What lurks in creator/writer Julian Fellowes’ mind palace with regards to the inhabitants of Downton Abbey one never knows. Over the course of four series, members of the Crawley family have come and gone, sometimes it seems like they just can’t keep a good ladies maid for more that a few days and let’s not forget the fleeting moments of Nanny West’s existence at Downton. Then, in the case of poor Mr. Gregson, you have a character that seemed to be on the brink of acceptance within the four walls of Downton, only to turn up MIA in Germany.
One constant, however, beginning in series two is everyone’s favorite yellow labrador retriever, Isis. Making her screen debut when Mrs. Patmore feeds her leftover Crêpe Suzette after telling Ethel that none were left over from the previous night’s dinner, Isis replaced Pharoah, who appeared only in series one. Unfortunately, it was Highclere Castle owner Lady Carnarvon’s pet labrador, Percy, that would not tolerate the presence of Roly at Downton. Roly had quite the CV, appearing in episodes of Midsomer Murders prior to his brief stint on Downton Abbey. Since Pharoah was a male and Isis a female, the internal decision was made to have Pharaoh pass away which put her in the Dan Stevens category of never being able to return to Downton again. Isis was originally played by Ellie in series two but, then, series 3 saw a new lab on the scene as ‘Abbey’ took over, Thankfully, Isis remains at Lord Grantham’s side and has signed on for the fifth series of Downton Abbey which is currently filming in the UK.
The Christmas episode from series 2 was where Isis came into her own and securing a much bigger role than just remaining by Lord Grantham’s side. You might rememeber that it was Thomas who hides her in a shack with a plan to keep her hidden and then find her to gain Lord Grantham’s trust. This new found trust could potentially cause him to be promoted to valet. However, his plan backfires when a village girl finds Isis and brings her to the Earl for a reward.
High points of Isis’ time at Downton continued in series three when Tom Branson holds Isis on her leash as the family leaves for Scotland during the 2012 Christmas special. Robert asks Tom to walk her a lot, saying she can get lazy. Later, Tom does just that as he is seen walking her when he goes to lunch at the Grantham Arms. In series four, Isis is seen during the performance by Jack Ross and, then, solidifying her importance at Downton, when Lord Grantham leaves for America to visit his in-laws, he asks Tom to look after the women in the house and, especially, Isis. No one knows just what is in store for Downton Abbey on series five but, whatever it is, it certainly will involve Isis.