Listen Up, Season 3 of Downton is here…

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Downton Abbey Characters Season 3

Season Three is design porn, plain and simple

Thank goodness for PBS in a country that believes Honey Boo Boo and Kim Kardashian are royalty. Downton Abbey has done for PBS what more popular networks were unable to accomplish and served up a wildly popular and sumptuously upholstered hit. With the premiere of Season Three of Downton Abbey in North America, the reviews are rolling in. Some say Julian Fellowes was snoozing during script writing sessions.  What can we say, subtlety is lost on some. At Downton Abbey Online, we believe Fellowes has come back stronger than ever from Season One and Two of Downton Abbey. Season Three concentrates on the very individual tales of his layered characters. It’s all about personal drama in Season Three, unlike Season Two, which was all about “The War”.


The best things about the soapy intrigue of Downton Abbey Season Three:


Mrs Patmore gets way more sassy:


Mrs Patmore Quote

Dishing up more than food this season...

The scriptwriters must have started drinking double espressos and realized there’s room for more than one resident wit on Downton Abbey. Lesley Nicol is best known as Mrs. Patmore, the plucky cook with a heart of gold. Mrs Patmore rivals Gordon Ramsey when it comes to bossing around her underlings and kitchen maid Daisy is usually on the receiving end. That said, Season Three of Downton Abbey demonstrates that Mrs. Patmore’s tongue lashings are just a case of tough love as the two inch closer to a full blown friendship. There’s more hormones brewing downstairs this season than chicken bouillon. Mrs. Patmore tells the youngsters: “The problem with you lot is that you’re all in love with the wrong person.” It’s great to see Mrs. Patmore come into her own on Season Three and rival Countess Violet for quotability. We like Mrs. Patmore so much, she’s got her own quote page on Downton Abbey Online.


Shirley Maclaine bursts onto the scene:


Shirley Maclaine plays Martha Levinson

Martha, suitably imposing

Maclaines’ performance on the third season of Downton Abbey is more a testament to her longevity than previous Oscar winning performances. For Maclaine, just showing up is enough. Her lines are delivered flat, her face is a frozen botoxed tundra, but we don’t care. She’s an icon. Maclaine plays Martha Levinson, the wealthy American mother of Lady Cora. Martha and Violet’s small screen scenes together are subtly layered. There’s the veneer of social grace and politesse, but underneath lurks jealousy, intrigue and secrecy. Desperation also lurks, especially since Violet tries to hit Martha up for another cash infusion of the variety that saved Downton from ruin once before. Maclaine only appears in the first two episodes, but her presence at Downton draws attention to the increasing chasm between the old and the new. Maclaine doesn’t steal the show, but she fits in perfectly.


Flapper Fashion shimmies in:


Lady Rose, Downton Abbey

Wild Lady Rose, the flapper

With the arrival of the roaring twenties, corsets are out and rising hemlines, relaxed neck lines and glamorous blinged out jewellery are in. Tiaras and art deco headpieces adorn the crowns of Downton Abbey’s stars. Wild cousin also Rose drinks and dances her way onto Downton Abbey; she epitomizes the youthful abandon of the Jazz age. Third season costumes are designed by Caroline McCall who took over for Emmy winning Susannah Buxton. McCall uses vintage fabrics and her design is a nod to both the 20s and modern fashion. Lady Mary’s wedding dress is much like the lady herself; expensive, elegant and tasteful. The drop waist, silver tunic with a flapper silhouette cost $6000 to make. Will knockoffs of Lady Mary’s dress be walking down the aisle soon? The fashion and design on Downton Abbey are so superb that Ralph Lauren themed his Fall collection around the period’s fashion, staging his fashion show at Highclere castle featuring riding clothes, checks and tweeds. And Lauren now sponsors Masterpiece Theatre. If it’s good enough for Ralph Lauren, it’s good enough for us.


Stunning Scenery:


Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle

We never get tired looking at this...

We live for shots of epic Highclere Castle and after standing for 334 years, it just keeps getting better. Highclere Castle is home to real life royalty, Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. We think the castle is both the star of and the main character on Downton Abbey. The downstairs scenes are shot at a studio in London because the servants’ quarters at Highclere are no longer representative of the era. The village scenes are filmed in the village of Bampton in the county of Oxfordshire. Bampton hasn’t changed much over the years, so it’s a very authentic background located close to production headquarters in London. The end of Season Three finds the Crawleys travelling to the Scottish Highlands. The scenery up north does not disappoint with big dramatic skies, verdant rolling hills and abounding wildlife. The hunting and fishing scenes make us want to flip through a Barbour catalogue, stat.


Anachronistic Gay Rights come to Downton Abbey:


Gay Thomas on Downton Abbey

Handsome Gay Thomas

Hells ya, we’d be the first ones to raise a Pride flag up the pole around here, but in reality, the 1920s were not known for their progressive gay rights movement. Thomas the footman has a big storyline this season on Downton Abbey. He falls victim to O’Brien’s cruel revenge plot – a quite dastardly plot considering O’Brien has already set the bar so high with her soap dropping and evil bangs. Thomas is no angel himself, but Fellowes created a gay character who has the opportunity to choose good over evil and he chooses wrong time after time. His character is nasty enough on its own, but in Edwardian reality, his sexuality probably would have made him a social pariah, if not imprisoned for life. But kudos to Fellowes for injecting a modicum of kindness and understanding at Downton, albeit completely not in keeping with the times. The best quote of the season comes from Lord Grantham on homosexuality: “If I shouted blue murder every time someone tried to kiss me at Eton, I’d have gone hoarse in a month.”


Anna and Mr. Bates, reunited and it feels so good:


Anna and John Bates

Snuggle time for the star crossed lovers...

At the end of Season Two, Bates is rotting away in prison, convicted of Vera’s murder. Sweet Anna is determined to prove her man innocent. Anna and Bates never give up on each other. Pull out the tissues folks. Their against all odds love affair makes Matthew and Mary looks positively boring by comparison.


Blame Canada, again:


Canadian Mountie

Did this guy kick Julian Fellowes?

Did a Mountie kick Julian Fellowes in the shin? Did a beautiful Canadian woman break Fellowes’ heart, eh? In Season One of Downton Abbey, the Titanic sinks after hitting a Canadian iceberg. In Season Two, a burned up, amnesic, Canadian soldier arrives and threatens the inheritance of Downton Abbey. And in Season Three, the family fortune is lost on Canada’s Grand Trunk Railway. Ah well, Canada hasn’t been cast as a villain since South Park’s famous “Blame Canada”, so we don’t mind.