The first film already set up the impending death of Violet Crawley, spelled out in the closing scenes during an emotional conversation with her favourite granddaughter Lady Mary. However, there was no clear outline for how much time she has left – and the Dowager Countess is seen front and centre in the brand new poster, looking as formidable as ever. Instead, it is another popular character who is notably missing.
A worrying leak last year revealed: “It’s heartbreak at Highclere Castle and there won’t be a dry eye in cinemas(Writer Julian Fellowes) has made this death so poignant. Those who have seen the scenes said they are so emotional. They really will leave fans in floods.”
Absolutely everybody logically assumed this was referring to Maggie Smith’s Violet after she confided to Mary (Michelle Dockery) she had been visiting doctors in London and had just received confirmation that she had a terminal illness.
However, it is actually Mary’s husband who is ominously nowhere to be seen in a poster that is chock-full of every single familiar face above and below stairs – and a few new ones.
Lady Mary devastatingly lost her first husband Matthew before finding love again with racing car enthusiast Henry. He was almost entirely absent from the first film, just popping up at the end in time for the royal ball. It was explained that he had been “overseas” on business.
However, he was still featured prominently in the poster, sitting next to Mary and holding her hand. This time she is very clearly out front on her own.
Will the new film reveal the marriage is in trouble or, even worse, might there be two funerals, not one? It is still assumed that Violet will almost certainly quip her last by the end of the sequel. Would Fellowes really break Mary (and audience’s) hearts again?
The happiest possibility is that actor Goode was simply not available. Like so many other productions, the shooting schedule for the Downton sequel kept shifting around as the world was plunged into chaos due to the ongoing COVID pandemic. In demand stars constantly juggle projects and there have been numerous examples of actors being forced to drop out of leading roles (let alone a minor supporting one) because a postponed shoot clashed with the next project.
Perhaps, his absence on-screen will simply be explained away due to yet more business trips.
Otherwise, it seems extremely harsh that Lady Mary will have to deal with the loss of another husband, whether due to a split or something fatal.
DOWNTON ABBEY A NEW ERA IS OUT IN UK CINEMAS ON APRIL 29