Julian Fellows’ acclaimed series returns to the states to receptive ratings and the pleasure of knowing there’s a sixth season. Twists and turns, passions and secrets continue to haunt the Crawley family, but what they do with them is most telling. downton abbey series five

Downton Abbey, Series Five (2014) ITV TV Review

Change is on its way to the Crawley house. As they adapt for the new era and wild age of the 1920’s, the family faces new challenges and a “shaking” of their foundation. Edith (Laura Carmichael) is still living a lie as she continues protecting her secret: her daughter. Marigold lives nearby at the Drewe farm and for now, the fact that she see the child everyday seems to be enough. Oblivious to what is going on with his middle daughter, Robert (Hugh Bonnville) learns to accept new politics while clashing with his trusty butler Carson (Jim Carter). Tom (Allen Leech) meanwhile is still contemplating a move to America, which angers Robert! Young Sybbie simply cannot be taken away from her family! Then there is Mary (Michelle Dockery) and her dilemma. She’s ready to marry again, but will it be Tony Gillingham (Tom Cullen) or Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden)?

‘DOWNTON ABBEY,’ SERIES FIVE (2014). Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville and Maggie Smith return in the ITV series. All text © Rissi JC

Sarah Bunting (Daisy Lewis) continues to be a small part of Tom’s life and an even bigger part of Daisy’s life. Daisy (Sophie McShera) decides she wants to better herself and with Sarah’s tutoring, it seems like she’ll accomplish this. Thomas (Rob James-Collier) continues to be a pest for Baxter (Raquel Cassidy), holding a secret over her. Things turn for the better when Baxter tells Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) her secret removing his leverage over her. Bates (Brendan Coyle) and Anna (Joanne Froggatt)still suffer the aftereffects of Green’s death, and have to relive the entire ordeal when an inspector begins to ask questions…

Like any good soap opera, Downton Abbey’s fifth season kicks off with no shortage of drama. The first installment sets up lots of potential drama and ends with a fire at Downton. Yes, this is all hinted at in the first hour. Flaws and all, I take this series as it is. I’ve been addicted to it from the opening first season episode and returning to it feels right and never tiresome. The characters are so engrained in my mind I don’t think I’d be able to not watch the current season. Though season five makes my head spin and gives me a strong urge to shake some sense into Mary, it again sweeps me up into its dizzying charm.  

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The “bad” of the show seems to really stem from one thing: bad character writing. Too many of the characters fall into sad clichés and so the storylines do get overuse. The Bates woes need to come to an end and Edith’s passive storyline is definitely weary. I adore Anna and Bates, so seeing them this unhappy and struggling to get back their rhythm is heartbreaking. Fortunately there is a “breaking point” in episode six; and I take some comfort from it before trouble finds them again. Then there is Edith. Golly, this women is the biggest, self-sacrificing character I’ve run across recently. She is continuously portrayed as a person to pity and for the life of me, I don’t know why.

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For the unfortunate character writing, there are lots of good to, hopefully counteract that. For example, Rose (played by Lily James) has become a “comfortable” character addition that we now love; plus she obtains a darling beau, and I’ve enjoy the changes and evolution of Mary’s character. The writer’s respectfully gave her room to grieve Matthew’s loss without having her rush into anything immediately after Matthew’s death. There’s plenty of typical “Maryisms” to go around. We’ve come to expect certain behavior of her, yet there is a maturity to her personality that belies her past mistakes. One of the best things about Downton Abbey is that it can made the insignificant someone seem important. These might not be essential to the all-encompassing nature of the story, but certainly for the lighthearted enjoyment, it’s what audiences need in order to get through the gloom.  

Fellowes does get stuck on some threads and this stifles some of the storytelling. There’s more witty zingers thanks to fan favorite Violet (Maggie Smith); love triangles and love stories; old flames and propositions; political upheaval; and possible goodbyes. The Christmas episode in particular is telling in closing one chapter for a certain character and unless I miss my guess, I’d say a decision is made. Also a crowd-pleaser will be a happy ending for one of Downton Abbey’s most “shipped” pairing (seriously that Christmas special is a tearjerker!). With a dizzying 20’s era pace, this show arrives to the “modern age.” The costumes are still beautiful as ever and of course, the acting nothing less than stellar. 


