Come with me to a bygone era, where people dress for dinner, and have servants, or are servants, but in either case speak with accents and know Their Place, even while that Place changes under their feet. Where families, literal and extended, stick together through thick and thin, through death and disaster, around a common ideal—Downton Abbey.
Love the Crawleys, Lord & Lady Grantham, their daughters and their various loves, the servants and their various loves, all the drama, triumphs and tragedies. It’s great stuff!
One wouldn’t think one could juxtapose the British elegance of Downton Abbey with the, dare I say it, down-and-nasty noir of The Walking Dead, would one?
But since I got sucked in to a Walking Dead marathon recently, and Downton Abbey is on my dvr, I’ve had the you-could-call-it-pleasure-if-you-wanted-to of seeing most of TWD season 2 & 3, followed by the relaxation of the Crawley saga.
Are there parallels? Of course there are, my friends, and not just because I’m tired and my eyes are falling out of my head—uh, due to excessive TV, and not, you know, a zombie bite.
1. Male Lead Character: The patriarchal figure, struggling to make the best of a changing world, slightly less sure of his footing than he used to be, I give you Robert, Lord Grantham.
And then there’s TWD’s Deputy Rick Grimes—leader of the pack o’survivors, struggling to keep it together, and keep his ‘family group’ alive. And avoid, you know, zombies. Is there death, destruction, grossness? Yes. Do beloved characters die? **SPOILER ALERT** Yes. Well, not much of a spoiler, as one might expect lots of death in the midst of the zombie apocalypse. And reanimation, and death, again, given, you know, the zombie thing.
2. Themes: The strong male lead, the strong females around him, the struggle to survive and thrive in the face of change. The Big Questions—not just life and death and avoidance of zombies, or modernism, depending on the show, but how do I protect my family? Some of whom don’t want to be protected. How do you do the right thing in a changing world? How do you know what the right thing is? How do you help the group and maintain some Standards, damn it!
And Rick, whose standards have seriously slipped in the face of … okay, now the **MAJOR SPOILERS**—if you haven’t watched either show or are not caught up, read no further. Really! I’m going to name names and deaths and major plot twists.
IN THE ‘CAN YOU BELIEVE THEY DID THAT?’ ZONE
3. Death by…? : Downton Abbey—The Walking Dead—the creative minds behind both these shows are not afraid to kill people off. Beloved characters! No small-time red-shirts here. We’re talking emotional, gut-wrenching—okay, in zombie land, there are usually some actual guts involved—game changing, life-altering deaths.
And, means of death they have in common—death by childbirth. AAAUUGGHH!!!
Downton Abbey: We Moderns take living through childbirth for granted—not so in Downton Abbey times. Lady Sybil! So bright and fun, rebelling against her class and family, loving ‘beneath’ her—and what happens? She gives birth, then dies. O M G! And that whole, doctor snobby v. doctor-who-knew-her-from-childbirth. And whose doctor-decision was it? Lord Grantham.
And, not satisfied with One Major Death, (and there were a few minors before this one) they end the season on Another. Matthew. AAAUUGGHH!!! Matthew, so handsome, so in love, so bringing out the best in Lady Mary, so happy to be a daddy. SMACK! I can’t even speak about that one. Plenty of emotional fodder for season 4, that’s for sure.
The Walking Dead: As if there weren’t enough dead things around! Shane (and of course, many, many dead before him, but SHANE!) Best friend, in love with Rick’s wife, Lori. So maybe Lori isn’t quite sure who her baby daddy is, but she had a good reason to stray—she thought Rick got eaten in Atlanta. One has to Move On, and quickly, during a zombie apocalypse.
Shane was mostly a good guy. Dangerous, volatile. Sexy. The rules of civilization, no longer applicable, and for him, no point in pretending. You had to love that about Shane. Plus his great abs and… Ahem. A man of action, was Shane. Sometimes angry, loose-cannon action, but action none-the-less. In the face of some of Rick’s dithering, there was a purity to it. They balanced each other.
Too bad Shane tried to kill Rick.
What a down and dirty fight, I didn’t think Rick was going to pull it out, but a man fighting for his life and his wife and his baby and his boy—in the end, Rick wins. Boo hoo! Lose/lose all the way.
Lori! O M G. Okay, Rick and Lori, not getting along so well, what with one thing and another, but still, they loved each other. But, as usual, disaster strikes, Rick is off somewhere, the zombies are at the door. Lori gives birth—well, it was more like, rip this child from me—and dies. Noooooo!
Needless to say, Rick’s been a tad off the deep end since. He’s been bringing ‘I see dead people’ to new heights. Hugs, Rick! You need them.
4. Humor: Along with death and heartache, both these shows have their humorous touches. Downton Abbey—British wit, Maggie Smith’s delivery—always spot on, as it were, Carson’s face in the face of, well, all the Stuff. Quite right!
The Walking Dead—a tad darker, yet who can forget dangling Glen over the well as biter-bait, as in how many living does it take to get a walker out of a well?, and when they finally get that bloated corpse out—lol, if you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a (gross) treat.
For what is life without a bit of humorous leavening?
5. In Sum: Plenty of angst in the air, both in the post-Edwardian past and the hope-it-never-happens zombie-apocalypse future. How to explain their parallel appeal? Well, they’re good, of course, the characters, the drama, the emotion. Plus we live in times that are filled with dangers, and change, and uncertainty, and both of these shows speak to those elements. In their own unique way.
6. Last parallel: Robert, Lord Grantham. Rick Grimes.
******Have any obsessions that seem like they couldn’t possibly go together? Love the Dead, hate the Dead, bored of the Dead? Downton Abbey fan? Mad about how killing off major characters seems to be such a big fat trend? Is it drama or melodrama? Or just plain annoying?******