Julian Fellows’ acclaimed series returns to the states to receptive ratings and the pleasure of knowing there’s a sixth season of the familial drama. Twists and turns, new passions and secrets continue to haunt the Crawley family, but what they do with them is most telling.
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)?
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.
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You can find Downton Abbey, Series Five digitally on Amazon Video
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].