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Set in an Edwardian country house beginning in 1912, Downton Abbey (2010-) portrays the lives of the Crawley family and the servants who work for them. Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, has three daughters, but no sons. Since the title must be passed to a male heir only, Crawley's cousin James and James's son Patrick are the heirs presumptive. Then both James and Patrick die in the sinking of the Titanic. So what will become of the Earl's fortune? This Succession Crisis drives the plot of Downton Abbey.

Much like earlier series Upstairs, Downstairs, the drama follows both the aristocratic family who own the house and the large staff of servants who make it tick.


Provides examples of

  • Almost Kiss: Sybil and Branson, many times through season 2, possibly in the last episode of season 1, too. Anna and Bates, also.
  • Altar the Speed: deconstructed, somewhat; Daisy feels pressured into going through with the wedding due to William's impending death, and subsequently feels that the whole thing was a lie.
  • Always Someone Better: Mary (and to a lesser extent, Sybil) for Edith.
    • It's never directly stated, but Bates is more or less this for Moseley.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Anna. Twice. And Branson in the first episode of second season.
  • Appeal to Inherent Nature: Mary argues that she's inherently contrary and that it would be against her character to want to marry anyone who anyone else wanted her to marry.
  • Arranged Marriage Patrick and Mary pre-season 1
  • As You Know:
    • The first episode when the ominous "entail" is finally explained to those not familiar with archaic inheritance laws. Robert's lawyer almost uses the exact language, "as you well know..." Yes, Lord Grantham would know about how his money, his real estate, his title, and his life's work will descend upon his death and need not have this basic information conveyed back to him.
    • Similarly, Matthew is a lawyer... who apparently specializes in wills. Yet he has to ask his mother whether there's any legal mechanism for him to refuse to inherit the earldom. Glad he's not my lawyer.
    • Also, in episodes following Kamel Pamuk's death, various characters will go into minor but unnecessary detail about the manner of his death, along the lines of "do you remember the sudden death of that Turkish gentleman?" It's for the benefit of the audience, as it's not likely that any of the characters have forgotten waking up to learn that a foreign ambassador has unexpectedly died in the night...
    • In the Christmas Special, Matthew has Robert explaining the practicalities of the Servants' Ball to him, even though Matthew has been the heir of Downton for quite a few years by now and one would have expect him to have been at the ball at least once before...
      • It is possible, however, that this was Matthew's first Servants' Ball. In August of 1914, Matthew left the Village and soon thereafter went to war. Matthew's opportunities to attend the ball were limited for various reasons between the onset of the Great War and early 1920.
  • Asshole Victim: Pamuk and Vera.
  • The Atoner: Bates. Carson, a little bit, but it's played for a laugh at his expense and own melodrama.
    • Mrs. O'Brien after she causes Cora's miscarriage.
  • Be All My Sins Remembered: Bates.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Mary and Matthew.
  • Benevolent Boss: Robert. Furthermore; all the Crawleys are rather evenhanded with the staff to the point where even Lady Violet goes out of her way to pull strings for characters like William, the footman. Although she was likely trying to do a favour for Robert and Matthew rather than William and Moseley.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Don't let Bates catch you being mean to William or Daisy. Bates also gets his buttons pressed when his estranged wife Vera threatens to ruin the Earl's reputation, as well as the Earl's family and Anna, if he doesn't return to her.
    • Don't insult William's late mother in front of him.
    • Robert is the most even-tempered man imaginable until his youngest daughter gets herself involved in political riots.
    • Anna flatly refuses to have "no proper place" in Mr Bates' life when Vera's final scheme takes effect, and orders him to marry her despite his protests. He doesn't want to drag her into his troubles, but she swears that they "will face [this crisis] as man and wife" and finally lays down the law.
  • Beta Couple: Anna/Bates and Sybil/Branson.
  • Big Fancy House: And how. The real Highclere Castle has a starring role as Downton Abbey.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family
  • Blackmail:
    • Thomas threatens to blackmail the Duke of Crowborough after the former is rejected.
    • Mr. Carson is blackmailed by an old friend threatening to reveal his embarrassing past as a pierside entertainer.
    • Bates is forced to come back to his wife when she finds out about the Kemal Pamuk scandal. Yes, he's blackmailed with someone else's dirty secret.
    • Sir Richard Carlisle also threatens Mary with revealing and publishing the Pamuk scandal, should she not toe the line and obey him.
  • Blood From the Mouth: The farmer suffering from dropsy of the heart.
  • Book Ends: Robert always seems completely unsuspecting when Telegrams of Doom drop into his hands. Granted, the first was a freak disaster with personal implications only to the family; but the second comes amidst weeks if not months of building unease in the global news.
  • Break the Cutie: Daisy. Only she doesn't seem to notice. Matthew in series two. Anna during any part of her romance.
  • Break the Haughty: Mary.
  • British Brevity: There are 7 episodes in the first series, & then 8 in the second (plus the Christmas special).
  • But I Would Really Enjoy It: Robert and Jane.

   Robert: I want you with every fibre of my being, but it isn't fair to you; it isn't fair to anyone.

  • But Not Too Gay:
    • Although the first episode showed that Thomas certainly was able to have a love life, he's only had the faintest unrequited attractions since then. Justified in that it's set in an era where being openly gay was almost unthinkable - though even knowing that, some viewers are getting antsy, with Vanity Fair asking in their Season 3 predictions "Can [Thomas] finally get a real boyfriend?"
    • There's also a popular fan theory that O'Brien is also gay, and that's why she and Thomas get on so well. Of course, she's never had any sort of a love life either way, so who would know?
  • Butt Monkey:
    • Daisy is the lowest-ranking servant and is not allowed to be seen by any of the family. Although things seem to be changing toward the end of season 2; he's not really in this position at all anymore by the end of the Christmas special, what with asking the Dowager Countess, of all people, for advice with her feelings about marrying William before he died.
    • Edith seems to have this role within the Crawley family. Even her parents expect her to be the one "taking care of [them] in [their] old age," and are none too pleased at the prospect.
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: Everytime a character confesses a secret to another, chances are the person would pass it on to somebody else, or there would be a third person eavesdropping anyway. You'd think after a while nobody would bother to ask people to keep secrets anymore.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Mary allows herself to be seduced by a charming visitor and in minutes is left with the problem of how to dispose of his body.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Thomas and O'Brien. It's unclear why they do any of the things they do beyond petty jealousy and the fact that they simply like hurting other people. Somewhat Lampshaded in the Comic Relief skit in which Thomas is casually introduced as: "Thomas, the evil footman." In the same skit, O'Brien stomps around pulling faces, and later admits that she's so horrible because: "My hair looks like knitting!"
    • During a conversation with a blind soldier during season two, the writers all but outright have Thomas state that his evil is a mixture of Freudian Excuse and He Who Fights Monsters; in his case, him being a homosexual and a servant, which puts him in the position of having to work for assholes who treat him like shit rather than being in control over his own destiny.
  • Cast Herd: Happens often with the upstairs and downstairs characters.
  • Christmas Cake:
    • Mrs. Hughes is actually a spinster--she uses "Mrs" as a courtesy title.
    • This is the reason why the family wants Mary (who begins the series in her early 20s) to be married off as quickly as possible, "before the bloom is quite gone off the rose," as the Dowager Countess puts it.
    • Anna, who looks to be at least in her mid-20s, is still not married because the female servants are not allowed boyfriends. Until season 2, when she becomes the new Mrs. Bates.
  • Clear My Name: Don't worry, Bates, Anna will save you from your own undying sense of gentlemanly decency and honour.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Edith.
  • Conflict Ball: During the latter half of Season 2, Lord Grantham is a jerk to Cora seemingly out of nowhere.
  • Cool Car: Wealthy Edwardians had some quite imposing brass-era limousines and tourers. Not all the cars should be there, though; any number of steel-radiator Ford Model Ts can be seen in the first season, a style that was first offered in 1917 (and likely not seen in great numbers in the UK until after WW 1).
  • Cool Old Lady: Violet. "Put that in your pipe and smoke it!"
  • Costume Drama
  • Dances and Balls:
    • Sybil had one. We didn't see it.
    • The Servants' Ball in the Christmas Special.
  • Darker and Edgier: Series two, due to it being set largely during World War One.
  • Dark Secret: Mary, Bates, O'Brien. Mr. Carson's is really more of a Crowning Moment of Funny because no one cares about it as much as he does. More of these will probably be revealed for other characters as the show progresses.
  • Dashed Plotline: Each season is stretched over two or three years.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Sybil and Branson.

  Robert: "None of this is what I wanted for her." Even the "being happy" part?!

