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Sunday, 16 September 2012

Downton Abbey: The Classy Crawley’s Are Back



The war is over. In the battlefields at least, although whether the same can be said for the residents of Downton Abbey remains to be seen.

The full cast returns to the Abbey for the third series of the ITV period drama

 The nation's favorite period drama’s back! With more exquisite dresses, stately dinners and scandalous drama than you can shake a stick at. Also to return, perhaps most excitingly, to our screens is the Dowager Countess of Grantham (best to refer to her by her full title to avoid seeming impertinent) played by the brilliant Maggie Smith.


And for the first time in two series’, the Dowager appears to have somewhat met her match in rival ‘grandma’ (although I’m sure she wouldn’t thank us for calling her that), Martha Levinson, brilliantly brought to life by the illustrious Shirley McClaine.

In fact, Martha seems to be the only character with the ability to make the Dowager admit the existence of anything other than prestige and honour at Downton, with the Countess reluctantly stating, “She finds our underbelly every time”.

And what an underbelly Downton has. Well, it just wouldn’t be good drama if everything was elegant, quite proper and went totally to plan, now would it?

And talking of going totally to plan, when we last saw Matthew and Mary in 2011’s Christmas episode, they were in the throes of post-proposal bliss after one of the most excruciating ‘will-they, wont-they?’ relationships ever seen on television. So we were never expecting a straightforward and obstacle-free journey down the aisle (although we’ve all lived in hope). Thankfully, for drama’s sake, the course of true love never runs smooth and we were delivered a few ‘oh no!’ moments throughout the 90-minute episode.

The main (but perhaps least exciting) plot line of series three concerns the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and his family’s fortune, or rather, lack of it. For it would seem that while Sir Robert Crawley is a good husband, compassionate employer and loving father, he does not possess the ability to invest his (or rather his wife’s) money very wisely.

But if you thought that impending weddings, feuding mother-in-laws and an entire lost fortune was enough drama to fill ninety minutes, then you really don’t know Downton Abbey at all.

Here are our ‘Top 10 First Ep Moments’ from the new series:

Mathew and Mary making up.
Who’d have thought that an open door, an old tradition and some pre-wedding jitters could cause such a tender scene? All helped of course by the most romantic line from Tom Branson when Matthew tells Mary that “I shall never be happy with anyone else as long as you walk the earth”. Swoon.
  1. Matthew looking forward to more than just the wedding. Wink Wink.
Letting his middle class roots (and raw sexual magnetism) shine through, Matthew even manages to make Mary blush by insinuating he’s rather more looking forward to the wedding night than the wedding itself. We suspect she feels the same.
  1. Cybil and Tom return from Ireland.
Our favourite mismatched couple return after an absence from the Christmas episode and they are just adorable together. Although we are left wondering what’s become of the baby Cybil’s supposed to have given birth to since we last saw her. We want cute Irish bubbas!
  1. Shirley McClaine.
Another American. Well, Cousin Violet might not be too happy about her arrival, but we love the audacity and cheek of Cora’s mother. She’s about to inject some excitement into Downton Abbey.
  1. Bates and Anna. Just aah’.
Not much to say except that Bates is still in jail, Anna is still trying to free him and they’re both still so in love! We believe you’re innocent Mr Bates!
  1. New footman Alfred (Matt Milne).
Miss O’Brien’s nephew, Alfred has brought another dimension to the relationship between the stoney-faced maid and her partner in crime, Thomas. In fact, it appears that cracks are forming in their carefully constructed ‘evil partnership’. Who’ll come out on top we wonder? Plus, Alfred’s so keen and eager to please Carson, we want to jump right into the telly box and help him out.
  1. Edith and Sir Anthony Strallan. Soppier than a pair of sponges.
Cute and cuddly, it goes without saying. These two have been kept apart just as long as Mary and Matthew. It’s just a bit harder to care as much when they’re so unbelievably drippy about it. Inject some drama or passion here and we’ll be rooting for them as much as the next couple!
  1. Daisy goes on strike.
Daisy’s decided that being a kitchen maid is now beneath her and has gone on strike in protest. Shame Mrs Pattmore doesn’t seem to be at all bothered about it then. Downton just wouldn’t be Downton without these two squabbling.
  1. Lady Cora. The BEST wife.
Even though Robert has managed to lose almost all of his wife’s family fortune, Lady Cora barely bats an eyelid. In fact she merely suggests that they should make Mary’s wedding the best celebration ever, especially if it’s going to be their last at Downton. Robert sums this up quite nicely by exclaiming, “Thank god for you”. Thank god indeed. A woman with the right priorities.
  1. The Wedding.
The culmination of the entire episode (and two series’ before it). Mary’s dress. Matthew’s grin. The adorable flower girls. What can we say? We don’t need to. Voice of reason and emotion, Sir Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham once again pulls it out of the bag when he tells Mary, “I’m so happy, I feel my chest could explode”.

So, money worries aside, this series is looking to be as grand, splendid and dramatic as its predecessors and we can’t wait for more! And seriously, should we really be that worried about ‘the money situation’? It’s not as if the Crawley’s are going to lose the Abbey and end up living in (heaven forbid) Middle Class Britain, now is it?

After all, I can’t imagine a fourth series, titled ‘Downton Cottage’ would go down quite as well with viewers.

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