Having heard so much about the British series called “Downton Abbey,” I rented the first four seasons from Netflix over a period of about four weeks. Episodes from the present season 5 are available on the Internet at this time.
I have become so engrossed in the activities of the fictional Crawley family who lived in the first part of the twentieth century that I feel I am a member of the family. Lord and Lady Grantham – Robert and Cora – are the parents of three daughters – Mary, Sybil, and Edith, all beautiful and each having their own sorrows and joys to deal with. Robert’s mother Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, is played by Maggie Smith, whose wit and quick comebacks are fun to watch in the ever stoic setting.
We are also made highly aware of the activities of the “downstairs” members – the maids, butlers, footmen, valets, and cooks who keep Downton Abbey running smoothly day by day. Their characters are also so well delineated; we know them as well as their “upstairs” counterparts.
Lady Mary seems to be the centerpiece of this thrilling tale of the last century. Played by Michelle Dockery, Mary is a beautiful lady whose life has been complicated by her feelings for her cousin, Matthew Crawley, played by Dan Stevens, who is the legal heir to Downton Abbey, adding to the complications when the Abbey falls on hard times. Matthew, in my estimation, is so handsome, charming, and charismatic, that he lights up the screen when he enters the room.
Lady Sybil’s romance with the Abbey’s chauffeur, Tom Branson, adds a bit of drama as Lord Grantham, in particular, looks on the affair as a traitorous act. Lady Edith, on the other hand, has difficulty finding suitors and when she does, it usually ends in disaster.
The action of each episode moves so quickly as we catch the house staff having their own escapades among each other; the scene then moves quickly to the family members before the viewer can take a breath.
It would be unkind, if not impossible, to give away the outcomes of each episode. Let it be stated that the magnificent costumes are thrilling to watch, as is the inside of Downton Abbey which is actually a living, breathing edifice known as Highclere Castle, owned by the Earl and Lady Carnarvon. The story of Highclere Castle was published in 2013 and called “Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey.” It was written by the Countess of Carnarvon herself.
Downton Abbey on PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre