Welcome back to Downton Abbey.
Taking place after the end of the series’ final season, the Downton Abbey movie did what Downton does best: fan service.
This movie didn’t stray far from the usual antics of Downton — which is exactly what fans wanted. We were thrown back into the upstairs world of the Crawley family, as well as the downstairs world of their staff. Throughout the six seasons of the show, the lines between those worlds became more and more blurred — see: Allen Leech’s Tom Branson (Mr. Branson, now) and the friendship between dear, sweet Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery).
The whole plot centers around a royal visit: The king and queen are coming to spend a night at Downton as part of their Yorkshire tour, and who could’ve guessed so much could happen in one visit. Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) — the sneaky, conniving, yet somehow still-lovable footman (who is also struggling with his true identity as a gay man during an era when it is illegal) — has taken over for the retired Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) as head of the house, but when preparations for the royal visitors aren’t happening up to Lady Mary’s standards, she brings our favorite butler out of retirement to handle. it. Of course, this visit also brings in a relative (Imelda Staunton), who is seemingly messing with the family inheritance. The Dowager Countess Violet Crawley (Dame Maggie Smith) will obviously not take this sitting down and is swept up in again in her antics, which fans adore.
But there isn’t just drama upstairs: The royals have brought their own staff, which comes sweeping into Downton with its own way of doing things — and snobbier attitudes than the Crawleys. Having this staff force our beloved downstairs folks aside adds another layer of how important status is in this world — nothing, including their accommodations, is satisfying for this royal staff. But, of course, Mr. Bates and Anna hatch a plan to thwart this staff’s power and allow the Downton staff to serve the Royal Family — a true dream for all (especially Mosley who — poor, sweet Mosley — just can’t contain himself)!
Since Mr. Carson is back and the handsome king’s valet (Robert, played by Max Brown) needs to be distracted, Thomas gets tossed into one of my favorite Downton plots of all time, which I have now lovingly named #JusticeforThomas. Robert quickly joins #TeamDownton and helps Thomas rid the Abbey of the other royal footman before the two head off into York for the evening. They make plans to meet up at a pub, but when Robert is late, Thomas galavants off with a stranger from the pub, ending up in an underground speakeasy for homosexual men who must hide their true selves — and wow does it look like fun. Unfortunately, the night is brought to an abrupt halt when it’s raided by the police, which TBH seems run of the mill for Thomas. Although he’s set up to be the villain in most storylines, his complicated character arc has you rooting for him anyway, and often leaves audiences feeling that he just can’t catch a break. However, Thomas finally gets a happy ending, despite the fact that this storyline was set up for true tragedy.
There’s also, of course, a debate about whether or not Lady Mary should keep Downton going, in spite of it feeling old and outdated in a rapidly modernizing world. It leads to both a heartwarming scene between her and the Dowager Countess and a reminder from Anna that Downton is the heart of its community, which is really what the Downton Abbey franchise provides for audiences. Underneath the fine silver and china, lush fabrics, hallowing halls, and the dimly lit downstairs of the Abbey itself is heart. Audiences originally fell in love with these characters and stories because they are rich, bold, and human. The relationships are the same, whether you’re dining in the lavish dining room or prepping the food in the gray kitchen.
My biggest — and maybe only — complaint: Not enough Matthew Goode.
Featured Photo: Jaap Buitendijk/Focus Features