6 Confusing Moments In The Downton Abbey Movie, According To A Guy Who Never Saw The TV Show

Downton Abbey cast members

This feature will be loaded with spoilers for Downton Abbey, so please stop reading now if you don’t want to know major plot points that happen in the film.

Now I understand how casual Marvel fans felt when they went into Avengers: Endgame without having watched all 22 MCU movies before their screening!

Last week, I attended a preview screening of the feature-length Downton Abbey movie, to stay up to date on theatrical releases. The rub? I’d never seen one single minute of the beloved television, so I didn’t always understand fully what was going on.

Mind you, director Michael Engler and screenwriter Julian Fellowes did an excellent job of including casual fans into the storyline. The plot was basic – the Royals are on a country tour, and Downton Abbey will be one of their overnight stops – but the subplots were rich in character detail that had my preview screening squealing with delight. I followed most of it. But here were six scenes that really had me wishing I was able to pause the Downton Abbey movie and lean over to a super-fan to ask, “Why, exactly, is this happening?”

Dame Maggie Smith

The Dowager Countess Announces Her Death

Heading into the Downton Abbey movie, all I understood was that Dame Maggie Smith repeatedly stole scenes with her dry one-liners as Violet Crawley. And why not? She’s Maggie Smith, for God’s sake. She owns everything that she is in, and I could easily see her acting circles around everyone in the cast. Downton Abbey needs Dame Maggie Smith.

So imagine my shock when the screenplay abruptly all-but killed off the Dowager Countess in the final moments of Downton Abbey. Not on screen. But there was a mention of a trip to London for the Countess, and then a revelation that she was heading to the doctor, and has learned she’s dying. I get it, sort of. The character could be more than 100 years old. But the bomb-drop was a whiplash-inducer, because I expected a happy ending, and that wasn’t it.

Thomas Barrow

Thomas Barrow Visits a Gay Bar, Finds Love

From everything I am hearing after the fact, Thomas Barrow’s (Robert James-Collier) sexuality was never in question to dedicated viewers of the Downton Abbey TV show. But I didn’t expect this detour after the movie set up Barrow’s storyline.

He was unceremoniously excused from duty when Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) was recruited out of retirement. Instead of pouting, Barrow wades into a side plot that finds him visiting a gay bar with unfamiliar characters, getting arrested, getting bailed out and ultimately finding love. It’s a whirlwind of emotions in a normally staid environment, and might have been too much story to squeeze into this feature.

The servants of Downton Abbey

The Royal Staff is Easily Duped by the Downton Crew

While I wouldn’t describe the tone of the Downton Abbey movie as overly serious, it’s certainly regal and leans toward sophistication. There is drama around every corner, but it’s usually triggered by a sideways glance or an ice-cold reply to a conversation, not due to some exaggerated antics. Downton Abbey has no room for antics.

Unless, of course, the servants are scheming of ways to ensnare three separate members of the Royal staff so that the dedicated Downton employees can serve the King and Queen during their visit. This subplot was downright silly, feeling like a Three’s Company routine of miscommunications and posh pranks. I have been told that the Downton staff schemes like this often, but in the context of the film, these methods felt extremely out of place.

Andy and Daisy in Downton Abbey

The Daisy/Andy Love Triangle with the Beefcake Plumber

To be fair, there are a handful of subplots in the enjoyable Downton Abbey movie that seem to exist just to give characters something to do. I get it. Over the course of a full television season, there’s time to inject drama into almost everyone’s storylines. That’s much harder to accomplish in a two-hour movie.

But the “handsome plumber” who comes between Andy (Michael C. Fox) and Daisy (Sophie McShera) went beyond distracting to downright ridiculous. Andy and Daisy are engaged, right? Is Andy always this jealous – to the point where he’s driven to physical violence against the house’s hot water heater? And did he not think that damaging the plumbing would only BRING THE PLUMBER BACK?! Also, has anyone on the Downton Abbey staff seen an actual plumber? They rarely look like James Cartwright.

Allen Leech

Tom Branson Foils a Royal Assassin!

When we were heading to the Downton Abbey screening, I joked to my neighbors that I couldn’t wait for the action set pieces and the gun play. Because truthfully, the last thing I expected to see in a Downton Abbey movie was any sort of gun play, whatsoever.

Enter Tom Branson (Allen Leech), son-in-law to the Crawley’s and a fan-favorite character who has a handful of interesting subplots to juggle in the film, including finding a new love interest (played by Tuppence Middleton, the most British-sounding castmember in all of Downton Abbey, and that’s saying something). While following Major Chetwode (Stephen Campbell Moore), Tom and Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery) stumble on an assassination attempt on the king, and must spring into action to disarm the perpetrator. There’s a brawl, and Lady Mary kicks the gun from Chetwode’s hands. It was marginally exciting, but what the hell was that scene doing in this movie?

Downton Abbey the Royals

Miss Lawton’s a Thief, and the Royal’s Never Suspect It?

There are a couple of moments in Downton Abbey when something is mentioned, and I can’t tell if it’s a reference to the old show, or a fact that’s important to the plot of the movie. One was Violet Crawley’s visit to London. It’s casually mentioned, and I’m unaware if it’s important to the movie or not… until it surfaces at the end of the story.

The other one involved objects around Downton that were disappearing. A letter opener, I believe, was the first item mentioned. I forget the second item. Eventually it’s revealed that a member of the Royal staff, who is at Downton just for the visit, is pocketing items because she feels she is entitled to nice things. Um, sure? Like, this isn’t an issue that would have cropped up during other Royal visits? And nothing’s really done about it, save for the Downton staff blackmailing the woman to work on a dress, or else they will tattle on her. Bizarre.

Maybe these things all made complete sense to audience members who watched every episode of Downton Abbey. Perhaps the posh atmosphere was frequently punctuated with exaggerated physical comedy, or bouts of action-movie gun play! These moments defied my expectations, and sometimes enhanced my enjoyment of Downton Abbey, the movie. Were they odd to you? Did you get offput by another scene in the movie? Let me know in the comments section below.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.