WarningMight contain spoilers.

My experience of Downton Abbey is confined to two episodes seen many years ago: I liked them well enough but felt no need to return to the show. A New Era feels past its prime even to me—an impression my family, as longtime aficionados, were able to confirm. It remains reasonably funny and warm, however, and despite my lack of emotional investment, the death of the Dowager Countess inevitably brought tears to my eyes.

I found the central family and its staff a touch obnoxious at first, so I’m glad the Hollywood crew and the possibility of Lord Grantham being an illegitimate child cause them to unbend over time. I still think they’re quite puffed up in their own consequence, and I don’t particularly care to watch a rich, upper-crust British family enter the 1930s. (I’d gladly listen to Lord Grantham discussing kinema all day, though.) I also couldn’t help noticing that the only people of colour are the entertainers at the party in France.

Barrow’s arc is gratuitous and perplexing. In summary: a world-famous movie star comes to shoot at Downton, meets this butler, instantly forms a connection despite the latter’s efforts to maintain his distance, and impulsively offers him a chance to keep house for him so they can become lovers. The concept of the closeted movie star is quite worn out at this point, and their supposed romance is unconvincing.

It’s amusing how the France story is essentially isolated and self-contained to provide a pretext for shipping everyone off and leaving Mary alone with the film crew. How convenient for Mr. Barber that the Abbey offers everything a filmmaker might require: extras, dubbing, a dialect coach, and even a screenplay.