Blu-ray
Recommended
3.5 stars
List Price
$54.99
Amazon
$26.99 (51%)
3rd Party
$18.25
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Overall Grade
3.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
Supplements
3.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

Downton Abbey: Season 3 (Original UK Unedited Edition)

Street Date:
January 29th, 2013
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
January 28th, 2013
Movie Release Year:
2012
Studio:
PBS
Length:
548 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Possible spoiler alert: At the end of season two we left the Crawley clan after seeing Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Matthew (Dan Stevens) kiss and decide to get married. It was one of those, "Yeah, we saw that coming a mile away, nevertheless it's exciting," type of TV moments. Season three begins in 1920 as Matthew and Mary get ready for their wedding.

As the beginning of 'Anchorman' so eloquently put it, quoting Bob Dylan, "The times, they are a-changin'." Large estates like Downton are dropping like flies. It seems the way of life that the Crawleys have all known is slowly disappearing into the past. The main theme of season three it's that the writing is on the wall for estates like Downton.

Mary and Matthew finally getting hitched isn't the only thing going on. It wouldn't be 'Downton Abbey' without at least four dozen other subplots to keep track of. Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) and Tom (Allen Leech) are now married and expecting a child. The family still has a hard time accepting Tom as one of their own, but they're coming around. Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) is having troubles of his own. He's realized that the money that has been keeping Downton afloat all these years, namely his wife's fortune, is quickly drying up because of bad investments. Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) remains the social outcast of the family, seemingly unable to find any luck in love. The Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith) continues to hold the family together like glue while offering up a smattering of hilarious one-liners.

Downstairs, O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran) and Thomas (Rob James-Collier) become bitter enemies. New faces appear in the servant's hall including Jimmy (Ed Speleers) and Alfred (Matt Milne), two new footmen jostling for position. Ethel (Amy Nuttall) returns as a shell of her former self. Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) finds himself incarcerated. He also manages to continue to be the most frustrating storyline of the bunch. His absolute piousness was more than I could handle in the second season. Here it's almost unbearable. Anna (Joanne Froggatt) remains on a steadfast course to find proof that Bates didn't commit the murder of which he's been convicted.

I'm sure there are other plots, subplots, and exciting changes that I'm missing. The show has never had a shortage of things going on. Whether it's the social drama of the upper class or the plight of the working man, 'Downton Abbey' is sure to cover it all.

It's still a wholly addicting series for reasons I'm still unsure of. However, the third season feels a bit hollow. There are numerous times where huge shifts in characters or story are thrust upon us only to be explained away by a scene or two. To point out specifically what these instances are would give away major plot points, so I'll refrain from doing that. I did find myself annoyed at the frequency though. Far too many seemingly insurmountable ordeals are managed with a few convenient changes to the story.

Even though the show feels too convenient at times it does do drama well. Somehow it's made standard soap opera fare mainstream. The characters are rich and varied. Sure, it may seem like all the Crawleys do is wake up, eat, entertain, and go to bed, but they do it with style. There's never a moment where there isn't something juicy going on in the household.

Nothing really measures up to the show's first season. Season three takes too many opportune liberties with problems that should be much more impacting to the overall story. Still, I find myself drawn to the show and its characters. I hated the season finale of the third season and yet I can't help but be excited for what season four will bring.

Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

Released by PBS, this Blu-ray set comes on three 50GB Blu-ray Discs. The discs are housed in a standard sized keepcase with a swinging arm in the middle that holds two discs back-to-back. The set is classified on the back of the case as being a Region A release.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The third season of 'Downton Abbey' comes to Blu-ray in 1080p even though the notes on the back of the case state that it's presented in 1080i. Sadly, it's apparent that the picture doesn't measure up to the quality of past seasons.

What is really noticeable is how flat the black areas are. If it's a really dark shadow, then the black takes on a bluish hue that is really distracting. Other blacks are depthless, causing crush-happy shadows to wreak havoc on faces and textures. Establishing shots of Downton and its surrounding areas harbor fantastic resolution though. Whenever the characters take a stroll outside, detail is sharp, edges are defined, and clarity is as good as it gets. It's in the darkened corridors of the buildings where the weaknesses are apparent.

Colors are strong. Primaries pop, while whites are bright and ethereal. The colorfulness of the Downton interior is counterbalanced by the bleak grayness of Mr. Bates' prison. Blue skies shine. Green hills shimmer. There is some noise from time to time also. Black areas are where most of the errant noise hangs about. No aliasing to report, although slight banding can be seen on occasion.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo mix does quite nicely. It delivers the show's now iconic theme song with gusto. Even without the support of a sub-woofer, the low end sonics of that song are on full display during the opening credits.

Dialogue is always clear even if some of the characters have extremely thick accents. The sounds of clanking plates and clinking silverware, coupled with the conversation of dinner guests almost gives the illusion of a surround sound mix. There is definitely enough going on in this show to warrant a 5.1 mix and I find myself a little sad we don't get one.

The echoes of the cavernous halls of Downton also might lead someone to believe that this is more than two speakers at work. This all speaks well of the strengths of 'Downton Abbey's lossless stereo track. Even so, a multi-channel mix would be more than suitable and most welcomed.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Behind the Drama (HD, 49 min.) — We revisit the story of the Crawley family through cast and crew interviews as they reflect on the first two seasons, along with major story arcs.
  • 'Downton' in 1920 (HD, 17 min.) — A look at the era that the show and its characters are entering.
  • The Wedding of Lady Mary (HD, 13 min.) — A behind-the-scenes look at the filming of one of the series' most momentous occasions.
  • The Wedding of Lady Edith (HD, 16 min.) — A look at Edith's wedding, which sort of mirrors the information and behind the scenes stuff we got with the "Wedding of Lady Mary" featurette.
  • The Men of 'Downton Abbey' (HD, 9 min.) — A look at the varied male characters of the series and the prominent roles seen in season three. This is more of a promotional piece than anything. Requisite interviews are included.
  • Shirley MacLaine at 'Downton Abbey' (HD, 9 min.) — A look at MacLaine's cameo as Cora's mother early on in the season.
  • Behind the Scenes: Cricket Match (HD, 7 min.) — The ins and outs of cricket are explained by the cast to the best of their ability.
  • Behind the Scenes: "Journey to the Highlands" (HD, 13 min.) — The 96-minute season finale is spotlighted here as the cast and crew talk briefly about the evolution of the show up until this point. Make sure not to watch this until after you've watched the whole season as it's full of spoilers.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no Blu-ray exclusives provided.

Final Thoughts

I'm still a 'Downton Abbey' fan, but I found the third season wanting. It seemed far too keen to explain away huge changes in the plot with conveniences. The show does, however, boast a cast of characters that is as wide ranging as any show out there. So, even though Thomas and Mr. Bates drive me bonkers, I still have half a dozen other people I enjoy following. The video has noticeable inadequacies, but the audio is superb considering it's only a stereo track. With a large helping of special features rounding out the set, season three comes recommended.

Technical Specs

  • 3-Disc Set
  • 50GB Blu-ray Discs

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

Subtitles/Captions

  • English

Supplements

  • 8 Featurettes

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List Price
$54.99
Amazon
$26.99 (51%)
3rd Party
$18.25
Usually ships in 24 hours Buy Now»

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