Rumored to be the next-to-last season, if we only get one more invitation into these characters lives, I would ask only one thing of Julian Fellowes; go out with smiles and happiness. Give these characters the happily-ever-after they’ve earned. 

Content: a woman engages, briefly in a sexual relationship in order to decide if he’s the man to marry. Talk of curing homosexuality crops up; various other innuendoes are present including conversations about a contraception device. A man is caught sleeping with an employer [we briefly glimpse them in bed together in episode one].

About Rissi JC

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


  1. I seriously can't wait to see this season!!! I agree that the last season needs to be a bit more sunny. Too many tears in the past several seasons.

  2. I enjoyed this season, but I agree that things have been a bit depressing lately! I don't know what Fellowes' deal is with Anna and Bates, but seriously, he is driving me crazy! I didn't realize that the next season will probably be the last, but if so, I will be incredibly disappointed if they don't get a permanent happy ending.

    I'm glad that Rose turned out to be a much more likable character than she used to be. And the pairing that happened at the end of the season…oh my goodness! I've been waiting five seasons for that and I cried more (happy tears!) during that scene than I have for any other couple on the show, ha. :)

    After much persuasion, I finally got my parents to start watching the show, and now they're hooked, which cracks me up. :) They're over halfway through season 3 already.

    1. Between Anna and Bates, and Edith, it's clear who Fellowes has it out for. He doesn't seem to give them a break. Although Edith seems happy… for now.

      The rumor mill says season six is the last, but Fellowes and other behind-the-scenes personal say it's a season-by-season decision in which case we could get a seventh year! If so, I'll be delighted, but either way, as you say… the characters deserve a happy ending whenever it draws to a close.

      Rose has grown up a lot and now she's one of my favorites.

      I know just what you mean about said pairing… I teared up in the finale (NEVER do that) and was practically squealing with all those "feels." ;)

      Yay for getting your parent's hooked. My mom and I have watched it from the beginning and dad, well, he watches snippets here and there. :D

      Glad you shared your thoughts, Kristin.

  3. We're watching this season as it airs on PBS (which is too slooow for me, but the family insists) and I'm definitely finding certain storylines are more compelling than others. I haven't seen much of Rose's new beau yet, but I like him a lot so far. She's such fun (and I can't wait to see Lily James in Cinderella!), so I like when she's around. Also, isn't Robert being terribly frustrating this season? I hope he sees how he's treating people badly soon…

    I'll be sad if there's only one season left, but I think it's better to go out as planned and on a high note than to overstay your welcome.

    1. I don't blame you for wanting to binge-watch, Rachel. I do too! Glad the DVD's are an option before the week-to-week airing ends. :) Rose and Atticus are darling together. I heart them so much. Hope you continue to like them. As you say, Rose is a dear and I've enjoyed her character throughout this season. (Yay for Cinderella. That's my next "must see.")

      Robert… oh, my gosh! I'm shocked at how volatile he is this season. That being said, I will admit sometimes the person on the receiving end does deserve it. I couldn't help but grin when he tells Sarah off. Because… (sorry fans), I didn't ever warm to her. ;)

      I agree. I'll miss this as my yearly TV addiction, but if S6 is to be its last, I'll enjoy it… provided Fellowes gives the characters a happy ending!

  4. I kind of have a love/hate thing going on for this season. :/ Not really happy with the direction the show is going. I'm pretty sure the only reason I'm still watching is for the Dowager Countess. lol!! I agree though, Fellowes had better end the show happily.

    1. I'm sorry you're not happy with this season. But I know since Matthew's death many are disappointed in the series. What are some of the storylines you have liked?

      Oh, yes! Violet is lovely. I do so like her character though I have to admit… I'm not fond of her storyline this season. ;)

      Indeed. When this ends, Fellowes owes it to the characters and us to end things happily. Or else. ;)

    2. From this season, I have liked watching Daisy grow, Rose fall in love, and the Bates slowly come back together. Mary is, frankly, annoying like she was in the first series. And I feel so horrible for Edith.

