Downton Abbey Series 3: A Wishlist for This Weekend

This is a slightly modified version of a post that originally ran here at Telly Visions back in September. It was published at that time because I wanted to make sure I got all my Downton desires and thoughts down on paper, as it were, before I was influenced by any reports from British friends or exposed to any aspect of Series 3 at all. As such, it is completely unspoiled (though I’ve now seen Series 3 thanks to DVDs) and, as such, totally safe for all to read and debate amongst yourselves. PLEASE keep the big Series 3 spoilers out of the comments though, as much as you can? I appreciate it!

Since we’re just days away from the long-awaited Series 3 premiere of Downton Abbey, it seems like an excellent time to engage in some wild speculation and discussion about what we’d all like to see happen to our favorite characters over the next seven weeks. As mentioned above, while I’ve now seen Series 3 already, when I originally wrote this post I hadn’t, so what follows are my initial and totally unspoiled desires for the Crawley family and the downstairs Downton crew this year. This list is largely based around addressing some of the problems I had with Series 2 – most particularly as relates to the story’s overall pacing and some of the occasionally inexplicable character decisions (Sybil and Branson, I am looking at you). Will I get everything on my list? Of course not. But even if I only get a portion of the things I’ve laid out here this season, I’m probably going to walk away pretty happy.

Click through for my personal thoughts on what I’d most like to see happen in Downton Abbey Series 3 and add your own dealbreakers and wishlists in the comments. If you are already spoiled for the new episodes and know for certain whether I’m right about certain aspects of this list, please be considerate of those who have been so patiently waiting to see the new episodes for themselves and have avoided any updates on plot twists. I know that there is a big, big spoiler floating around the internet out there, but let’s just not talk about that bit just yet, shall we? We’ll get to it, after all! Why not just tell us what your ideal storyline or plot for the show would be instead? Thanks, guys. 

So. Anyway. Here goes nothing – My ideal Downton Abbey Series 3 would feature all or at least a majority of the following items – and we’ll definitely have to talley up how much I got right and wrong later on!

More Maggie Smith, all the time. It’s irrelevant what the Dowager Countess is doing, as long as she’s doing something that involves her being onscreen a lot. Maggie Smith is, in so many ways, the best part of Downton Abbey and wouldn’t we all love to see Lady Violet’s character explored in a bit more depth? Obviously, a main draw of this season is Smith facing off against newcomer Shirley MacLaine, but here’s hoping that the inevitable catfights will provide more context and depth for Lady Violet’s character. (Let’s be real, she’s the one we care about here, right?)

Given that Downton Series 3 is set in the early 1920s, it logically follows that Violet’s character is the one who is likely to feel most at sea in this new post-war era that doesn’t respect any of the same things she does any longer. What is the Dowager Countess’s place in this new world order? Wouldn’t that just be awesome to explore?

Matthew and Mary get married. Even at their most poorly written – or during their most ludicrous storyline (i.e. dead Lavinia means they have to be miserable forever, what?) – Matthew and Mary’s relationship has been one of the most compelling stories on Downton and after two seasons of will-they-won’t-they-angst, they deserve some happiness, and viewers deserve a little bit of payoff. The two of them together are by far more interesting than either of them apart, and here’s hoping that by ending the constant will they ever be together angst, we can move on to exploring what their relationship is actually like. Matthew and Mary are such different people – and come from such different backgrounds – that there’s still plenty of story to be had in exploring how the two of them navigate building a life together.

Branson becomes less of a caricature. The fact that early trailers feature Branson quite heavily and Julian Fellowes has mentioned repeatedly that “the Irish Troubles” are a major plot point for the season are both hopeful indicators that Branson will actually become a real boy in Series 3. Last season, Branson was one of the most inconsistent and irritating characters onscreen – missing first place only by virtue of the fact that Daisy spent about four episodes harping on how she didn’t love William at all to anyone who happened to be nearby –and the constant one-note nature of his character made his courtship with Sybil hard to enjoy. (Well, that and the lack of real screentime for their romance.) Since he and Sybil are married now – though sadly, for fans, we appear to have missed their wedding entirely – it would be nice to actually see him as a person instead of a stand-in for “radical idea of the week.” Hopefully, his sudden elevation to “upstairs” status will create lots of interesting avenues to explore for him, as Branson will doubtless wrestle with this substantial change in his lifestyle.

Sybil and Branson stop being irritating. Relatedly, now that Downton has committed to the idea of Sybil and Branson together, perhaps their relationship can actually get fleshed out in a realistic way. It would be lovely to actually get to see some of Sybil's point of view this season, and perhaps arrive at a clearer understanding of why she makes the choices she does and what she really wants. What does Sybil’s life look like now? Has she at all regretted her impetuous insistence that the life she knew before the war was meaningless? Does she miss it? How do the two of them – who are so very different, and didn’t seem to know each other hardly at all – make a marriage work? How has their marriage impacted her relationship with her family? Since we spent so little time on how Sybil and Branson got together – surely their relationship must have had more to it than those infrequent meetings in the Honestly, Does That Car Ever Run Garage – it would be lovely if we could get to know them a bit better now that they are together.

Cora gets something meaningful to do. Poor Elizabeth McGovern. Cora’s entire Series 2 storyline was basically limited to sniping with Isabel, trying to manipulate Mary’s life and getting Spanish flu. While I don’t really want the overly soapy drama that would result from her learning that Robert had a small almost-fling with that housemaid whose name I’ve already forgotten, I would like to see Cora actually have a storyline with heft to it this season. I’m hopeful that the arrival of her mother – particularly since Cora seems so unlike her, going by the snippets we’ve seen in the trailer – and the loss of the Crawley fortune will allow Cora’s American sensibilities to shine. It would be really nice to like her again!

We trim some of the secondary cast. Downton Abbey has become a bit unwieldy in terms of cast size, in my opinion. With the arrival of MacLaine’s Martha, at least two new footmen and a new girl who appears to be Martha’s maid, the numbers are already swelling for Series 3. It would be lovely if we could write off some of the outliers and streamline the storyline focus for this season. One of the problems with Series 2 was that there were so many characters to deal with, and smaller numbers mean that we’re more likely to see real storylines for everyone and spend less time with our favorites . What story is their left to tell for Ethel, after all?

Bates stops suffering so much. This one seems unlikely, since it’s obvious that one of the big storylines this season is going to be the attempt to “Free Bates!”, but here’s hoping that the Bates and Anna plot serves some purpose other than watching the two of them be miserable and pine for one another. This couple has gotten about six minutes of happiness, in total, and at some point, watching them suffer and angst isn’t going to be very interesting anymore. Let’s wrap up the Vera murder plot quickly, please?

How about you all? What do you most want to see in Series 3 of Downton? What are you most hoping they’ll avoid

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Twitter at @LacyMB