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Downton Abbey: Season 3 Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: NR
  • Discs: 3 (3 x Blu-ray)
  • Digital Copies: N/A
  • Run Time: 555 Mins.
  • Studio: PBS
  • Blu-ray Release Date: January 29, 2013
  • List Price: $54.99

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Series
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Series

[Rating:4.5/5]

The British period drama Downton Abbey, which runs in the U.S. On PBS’ Masterpiece Classics programming block, continues to be one of the most exhilarating guilty pleasures to hit the airwaves. As I’ve said in the past, no one does period dramas quite like the Brits, and Downton is a superb example of their continuing supremacy in the genre. For those who have been living under a rock for the past few years and are therefore unfamiliar with the series, I have previously reviewed the first two seasons on Blu-ray, which can bring you up to speed.

When last we left the Crawleys and their faithful servants at the luxuriant and titular estate of Downton Abbey, cousin Matthew (Dan Stevens) and the Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) had finally “found” each other and were engaged to be married. Season 3, set in 1920, kicks off with the spectacle that fans have been awaiting for years – the wedding of Matthew and Mary. But like any good season of Downton should be, the series is filled with enticing melodrama. Robert (Hugh Bonneville) realizes he has lost almost all of his fortune in bad railroad investments in North America, causing lots of strife. The future of Downton is once again in question, but a surprise inheritance by Matthew from an unlikely source may be able to save the family. However, this becomes a bone of contention between Matthew and Mary. Edith (Laura Carmichael) looks like she may finally have found herself a husband and another wedding is set for Downton, while the pregnant Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) returns to Downton with her controversial ex-chauffeur husband Tom (Allen Leech).

Meanwhile, amongst the Crawley servants, Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) gets into a heated rivalry with O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran) that leads to him dangerously close to being exposed as a homosexual and driven out of their employ. Anna (Joanne Froggatt) continues to try to dig up evidence proving that her husband, Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle), is innocent of murdering his ex-wife. New servants are added to the roster that stir the the metaphorical pot.

In yet another season filled with laughter, romance and tragedies, the writers for Downton Abbey continue to keep the series relevant and moving along with the pace of history. Season 3 sees them adding a proper amount of social and stylistic changes, such as dress, technologies, and political shifts that keep the series realistic and up to date, even as it tends to, at times, lean toward the saccharine.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

Season Three of Dowton Abbey continues the production of the series on the Arri Alexa high definition camera and comes to Blu-ray with a progressive, 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 encodement despite being labelled as 1080i on the packaging. Like season two, the image looks gorgeous and filmic with crisp details, rich colors, particularly primaries like reds, and little in the way of video noise.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

A more than adequate stereo DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (48kHz/16-bit) soundtrack is offered for Downton on this Blu-ray Disc. It lacks the spaciousness and ambience of a surround mix, but the 2-channel track works reasonably well nonetheless. It provides clear dialogue, a good amount of dynamic range and subtle amounts of stereo panning.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

Seven high definition, behind the scenes featurettes on this third season prop up this release nicely with additional peeks at the cast, crew, and lavish sets of Downton Abbey.

The supplements:

  • Behind the Drama (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:48:36) – Revisit the action-packed storylines of Downton’s first two seasons plus bonus interviews with writer Julian Fellowes and Downton cast members. Includes footage from the historic Ealing Studios in London and Highclore Castle.
  • Downton in 1920 (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:17:24) – The creators s and cast discuss the period design and costumes that kicked off the era, which were painstakingly applied to the series from hair to frocks to gadgets.
  • The Wedding of Lady Mary (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:13:03) – A look behind the scenes of the big “event” the wedding of Matthew and Lady Mary.
  • The Wedding of Lady Edith (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:16:02) Downton gets two weddings this season, including a surprise wedding of Lady Edith and Sir Anthony, and this featurette goes behind the scenes for that wedding.
  • The Men of Downton Abbey (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:09:02) – This featurette looks at the changing social orders in post World War I Britain.
  • Shirley MacLaine at Downton (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:09:07) – Shirley MacLaine comes to Downton and shakes it up with her American ways as Martha Levinson.
  • Behind the Scenes: The Cricket Match (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:06:44)
  • Behind the Scenes: A Journey to the Highlands (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:12:46)

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

In these nine new episodes (eight plus the traditional Christmas episode), Downton Abbey remains just as charming, witty, romantic, and heartfelt as ever. It’s a peek into a different era and at the interactions between the different classes that looks and feels wholly authentic. At every turn, the writers never fail to surprise us, however, and the series continues to remain fresh.

Additional Screen Captures

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BestBuy.com:
Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey Season 3 - Blu-ray Disc

Purchase Downton Abbey: Season 3 on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

[amazon-product]B009ZQC7MY[/amazon-product]

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BestBuy.com:
Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey Season 3 - Blu-ray Disc

Purchase Downton Abbey: Season 3 on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Series
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]


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