It’s an instant Proust madeleine and it’s about to leave the Netflix catalog. Downton Abbey, did not need to restore its letters of nobility to the historical genre, but it will certainly have restored all its chic!
What is it about ?
The heirs of Downton Abbey having perished during the sinking of the Titanic, the Crawley family finds itself in a delicate position, the three descendants not being able to claim the title of Lord Grantham. However, the title, the domain and the fortune of the family are inseparable. Matthew Crawley, new successor and distant cousin, arrives at Downton Abbey. There he discovers a new lifestyle, with very strict rules that govern life between aristocrats and servants.
Downton Abbeyn, a series created by Julian Fellowes with Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern… Until August 14 on Netflix
Why is it great?
When the historical drama of Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey, first aired on ITV in 2010 in the UK, its success was immediate and quickly went global. With such finely crafted plots, such well-characterized characters and a successful anchoring in the great history of the beginning of the 20th century, the series immediately knew how to impose a unique tone of its kind. But what makes the series so delectable and entertaining?
Downton Abbey may be a drama – and we’ve often taken out our handkerchiefs – but one of its great qualities is its fast-paced dialogue and humorous content. Special mention to Maggie Smith which delivers real punchlines that have all become classics. So many moments that make the Crawley family particularly endearing and that break the very tight-lipped image associated with their rank.
Many intriguing characters
Almost every character in the series has an interesting story to tell. The writers of Downton Abbey do a remarkable job of weaving together different character conflicts and themes. Main characters and supporting characters have roughly the same screen time. Whether it’s hopeful and strong-willed characters like Anna the Maid (Joanne Froggatt) or more petty and malevolent characters like Thomas the Footman (Rob James-Collier) and Mrs. O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran), each of them contributes to the suspense of the plot and the different dramas.
This is one of the characteristics of Downton Abbey, which goes against the high-sounding image of historical series: the tension and the rhythm are brilliant and present in each episode. There are short plots, where the tension rises a notch, which can be resolved in one episode. But this tension can extend over an entire season and accompany the narrative arc of a character, which makes the viewer really hooked. Like Mary’s love story (Michelle Dockery) with Matthew (Dan Stevens) which encountered many obstacles with soap elements throughout. To the point that we often wondered if these two would unite one day.
The big story in the background
Because Downton Abbey is a historical series, there are many instances where real historical figures have come to meet our fictional characters. The series begins in 1912, just as the Titanic sank. The second season illustrates the impact of the First World War on the daily life of the English of the time. It also shines a spotlight on the political tensions between England and Ireland through characters like Tom Branson (Allen Leech). These events of course impact the life of each character. Often in a realistic and dramatic way.
The complexity of story arcs isn’t limited to the main cast. Julian Fellowes made sure to invest in every character he created. There is, at the beginning, the main plot which is the possibility that the Granthams permanently lose Downton Abbey because there is no longer a male heir. Later, a woman, one of the secondary characters, falls in love with a man who is still married. When they can finally be together, he is framed for murder and sentenced to death. These serious complications literally change the characters. The destiny of Lady Mary alone is a novel in itself. A woman of character, forced into marriage to save her family, upset romantic and marked by tragedy, she is a fascinating heroine like all her companions.
If you haven’t seen Downton Abbey, and are worried about watching a series centered on a British aristocratic family that would smell like mothballs, give it a chance. You will not be disappointed·e !
Downton Abbey leaves the Netflix catalog on August 14.
(Re)watch the cast interview when Downton Abbey 2 was released at the cinema: