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"Downton Abbey Season 3" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

Downton Abbey Season 3 (Blu-ray)

Synopsis

Downton Abbey follows the Crawley family as they live, die and love at their grand estate at the turn of the twentieth century..  Robert Crawley, aka Lord Grantham must deal with triumph and tragedy alike, sometimes in the same day.  His American wife and three daughters provide a constant stream of challenges and joys.  The downstairs staff is an equal part of the story with their own set of trials and tribulations to live through.

Season 3 picks up with Lady Mary and Matthew’s wedding.  The tension between them seems resolved but even the night before the ceremony, their relationship teeters on the brink of doom.  Mr. Bates, the unfortunate valet, has been convicted of murdering his wife.  He bides his time in prison while his new wife, housemaid Anna tries to find evidence to clear him.  Lord Grantham receives the shock of his life when he learns his investments have soured and he is nearly broke.  To add to the chaos, Cora’s mother Martha arrives carrying a whole truckload of sharp-tongued comments.  Through it all, the Crawley’s resolve to maintain the traditional aristocracy remains, above all, their lifelong purpose.

Specifications

  • PBS
  • 2012, Color, Not rated, 8 Hrs 45 mins (9 episodes)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

I have always been a fan of British costume dramas but there are only two that I would call perfect – the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice from 1995 and Downton Abbey.  Given its amazing popularity, it would seem most of the world agrees.  The legion of devoted fans around this show is unprecedented.  Season 3 premiered to 7.9 million viewers, an increase of 2.5 million over the Season 2 finale.  If that is any indication, I’d say this show is a hit!

The cast is a mix of seasoned and less-experienced actors who are all phenomenally talented.  Maggie Smith is the queen of the cast for sure as she delivers barb after barb.  Her role as the Dowager Countess and matriarch of the family could be filled by no other.  As the episodes evolve, different members of the Crawley family are featured.  And each story line is a jewel unto itself.  Coupled with tremendous production quality and a lush backdrop of English finery, and I can’t say anything else but “perfect.”  For British costume drama fans, this series is a must-own.

Technical

The image quality is noticeably improved from the previous two seasons’ Blu-ray release.  I hate to use a cliché, but a veil truly has been lifted.  The subtle haze and elevated black levels have been replaced with a super-crisp high-contrast presentation.  There is an amazing increase in dimensionality along with a much more natural and bright color palette.  While I enjoyed the warmth of the other seasons, this one is much more real in its rendering.  My only complaint is the rich deep blacks are often too deep resulting in crushed detail.  Most scenes are of medium to high average level but some indoor material has the “floating head” syndrome when a character is dressed in black.  Overall though, I thought the image superb.

Audio is nice and clear as well and serves the material perfectly.  I did hear occasional blooming in the dialog but it was rare.  Your surrounds and sub won’t have much to do but then there aren’t too many low-frequency moments in a proper English household.  The music sounded great also and I enjoyed John Lunn’s score immensely.

Extras

Bonus features total just less than two hours and include seven making-of featurettes and 48 minutes of interviews with cast and crew members.