After a pandemic-related delay, a sequel to the 2019 film (itself a follow-up to the successful ITV series) is finally here. Downton Abbey: A New Era picks up one year after the royal visit from the previous film, and not much has changed. True to Carson’s dogma, Downton is still standing and the Crawleys are still there — but that doesn’t stop a variety of factors from threatening to tear the family apart.
While 2019’s Downton Abbey concerned itself with thin connecting threads and vignettes centered around the royal visit, A New Era seems more confident about the transition to the silver screen. Nearly every character is given a more important role to play in the story, and by the film’s end many of them are not in the same position they were at the start. There are real stakes here, and though they may not be on the world-ending level that typifies modern superhero movies, they are emotional on a level that not many blockbusters can muster.
A New Era isn’t just about changes for the residents of Downton. Time is passing (both in our world and in theirs), exemplified by the stark changes in the film industry that affects characters on that side of the story. As time passes, more of these changes will occur, and I appreciate that A New Era branches out beyond Downton to give us a sense of what’s happening in the larger world. Lest we forget, that’s how the show began — the sinking of the Titanic was the series’ inciting incident.
Regarding what’s ahead, there’s a certain amount of dramatic irony: we’re intimately familiar with the history they’re about to experience. I wouldn’t be surprised if Downton Abbey eventually reaches the 1930s and we get a backseat view of the Second World War, specifically in how it affects our main characters. It’s a time period that’s been covered extensively in every medium, but there’s still value in witnessing another side of it — this one fictionalized, featuring the characters we know and love.
Downton Abbey: A New Era is in theaters now.