I’m not sure whether I’m mellowing in my old age or if Downton has actually got better. Both options seem pretty unlikely, but while I wound myself up into a pretty enthusiastic rant about last season, this year I find myself leaning more in favour of enthusiastic gushing.
I think there’s certainly something in settling in to Downton for what it is, not what the papers or award voters try to turn it into. Downton is an autumnal Sunday evening drama. You curl up under a blanket on the sofa with a nice cup of tea and a packet of biscuits and relax. It’s not gritty or challenging, you’re not expected to think or relate it to the reality of life, it’s a last vestige of calm before the crashing arrival of Monday morning.
Looking over last season’s review I could mount all the same criticisms at this year. Ridiculously little happened, and the few things that did were drawn out so thin that any resolution was more like the story being put out of its misery than any sort of glorious conclusion. We still have an array of indistinguishable suitors flocking after the quite horrible Mary, Edith wallowing about, Bates in trouble with the law, Thomas plotting and Rose flitting. Even stories that should have injected some challenge to the status quo were so over-done that you lost all sympathy. Rather than cheering for the schoolteacher to come in, stir everything up and remind Tom of who he used to be, she was so nasty that we just wanted her to go away.
I guess then it must be me that’s mellowing, because despite all that, Downton really has been one of the highlights of my week. It’s just nice to watch. The longer episodes allow you to really settle into the comfortable easiness of it. The distribution of stories amongst the characters meant that even if one was slumping, it was never on screen for very long and each story did at least have a beginning, (overly long) middle and a conclusion, they never just disappearing without resolution. I even found myself caring on occasion… am I crazy or should Tom pair up with one of the sisters? I’m not sure I even mind which one, but he makes each of them more likeable and more progressive and they in turn give him confidence and connections. Sorry. See, I care!
Should Downton be getting Emmy nominations? God no. It’s cheesy, obvious and nothing particularly special. But it is a blend of entertainment and comfort that I for one, found I desperately needed as the evenings got darker and Monday morning loomed.