    • It's also implied that Branson's family is not exactly thrilled with his choice of wife, either.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Thomas, Miss O'Brien and the Dowager Countess.
  • Death by Despair: Matthew believes that Lavinia "died of a broken heart" after finding out that he still loves Mary.
  • Death by Sex
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Vera Bates and Lavinia Swire in the second series.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Lady Mary.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Several examples that today are commonplace, like a woman having a lover before marriage, or inter-class marriages, are treated with utter horror by the inhabitants of Downton Abbey. Also, the notion of a lady undertaking any job harder than trying on a dress or flirting is treated with contempt, especially by the Dowager Countess.
  • Denser and Wackier: Series 2. While the first series is a rather understated comedy of manners, the second is much more densely plotted and veers at several times into full blown soap opera. Plot lines involve amnesia and mistaken identity, a suicide-murder frame-up, pregnancy of an unmarried woman, a miraculous medical recovery, and a rather superfluous affair. (Although, to be fair, the first of those didn't really happen; the guy claiming to be Patrick is clearly faking, and no one believes him except Edith.) Somewhat justified in that the years it covers include World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic, which brought with them a great deal more death and suffering, and social upheaval, than the residents of Downton would have been used to before the war.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Thomas' encounters with Pamuk and Crowborough.
  • Dies Wide Open
  • Disposable Fiance: Both Mary and Matthew have one in series two. Lavinia is killed by Spanish flu whilst Richard Carlisle blackmails Mary into their engagement before she breaks it off with him in the Christmas Special.
  • Disposing of a Body: Not so much disposing as in getting entirely rid of it; but disposing in the sense of secretly moving it to cover up a damning situation.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: William to Daisy, arguably Matthew to Lady Mary. Branson to Sybil.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Classism, sexism and racism are horrible things...but damn it must be awesome to be a male member of the British aristocracy! Awesome houses, no need to work, servants to order around for your every whim with no real need to treat them as human beings or build any kind of reciprocal relationship. And throwing them the slightest bone of decency makes you look like Mother Theresa.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Bates to Anna.
  • Don't Split Us Up: Ethel's reaction when Major Bryant's parents ask her to let them adopt her baby and walk out of his life. She refuses.
  • Downer Ending: Why hello there World War One. The second season has another, with the Spanish Flu.
  • Drama Bomb Finale: Foregone Conclusion though it might be, it doesn't get much more dramatic than the outbreak of World War One.
  • Dramatic Irony: Cora, Anna, and Mary carry a naked dead body from one end of the house to the other, by themselves, and without anyone noticing (except Daisy). The following day, after the body has been discovered, Lord Grantham worries about the ladies and female servants' state of mind. After all:

  "We must have a care for feminine sensibilities. They are finer and more fragile than our own."

  • Driven to Suicide: Vera, apparently with arsenic bought by Bates, no less.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Kemal Pamuk just... dies, for no apparent reason, after spending the night with Mary.
  • Dueling Shows: Frequently compared to the revived Upstairs, Downstairs, though they weren't aired at the same time.
  • Edited for Syndication: Originally aired in the UK as 7 episodes, most of which are about 45 minutes long, except for the first and the last episodes, each of which clock in at a little over an hour. When Downton Abbey first aired in the US, it was condensed into four 90-minute episodes of Masterpiece on PBS. The U.S. DVD restores the full-length UK version.
  • The Edwardian Era: Even though Edward VII's successor George V is king during the show's setting, The Edwardian Era is generally accepted as lasting until the outbreak of World War One in 1914.
  • The Eeyore: Mr. Carson.
  • Endangered Souffle
  • Enforced Cold War: Thomas and O'Brien vs. the rest of the servants.
  • Ensemble Cast
  • Evil Duo: O'Brien and Thomas. They seemed in jeopardy of splitting up at the end of Season 1, after Thomas joined the army and O'Brien was atoning for causing Cora's miscarriage, but that didn't last long.
  • Evil Is Petty
  • Evil Matriarch: Arguably the Dowager Countess, though not so much evil as just a rich snob. The Dowager Countess is shown to have a much softer side on occasion (the flower show).
  • Everyone Can See It
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Thomas hears just enough of the Countesses' discussion of Violet's search for a new maid to think they're talking about replacing O'Brien. Admittedly, it doesn't help that O'Brien herself overhears the Earl and Countess talking about firing her. Lampshaded in Saturday Night Live's parody of the show: "Like eavesdropping? Then this show is for you. Anytime anyone says anything, a third person hears it in the doorway."
  • Expy: Countess Violet of Grantham seems to be very much based on Countess Constance of Trentham from Gosford Park, Julian Fellowes other period drama, and played by the same actress.
  • Fallen Princess: Lady Mary after being seduced by Kemal Pamuk and then having to cover up his death.
  • Femme Fatale: Mary.
  • Flat What:
    • Thomas, when Bates suggests a search for the missing snuffbox that Thomas had hidden in Bates' room.
    • Anna, when Bates tells her he bought the rat poison he thinks Vera used to commit suicide
  • For the Evulz: Thomas and O'Brien, and they often have no identifiable motivation. And ironically, the one thing O'Brien at least thought she had a motivation for (planting a bar of soap so Cora would have a miscarriage, and wouldn't fire her) is the only one for which she actually shows regret.
  • Gaydar: Mrs. Patmore.
  • Gayngst: Thomas.
  • Genre Blind: William makes a point of asking Daisy for her picture to take with him to the trenches.
  • Genre Savvy: Newcomer Zoe Boyle, who was a fan of the first series of the show, has gone on record saying she knows a lot of people will probably hate her character.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Between Lady Mary and Lady Edith.
  • Gold Digger: Robert married Cora for her fortune. The Duke of Crowborough is interested in marrying Mary only if she inherits the estate. Lady Edith wants to marry Matthew so she can remain at the estate and inherit in Mary's place. Lady Rosamund points out that Mary is marrying Sir Richard solely because he is rich (which isn't entirely true. The debt-ridden Lord Hepworth wants to marry Lady Rosamund so he can buy back the estates of his childhood home.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Thomas vs. William, and our Will valiantly carries the day. You half-expect Mr. Carson or some of the other staff to break into applause.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Thomas and O'Brien smoke the cigarettes of evil.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: The series' producers did an excellent job of dressing the actors and actresses portraying the upper-class characters in the elegant costumes of the last years of The Edwardian Era, and of costuming the performers portraying the various servants in period-appropriate uniforms and outfits.
  • Grande Dame: Violet.
  • The Greatest History Never Told: The Spanish flu epidemic is a main focus in the second series.
  • Handicapped Badass: Bates.
  • Happily Married: Robert and Cora. Well, series one, certainly. Series two... Not so much.
  • Heir Club for Men: None of the Earl's daughters can inherit, only his male relatives.
  • Held Gaze: Bates and Anna. Matthew and Mary. Matthew and Sybil, oddly. Sybil and Branson. Robert and Jane.
  • Hello, Attorney!: Matthew.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Branson and Sybil are prevented from eloping when Mary and Edith, who he taught to drive, chase after them in the car.
  • Holding Hands: Sybil and Branson have a bit of a moment with this in Episode 7.
    • And again in 2x08, after Robert gives his consent to their marriage.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Poor Molesley. He's got no chance with Anna, considering how desperately she loves Mr Bates.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Cora getting pregnant... and then losing the baby. And then finding out that it was a boy.
    • Bates and Anna's engagement and subsequent happiness comes crashing down when Vera appears.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Daisy. Mary also falls hard for Kemal, who is portrayed as a womanizer who coerces her into having sex with him, and calls him her lover after he's died. And the only reason O'Brien is still around is because Cora is blind to her flaws. And Lord Grantham keeps giving Thomas second chances even though he knows some of the evil things he's done.
  • Hot Mom: Cora
  • I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: Daisy to Thomas (who, admittedly, isn't really into her). Gender Swapped with Farmer Drake to Edith.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Kemal Pamuk.
  • I Lied: Vera Bates in series two. Karmically, the same trick is used against her by Carlisle, who makes her sign an exclusivity agreement and then doesn't publish her story.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Averted. Lord Grantham married Cora, a rich American heiress for her money to keep the estate afloat.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: At least to begin with. Matthew is the heir, & is a middle-class solicitor from Manchester.
  • Inter Class Romance: Branson and Sybil.
  • I'll Take That as a Compliment:

