'Downton Abbey' Christmas special: Spoiler-free preview
Published Dec 14 2011, 12:12 GMT | By Catriona Wightman
So, it's the big question of Christmas 2011 - are you a Downton Abbey
household or an EastEnders
family? The two shows are being set up for the ultimate clash on December 25... but which will you choose?
Well, in the Tube Talk
house, after we've had the obligatory rows, handed out the paper hats and rolled ourselves from the dining room to the sofa, there'll only be one option - it's gotta be Downton
We were lucky enough to go to a special screening of the two-hour spectacular yesterday, but we're strictly banned from telling you anything
about the plot (seriously, if we told you we'd have to kill you. And then we'd probably be slayed ourselves by a vengeful Julian Fellowes.)
Actually, we're quite happy not to give anything away story-wise - there are plenty of surprises and exciting scenes for fans of the Crawleys and their staff, and you really don't want to know what's going to happen to give yourself the most Christmassy experience possible on the day.
What we can
tell you is that it's an absolute stonker of an episode - the audience at yesterday's screening moved from laughing out loud to being thankful that it was a darkened room that would hide their weepiness.
And the episode is just as likely to get you screaming at the television, too - one woman sitting nearby began muttering under her breath as she urged one particular character to play out the storyline she was hoping for.
It's probably not a spoiler to confirm that Bates is put on trial for the murder of the evil Mrs Bates - it's in the photos and television advert, after all - and the court scenes are gratifyingly intense and dramatic.
In fact, there are lots of dramatic moments sprinkled throughout the episode, but in that way that Downton Abbey
does so well, it's all tempered with a lot of quieter moments and brilliant humour, and the time absolutely flies by.
All of the characters on screen get the chance to shine - while some storylines are bigger or last longer than others, everyone gets their moment, from Daisy to the ever-wonderful Dowager Countess.
And special guests Nigel Havers and Sharon Small are great fun too, adding a little bit of freshness to the instalment when they come to visit Downton - Havers as the intriguing Lord Hepworth and Small as Lady Rosamund's new (and quite difficult) lady's maid.
It's a proper landed gentry Christmas, too - there's a huge, beautiful tree, snow, hunting, a bit of dancing and even a hint of a ghost story. The action doesn't all happen over Christmas Day, but it's a nice festive setting and feels suitably chilly and wintery - perfect television for wrapping yourself in a blanket and grabbing a cup of hot chocolate.
There were some complaints that perhaps series two was a bit too "silly" - if that's what you thought, then you'll be pleased to hear that it's not really the case in the special, which keeps its soapy feel but has a hint more realism.
Actually, speaking after the screening yesterday, the cast revealed that they think this might just be their best episode ever. Whether you end up agreeing with that or not, it certainly packs a hell of a lot in, taking you on an emotional, sweet, sad and funny journey - all the while providing some resolution and setting up potential storylines for series three. Perfect Christmas telly, then!Are you excited about the Christmas episode of Downton Abbey? Let us know below!> Downton Abbey Christmas special: First look in pictures> Read more coverage of Downton Abbey