Downton Abbey

November 2011 Jenna Hathaway

I have heard of Downton Abbey for the longest time. I heard many people raving about it, talking about it endlessly, and as it is prone to do when a show feels overhyped for me, I instead decided to steer clear from it. However, at some point before the second series aired, I decided I was too curious to not watch it. I was looking for new shows at the time and I figured period dramas usually work well enough for me. And if I had only given it my usual one episode chance of winning me over, then I would have abandoned it. Downton Abbey is not a show that is guaranteed to win your heart on the first episode. It’s not amazingly enchanting or immediately interesting or will shock you with its plot twists. No, this isn’t that kind of show. The first episode left me somewhat disenchanted, thinking, “What could be so special about this show?”

But I decided to give it more chances and I continued to watch since there are only seven episodes in the first series anyway. And then, ever so slowly, I fell in love. The thing with this show is; you need to give it time until you get to know the characters more. You have to let them develop, and grow, and eventually they will tug at your heartstrings and make you shake your fist in frustration at them. Because Downton Abbey is a show that does a slow burn very well. All of its storylines and especially the relationships take very long to develop, especially because the show tends to jump months between one episode and another, resulting in them covering two or three years in one series.

If you’re expecting instant romance then you will be sorely disappointed because some of these characters will wait years before they even get to kiss their love interest. Yes, it’s frustrating, and it makes you want to shake them and tell them to just get on with it, but I have come to love the subtler undercurrents of the show and how it’s not easy for the characters to just throw everything away in the name of love. They are careful and they adhere to rules and manners that this time and era and their environment dictated.

The series tells the story of the Crawley family and their house in Downton Abbey, Yorkshire. The family consists of the Earl and Countess of Grantham and their three daughters; Mary, Edith, and Sybil Crawley. The first episode opened after the Titanic has just sunk and the family discovered that Downton Abbey’s heir, whom Mary was supposed to marry to keep the title and estate within the family (since the Crawleys had no son), had perished in the sinking of the ship. Now they must find the next man in line that was to inherit everything, and here entered Matthew Crawley, a solicitor from Manchester who was more used to a much more ‘modern’ way of living.

However, the story isn’t only about the family. It also spends half of the allocated time exploring the lives of the household staff. Each of them, from the maids to the butler to the housekeeper, has their own complicated lives, and we get to see them and their storylines feature as prominently as the family members. That’s the interesting thing about Downton Abbey; it has two parts and tells the tale of both the ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ members of the Downton Abbey household. And I can assure you that the staff members’ stories aren’t any less interesting. I hope that you will give this show a try, and give it many chances if you're not immediately hooked. I am almost positive that you will be just as enchanted as I was by these characters.