 Lady Grantham: You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.

Mrs Crawley: I take that as a compliment.

Lady Grantham: I must have said it wrong.

  • If I Can't Have You: Occupationally, O'Brien to Cora.
  • Impaled Palm: So he can be discharged, Thomas intentionally lifts his hand out of the trenches holding a lighter and is shot through the hand.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Daisy's crush on Thomas. Becomes a Love Triangle when Thomas decides to exploit her feelings to humiliate William, who genuinely does like Daisy.
  • It Seemed Like a Good Idea At the Time
  • It's Not Rape If You Enjoyed It: Mary and Pamuk. He knows what he's doing, and whatever she might say afterwards about lovers and her choice, he took total psychological control in that situation. It was rape the moment he entered her room.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Mr Bates to Anna. She essentially tells him where he can shove it, and they get married anyway as she refuses to have no legal standing in his life, whatever happens.
  • It Will Never Catch On: "... About as likely as war breaking out." And the viewership winced as one.
    • When someone asks Mrs. Hughes what she'll do if the family sells the estate she brushes the possibility off, saying "What if there's a tidal wave? What if there's a plague? What if there's a war?"
    • Branson and the other servants are discussing politics. Branson thinks that the outbreak of war will be a good thing for dissolving class tensions. To prove this he points out the capturing of the Tsar and his family. The other staff look horrified.
    • Matthew: "[I'm only going] to Coventry. It can't be that dangerous." Within twenty years or so, Coventry will have been bombed into nonexistence by the Luftwaffe.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Repeatedly, from all three directions in the Mary/Matthew/Lavinia triangle, though of course a jumped-up commoner like Richard Carlisle wouldn't have so much decency. Lavinia even dies telling Matthew that now he can be with the woman he loves, and it's implied that in the last Ouija board scene it's Lavinia guiding Matthew and Mary to be happy together.
    • Bates tries this with Anna, telling her to "find a better man." She's not impressed.
    • Anthony Strallan does this with Edith, claiming that not only is he too old for her but that he couldn't let someone so young and lovely spend their life as nursemaid.
  • I Will Wait for You: Anna to Bates, Branson to Sybil.
  • Just Eat Gilligan: All things considered, the household would run a lot smoother if those in charge just got rid of Thomas and O'Brien. And we see this in action in early Season 2, when Thomas is fighting on the Western front... but it doesn't last.
  • Karma Houdini: Thomas.
    • A bit less so after a genuinely horrendous time in the medical corps.
    • O'Brien: she caused Cora's miscarriage, informed Edith about Kamal Pamuk creating a problem that reverberates throughout Mary's life, narced on Bates creating another avenue for the Pamuk scandal to potentially ruin Mary's life, along with hurting Bates and Anna, caused various smaller problems and NOTHING has happened to her. NOTHING!
  • Killed Off for Real: William. Lavinia. Vera Bates.
  • Kindly Housekeeper: Mrs Hughes.
  • Kissing Cousins: Second cousins Mary and Patrick were informally engaged, though they didn't have much say in it; Edith was in love with Patrick as well. Mary and Matthew are fourth cousins.
  • Lady in Red: Lady Mary.
  • Last-Minute Reprieve: Robert running after the car.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility:
    • Cora.
      • Though as soon as she found out she was pregnant, she was genuinely happy and really wanted the baby.
    • Ethel the housemaid.
  • Leitmotif: The opening theme could be heard in several renditions of the background music.
  • Left Hanging:
    • One episode ends with Sybil entering the drawing room and displaying her culottes to her shocked family. It cuts immediately to the credits, and that's the last we ever see or hear of the situation.
    • Patrick Gordon just up and disappears into the night.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: See picture above.
  • Longing Look: Lots: Anna, Bates, Branson, Daisy, Edith, Mary, Matthew, Sybil, William.
  • Love Triangle: Quite a number. There are three sibling triangles: Edith being in love with Mary's late arranged fiance Patrick, Edith pining for Matthew, whose interests lie in Mary and vice versa, and Mary incorrectly thinking that Sybil has developed a small crush on Matthew after a Rescue Romance. Mary was also interested in Napier until Kemal Pamuk came along. Then there's William crushing on Daisy, who's crushing on Thomas, who's gay. And then there's Moseley's mild interest in Anna, who's already in UST-territory with Mr. Bates.
  • Malicious Slander:
    • Miss O'Brien and Thomas slander Mr. Bates on more than one occasion in an attempt to get him fired.
