‘DOWNTON ABBEY: A JOURNEY TO THE HIGHLANDS.’ Dan Stevens, Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville & Maggie Smith return for a Christmas episode. © Rissi JC


February 5, 2013 Rissi JC 29 Comments

Imperfect as it may be, Downton Abbey continues to be the only British series that excites me this much. It may be a soapy British drama, but Julian Fellows can bring us back. Full of beloved characters, the Christmas installment is equally lovely but will crush anyone who tunes out spoilers.  

Downton Abbey: A Journey to the Highlands (2012) ITV Review

Lord and Lady Grantham (Hugh Bonnville, Elizabeth McGovern) prepare to holiday with the cousins of Lord Grantham in Scotland over the Christmas season. Expecting their first child, Mary (Michelle Dockery) determines to be a part of the family’s traveling party against the objection of her husband, Matthew (Dan Stevens). Along with Edith (Laura Charmichael), their Grandmother, Countess Grantham (Maggie Smith) and a small party of servants, including Anna and Bates (Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle), the group leaves on their journey. Upon arrival in Scotland, the Crawley’s meet again with the wild, forward-thinking Rose (Lily James).

Things become complicated when Edith again meets up with the editor who loves her but his circumstances prevent him from marrying. Back home in England, Tom Branson (Tom Leech) looks after the estate along with the assistance of Carson (Jim Carter) and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan). Branson finds himself mourning the death of his beloved wife though he finally feels more at ease in the family. At least he does until his old doubts and awkward feelings rise again with the upset a new member of the household staff causes.

There is something “comforting” in hearing the first strains of Downton Abbey’s theme song. Before even seeing anyone, I’m excited at the prospect of the world I’ll be lost to for ninety minutes. Opening a year later may seem like a mistake given how determined this series seems to be to pass by milestone moments. However knowing all the tears we shed in middle of this season, the lapse in time is appropriate. It made the difference in Tom’s character credible and allows the audience one last moment of beautiful happiness. Settling in for the duration of this review, here’s my incoherent thoughts on the episode that put everyone in a bad mood. Let me tell you, it’s a long way away from that happy image of the family frolicking on the lawn. (That’s all I’ll say!)



When first I read about the Crawley’s holiday involving travel, I thought that it sounded like a grand time. And it is! How lovely to see them outside of their usual surroundings and meet some extended family. If there is a flaw in having to cover two locations (Scotland and the family home), it’d be the edits. It’s not always as smooth a transition in cutting from one place to the next. It seems most awkward in the instances when scenes are cut. Other than that, this installment is perfect.

The costuming is again stunning. Cora looks classy as ever, young Rose brings a new look, and then there’s Edith, who seems to be coming into her own. If I may divert from the “proper review,” may I just say; like her or not, Mary has this dude of Edith’s pegged exactly! Also, hooray for Matthew getting that dig in about his dress “tails.” Yes, indeed, for once, Edith, you should trust Mary; Gregson is out to “ruin” you, my dear.

Seeing Thomas and Jimmy agree to be “friends” is the low point of the series. My fingers cross that it won’t as it cheapens the integrity of the show. Delights that make up for this is the adorableness of Mr. and Mrs. Bates! It’s so evident how much Bates loves his Anna but never more so than their moments here. Likewise, there’s a tender scene between Robert and Cora ten minutes prior to the end. It’s important to note that this is a sad end. What is good isn’t soured for my family since we knew over a month prior, so I already had my “rant” and disappointment out of my system.

Now, I’m actually curious to find out what series four will bring. The theme is going to focus on one character according to Fellowes. If it’s possible to be upset and satisfied by the direction a script goes in, then I definitely am! Much as I detest what we go through, the highs and lows of the emotions, this is a gem of a special kind. From a dramatic standpoint, I understand the writing. The heartbreaks could open up something that we otherwise would never have imagined and for that, I cannot be too harsh on the show. Yet.

(Disclosure: this post does contain affiliate links; if you buy anything through these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Thank you to anyone who makes a purchase through these links. Read the disclosure page for details.)

You can find Downton Abbey: A Journey to the Highlands digitally on Amazon Video (series three, episode nine)

Content: Minor flirtations between a married couple is present as; is the implication that a married man may have a relationship with another woman. One character is seen bleeding out, crushed beneath a car, another takes a harsh beating. Other minor homosexual implications crop up. Downton Abbey: A Journey to the Highlands is a TV-PG rating.

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.

Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.

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  • Charity February 5, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    This episode… is taking everyone to places I don't like.

    Edith is going to become that man's mistress.
    Thomas/Jimmy is getting too buddy-buddy for my taste.

    And Julian has an incredible out for Matthew, which he does not take — to have Matthew stay in the Highlands to try and recover Grantham's cousin's estate, as he did Downton. Fellowes is an idiot.