      Yeah, I'm not a huge fan of that either. lol! Thankfully, she hasn't lost her knack for wit.

    3. Daisy is a doll! I've always liked her and like you, enjoyed that she had a story this season. Rose's romance… *happy sigh* I did so enjoy that. Atticus seems perfectly lovely.

      Oh, Edith! I keep wanting to say "poor Edith" every season… golly, I wish she'd find happiness. Though I will say I think she seems happier nowadays. At least she has Marigold… perhaps she'll find someone to love her now!? We can wish! :)

      Violet's wit… no, I don't think she'll ever loose that! I love how she scolded Mary after her foolish tryst. So spot-on. We can always count on Grandmother Violet to keep her family in line – or at the very least, she's a voice of reason. :D (Oh, plus, the subplot of Violet's dueling servants this season!? Hilarious!)

  5. I'm definitely with you about the clichés! So tired of Mr. Bates and Anna always being tense and sad. I would like their story to take a turn for the good now, thank you! …And Edith. I'm happy to see that things are starting to go somewhere with episode 7.

    Mary does need some sense shaken into her. So happy for Rose! :) I'm looking forward to watching episode 8 this Sunday.

    Thanks for the lovely review, :)

    1. Me too! As you say, we're due – as are they, to see some smiles for those two. First with Bates' legal troubles, then Anna's horrifying trauma and now SHE'S in legal trouble. Not cool. Poor Edith! That girl hasn't caught a break. First she liked Matthew, then she loved that aristocratic guy and Mary ruined it once, then he left her at the alter. And now Gregson. At least she seems happy with Marigold.

      I've liked Mary except for her foolishness at the beginning of the season. But then where most fans do take issue with her, I've always been fond of her character. :D

      Me too! I'm super happy for Rose – she's a doll. Hope you like episode 8. Only TWO left for season five.

      hank YOU for chatting about this season. Always glad to meet a fellow Downton viewer. :)

    2. For sure! The Bates have been through quite the trouble. And yes, Edith too! She always seems to go for the wrong guys, and she never ends up getting them in the end. One trauma after the other. But yes, I'm hoping good things for her and little Marigold! :)

      I like Mary too… for the most part. I think I liked her best when she was with Matthew… :( *sniff* But she is a great character, and I hope she too finds her purpose and happiness.

      She is! Rose is such fun! :)

      Me too! Eep, excited to see how it ends! So is there going to be a sixth season, and that's it??

      Your welcome, and same here! Though it has some downers for me, this series has intrigued me from the beginning. Something about that era…

    3. Same here – I particularly liked the Christmas special (next week's finale) as regards both the Bates and Edith's story. There's a few tear-jerker moments in the 90 minute episode.

      Matthew brought out the BEST in Mary and that was lovely to see. She was a different person with him and I hope that she can find that again. No one can replace him, but I do think she can find just as solid a marriage as she had with Matthew – as you say, I hope she finds purpose and happiness too.

      Love Rose. She's a joy and brings such greatness to the show that has too much sorrow. (Cannot wait to see Lily in Cinderella next month!)

      Rumors say season six will be its last. But producers, writers and the like say it's a season-by-season decision and they're just now gearing up to film S6. So… there could be a seventh, I suppose. Only time will tell.

      I agree. I've been disappointed by several elements, but overall, I still think this is one of the best TV addictions on air. Glad we've gotten 5/6 seasons. I hope you enjoy the finale! :)

  6. Ahhh!!! The finale!!! It was so good; so many beautiful moments!! Things are starting to settle nicely. The Sybil moment… *tears*!! And Mr. Carson! :-) :-)

    Yes, hopefully a good man, something like Matthew, will appear in Mary's life, :-)

    I agree about Rose! And yes, I can NOT wait to see Cinderella!! Just a little while longer now! Let's just hope I can work it out to go to the theaters. As of now, I don't have anyone to go with me…

    I'm so excited for season six! Yeah… I guess we'll just have to wait and see if its the last.