    • Edith spreads Mary's scandalous affair with Kemal Pamuk, causing Mary to lose favor with potential suitors and leaving her future and reputation in jeopardy. After learning of this, Mary screws up Edith's budding relationship with Sir Anthony.
  • Manipulative Bastard:
    • Miss O'Brien, whose schemes include trying to get Bates fired and to expose Lady Mary's affair with Pamuk.
    • Lady Edith, who will go to any lengths to discredit Mary in order to marry Matthew and become mistress of Downton.
    • Thomas tries to be one but isn't always successful.
    • Kemal in making it impossible for Mary to refuse his sexual advances.
    • Vera uses Lady Mary's secret to get Bates to return to her and takes him for all his inheritance. She even goes so far as using her death to frame Bates.
  • Manly Tears: Bates. Robert, after Cora's miscarriage.
    • Also Thomas, surprisingly, after the blinded Lieutenant Courtenay commits suicide.
  • Marry for Love:
    • That's what the audience hopes for Mary and Matthew. They Do
    • Cora reminds Robert that he didn't come to love her until they'd been married a year.
    • Sybil and Branson do this.
  • The Matchmaker: The mothers: Violet, Cora, and Isobel.
  • May-December Romance: Anna and Mr. Bates; Edith and Sir Anthony. In the latter case, Sir Anthony gives this as his reasoning for why Edith shouldn't marry him.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: The other cast members have said in interviews that Siobhan Finneran, who plays O'Brien, is "one of the nicest people you'll ever meet."
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Edith. Her parents aren't abusive or cruel towards her, but she gets constantly overlooked next to her two sisters (particularly Mary).
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Kemal Pamuk.
  • Moment Killer: Poor Anna and Mr. Bates.
    • HEY WOULD ANYONE LIKE A RIDE ON THIS HAYCART?
    • Couldn't taking the trash out have waited one more minute?
    • Ethel plonking down at the table effectively kills the nice talk they were having.
    • Mary coming to book the motor as Branson and Sybil were having a talk about their future comes to mind.
  • Morality Pet: Cora and Lang for O'Brien, Lieutenant Courtenay for Thomas.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Kemal Pamuk. In-universe, too. Turned out to be a short-lived and creepy jerkass.
  • Multigenerational Household
  • My God, What Have I Done?: O'Brien first only seems to show moderate guilt when she knows that she is the direct cause of her mistress's friggin miscarriage, but the look of this trope is truly visible on her face when she learns that Cora had never intended to get rid of her and she's now caused them exquisite pain for no reason whatsoever.
  • My Own Private I Do: Sybil and Branson try to elope to Gretna Green, but Mary and Edith chase them down and talk her out of it.
  • Naive Newcomer: Daisy, and to some extent, William.
  • Nice Hat: A lot of fine feathered hats, the Crawley's are aristocrats after all.
  • Nice to the Waiter: "Them upstairs," for the most part. Possibly borders on Politically-Correct History. Contrast with No Hero to His Valet.
  • Ninja Maid: Anna takes to the role of plucky girl detective like a duck to water.
  • No Export for You: An unusual example that took place within the UK. Viewers in Scotland missed out on the series when first broadcast, as the local ITV station had decided that the series was overpriced and unlikely to be a hit.
  • No Hero to His Valet: Thomas to the Duke of Crowborough, although this is more to do with the fact they've been having an affair and the Duke dumps him. Subverted with Bates and Robert.
  • Not So Stoic: Bates. Robert. Even Carson gives Mary hugs when she needs them.
  • Oblivious to Love: Daisy to William. Mary appears to be oblivious to Matthew's growing interest in her in early episodes.
  • Of Corset Hurts: Sybil. Bless.
  • Of Corsets Sexy
  • Official Couple: Mary and Matthew. From the start, the romance between these two characters has been one of the primary focuses of the series and the back and forth nature of their relationship has served as a major conversation topic between the rest of the characters.
  • Old Retainer: Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes.
  • Opera Gloves: The various actresses wear these throughout the series in scenes where they're dressed in formal outfits, starting from episode 1 where Cora is seen putting on a pair of long black gloves while dressing for dinner. (Very much Truth in Television, as properly dressed men and women of the middle and upper classes were expected to wear gloves as accessories to almost everything except bathing suits and sleepwear during The Edwardian Era.)
  • Oop North: The working-class characters tend to have local Yorkshire accents, with the middle- and upper-class characters having southern English accents.
  • Orbital Kiss: Mary and Matthew.
  • Out with a Bang: Pamuk.
  • Overprotective Dad: Robert, of course.

