I am not sure where to start because writing a mere formal review of a period costume drama like Downton Abbey is unjustly and undeservingly shorter to write. I have a staunch interest in classic period dramas and that is why shows like Cranford and Poldark hit my list of the shows that I like the most in this classic genre. Downton Abbey is something else.
Created and written by Oscar and Emmy-winning writer and novelist Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey is about the Crawley family who exists in the early 20th century when the world is shaping towards a difficult period in the European regions. Between 1912 and 1926, the Crawleys led by the patriarch Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, and his wife Cora, the American heiress, struggles to tackle many domestic conflicts running in the family and the business affairs that occur in the different phases.
The plotting of the show is divided into two different classes. One is the rich Crawleys and the other is their working staff. Their stories and characters play on parallel notes and are given equal importance that successfully shows that Downton Abbey is not only about the sophisticated luxury but the human value where the rich and the working class coordinate in harmony and build strong mutual respect. Internal conflicts and characterizations are dealt with meticulous care. I liked how the three Crawley sisters were distinguished in characterization and their sisterhood was tested with time.
The presentation of their aristocracy and costume design is the zenith of the show that never disappoints. Screenwriting and dialogues are powerful, less pragmatic but also less dramatic. There is a tremendous balance of dramatizing humor to the seriousness of the subject. When it comes to dialogues, the unanimous winner amongst all the characters is matriarch Violet Crawley played by the legendary Maggie Smith. Your ears won’t fall deaf when Violet begins to speak.
Speaking of pragmatism, I was a bit skeptical about the respect the writer builds between the Crawleys and their staff; because I felt the writer was being too humble to let the Crawleys go soft on their staff that doesn’t look realistic. But see, I am a history digger but I need to be convinced with the detailing. Does the history really make the viewers believe that the daughters of the estate would show fondness for driving the tractor or work her kitchen in the maid’s quarter or allow one of the staff to leave unpunished when the voice is to be raised? Lord Grantham letting his daughter marry a man, not from their ranks is also debatable. Being so merciful, generous, and treating so well to their servants is pretty doubtful. There was a scene where the ball was organized where each of the Crawleys danced with each of the servants. In another scene, Lord Grantham himself serves a tray for a drink when working staff member Anna gives birth. Really don’t know if such things actually existed in the past and with such a level of delicacy.
Yes, Mr. Fellowes didn’t exaggerate glamorizing the royalness of the Crawleys but rather focused on the changing times where the family took time to accept change and this is where characterizing in the plot plays a major part. One impressive aspect that the show enlightened was the ladies of the estate supporting liberalism. All the three sisters Mary, Edith, and Sybil believed and advocated for the education and employment of women.
The most shocking moment of the show was the sudden death of Matthew Crawley, out of nowhere. Good to know that the character was deliberately killed because actor Dan Stevens decided to leave. Otherwise, there was no reason to kill the character that soon. My favorite character was definitely Violet Crawley, her presence was the minty alfresco. The other characters that I very much liked were Mr. Carson, Mr. Molesley, and Lord Grantham. The best character development definitely was Thomas Barrow, he was someone whom the viewers hated and loved equally.
Downton Abbey is a cult phenomenon and one of the masterpieces works on British television. One significant point about the show’s remarkable legacy is that the show comes into existence in the newest times as most of the classical masterpieces in British television history are from the previous century. After my Sons Of Anarchy addiction, if there is another show that hooked me and bought my time, it is Downton Abbey.