A breakdown full of spoilers from Downton Abbey: A New Era

This story contains spoilers for Downton Abbey: A New Era

Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, has clearly been preparing for Maggie Smith’s departure from the show for some time. Smith portrayed the Dowager Countess, Violet Crawley, a character who became best known for her devastating zingers and obsession with maintaining tradition at Downton. Even in the early episodes, Violet worried about the legacy she was leaving behind.

Fellowes strongly hinted that Smith might leave the show when he inserted a storyline into the first. Downton Abbey film, released in 2019, in which Violet receives bad news from a doctor. “I had medical tests a few weeks ago and I went up to London to hear the results. And I may not have long to live,” she confides to her granddaughter Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) in the first film. “It won’t be too quick, but of course you can never ask a doctor in London to be specific.”
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It was a weird conversation to write at the end of the movie: The dowager doesn’t die and doesn’t even look sick in the movie. Maybe Fellowes was hedging his bets in case Smith didn’t agree to return for the sequel. Luckily for fans, Violet appears in Downton Abbey: A New Era. But as the film reveals, his days are numbered.

All along A new era, the characters repeatedly discuss the impending demise of the Dowager Countess. Early in the film, Violet discovers she has inherited a villa in southern France from an old lover, but the man’s widow disputes the inheritance. (it would not be Downton Abbey without anyone contesting an inheritance.) However, Violet would like to keep the villa and offer it to Sybbie, the child of Tom Branson and Sybil Crawley, now deceased. Unlike her cousins, Sybbie will not inherit any house upon her father’s death.

Violet is too fragile to travel, so half of the family – Robert (Hugh Bonneville), Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), Edith (Laura Carmichael), Tom (Alan Leech) and a few others – decide to visit the widow and the son of the mysterious man. in France. Meanwhile, Lady Mary and the Dowager Countess host a film crew making a Hollywood feature film at Downton. Although Robert and Cora fear the Dowager Countess may die on their journey, Mary says she plans to write immediately with news.

Ben Blackall—Key Features (lr) Harry Hadden-Paton, Laura Carmichael, Tuppence Middleton and Allen Leech in Downton Abbey: A New Era

The rest of the film is taken up with a few minor storylines involving the very many characters who have come to define Downton Abbey. Tom marries Lucy (Tuppence Middleton), the secret daughter of a cousin named Maude Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton). At the end of the film, the two have a baby. The Downton film crew must go from silent film to walkie-talkie, and Lady Mary lends her voice to the film. The film’s director (Hugh Dancey) falls in love with Mary because every handsome man falls in love with Mary, but she rejects his flirtations because she’s still married to a Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode, who hasn’t returned for the film). Elsewhere, movie star Guy Dexter (Dominic West) takes an interest in Downton butler Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier). And while the two oddly never share an intimate moment in the film, near the end of the film, Guy invites Thomas to travel with him as a romantic partner in the guise of a “dresser.” Thomas accepts.

Two of the film’s biggest dramatic turns end up being fakes. Cora believes she has cancer but learns at the end of the film that she is just sick with anemia. Robert thinks he may be the illegitimate son of the mysterious Frenchman who left the villa to his mother, but Violet dispels this idea from her deathbed. She shows the family letters between the two lovebirds to prove that nothing physical ever happened.

It turns out that Violet Crawley, despite her conservative views and preoccupation with maintaining old-world values ​​at Downton, had a pretty wild youth. As a young woman, she nearly ran away with a Russian prince and later had an alliance with the aforementioned Frenchman. Although she worries in the hours before her death that she will be remembered as some sort of scarlet woman, Violet will no doubt be remembered for her beards and her wit.

When Violet finally dies, she is surrounded by her family. For her funeral, Mary dons her grandmother’s brooch. Although technically Robert was now the head of the family, Mary was most like her grandmother: they could both be cruel and fearsome, but also smart and brave. She seems ready to take over her grandmother’s role as de facto head of house. In the film’s final scene, Tom and Lucy visit Downton with their new baby, and Violet watches the family gather from a portrait above the mantle.


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