 Robert: If you mistreat her, I will personally have you torn to pieces by wild dogs.

  • Pair the Spares: Edith and Sir Anthony were leaning to this direction, up until Mary spoils it at the garden party. However, he reappears in the Christmas Special so this story may not be over yet...
  • Parental Favouritism: Poor Edith. Her mother's hard-pressed to finally choke out something about her being "helpful" as she pets and praises her other two daughters, especially Mary. Lampshaded by the parents:

 Robert: Poor old Edith, we never seem to talk about her.

Cora: I'm afraid Edith will be the one to care for us in our old age.

Robert: What a ghastly prospect.

  • Parody: There is an internet version of the show, but in a dolls house. With Penguins.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Thomas will appear to an irredeemable, sociopathic Jerkass well on his way to passing the Moral Event Horizon; but then, occasionally, something will happen to demonstrate his humanity, or his Freudian Excuse will be reinforced, and he'll revert back to Jerkass Woobie. Damn him.
    • See episode 2.02 for a stellar example; Thomas briefly returns to Downton Abbey after what is implied to be several years at the front, gets in a few choice insults, and leaves to work in the village army hospital without appearing to have changed at all; however, while there, he becomes emotionally attached to a young lieutenant with gas blindness, reading his letters, encouraging him to keep fighting, and very nearly coming out to him after speaking about his own difficult past. When the soldier is due to be transferred against his will to another medical facility, Thomas goes to bat for him against the head of the hospital, and after the man's suicide, is seen sobbing uncontrollably in a store cupboard.
    • O'Brien gets a few Pet the Dog moments when she's the only one to really sympathise with Shell-Shocked Veteran Lang, as her brother went through the same thing.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: And hats. Oh, the hats. Ladies' hats were probably more elaborate in The Edwardian Era than in any other period before or since. The women's evening gowns are simple in line, but often very heavily decorated. Once again, spot-on; from 1909 or so on, women's dress, particularly formal gowns, moved toward very simple, classic lines reminiscent of the Empire/Regency period as opposed to the elaborate styles of the 1890's and early 1900's. Interestingly and probably not coincidentially, corsets began to fall out of style at this time, to be replace by brassieres and girdles.
  • Platonic Life Partners: Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes.
  • Rags to Royalty: Matthew Crawley goes from being a Mancunian lawyer to the heir of the Earl of Grantham and his estate. Not that he's thrilled about it at first.
  • Rear Window Witness: Daisy.
  • Rebellious Princess: Though she's not quite royalty, Lady Sybil is a rebel who is interested in politics, supports women having the vote, wears bloomers, consorts with servants, and in series 2 goes so far as to--shudder--actually get a job as a nurse.
  • Rescue Romance: Played with after Sybil's rescue. Mary assumes that Sybil has a crush on Matthew, but it's Branson who's interested in Sybil.
  • Reset Button: Matthew's *ahem ahem* is making progress.
  • Revenge: Lady Mary and Lady Edith just seem to chase each other in an endless circle of one-upmanship that increases in cruelty at every new level.
  • Rich Bitch: Mary and Edith, usually to each other.
  • Riches to Rags: Sybil is this by marrying Branson, although it's an usual variation in that it's her choice and she welcomes her new lifestyle.
  • The Rival: Isobel Crawley to Violet Crawley.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules:
    • Branson turns down Robert's offer of a bribe to abandon Sybil.
    • Ethel, who refuses to give her baby to Major Bryant's wealthy parents as she believes it's better for him to grow up with a poor but loving mother.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections: Jane has no shame in asking Robert to influence a prestigious grammar school to award her son a place.
  • Scullery Maid: Daisy.
  • Self-Made Man: Matthew and Richard Carlisle. Lampshaded by Carlisle himself when he explains to Mary that he sees no shame in not being from "old money."
  • She Knows Too Much: Daisy.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Lang
  • Shipper on Deck: Carson, Cora, Robert, The Dowager Countess, Rosamund, possibly Branson, even Isobel and Anna, EVEN LAVINIA AT THE END OF HER LIFE...at this point, is there anyone who doesn't ship Mary/Matthew?
    • Maybe Edith. Sir Richard.
    • Mary, for her part, ships Anna/Bates rather blatantly.
  • Shot At Dawn: The fate of Mrs. Patmore's nephew, for cowardice.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work/Truth in Television:
    • There was in fact a real Earl of Grantham. The title was created in 1698, but became extinct upon the Earl's death in 1754, because he had no surviving male heirs.
    • Though it's played for laughs, acting was seen by many at the time to be just as disreputable a profession as Carson believes it to be.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man
  • Slap Slap Kiss: Matthew and Mary, holy crap.
  • Sleeping Single: Averted by Robert and Cora, despite the fact that "really smart people sleep in separate rooms."
  • Slut Shaming: Premarital sex was just short of a crime.
    • Lady Mary's unfortunate dalliance with the Turk wasn't just unlucky, but very nearly a social disaster, and not merely because he died.
    • From the second season, housemaid Ethel loves a man in uniform, and when caught with one is sacked without notice and without references. The gentleman has to put his pants back on. Pregnancy leaves her destitute and him... mildly inconvenienced when people try to rub his nose in it.
  • Smug Snake: Thomas.
