Downton Abbey’s third series came to an end last night, and in deference, we thought we’d have a look back at the series and see just how show’s makers were able to get back on track after a rocky second series.
Like many a long-running drama, Downton likes to have a few plotlines hanging in the air at once, with the show almost savouring the cliff hangers it trots out oh-so often.
The trouble is that this sort of TV only works if you time it properly, which is exactly where Downton’s second series fell down and the third picks right back up.
No more hanging around waiting for the Bates in jail storyline to tie itself up. No uncertainty as to what’s going to happen with the estate and even Thomas’ situation had some sort of resolution.
Giving the show’s third series a set of complete endings (although too many of them were neat and happy for some) leaves the show in the great position of freedom. Now the writers are free to go where they choose for the Christmas special and a prospective fourth series without the chain of on-going plots around their necks.
Keeping Their Feet On The Ground
Series three not only gave us more resolutions to our plotlines, but also made them a whole lot more grounded.
While in series two we had the fantastical events of Matthew’s magic recovery, a mysterious disfigured ‘relative’ coming into frame and the whole Ethel and the officer business just felt like cheap melodrama and ridiculous stunt plotting.
Keeping the story at least the slightest bit sensible gives the show’s characters the room to breathe and the opportunity to deliver the gentle humour that has become the show’s trademark.
Letting Everyone Play
Downton’s best facets are its rich array of acting talent and a broad range of characters that are just as engaging to be around as those centre frame.
Thankfully, series three capitalised on that, letting the spotlight drift a little bit and giving some characters more space to show off their best efforts. That Edith and Mrs Hughes in particular get multi-episode story arcs about them was an absolute delight and broke up the monopoly of Matthew and Mary that had dominated the show since its beginnings.
Keeping It Snappy
Series one made itself take place over the course of two and a half years and series two stretched its eight episodes out for an equally long amount of time, giving the show a slightly jumpy feel, as the flirtations that seemed to have taken place over the course of a year had actually taken nearly three times that length.
The latest series, thankfully, threw away any notion of doing the same thing, making the entire series run only last over the course of three months.
Not only did this decision make the entire show feel snappier, with events feeling far more concurrent with each other, but it let the show settle into a year without characters annoying having to shout out real world events in order to inform us what year it was.
Downton Abbey Series 3 is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now and is available right here.
FemaleFirst Cameron Smith