TV Club: Downton Abbey: “Season Five, Episode One”

The fifth season of Downton Abbey opens with Edith on a bicycle, riding away from the manor, past a crossroad, as she journeys to visit her secret daughter. It’s 1924, and the season premiere is all about crossroads, about shifting bedrock, about change looming on the horizon. As Carson confides to Mrs. Hughes, “I feel a shaking of the ground I stand on.”

The servant class is shrinking, leaving the great houses and grand traditions to seek work in shops and factories. The new prime minister—“the son of a crofter,” as Mary observes—and the Labour government understand the hardships of the working class. Sexual mores are loosening, or perhaps sexual secrets once concealed by careful conspiracies of etiquette are unearthed more readily in this increasingly unstructured society.

Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, disapproves of the future, which means he disapproves of the present. His authority is …

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