Back to Dale Reynolds' Reviews - Home

Downton Abbey, Season 6

How bloody good was “Downton Abbey”?  It lasted six seasons and I am one of those brilliant folk who wanted another six seasons, as it was that terrific! 

As a red-blooded American Progressive, it might be considered illogical for me and my kind to get caught up in the lives of British aristocrats (however minor) – their desires, sufferings, progressions, etc. – but that the writing of Julian Fellowes and the quality of the acting, directing, costuming, cinematography, scoring, etc, was so consistently above-average, that one cannot help but be carried away by the vision handed to us.

Starting with pre-WWI, specifically the sinking of the Cunard cruiseship, Titanic, and ending with the surviving members of the House of Grantham having to deal with the rise of the economic and political rise of the middle-class and a government which didn’t automatically bow to the desires of the wealthy, was as educational as it was entertaining. Watching how Robert Crowley, the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) made his adjustments to changing times:  the growth of women’s rights, the collapsing of his ancient order of rulers, as well as having a grand-daughter born out of wedlock to his youngest, Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael)  and his eldest, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), sharing the running of the huge estate with his recently-returned son-in-law, Tom Branson (Allen Leech) widower of his middle-daughter, Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay), in addition to the support of his American heiress-wife, Cora, Countess of Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern), is at the heart of the adaptations.

But downstairs, as well, the changes have mainly been the rise of rebellion against the somewhat forced servitude of the servants. It’s been Daisy Mason (Sophie McShera) who has grown the most, with her book-learning and her refusal to accept a lower-order for herself. She was helped by Mr. Molesly (Kevin Doyle) and the housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan), who, as it turns out, has married the grand-man butler, Mr. Carson (Jim Carter).

And we sighed in relief when Mr. and Mrs. Bates (Brendon Coyle and Joanne Froggatt) were not tried in the murder of her rapist in Season Five. And the salvation of the only gay central character in the piece, downstairs footman-turned-butler, Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier).

The best of the bunch, two we mustn’t forget, were at the heart of the extraordinary conflicts between the Dowager Countess of Grantham (the ever-great Maggie Smith) and her cousin-by-marriage, Isobel Crowley (Penelope Wilton), two grand broads, given them the best-written zingers, amid shows of deeply-felt affection.

And so on.  All the brilliance that talent, verve and intelligence can deliver, was delivered, educating most of us about the 20th Century evolution of British democracy.  We shall see their likes again – true artistry cannot be kept down –  but it’s very true that I shed a tear (or nine) at the conclusion. Fortunately, I have the entire set and can re-watch it from the beginning. As should you.

A fond farewell to great television.