Downton Abbey Reflection: Part Two

One of my favorite aspects of Downton Abbey is that often the most climaxing parts of each episode actually occur off camera, while what viewers see is the fallout from these story lines.  For example, the weddings between Sybil and Tom, or Mary and Matthew, we see the lead up, we see some fallout, but we do not have to endure a drawn out wedding scene.  Julian Fellowes allows these things to take place in our imaginations, freeing up time for the dry humor and gossipy byplay that this series is so good at.  This post will contain spoilers for those who have not seen the series.

This tactic allows for a little extra mystery.  You'll see a scene where Mrs. Hughes gets ready to share the details of some scandal with Mr. Carson.  Before the cut scene, you get a glimpse of an expression on her face, but by the time the cameras return to this story line, the conversation is over and we are dealing with the reactions.  This affords us the opportunity to imagine Mr. Carson's response (in my imagination, always an excess of scandalized horror!), while at the same time sparing us the dialogue itself.

(Side note: I hate television shows with an excess of over-acted dialogue that does nothing to further character development.  TV is full of this, and that is why I do not have cable!)

For the most part, I believe this tactic on the part of the writer lends to how Downton Abbey can take such a huge cast of characters and progress and development them so well over time.  With only a few exceptions, most of the plot twists throughout Downton Abbey, even the somewhat absurd ones, lend themselves to character development, which I think should be at the heart of any plot twist.

The most glaring exception to this was the story line I discussed in my last post.  This story line made no ultimate change to the direction of the show, nor did it really develop any of the characters in a new way.  It was a demonstration of Edith's willingness to fall in love with an idea rather than have a vision of her own, but we already knew that quite well at that point.  This was part of why that story line perplexes me so much: what was the point of it?!

In quite the opposite fashion, one of my favorite story lines begins when Miss Bunting (who I never cared for) arrives on the scene and becomes Daisy's tutor.  This begins the creation of a new Daisy, one who is richer for her learning.  I'm a feminist in only the most traditional sense of the word, and this evolution of Daisy's character delighted me.  Not only this, but the connection it had to Mr. Molesley and his own development; going from insecure house staff to educator.  Both Molesley and Daisy were richly developed through this story line, which was ongoing over the course of more than one season.

Because Downton was so good at this sort of ongoing, season-over-season character development, I am curious how they will take this from TV to a movie and accomplish the same thing.  This is part of what makes the prospect so exciting!

Comments

  1. It seems a lot of shows throw in an episode that provides no progression to the show's plot. Some shows it seems like they need to slow down a bit or stretch out the season to hit their quota. Not sure if this is the reason Downton did it. Maybe they felt they would pickup Patrick Gordon story again, and maybe it just never felt right to bring it up again.

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