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"Downton Abbey" Season 3, Episode 6 Recap

Episode 6 Recap

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  • PBS
  • Ring Ring! This is the future calling. You aren't going to like it.



I continue to be impressed by how much "Downton Abbey" has settled down this year and returned to what made its first season so great: family moments. Family, in this case, extends Upstairs and Down. Season Two seemed to fashion itself as a sweeping war epic, and while it was sweeping, in terms of epic or having much to do with war ... not so much. This current season has slowed down, both narratively and with its crazy time jumps (where no one ages - they should all be about 10 years older now, and yet...), and has benefitted immensely.

The plots remain sprawling (if not particularly scandalous), which is exactly what we want from the manor house. At this point in the series, I would think most viewers would just enjoy spending time in this world and with these characters - we don't need hyped-up drama (Branson helping to burn down a house) and ridiculously shoehorned affairs (Robert and Jane from last season, blech). The payoff will presumably be much more emotionally satisfying now for some of the slowly building story lines, like Matthew wishing to modernize the estate, Ethel becoming a real cook, the love triangle downstairs, Thomas and Jimmy's flirtation, Bates' return home, etc.

Though episodes like this one can feel fractured, with everyone going in different directions and doing their own thing, the main theme remains unshaken: It's Robert against the world. Upstairs, the Earl (like Carson Downstairs) cannot come to terms with a progressing world. The world changed hugely and forever after the Second World War, but after the First, things also really began to pick up speed, as industrialization began to bowl over the agrarian lifestyle of so many European nations, particularly England. As we are constantly reminded in the show, Downton's way of life won't last for much longer.