I stopped watching Downton Abbey near the beginning of season 4, when a character was raped and I realized the show was just a regular ol’ soap opera now. The Downton Abbey movie wasn’t made for me, then (it’s for super-fans), but I didn’t have much trouble picking up the plot threads and enjoying a two-hour visit with old friends. Everything that happens is inconsequential as far as the characters’ lives are concerned; this chapter isn’t meant to advance the story so much as to check in and see how everybody’s doing.
And how is everybody doing? Oh, you know. The same.
The big news is that King George and Queen Mary are coming for an overnight visit, putting all of Downton Abbey into a tizzy. The servants are excited at first, then bummed to learn that the royals travel with their own butlers, valets, cooks, &c., and that the Downtoners will have the night off. (Yes, they are disappointed because they don’t have to work.) Mr. Barrow (Robert James-Collier), who butles now that Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) has retired, is too indecisive and flustered to handle the preparations, so Carson is called back into active duty for One Last Job. Upstairs, everyone assumes that Tom Branson (Allen Leech), a known Irishman, hates the King and Queen. Branson does not disagree. Daisy (Sophie McShera), down in the kitchen, doesn’t see what all the fuss is about either, but everyone else is appropriately gaga.
The Crawleys’ family drama comes when they learn that a heretofore unmentioned cousin, Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), will be accompanying the royals on their tour. Old lady Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) had a falling-out with Maud some years ago over what Maud intends to do with her estate when she dies — Robert (Hugh Bonneville) is her nearest relative, but she says she’s giving it all to her maid, Lucy (Tuppence Middleton). Which simply will not do.
Just about everyone (I think) gets at least a minor subplot, some interesting because of the time period, others just soap opera stuff that would be the same anytime. Everyone who was alive when the series ended is accounted for, all behaving in character. Some TV shows take advantage of their freedom when they jump to the big screen, moving the action to new locales or letting the characters swear, but not Downton Abbey. The title manor is still the setting for almost every scene, and the worst cuss is “bloody” (for which the speaker is reprimanded). It’s all fine. It’s Downton Abbey.