Downton Abbey review series 5, episode 3: Revolution is in the air as the pace picks up

Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess finds herself centre-stage

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The Independent Culture

The pace has picked up somewhat as Lady Mary and Lord Gillingham enjoy the last few moments of their dirty week – because it was a whole week – secreted away in adjoining hotel bedrooms. Although what’s with the face, Lady Mary? Surely you're not having doubts again…

After a rather sluggish start, the wonderfully wry sense of humour Downton does so well has returned, along with a pacy script and some intriguing storylines that are developing nicely.

Maggie Smith finds herself with more of a centre-stage position as the Dowager Lady Grantham: Turns out she had just as much trouble with men as Lady Mary, the latter of whom is absolutely delighted to hear what her grandmother got up to in Russia. "Granny has a past," who knew!

Despite her sweet-as-pie smile, the family definitely has a new rebel on its hands in the shape of Lady Rose. While not as strong in her convictions as the much-loved Lady Sybil, she has her own ideas, and hopefully she will have time to flex her muscles as the series continues.

Meanwhile Lady Edith risks being cut off from visiting her illegitimate child, agonisingly living just down the road at Yewtree farm with her adoptive parents. The number of times a day she's seen hammering on the farmers' door, only to flounce off in tears as the adoptive mother tells her that she's "busy" or she "has a headache": it's a wonder no one notices. "I only hope she's not driving the mother mad," Lord Grantham remarks. Awkward.


Popping down to the National Gallery for a spot of culture and some heavy flirting - which Lord Grantham has finally clocked on to - Cora is doing her best to keep smarmy art dealer Simon Bricker at bay.

Things take a sinister turn as it is clear that Thomas is not leaving Downton to visit his ailing father. Struggling with his sexuality, he seems to have stumbled upon an advertisement for a 'cure'. Jimmy, who was fired last week after being caught between the sheets with Lady Anstruther, is much missed in the moment where now, more than ever, Thomas could use a friend.

This continuing story of Mr Bates and the repugnant, and thankfully demised, Mr Green, is wearing thin – now a local bobby has arrived with a fresh line of inquiry it seems unlikely to go away any time soon. As Downton Abbey looks to building a new future for itself in order to keep up with the ever-changing present, certain elements of the lives who inhabit it would do well to remain hidden in the past.