brendan Coyle) and Anna (Joanne Froggatt) was the most promising love story of the show, and Bates serving jail-time was one of the hardest things to watch. Anna’s rape and her trauma about the incident started a really strong story arc, but it got a rather funny twist when Anna got jailed. After a while, it only seemed like these two could never catch a break and tragedy would somehow find them.

Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) was introduced as the villain of the series, but there was never any clear motivation for his evil intentions. His story went through a lot of ups and downs and eventually ended up with him being the good guy. In the case of Barrow, most of his earlier story arcs did not show him as a layered character, but the makers compensated for it in the later seasons.

The Downton Abbey movie

Rumours around a possible movie started even before the final season wrapped up and the show’s fan following was such that the makers eventually obliged.

The film felt like an extended episode of Downton Abbey with the stakes not being too high. However, as far as keeping true to the spirit of Downton was concerned, the film did a great job.

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Downton Abbey is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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