I realise I'm a tat late when it comes to this TV show - it aired from September 2010 til December 2015 - but that made it possible for me to watch all six seasons in a week in November (yes.. a week, I was not in the best mood let's just keep it at that). The show covers the beginning of the 20th century, including the period of the first world war and the aftermath of it. I didn't watch any trailers, didn't read the synopsis for the plot. I went in blind, only knowing that it was set in England, I didn't know in what time frame exactly. So Most of it was a big surprise. For those of you who, like me, haven't seen the show, here's a brief synopsis of the first episode of season 1:
A chronicle of the lives of the British aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the early 20th Century. The family and staff of Downton are shocked when they find that the heir to the title and fiancé of the Earl's daughter Mary perished on the Titanic and the Earl hires a crippled army comrade as valet.
How is this frighteningly relevant today, you ask? Well.. that's exactly what I found out. I didn't expect it to be so painfully real. Not necessarily for me personally, but for how I see society/people around me talking about others. It dictates a family who deals with decorum, the rules of interactions and society in a very real way. Especially once the youngest daughter falls in love with one of the servants and decides to elope. It shakes the whole family, because they do not know what to do. It is against every thing they stand for, but they deal with it. Slowly the family adapts to the new situations, and the lives of the servants and family start to intertwine. But the hierarchy between people is so painful to witness (and that's before skin-colour even comes into play, in the show).
The hierarchy, though decorum is wildly different in western society, is still present. Not only in terms of skin-colour, but also aside from that. The hierarchy between the elite, middle class, lower class, all of it. The idea that one person is better than someone else, merely because they were born into a family with less wealth, or a smaller house, or a country that's poorer. The idea that those lives are more or less important. I don't want to pretend that I'm perfect, a saint, that I'm not prejudiced or selfish. But it was still a shock to see that kind of behaviour and realise how this is still a thing, a century later. And beyond that, comparing the show with Austen's literature and world, the differences are so small it is scary as well. I realise that it's a TV show, but make no mistake, it is based on some very real circumstances.
Aside from that, I really enjoyed the show. It made me so angry, sad, happy, everything. It didn't feel super dramatic (which is what TV drama's often do), it felt realistic. It felt real. And that is exactly why I loved it so much. It dealt with real problems (such as the war). So below you'll find a list of my top 4 favourite characters, just because I like to talk about the positive sides too. Before I go there. I first want to mention Violet Crawley, played by the wonderful Maggie Smith. Though I don't particularly like the character (simply because, like my grandparents, she is still stuck in a life far more stuck-up than the time they live in). But she plays it so beautifully. The role was written for her, just outstandingly done. Do you agree with my choices? If not, who are your favourite characters? To anyone who hasn't seen the show, I really recommend it. It's only 6 seasons with 8 to 9 episodes a season. It's really addicting but you'll binge it in a short period of time. You won't regret it!
4. Anna Smith/Bates (played by Joanne Froggatt). She becomes Lady Mary's lady's maid rather early on in the show, and she is one of the kindest people on the show. She's also resilient and hard-working, no matter the curcumstances. She doesn't feel hate towards the rich family, not because she wouldn't be entitled to, but because she wouldn't be able to feel such kind of hate. For personal reasons, I really connected to this character. Especially once she marries Mr. Bates (another beautifully human character).
3. Tom Branson (played by Allen Leech). He's an Irish chauffeur, who has an outspoken opinion about the hierarchy I addressed above. No matter his class, or someone else's, he will speak his mind. He tries to better his as well as other's lives. He eventually learns to love the family or the Earl, even if they are still on high-horses and live a luxurious life while others suffer. He learns to love them as he gets to know them and realises there is more to them than decorum. I really like this character. One of the best on the show without a doubt.
2. Lady Sybil (played by Jessica Brown Findlay). Such a rebel from day one. She helps a servant get a job as a secretary. Learns how to cook in the kitchen. Becomes a nurse during the war. She does not give a sh*t about who she is, where she comes from, or where other's come from. She wants to do something useful with a her life, doesn't want to sit around wearing beautiful dresses or anything like that. But most of all, she is kind and loving. The three sisters of the show aren't particularly close (especially the other two), but Sybil loves them dearly and they love Sybil dearly.
1. Matthew Crawley (played by Dan Stevens; no not because this guy is also the Beast, I'm not that superficial). He was a lawyer from Manchester. Son of the late Doctor Reginald Crawley and of Isobel, a nurse. By his father he was a distant relative of the Earl of Grantham and he became the heir due the previous heirs's death. He comes into the story, completely unfamiliar with the rules of decorum, the family and Downton Abbey. His arrival sparks change, reluctant as the family may be (safe for Sybil of course). But he soon finds himself as part of the family. He is sweet, kind but also very persistent. He goes of to fight in the war and comes back with a bruised spine. His extremely honourable, even when it goes against his feelings. And lets be honest, he's not horrible to look at either.