So I finished the 6 season, 54 episode show. Overall I found it to be very good. Thinking about the show, a number of social themes emerged that are relevant even in today’s turbulent society.
Despite a patriarchal society where male successors are prized, the show ultimately focuses on the women of Downton Abbey especially that of Mary. The show presents situations that highlights some of the prejudices and difficulties that women faced during 1920s (and probably still face today). One of the more glaring difficulties is related to the love life tribulations that Mary faces with her “Wheel of Suitors” and their continuous intrusions into her life despite her repeated deflections of their romantic advances. Another difficulty that the show tackles is the way women are perceived by men. It’s portrayed quite well with Mary and her suitors, with Isobel and Dr. Clarkson, with Edith and her editor, with the Crawley sisters and their father, with Anna and her ordeal, and even with Violet and her antiquated views.
The show also hints at the potential for upward mobility gained from greater education. It was much more prevalent with Mr. Mosley and teaching credential storyline in the final season. But throughout every season, there were tidbits of hope where someone learning a skill will eventually allow them to leave “service.” Even as early as season 1 with the Gwen (a chamber maid) and Sybil (a daughter of the house) storyline where Sybil helped and supported Gwen move out of service even when Gwen herself felt all hope was lost. It was only fitting that the final season devoted a few minutes to show what happened to Gwen and her upward mobility as well as the hint of the start of the demise of “service.” Even Mrs. Hughes foresaw the future direction of maids and butlers in a household.
The show answered “what is family?” with the many of the storylines. The one I liked most was that of Mr. Branson marrying into the family, feeling confused and lost after the death of Sybil, leaving to Boston and then returning back to Downton Abbey. A rags to riches story where internal conflict and subsequent growth made him very likable.
Despite the social themes, the character growth of certain characters also made this show popular. In particular, I initially didn’t like Rose. Her portrayal was very similar to that of the modern millenial where she only thinks of herself and does what she wants. But the show evolved her character into a much more likable person where she used her quick thinking and wit to de-escalate conversations and situations. Honestly, I sometimes wish I had the same quick wit to read and assess the situation and act accordingly.