  • Spirited Young Lady: Mary and Sybil.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Upstairs, Downstairs and Gosford Park. Julian Fellowes, who created both Downton and Gosford, says so himself.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Sybil.
  • Spot of Tea: It's just the ticket for when the handsome stranger's sudden death has upset the ladies.
    • Oh, your estranged wife suddenly appears to ruin any sliver of happiness you might have had. Have some tea.
    • Sorry, you'll never walk again. Tea?
  • Spousal Privilege: Anna is forced onto the sidelines at Bates' trial.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: The chauffeur Tom Branson and Lady Sybil.
  • The Stoic: Bates. Except when he cries alone in his room. So a Stoic Woobie, really.
  • Straight Gay: Thomas.
  • Succession Crisis: Two of the Earl's heirs die on the Titanic.
  • Suicide, Not Murder: This seems to be Vera's plan, unless Bates really did snap once and for all.
  • Sunday Evening Drama Series
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Let's see, an ambitious redhead that doesn't want to stay in service but go out and make it big. Hmm. Where have we heard that before, Ethel? To be fair, Gwen's ambition ran only to being a secretary. Ethel wants to be a movie star. But, beyond that, yes, there's not much to choose between them.
  • Tall, Dark and Bishoujo: Mary.
  • Tantrum Throwing: Thomas executes a furious Trash the Set when he discovers his black market goods are all but worthless.
  • Team Mom: Anna, upstairs and down. And Mrs. Hughes.
  • Technical Virgin: When Kemal Pamuk seduces Mary, he promises her she'll still be a virgin for her husband. God only knows exactly what happens before he keels over and dies in her bed.
  • There Are No Therapists
  • They Really Do Love Each Other:
    • Used in a unique and strictly platonic sense between Thomas and O'Brien. He's attractive, young, gay, and snarky; she's a plain, stern woman in her forties, and it generally seems as if their only interest in each other stems from a mutual desire to cause trouble. However, it's rather sweet when you find out that they have consistently and faithfully stayed in touch with one another during his years at the front, and she appears to genuinely worry over his welfare and displays a great deal of happiness (for her) when he returns safely from the war.
    • Notably averted between Mary and Edith; the two oldest Crawley sisters genuinely loathe each other and have no Aww, Look! moments to soften it.
    • The second season does give one moment, when Edith tells Mary about Matthew being MIA, not out of a desire to hurt her, but because she genuinely believes Mary ought to know. It's not much, but it is something after how much they're been at each other's throats.
  • They're Called Personal Issues for a Reason
  • Think Nothing of It: Matthew to Sybil.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: Matthew goes from experiencing confusing tingling feelings to becoming fully erect (what are you sniggering at?) in the course of one episode, barring the occasional Hand Wave that he'll need to "take things slowly".
  • Time Skip: Several times at regular spaced intervals throughout. The first series begins in 1912 (sinking of the Titanic) while the finale is in 1914. The second series begins two years later in 1916 and ends in 1919.
  • Tomboy: Lady Sybil is less interested in ladylike pursuits than her sisters, dislikes fiddly corsets and skirts, and eventually begins wearing ankle-length culottes instead of a dress.
  • Tonight Someone Dies: The Spanish Flu episode, as hinted in the previous week's "On the Next..." montage. Actually used Manipulative Editing for the purpose, as the clip of a hand falling limp onto a bed was an entirely innocent gesture by a perfectly recovered Cora.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Lavinia.
  • Took a Level In Kindness: O'Brien. Edith, after caring for the injured soldiers staying at Downton. Mary is also far nicer than at the start of the series.
  • Train Station Goodbye:
    • In season 2 between Mary and Matthew. No, she didn't run after the train, but you know she wanted to.
    • Not much later, Mary has a more sedate and business-like one with Sir Richard.
  • Traveling At the Speed of Plot: Matthew's ability to move between Downton and the Western Front in France.
  • The Unfavourite: Edith. Even Lampshaded in the Comic Relief parody when she is introduced as "Daughter Number Two." Similarily, the Saturday Night Live parody names the daughters "Hot" (Mary), "Way Hot" (Sybil), and "The Other One" (Edith).
  • Unique Pilot Title Sequence: The opening credits of the first episode follow the news of the Titanic sinking toward the main characters; all the other episodes use a more domestic credit sequence.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension
  • Unwitting Pawn: Daisy.
  • Upstairs Girl: Sybil and Branson are married and expecting a child by the Christmas Special.
  • Wartime Wedding: William leaves to fight in WWI and asks Daisy to marry him when the war is over; she doesn't love him and wants to turn him down, but accepts because Mrs Patmore tells her that William should not have to go to war heartbroken. He is mortally wounded in the trenches, and marries Daisy hours before his death because he wants her to have a widow's pension.
  • Well, Excuse Me, Princess!
  • Wham! Episode: The penultimate episode of series 2 - where to start? Richard tries to pay Anna to spy on Mary, Carson finds out and refuses to work for him; Matthew gets almost total use of his legs back over the course of about ten minutes, and Violet wastes no time in trying to set him back up with Mary; Ethel bursts in on dinner to present her lovechild to its grandparents; Bates reveals he bought the rat poison his wife killed herself with; Thomas invests all his money in a black market business and gets screwed over; Sybil elopes with Branson and her sisters chase her down and bring her back to the house. [Deep breath]. Think that about covers it.
  • Wham! Line: Even if you knew this was coming, the last line from the first series changes everything:

