Now that we are nearing the end of “Downton Abbey’s” third season, we are at a time where it is fair to say that we are getting a little bit more perspective on the show as a whole. We have realized just what works, what is a little less successful, and also have received a little bit better of an idea as to where the show could be heading moving forward.
But is the program really up to par with the first two seasons? It tends to be almost a sort of critical tendency to say that shows get worse as they go along, but we ultimately do not feel that way here. It may be in part thanks to the concise form of storytelling that the show uses in not overstaying its welcome, but by and by season 3 has even exceeded our expectations, even though it is far different than the first two years. We’ve felt far more of an emphasis on Tom Branson, less on Matthew and Mary, and at times Maggie Smith has not felt prominent at all.
We’ll start with what has really been the biggest disappointment for us thus far: the amount of screentime for Shirley MacLaine compared to the hype. We were really anticipating her coming in and really shaking things up, but even early on this season she was just more limited to a few scenes here and there. Considering all of the promotion, is it fair to say that we expected more? Then again, not using a character enough is not really so bad if it is the worst thing that can be said about your show. (We’re just not everyone likes violent Bates in prison, but we really don’t see much of a problem with it.)
As for the positive, though, there is plenty: Allen Leech deserves an Emmy nomination for what he has done with Tom this year, and the storylines for Hugh Bonnville and Jim Carter in particular have shown us the depths to which some people in this time are close-minded about the way of the future. As devastated as we were by what happened to Edith and Sybil this season, we’re thrilled that it did as yet another reminder that money does not always equal happiness … or survival.
Could the last two episodes (plus the Christmas episode) change everything? It’s possible, but we anticipate them delivering considering that everything else thus far.
What have you felt about the third season compared to what we have seen before it?