Ah, Downton Abbey.
Just as if a clock is ticking, the haunting tap of the piano key in John Lunn’s signature score takes us back. Lush and sweeping grounds surround the great Jacobethan house and we’re reminded of the journey from our earliest Downton experience—when in 1912 the Crawley family learns of dire consequences for them with the sinking of the Titanic. ** Spoilers forthcoming **
Since then, Lady Mary’s come a long way—a terrible scandal is now behind her (we think), and with her beloved Matthew now gone for some years, Downton is safe as her rightful inheritance. She has a new love and a new life, and I’m so happy to see her happy—that girl is my kind of heroine. I did think that perhaps she’d have ended up with Tom Branson, the man who’d whisked away her youngest sister Sybil, but no, not for her the Irish chauffeur, who’s now a widower and single dad. I can’t wait to see if Tom’s new love affair blooms.
’Course, Mary’s surviving sister Edith has been in the wars too, so to speak, but her lovely little daughter Marigold is now under the family wing—although Mary doesn’t know who the child really is. What deliciousness awaits if that truth fully outs? It’s not as if those two sisters have always been on good terms, and yet Edith is now a marchioness—she outranks her older sister.
Thank goodness for our beloved cranky and quick-witted Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham. Of course she’s protective of her granddaughters—did she not have a little tryst with a handsome prince in her merry youth? How else would she know that life takes twists and turns without a care for airs and graces—or grand titles. The trick is to keep it quiet…and heaven help anyone who gets in the way of that.
And oh, the clothes! Lavish, elegant, wickedly extravagant, sublimely sophisticated.
Downstairs, Mr and Mrs Bates at last seem to be happy. Dear gruff but warm and wonderful Carson (he did have a soft spot for Lady Mary) finally got his lovely Mrs Hughes. And what’s that—Barrow becomes the butler? Oh dear, that could be dangerous. He holds many secrets, does Thomas Barrow; some his own, some not his own. His scheming is uneasy to watch—never masterful, though … Is it?
Through the desperately awful, wasteful years of World War I, through bereavement, scandals, rape and murder, loves and marriages and babies, the family has made it almost intact to 1925. We’re in the middle of the roaring twenties, sporting gorgeous hairstyles and shorter hemlines, and well into George V’s reign. High society is rich and sumptuous, and carefree we’re led to believe. How well we were charmed by our upstairs and downstairs friends at the Crawleys’ opulent manor.
Now it’s 1927 and—the movie! The massive Downton Abbey ship glides over waters without a care that it might be about to hit an iceberg of its own.