  Robert: I am sorry to announce that we are at war with Germany.

  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Matthew's initial treatment of Moseley.
    • Ah, there goes the Earl of Grantham, established all round nice guy, compassionate master and faithful, blissfully wedded husband - wait, Robert, what on earth are you doing with that maid?!
    • Branson's dismissal of Sybil's job as a nurse as "serving drinks to a bunch of randy officers" during a fight. Allen Leech, the actor who plays Branson, said that there was a scene in which Branson apologizes to Sybil, but it was cut. Branson is also later seen as being quite proud of what Sybil does, and to admire the fact that she chooses to work even when she doesn't have to.
  • What Were You Thinking?: Mary when she gives in to Kemal Pamuk's seduction
    • Sybil when she goes to a dangerous political meeting where she gets injured.
    • Ethel when she gets involved with Major Bryant. Anna even tried to warn her.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Mr. Bates and Anna, Matthew and Mary, Branson and Sybil, Robert and Jane.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The flower show conflict is pretty much a straight rerun of the Best Picture-winning 1942 film Mrs. Miniver (except that the old man is not killed in a German air raid the same night).
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Sybil and Daisy.
  • World War One: The backdrop of series 2.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Basically all of Molesley's subplots.
  • You Didn't Ask: Bates. Word for word.
  • You Do Not Have to Say Anything: Which may seem anachronistic, but in fact the Judges' Rules on police arrest procedure came out in 1912.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Oh, Robert.
  • Zany Scheme: All of Thomas' schemes to become Lord Grantham's valet, but plotting to steal and then return his beloved Labrador, Isis, takes the cake.
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