Downton Abbey is one of the great British television success stories. Written by Julian Fellowes, and first shown in 2010, it won both critical applause and high audience ratings; the second series, however, showed signs of weakness in the writing, though this didn’t affect ratings: in fact, the audience increased by 20 percent, to 11.5 million viewers.
A Christmas special is on the cards this year, to be shown on Christmas Day. The episode will follow the Crawley family from Christmas Eve 1919, to New Year, 1920. The plot focus is on Lady Mary Crawley and her relationship with newspaper magnate Sir Richard Carlisle, who’s more than prepared to blackmail her about a naughty incident in her past (she had her way with a Turkish diplomat, who then rather annoyingly died in her bed. Oops.) Meanwhile, Mary’s cousin Matthew Crawley, the heir to Downton is still hanging about (his fiancée, Lavinia, conveniently died at the end of the last series, of Spanish flu – or a broken heart.) The trial of valet Mr Bates for allegedly murdering his wife Vera also takes place. So is D-Abbs back on form? Critics say that the series has got back its credibility, and toast the special, looking forwards to a stonking third series.
“Just been lucky enough to see Xmas downton – obviously sworn to secrecy but all I will say is DON’T MISS IT!!!” [sic] tweeted Lorraine Kelly, exuberantly.
Here are six things you need to know about the special.
1. It’ll get you sniffling. Serena Davies in The Daily Telegraph said that the special was “deliciously nuanced, wonderfully performed”, and it will even get you “weeping.” The ending is so “moving” that the whole country will be “snivelling into their post-prandial brandies.”
2. Lights! There will be a big Christmas tree in the hall at Downton Abbey. Apparently only toffs had electricity in them there days, so expect gasps of awe and surprise from cap-doffing villagers. It will be “[a]s tall and sparkly as the Eiffel Tower”, said Alex Hardy in The Times, somewhat hyperbolically.
3. Matthew Crawley. Played by actor Dan Stevens, Crawley, according to Davies, “isn’t much cop at shooting pheasants.” According to The Daily Mail, Stevens even had to hide the scripts from his wife: so expect some romantic plot developments.
4. The Dowager Countess of Grantham. She’s “honed” her head-twitching, continued Davies, “like some affronted bird of paradise every time she encounters a whiff of vulgar behaviour.” The dresses are hot too – but we might have to wait until the third series “before the Dowager Countess wears a hem above the ankle.”
5. Dabblings with the spirit world. Yes, whilst “the poshos” are shooting, the servants are “dabbling with a Ouija board”, although whose spirit gets called up is yet to be revealed …. Although judging by Matthew’s zombie-like appearance at the end of the last series, it might well be anyone.
6. A new character! Yes, Nigel Havers (for it is he) will appear as Lord Hepworth, whom the Dowager Countess calls “a fortune hunter, but a pleasant one.” At least his character won’t be subjected to an electric shock trial, says Periscope, and wishes Hepworth well.
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