cover story: An ups and Downton wedding ..............
The intrigue continues in the aftermath of World War I, writes Guy Davis
THE times, they are a-changin’ on Downton Abbey when the muchloved UK drama series returns for its third season.
Things have always seemed to be in a state of flux on the upstairs-downstairs saga of a blue-blooded British family and its entourage of servants at the sprawling estate of the title.
But change appears to be shaping up as a predominant theme in Downton’s upcoming episodes, which take place in the aftermath of World War I.
Not all of it is wrenching or unpleasant, of course. The muchanticipated marriage of Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) and Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) is finally set to happen after a prolonged, will-they-orwon’t-they engagement of six years.
Naturally, however, events do conspire to throw a spanner in the works, a reminder that Downton Abbey is a soapie at heart.
The season launches with a major upset, with Lord Robert (Hugh Bonneville) stricken to discover his risky investment in a Canadian railroad has resulted in a financial crisis that could see the Grantham estate lost.
He is tearful and resolute: ‘‘I refuse to be the failure, the earl who dropped the torch and let the flame go out.’’
His American wife Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) remains remarkably supportive under the circumstances.
On top of all this, there are the requisite romantic misadventures and misunderstandings, not to mention the ongoing drama of Bates (Brendan Coyle) wrongfully doing time in prison after being convicted of his ex-wife’s murder while Anna (Joanne Froggatt) plays detective in a bid to find evidence the ex took her own life.
Every series needs an injection of new blood once in a while, though, and Downton Abbey is invigorated early on in its third season by the much-hyped introduction of Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson, the mother of McGovern’s Countess Cora.
It feels all wrong to refer to a character played by the still beguiling MacLaine as a bull in a china shop, but that’s pretty much how her presence at Downton registers, especially with the Dowager Countess, played by the indomitable Maggie Smith.
It’s your typical ‘‘stuffy tradition versus free-spirited new order’’ scenario when these two sharp-tongued titans are pitted against one another and they play it for all its worth, finding each other’s sensitive areas and needling them with all their might. It’s the kind of thing that makes Downton Abbey such enjoyable viewing.
Downton Abbey: Sundays, 8.30pm, Seven, Prime7.
Downton Abbey stars Dan Stevens and Michelle Dockery