Downton Abbey and Squid Game might seem like an unlikely crossover, but with the former’s recently announced movie sequel on the horizon and the latter’s current global success, it is certainly fun to imagine. It is also interesting to consider the motivations for competing, if characters from the beloved period soap opera were to swap their elegant gowns and uniforms for those blue and white tracksuits.
The Yorkshire estate, like the Squid Game venue, has its fair share of alliances, betrayals, and drama, both upstairs and downstairs. Examining how the characters navigate life in an early 20th-century country house can surprisingly reveal a lot about survival.
10 Charles Carson
The family’s butler is a man of tradition. Even at a critical turning point in history, rife with changes that threaten his way of life, Charlie Carson would rather go out with dignity than subject himself to schoolyard games. After all, he almost lost his cool when Mrs. Hughes brought a toaster into the house.
That’s not to say he wouldn’t be a good contender; his decanting skills before developing Parkinson’s Disease would have put him in good stead for the cookie challenge. However, Carson is stuck in his ways and wouldn’t give the modern-looking recruiter the time of day.
9 Matthew Crawley
It will take some convincing to get Matthew Crawley on board. Even then, he will insist on doing things his own way. Just like when he struggled to adjust to his new life as heir of the Downton estate and refused to be dressed by his valet, before he realized the role’s significance.
Although this will initially alienate him from his competitors, his intelligence and leadership skills will prove to be vital assets. But unfortunately for him, he is prone to bad luck. Matthew will likely make a shock exit due to some unprecedented accident, rather than as a direct consequence of the game itself.
8 Sarah O’Brien
Lady’s Maid, Sarah O’Brien, is manipulative and highly self-motivated. She’s likely to team up with someone equally as conniving but isn’t afraid to throw them under the bus to aid her own progression. This is evidenced by her alliance with Thomas Barrow that swiftly soured into a rivalry upon its termination.
Her noncommittal loyalties will see her flit from team to team, depending on what suits her best, but this tactic will see everyone turn on her very early on.
7 Robert Crawley
The Earl of Grantham likes the idea of action. He regrets that he is too old to serve in the First World War, so the idea of Squid Game might excite him. However, his docile nature and heroic heart will be his downfall.
The preservation of Downton is his motivation, but his family and staff come first. He is fiercely protective of both and would sacrifice himself for any of them. He has already chosen his daughters’ wellbeing over preserving the family’s reputation countless times, like when he forgave Mary for the Kemal Pamuk scandal and when he grudgingly accepted Sybil and Tom’s elopement.
6 Cora Crawley
The Countess of Grantham is the peacekeeper at Downton. Her calming demeanor and fair judgment are her strengths, but also her weaknesses. Her persuasive nature sees that things get done and she is a natural at forming alliances.
Her move to England from the United States and successful marriage to Robert shows that she is adaptable and ambitious. However, like Squid Game‘s Ali, she has been known to trust the wrong people and has suffered dire consequences due to this. This is evidenced by O’Brien’s betrayal by deliberately causing her to miscarry – whom she had trusted despite others’ concerns.
5 John Bates
John Bates is initially ill-treated by colleagues at Downton due to the injury he sustained during the Boer War, but that soon changes when they realize his work ethic. Bates is devoted to those he loves and respects but is otherwise a suspicious man who shouldn’t be crossed.
His people-reading skills will serve him well, but his short temper might back him into a tight corner, as it does when he is wrongfully arrested for the murder of his ex-wife. But winning doesn’t matter to him, because he could never win if it meant losing his wife, Anna. As long as she wins, he wins.
4 Violet Crawley
The Dowager is a gamemaster by nature. She might not look the part, but as the matriarch of the Crawley family, Violet always has her finger on the pulse. The preservation of the Crawley family is her goal, as demonstrated by her matchmaking attempts throughout the series, and her determination to see her son made heir to her wealthy cousin.
Certainly, her appearance can be used to her advantage and she might welcome help in the more physically demanding challenges. This tactic will not see her through to the final games, but it wouldn’t be surprising if she is later revealed to be the puppeteer pulling all the strings.
3 Thomas Barrow
Thomas Barrow is in it for the long run. He has his eye on the prize; he’s already patiently devoted his entire working life to becoming valet and isn’t above using sly tricks to get what he wants.
He thinks on his feet and knows how to get himself out of a sticky situation. When his own quick wit fails him, someone usually comes to his rescue in the nick of time – like when he was bailed out at the police station following a raid on a gay club – but his luck will run out eventually. Barrow will likely seal his own fate with a final and unexpected act of selflessness to redeem his previous misdemeanors.
2 Tom Branson
Ex-chauffeur, Tom Branson, is a strong contender who certainly has the brawn to reach the final. His politics might initially dissuade him from competing, but ultimately, he’s willing to compromise his beliefs at the promise of a better life for his daughter.
Sybbie is a strong motivation for Branson, whose highly adaptable nature and all-rounder skillset will put him within touching distance of the grand prize. However, it is his ‘not at any cost’ morals that will see it slip through his fingers, like it did when he saved the King from an assassination attempt, despite longing for a free Ireland.
1 Anna Bates
Anna Bates is loyal to a fault; while this might suggest weakness, it is actually what gives her strength. Her sheer resilience is what will carry her through to the final game; she has already endured so much pain but has never let it defeat her.
Although she is kind, she is definitely not naïve and can spot a liar from a mile away. Her detection skills saw her single-handedly catch the thieving Miss Lawton, then manipulate her to mend a dress for Edith, but she never revealed her secret. Always with a trick up her sleeve, Anna’s resourcefulness against the others’ faults will lead her straight to the Squid Game crown.