5 things to look out for in the new ‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’ trailer

‘Yars ago, I inherited a villa…’ As opening gambits go, the Dowager Countess’s first words in the new Downton Abbey 2 trailer have real I-had-a-farm-in-Africa energy. How can you not want to sit back and let this premise tantalise you with its possibilities? Who gave her the villa? Why was she given it? And is it in Ayia Napa?

These questions form the crux of the sequel’s plot – apart from the last one, obviously. We already know that the villa sits in a sun-kissed corner of the south of France. And that, back home, a film is being shot on the grounds of Downton itself. To channel the Countess herself: do sit down and we’ll take you through it.

Downton Abbey has gone meta

One one level New Era’s promise of a film-within-a-film that’s a sequel to another film that was adapted from a TV show based loosely on real-life people is a bit mind-bending. On another, it makes perfect sense. Because nothing signals the march of time in this corner of late 1920s Yorkshire better than the arrival of a state-of-the-art film production. Its director, Jack Barber, is shooting a talkie called ‘The Gambler’ at Downton, seemingly at the behest of Edith Crawley. Her father Lord Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) isn’t impressed. Neither, inevitably, is Maggie Smith’s formidable Violet Crawley. ‘I should have thought that the best thing about films is that you can’t hear them,’ she LOLs. ‘Be even better if you couldn’t see them either!’

Downton Abbey A New Era
Photograph: Universal Pictures

Is there a new queer subplot in store?

The film’s biggest new name is The Affair’s Dominic West. Early word had him playing a rich aristocrat, but the trailer points to his character, Guy Dexter, being the heartthrob star of ‘The Gambler’. The trailer gives what feels like one especially significant glimpse of Dexter: we see him having an intimate moment with Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier). The gay Barrow came to terms with his sexuality in the first Downton Abbey movie and if it’s not too much of leap, it seems like he may be continuing his journey with the buff movie star in this one. It would definitely be another bold, and welcome, piece of storytelling for a mainstream movie.

Photograph: Credit: Ben Blackall / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC

There’s a fiery diva on the loose

Franchise newbie Laura Haddock (The Inbetweeners Movie) is Myrna Dalgliesh, a character about whom we know precious little but can extrapolate – okay, take a wild guess at – plenty about from the trailer. She breezes into Downton, luggage in train, like a stone-cold diva. (Note butler Thomas Barrow tugging his collars like a man bracing himself for the kind of social awkwardness that may require later eyebrow-raising.) Is it possible that Dalgliesh and Dexter are an item, and that Barrow comes between them? It would certainly explain the vase smashing…

Downton Abbey A New Era
Photograph: Universal Pictures

There’s trouble in paradise

The film’s big mystery – the provenance of that villa and how it relates to Violet Crawley’s past – is laid out here, and Gallic thesp Nathalie Baye seems to be a key player in that storyline. But, unless we’re totally misreading that surreptitious side-eye, there are also some hints at a romantic involvement between Mary Talbot and director Jack Barber. Maybe that troubled paradise is a little closer to home than Provence? And there’s no sign of Henry Talbot at all (see below for more on that).

Downton Abbey A New Era
Photograph: Universal Pictures

Lord Crawley’s tan is a worry

Among the questions to emerge from the trailer, the most pressing must be: what has happened to Lord Crawley’s face? Hugh Bonneville is no stranger to marmalade-coloured things, having starred in two Paddington movies, but the garish shade of terracotta the good lord is boasting here speaks of either an unhealthy avoidance of sunscreen or the exploration of sweltering foreign climes. 

Downton Abbey A New Era
Photograph: Universal Pictures

And one thing we didn’t spot…

What has happened to Henry Talbot?

There remains no sign of Lady Mary’s (Michelle Dockery) rakish husband Henry Talbot, a fan favourite who seems to have vanished from the Downton story. Has the actor who plays him, Matthew Goode, opted not to return or is his presence being kept a closely guarded secret? Significantly, Goode doesn’t appear in a newly released picture of the cast either. His diminished role in the first Downton film suggests that Talbot stans will be left disappointed this time round.  

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