    • Rissi February 6, 2013 at 1:58 AM

      Don't disagree at all. With that being said, I liked this much better than I thought; I suspect it had to do with my knowing over a month before seeing this what to expect. Still upset at Edith's foolishness (for once listen to your sister!!!).

      As for Matthew, yes it could have been done much differently – and should have! The other day I was reading spoilers on S4 and thought, "um… Charity is NOT going to like this!" :)

      Thomas and Jimmy? Other than ew! (which I did express most vehemently!), what more can be said!?

    • Charity February 6, 2013 at 3:33 PM

      I enjoyed it up to the last 2 minutes, then that soured me on the entire thing. =P I guess Edith's stupidity isn't all that surprising, considering she locked lips with a married man in season two!

      You mean the spoilers about finding Mary a love interest? You're right — DO NOT WANT.

    • Rissi February 7, 2013 at 8:28 PM

      I can sympathize with you, Charity. Watching it "live" did have to be a shock. We had over a month to prepare for it.

      Edith needs to SHAPE UP. That girl has some serious "issues"! Just saying.

      Yes, that it what I was referring too. I was eagerly reading all about it and thought how mad you'd be at this prospect. Me? I'm kinda' curious. :)

    • Charity February 8, 2013 at 2:25 AM

      I knew about it before seeing the episode (tumblr) and so, I sat through the entire thing dreading the end. I still haven't gone back and rewatched it. In some sense, I think for me, the series ended before the Christmas special.

      Why not shift the focus to Edith and find her a handsome young suitor, so she doesn't get stuck being some old guy's mistress? Why does the ENTIRE show have to be about Mary being in love? You don't just get over someone's death like that. You don't just "move" on.

    • Rissi February 8, 2013 at 2:35 AM

      Oh, good! I'm glad you weren't just sitting there is a state of complete happiness and then completely crushed! For some reason, I thought you hadn't seen the spoiler yet. Super happy to know you weren't; that would have been horrible!

      Don't get me wrong I so want Edith to have an attitude adjustment and stop being written (or set up) as the "bitter sister." Tired of that! It'd be lovely to see her in a relationship that is truly innocent and she is able to love and respect her suitor. I don't foresee, Mary being "over" Matthew that quickly. I suspect she'll struggle with re-marrying but given how much time passes within one series of this show, who knows… season four could span two years!

    • Charity February 8, 2013 at 4:00 PM

      No, I knew about it beforehand — and it still ruined my Christmas. =P

    • Rissi February 8, 2013 at 7:30 PM

      That is so NOT COOL. Note to Fellowes: Thanks for nothing!

  • Charity U February 5, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    Someday…I will watch this show. Sorry to hear about bad parts though! :P Hate it when producers feel like they "have" to throw that in.

    • Rissi February 6, 2013 at 2:00 AM

      Yes, indeed you will, Charity! It's quite a gem. :)

      Sadly, there are a few "bad parts" but the good usually outweighs them. Because of a PC society, it has become "necessary" for writer's to throw these things in… or so they think!

  • Krysten @ Why Girls Are Weird February 5, 2013 at 9:12 PM

    I totally need to watch this show.

    • Rissi February 6, 2013 at 2:01 AM

      Yes, you should check into it, Krysten. Anyone who likes British drama will likely find a treasure in this. :)

      Thank you so much for stopping in – visit again anytime. :)

  • Chasity S. February 5, 2013 at 9:43 PM

    I just finished watching the second season today! I wanted to start watching the third but had to restrain myself and do something else! I can hardly wait to watch it though!!

    • Rissi February 6, 2013 at 2:02 AM

      Yay! So excited for you, Chasity. Hoping you enjoy the third. I know that feeling – being patient with this show is way hard. ;D

  • his little lady February 7, 2013 at 5:56 PM

    YES! Love me some Downton Abbey!
    xo TJ

    • Rissi February 7, 2013 at 8:30 PM

      Who doesn't!? :D

  • Rosie February 8, 2013 at 1:57 AM

    This episode was so different than the rest of the season! I agree, seeing the family and servants out of their element was really neat. I'm also in total agreement when it comes to Thomas and James. I'm desperately hoping they don't take the perverted route. :( And as for the end of this episode… I am still in denial. :'(

    • Rissi February 8, 2013 at 2:39 AM

      Hey, Rosie! Glad to see you again, girl! :)

      Yes, this installment was different. Loved that the character's got out of their usual surroundings though. It was fun. As for the whole Jimmy/Thomas thing, here's my reaction: EW! Don't know what else to say. :/

      Oh, I hope you recover by the time the fourth series premieres. Given I didn't see this for over a month after knowing the big spoiler, I was able to "deal" with it while watching the episode. Still, it was, obviously terribly sad. Fellowes had better make it up to up in the next season. BIG TIME.

