‘Downton Abbey’ recycles familiar roles, plots

January 4, 2015 7:50 AM

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‘Downton Abbey’ recycles familiar roles, plots

As it has entered television middle age, “Downton Abbey,” which returns for a fifth season tonight, has suffered from the limitations of being a soap opera. Just how many stories can writer and creator Julian Fellowes concoct about the Crawley family and their staff?

Last season, Anna (Joanne Froggatt) was raped in a story line that seemed less about telling an important narrative about how women were treated in the early 1900s and more about not knowing what to do with Anna now that she was happily married to Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle). Season five picks up with...

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