cover story: An ups and Downton wed­ding ..............

The in­trigue con­tin­ues in the af­ter­math of World War I, writes Guy Davis

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - CONTENTS -

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

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