    Yes… if they excluded the "improper" scenes, fixed Edith and the Bates's stories so they didn't feel so dragged out, didn't have Lady Sybil die!!! … So like you, aside from a few things, I fell in love with this TV series. But definitely I felt like some things that happened were just to add some drama or new romance, and didn't really enhance or going very well with the overall storyline. Oh well. Things are definitely taking a turn for the better now! :-)

    1. YAY! I'm glad you came back and shared your likes.

      Sybil moment – priceless! I loved that entire scene until the end. It's probably a harmony that's short-lived, but it was perfect.

      Mary: We can only hope!

      Bummer! I hope you can find someone to go with. My mom and I are planning on going the day after it opens (as of now) and it'll be a fun outing. The more I see of Cinderella's promos, the more I'm excited. Oh, and did you see Daisy (from Downton) is playing one of the stepsisters!? That'll be a switch!

      Same here. Bring on season 6 – the hunt begins for spoilers and new photos. ;)

      I have to confess much as I was sad about Sybil and Matthew's deaths (it helped me knowing the actor – Dan Stevens wanted to leave and his death was better than separating he and Mary with a divorce in my estimation), the biggest thing I'd have changed was Anna's sad story. This couple had already been through enough trial (Bates murder charge), it seemed less good storytelling and more like "let's pick on these characters." I'm glad you're enjoying it better now! Last night was certainly a blast from the early days – and that will hopefully carry though to season 6! :)

  7. It was precious… I love the brief moment of peace between Edith and Mary, and I just adore how Bransen is such a brother to them! :-)

    I know!!! I've been googling season 6 and all that… but nothing yet! ;-)

    Yeah, I suppose if the actor wanted to leave… what could you do but make a death? Matthew and Sybil (especially Sybil!) were such dear characters, and it was hard to see them both die (so tragically) in the same season. But yes, Mr. Bates and Anna have definitely had one trouble after another. And Anna is so sweet! :-( It would have been really nice if things could have settled for them earlier on. Hopefully season 6 will bring some peace and new happiness to their life!! :-) I'm so excited to see how each of the stories go from the finale!

    I know!! Hopefully I'll find someone. Yes!! I keep seeing pictures from Cinderella, and watching the trailer over… and it just looks so gorgeous! It's going to be epic! :-) I did see that! From a maid to an outlandish stepsister, ;-) :-) It's going to be great fun! We'll have to discuss Cinderella after we've both seen it! :-)

    1. Me too! I know a lot of fans are hoping Branson and Mary get together, I'm okay if that doesn't happen. I love their relationship as is, and confess to being sad Tom and Rose won't be back in S6… or that's where the story is leading given they are both off to America.

      I've just seen snippets here and there about what's to come… but nothing concrete yet – the creators are keeping that under wraps. They won't even commit to saying what's to come about Mary's or Edith's romances!

      Those deaths were SO sad… and I definitely miss them, but sad as it was, I prefer that alternative to recasting Matthew or having him leave for America while Mary stayed behind. That would have made me sad too. Sybil's death was awful (same as Matthew), but perhaps more so because we saw it all tragically unfold while everyone stood around watching her die. *sniff* Not cool, writers!

      That (S5) ending for Bates and Anna was perfect. Hopefully they have more good times now as opposed to bad. *crosses fingers*

      I hope you do! It's fun to see these kind of movies with someone – I saw Into the Woods with my mom and aunt, and it was a really nice "girls day." Me too, me too! I've even switched out my computer wallpaper with Cinderella since they have them as downloads on their webpage. ;)

      YES! I would love to chat about Cinderella after we've seen it. I expect I'll have a lot to gush about if my inkling proves correct. ;)

  8. We just finished it and it is amazing!!!! I loved the ending!!!! So thrilled but now I have to wait a year for more!:(

    1. I know! That is the downside of the end of a show. I'm glad we at least get one more season though and cannot wait to see what comes of the story threads that are left to unfold. :)

  9. I love Downton Abbey and have watched all of the seasons! I also love how Rose was able to marry her true love, Atticus.

    1. As did I, Hope! I thought they were really cute together. Hope they have their happy ending in America though it's sad to see them (presumably) leave the show. :/

    1. Me too, Melissa… I'll "deal" with this show ending with style so long as Fellowes gives his characters the proper kind of ending. A.K.A., a happy one for all of the good characters… I don't care about those who are mean. ;)

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