[Downton Abbey spoilers, just so you know.]

What with one thing and another, I was sick for a about ten days straight (including a charming six-hour stint in the ER for intravenous fluids). Reading my computer was hard (although I did re-read Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hillary Mantel, with an eye to getting a better sense of how she’s writing rather than the plot). I’ve been watching a lot of television and movies on my DVR: political coverage on msnbc (although in limited amounts); comedies such as Tootsie and period pieces like A Room With a View (one of my all-time favorite movies);  and, of course, the final season of Downton Abbey.

I felt something was missing. I started re-watching from the beginning of season one, and it struck me.

By Season Six, there are no truly unpleasant characters. O’Brien — the nastiest regular character in the series — is long gone; Thomas has been rehabilitated. Mrs. Patmore has gone from berating Daisy all the time to encouraging her. Mr. Carson is a curmudgeon, but not the tyrant he was at the beginning. Ms. Hughes was never really awful, but she was curt.

Branson went from angry revolutionary to contented businessman (after having been a mostly contented land agent for the Crawleys). He went away but came back deciding that Downton was his home. Could you imagine that ever happening back at the beginning of Season 3?

Above stairs, Cora is a sweetie — and had been for a couple of seasons — rather than the whiny, spoiled American wife of an English nobleman. Lady Violet was no longer mean but rather simply sharp. Edith, who was a sneaky little bitch in Season 1, by the end (perhaps because of everything that happened to her) was kind and gentle.

Even Lady Mary had softened. When she ruined Lady Edith’s chance for happiness (at least temporarily), she was clearly acting out of her own sadness and pain. Besides, she made up for it.

The characters grew up. The series spanned 1912 to 1926. Clearly people change and grow over that amount of time. The death of Matthew Crawley at the end of Season Three clearly started the transformation of people both upstairs and down. The show became more a drama and less a soap opera, and I suppose that’s a good thing.

Still, I miss the sharpness of the original season.


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