    • Rosie February 8, 2013 at 6:17 PM

      Glad to be back around! Been so busy. lol

      It's just disgusting, really. Bleh.

      I probably will, but you're right. He REALLY needs to make it up to us. They did kind of leave it open though for the accident to go either way in case (SPOILER)Dan changes his mind and comes back. But it doesn't look good. :(

    • Rissi February 8, 2013 at 7:37 PM

      Ugh! Know that feeling, Rosie. These last couple of weeks have been different/busier for me. Next week should be normal. :)

      So many of us are hoping Fellowes does something spectacular for S4. He'd better otherwise, I suspect, a lot of fans will drift away. I did read that he doesn't plan on killing anyone off so that is a huge plus. I'm holding him to that. :)

      Spoiler Alert: Ironically, my mother and I were talking about Dan's exit and the possibility of his return. Since it ended right after the accident, yes, he could return given the reaction of fans but as you say, that's VERY unlikely. I am not expecting it in any way but a girl can dream, right!? END

    • Rosie February 9, 2013 at 12:38 AM

      Hopefully, for me too. Hehe.

      Yeah, that is what's at stake. I hope he doesn't fail us fans. That is good news though, about him not planning on killing anyone in the future. -.- I wish he had promised that for this season… lol

      Yup. *sniff* I can only hope and pray he listens to the mourning fans begging him to return.

    • Rissi February 9, 2013 at 12:51 AM

      Hope so. I like "normal" weeks. They make me happy. :)

      Oh, gosh, me too, Rosie! Seeing the two pivotal deaths was SO sad. Especially considering they were the two character's that were most lovable. Or I felt like they were. :)

      I hear you! If he had any sense, he would. ;D

  • Nine May 9, 2013 at 5:24 PM

    Is this the third season??

    My dad bought the first and the second season of Downton Abbey for our family on Christmas last year, and I was HOOKED!
    I just couldn't stop watching!

    You know that "Just one more episode!" feeling? Yeah. All the time.

    OH MY GOSH!!

    Sorry. Had to do that…
    I'm SO excited to watch it!




    • Rissi May 9, 2013 at 8:02 PM

      Yes, it is, Nine! This is actually the final episode (or more formally the "Christmas special") of the third season. Here is the review of season three, proper, if you are interested. Downton Abbey: Series Three

      Hope you enjoy the third season!

      What you've described is my mother and I also, Nine! We adore this series. There are some ups and downs but overall, it's excellent – and oh, the characters and costuming! How awesome both are. Glad your family likes it also.

      I know exactly what you mean – that "just one more" is a feeling I experienced LOTS while watching this. :) Never apologize: enthusiasm on favorite fandoms is most welcome and encouraged around here.

      Thank *you* for dropping by with a comment and reading. Appreciate that muchly – and thanks for the "friend request" on GFC. You seem very nice also. :) Looking forward to more fun conversations.

  • Nine July 21, 2013 at 4:35 PM

    Rissi!!! Guess what???

    I watched A Journey to the Highlands last week. I fell in love with Downton Abbey all over again. It is simply addicting.

    Do you know if series 4 is out yet, and are they making a 5th series?

    xo Nine

  • Nine July 21, 2013 at 4:36 PM

    AND…I can't believe Matthew is dead. How could they do that to Mary?!

    • Rissi July 22, 2013 at 6:18 PM

      YAY! How exciting, Nine. Glad you saw this Christmas special and enjoyed it. :) The show does have that affect on us – it's made me fall in love with it time and again. So lovely!

      The fourth season is out this fall in the U.K. and I'll be reviewing it later this year. It'll be out in the U.S. come January (and they'll be a giveaway for the S4 set around here to coincide with its U.S release). As for a fifth season, I am not 100% sure they'll be one. It'll depend on the reaction fans have to S4. From what I've read, writers and the series stars would like another season, but that isn't set in stone yet.

      Oh, yes! Matthew's death was sad. That being said, I knew going in what was going to happen (I'd read spoilers) so by the time I actually watched this episode, I was "over it." I'd already ranted and raved with friends and am now excited to see what comes in Mary's life… or that is my hope! :)

  • Leighanna Rose October 22, 2013 at 7:15 PM

    I agree about the music! ITS SO ENDEARING! and Gregson was totally out to ruin her. the end of the series was wrecked for me by silly instagram snooping :( But i learned my lesson and won't search #downtonabbey on a sunday night ever again!!

    • Rissi October 23, 2013 at 3:16 AM

      Pretty music. Pretty costuming. Endearing characters. That, in short, sums up 'Downton.' :) Gregson… he is probably NOT the best person to be romancing Edith. It's sad really because, well, she deserves a happy ending yet each one is thwarted. *sigh*

      As for spoilers, I totally understand when viewers don't want to know the spoilers. I'm the opposite; I *have* to know. ;)

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