The ideal way to honor the title Downton Abbey: A New Era is for Downton Abbey 3 to focus more on the Crawleys’ children. Downton Abbey: A New Era brings the Crawleys and their servants to the cusp of “the modern world” as a film production company shoots a motion picture in their ancestral castle. But by the end of A New Era, Downton Abbey bids a final farewell to its beloved matriarch, Lady Violet, the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) as the saga transitions into the new decade of the 1930s.
Much of Downton Abbey the TV series revolved around the complicated love lives of the three daughters of Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), and his wife Cora, the Countess of Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern): Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), and Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay). Sybil, who died young, was the first to have a child, a daughter named Sybbie, with her husband, Tom Branson (Allen Leech). Mary followed by giving birth to George, the heir of Grantham, with her husband, Matthew (Dan Stevens), who also tragically died. Finally, Edith became pregnant by her lover, Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards), who died as well. Mary had a daughter named Caroline with her second husband, Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode). Edith next had a son, Peter, with her husband, Bertie Pelham, the Marquess of Hexam (Harry Hadden-Paton). In Downton Abbey: A New Era, the family welcomed yet another baby born to Tom Branson and his new bride, Lucy (Tuppence Middleton).
Downton Abbey: A New Era lives up to its title by bringing about a sweeping change in the lives of the Crawleys and their loyal servants. The passing of Lady Violet does, indeed, mark the end of an era as the Dowager Countess was an Edwardian who embodied 19th-century values. Violet passed the torch to Mary, the new matriarch of the family. Without question, Mary is “the captain” of Downton Abbey until her son, George (Oliver and Zac Barker), comes of age and inherits the title of Earl of Grantham as well as control of the estate. But while there are still many years after Downton Abbey: A New Era until George becomes the new Earl, he and his cousins can already become focal points in Downton Abbey 3. The three eldest children, Sybbie (Fifi Hart), George, and Marigold (Eva and Karina Samms), are still children who innocently play and are warmly coddled in Downton Abbey: A New Era. But if and when Downton Abbey 3 happens, a time jump will occur and the children should be nearly entering their teenage years.
In Downton Abbey 3, George, Sybbie, and Marigold can be pushed to the forefront of the family. They would still be younger than their mothers were when Downton Abbey began but Sybbie, George, and Marigold are also more modern children and can embody the “modern world” as Mary and Edith transition into middle age. It would also be fascinating to explore the children’s personalities. Is George as tough and funny as Lady Mary is and did he inherit his father Matthew’s level-headedness? Is Sybbie as independent and open-minded as her mother was? Does she have her father’s passion for social justice? Does Marigold ever wonder about her birth father or is she content as the adopted daughter of the Marquess of Hexam?
Further, Sybbie inherited a villa in the South of France left to her by her great grandmother, Violet. The Crawleys hoped that summertime gatherings at Sybbie’s villa in the French Riviera would become an annual family tradition, which is an ideal jumping-off point for another sequel. As beloved as the Crawleys and their servants are, all of Downton Abbey’s characters are now nearly two decades older. George, Sybbie, and Marigold, as well as their younger cousins, can embody a new vitality that Downton Abbey needs. The Crawley grandchildren, the mistakes they will inevitably make, and the lessons they will learn from them, are the most potent wellspring of new story potential for Downton Abbey 3 and beyond. George, Sybbie, and Marigold aren’t just the next generation of Crawleys, they literally are Downton Abbey: A New Era.