Downton Abbey: plot moving slowly? It must be time for someone to die

The Christmas special shows Julian Fellowes's hugely popular drama is entering a tricky phase

Anyone unfamiliar with the usual narrative pace of Downton Abbey might have watched the Christmas special and thought: "Sumptuously filmed. Great costumes. Gorgeous locations. Bit slow, though, isn't it? Where's the plot?" Fans of the show, however, knew better. Feeling at your most warm and cosy? The grim reaper is about to strike.

The last time we had an episode this devoid of action, Lady Sybil was suddenly carried off in a series of febrile convulsions. This time, as we reached the last three minutes of the Christmas special, I murmured: "Nothing's happened. Someone's going to Die." My spouse answered: "Don't be ridiculous. It's Christmas Day." Just then, as dreamy-eyed Cousin Matthew (Dan Stevens) swooned with joy at the wheel of his new motor, a wobbly delivery truck rounded the corner. Uh-oh.

The threat of
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